Summing Up, Part 3
Last time in ‘Summing Up’, we talked about how the right-libertarian “views the horror of socially-arranged altruism as worse than the horror of letting people die for want of medical care” because “libertarianism is against individual freedom for all because it depends upon collective liberation”. This, of course, raises another issue. Where does one draw the line? If socialised medicine is totalitarianism for doctors, why is the tacit threat of destitution which lies behind the wage labour system not considered equally bad? The answer to this question is the same brute and vulgar answer we gave already. It comes down to which side you’re on… which, most of the time, in an instance of capitalism creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of the selfish and cynical actor of its own ideological account of human nature, comes down to which class you’re in, or which class your interests are aligned with.
Let’s pause again to notice all those ‘vons’ in the names of the great Austrians. And let’s also pause to again notice that, in applying such cynicism about human nature, such distrust of democracy, such a strategic splitting of the concept of freedom, and such naked class interests, the libertarians are, indeed, the heirs of the Founding Fathers – not just of the United States but also, as we’ve seen, of Ireton and Cromwell and the equivalent bourgeois revolutionaries in England. They carry many of the most fundamental imperatives of the founders of the bourgeois state into the present era.
The libertarians’ philosophical rationale for this partiality to the rights and privileges of the ruling class, and the attendant indifference to those of the working class, is that private property is the basis of liberty (to the extent that some have taken to rechristening them, far from unjustly, ‘propertarians’). But this philosophical rationale manages the impressive feat of being both a tautology and a contradiction. It’s a tautology because it assumes the point under question. It’s a contradiction because if private property, while conferring liberty on its possessors, also structurally curtails the liberty of the propertyless, then whither the concept of liberty… except as a luxury to be enjoyed by a few? From here the libertarian is inescapably pushed towards somehow justifying the inequity, towards explaining why yes, liberty is a luxury to be enjoyed by a few – and quite right too! And hence we get the various distinct but similar ways in which the different strands of this tradition of bourgeois thinking (libertarianism, classical liberalism, etc) have imported justifications in from outside, from conservatism. The justifications are easy to find. You need only look at the many and drastic specific inequities generated by capitalist society, generalise from them, and amputate history and context so that they appear to have no cause. That’s how you end up with libertarians and liberals enthusing over The Bell Curve, etc.
(The necessary amputation of context is actually especially striking in the case of the libertarians, because a whole host of the inequities they seize upon to justify hierarchy are based on the imperialism – or at least war – they profess to be against.…