Republicans are simple. KKK + OIL = GOP. Ancient, old-world ideas clinging to a wrinkled patriarchy. The transparency of the Republican theocratic/oligarchical fever dream leaves little to say.
Democrats, meanwhile, are exhaustively complex. The convoluted network of bridges and chasms between the Party's most liberal and conservative representatives is really, really difficult to discern. We argue like scientists on how to interpret and respond to data. As impressed as I am with its diversity, I am aware that Democrats can barely agree on what constitutes an accomplishment much less properly messaging success.
As such, I don't begrudge Independents. To quote Hermey the Elf (and aspiring dentist) to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, "Hey, whadda say we both be independent together!" I seem to remember Ross Perot having a few solid points (fuel tax, gun control, direct democracy). Bernie's got plenty. Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party was perhaps the most promising of the lot. You, Middle-Class Reader, would have a lot more health, wealth, and say in the world if his Square Deal had properly come to pass. And if he'd actually nationalized the extraction of our nation's natural resources?
(Exxon had another year of record profits in 2022 — $56B — while still consuming the most government subsidies — your tax dollars — of any industry on planet earth. This is not the prelude to an anti-capitalist screed. It's just a reminder that unregulated capitalism scorches the earth. While Bolsonaro was president of Brazil, the earth lost a breathtaking amount of its lung capacity.)
This brings us to Libertarians. "Leave us alone and let me do my thing" is not originally a conservative idea. I mean, Suicidal Tendencies famously begged,
And I go: No it's okay, you know I'll figure it out
Just leave me alone I'll figure it out
You know I'll just work it on myself,
There are thousands of songs asking the state to back off. What makes liberal libertariansim so compelling is that it is almost always the oppressed asking the oppressor to lift a foot off their necks. We all can agree with Jimi explaining to white collar conservatives,
I've got my own life to live
I'm the one that's going to have to die
When it's time for me to die
So let me live my life
The way I want to, yeah
Just like hearing a great song repurposed, Libertarianism has been usurped by the ownership class. Even after trickle-down failures worldwide and global guffaw at Laffer's laughable curve, this subset of conservatism festers in many regions of our country and brains. First, before I belittle its unempirical underpinnings, I admit that anarcho-capitalism could theoretically work in regions of racial hegemony, where land was never stolen or denied. In this imaginary place, the Libertarian mindset of "Fuck you, I got mine. Get off my lawn." works. But if you're a white man in America, being a Libertarian is kind of a dick move.
Chances are your family staked a claim on property that wasn't theirs at least once, at a time when many people were property themselves. Mine did. That 300+ year head start renders Libertarianism impossible. As wealth accumulated for white Americans, African Americans were enslaved, lynched, denied the right to vote, not allowed to unionize or establish their own economy (see Tulsa Race Massacre), and are still being red-lined out of communities today. Libertarianism needs a level playing field. It ain't here.
But even if it was...
Libertarians trust markets. They don't want government interfering in commerce. This was famously Trump's gripe with regulation. So, he undid many.
Eastern Ohio is under a toxic cloud and sitting above tainted water. Libertarianism is a train wreck.*
In an epic 2017 post, I wrote how regulations separate functioning nations & states from those in disarray. Turkey, for instance, does not have strict building codes.
I shot concrete once. It's a fascinating process of applying concrete to framing support through a fire hose. The certification process is tough in California. As are the regulations governing the concrete itself. I asked the instructor (who called my colorful Adidas "a little fruity". I suppose they are.), "Where do you truly trust concrete structures?" He said "California and Japan."
If you, dear libertarian, decided to give up on California and its regulatory climate, you should know that stepping over the border from blue to red sheds up to 5 years off your life expectancy. That's 5 years of prestige television you might miss. Is Texas worth it?**
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness can only occur if the first promise is met. Without it, the other two ain't shit.
Trusting industry is what we've done for 50 years. It's wrestled wealth from you. It's poisoned the land, sea, and air. It's concocted sprawling communities that don't properly congregate. We don't walk, talk, and play enough. We're a lot less free.
Most of our great Presidents trusted the people and enacted massive government endeavors on our behalf. And we are healthier, happier, and freer for it.
I suppose the gist of my argument, my Libertarian friend, is that "free-market" and "free society" (happy, wealthy, secure) are not the same. They may even be on opposite ends of a tug-of-war. If we look at decentralized free-market countries and states, we see the reckless instability and, frankly, death. Infant mortality rates in Texas are equal to Mexico. Life expectancy in West Virginia is below Mexico.
Reduction in cancer, diabetic, and asthmatic rates can be tied directly to regulatory action. How many lives have the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts prolonged? Millions. Even the light adoption (<5%) of electric vehicles in Los Angeles might already be contributing to less illness for communities alongside freeways.***
Meanwhile, the GDP in regulatory expansive nations and states is decidedly higher. Even a medium-sized city in California like San Francisco outpaces most US states in job creation and wealth. Worldwide, the countries that are most successful and stable score relatively high in Regulatory Governance.
The Middle East and Africa score low. Obviously, economically Libertarian states like the United Arab Emirates and its neighbors have plenty of wealth. But it's gated within an elite circle of monarchies and oligarchs. I've done business in places like Qatar. Lots of money, light on scruples.
Oh my gosh, that's a hell of a segue to banking, yes? We've certainly witnessed plenty of East and West Coast libertarian wealth privatizing profit while socializing loss. This is a shared failure of neoliberals like Clinton and neopopulist Trump (both abuse the prefix neo). Silicon Banking and its venture capitalist foundation are a proud amalgamation (bastardization) of punk anarchy and conservative free market libertarian thought. But to quote a Financial Times assessment, "SVB shows that there are few libertarians in a financial foxhole." How many more lessons do we need?
If you, Libertarian friend, remain unconvinced please consider your favorite team. Professional sports in the United States refute almost all the arguments for libertarianism. Without sacrificing any performance exceptionalism, the owners and players have regulated the shit out of their economy and operation. The NFL even shares profit to assure parity. Socialism at its best. Luxury taxes. Salary caps. Shot clocks. Pitch clocks. The rules keep coming as the games and athleticism evolves. Sports don't fear rules, they exist and thrive with 'em. Society should behave similarly.
Capitalism cannot provide Life, Liberty, or the Pursuit of Happiness without good governance, sensible regulation, and a willingness to adhere to scientific, empirical data. Can regulations be burdensome? Sure. Expensive? Short-term, it may feel like it. But here's how it works:
A town in Napa was prone to flooding. A lot. It decided to regulate building, mandate proper drainage, and reestablish wetlands upstream. Pricey. Libertarians objected. Loudly. But the town stayed dry during the deluge of this winter, saving millions in repair and insurance costs. ****
It's that simple.
*A rule was passed under President Barack Obama that made it a requirement for trains carrying hazardous flammable materials to have ECP brakes, but this was rescinded in 2017 by the Trump administration.
The industry said it would cost more than $3 billion to implement. The FRA under Obama said it would be around half a billion.
The National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency responsible for investigating rail accidents, told The Lever that the Ohio train that derailed was not fitted with ECP brakes.
"Would ECP brakes have reduced the severity of this accident? Yes," Ditmeyer said.
Referring to opposition from within the rail industry to fitting ECP brakes, he added: "The railroads will test new features. But once they are told they have to do it ... they don't want to spend the money." - JAMES BICKERTON Newsweek 2/14/2023
** You might miss and episode or two anyway since Texas' deregulated energy system that has stubbornly resisted upgrades to meet new climate demands is prone to extended blackouts.
*** USC Study
**** From an excellent John King infrastructure article devoted largely to bioswales.