The Mark of Cain

Recent hurricanes, the incredible shrinking airline coach seat, and, especially the recent Equifax data breach, have reminded me of how important I believe government regulation to be. Which gives me yet another excuse to bash libertarianism.

I believe that I first encountered libertarians in high school, and I reacted with an instant hostility which has neither evaporated nor abated in the succeeding sixty years, though reading Ayn Rand certainly refreshed my immune reaction. I have sometimes tried to comprehend the deep roots of this distaste, with only modest success. I consider myself a liberal, more classical than modern, so I share some values with the libertarians, but certainly not all.

In the Bible, after Cain had whacked his brother Abel, God asked him, perhaps rhetorically, "where is your brother?" Cain replied, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

That question, or rather its answer, is the central difference between liberals and libertarians. To put it less bluntly, do we each have an obligation to our fellows? The history of human society says yes. Libertarians say no.

The extreme libertarian is exemplified by Ayn Rand and her "heroes." It's no coincidence that they are routinely criticized by their families and others as "lacking human feeling." Many of them, like John Galt, the Voldemort like hero of Atlas Shrugged, are clearly psychopaths. The same was likely true of Rand herself. They lack empathy and take pleasure in tormenting others. Such people have always been the bane of human society. Among primitive peoples, they are often ostracized or murdered.

Unfortunately, civilization offers them more fertile ground, where they frequently rise or fall to positions that allow them to indulge their narcissistic or sadistic tendencies.


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