Monday, May 07, 2012

Libertarianism: Rentier Religion?

Who is not a Slave?

Cicero declared that any man who works for wages makes himself a slave. Certainly Walmart thinks so. By a slight extension, those who sell the product of their work are equally enslaved. A couple of thousand years later, libertarians discovered that anyone who paid taxes was a slave. Whom is left? Only rentiers - those who live solely by the labor of others - who don't pay taxes. Mitt Romney, for example.

Given the above its not surprising that many of the rentier class worship at the libertarian altar. It's less clear why others do. Humans, as I keep saying, are social animals, and as such we live in a network of mutual obligations and duties. The tension between community and liberty is a dominant theme in human morality and all our moral dilemmas. Libertarians resolve that tension by rejecting community and making liberty the be all and end all. In doing so, I argue, they reject a fundamental component of human nature and expose themselves to a deserved opprobrium. Is that too harsh?

Modern society is fractal enough to have niches for a lot of radical individualists, but many of its institutions don't. Most enterprises require team work, including sports teams, military units, and most businesses. Those who lack team mindedness are a threat to the organization, and often become the target of persecution. This too is human nature - sometimes ugly, but well grounded in evolutionary necessity.