The libertarian conceit

Here’s one definition of libertarianism:

n extreme laissez-faire political philosophy advocating only minimal state intervention in the lives of citizens

Some self-described libertarians would go further to suggest that the only good government is no government. All matters between and among people would be resolved through voluntary markets for everything.

As absurd as this may appear to many, we may be living in a de facto state of libertarianism. Governments, especially the federal one, aren’t working all that well. The obstructionists within their ranks have made certain of this.

But default ineffectiveness has not delivered the free-market solutions championed by the followers of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Indeed, by all accounts we’re spending a lot of money for nothing in return. Whether it’s education or transportation or climate change or inequality, there are no self-interested parties showing up to fix them.

My favorite liberal these days, Paul Krugman, argues that libertarians “are living in a fantasy world.” He continues:

…if we should somehow end up with libertarian government, it would quickly find itself unable to fulfill any of its promises.

Nevertheless, in this land of governmental dysfunction, one may ask whether or not we citizens could address our common concerns outside of legislatures and executive branches. If Washington, D.C., won’t act, can we? And what would we do?

My dystopian nature finds little hope and even less evidence for possible solutions. We can’t even agree on the problems, let alone organize to solve them. The government we have, however feckless and cranky, is apparently what we deserve.

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