The other day I was discussing American Libertarianism, and how honest free market enthusiasts might attempt to create a society. I imagined it would go something like this:
Once upon a time there was a gloomy place called Dictatoria, in which everything about everyone's lives was controlled by Big Government. They told you who you could marry, what types of books you could read, what kind of things you could believe, what type of healthcare you required, the list goes on. Worst of all, they even put regulations on business! While it's true that most people never had -- nor ever would -- own their own business, they nevertheless thought they might, so it was very upsetting.
From all of this discontent arose a pesky sort of people that concluded the problem was all of these regulations. These people having no name for themselves, decided to appropriate a name already in use, and that name was: Libertarians. One individual amongst them suggested that a proper society wouldn't have regulations, and businesses would naturally solve all of societies problems. He called this the "invisible hand of the free market." Well the rest of these libertarians thought this was a most brilliant observation, and followed it as divine writ. And while the individual who came up with this observation said many other things, these statements went largely ignored... at least for a time.
Well after many years of proper planning, these libertarians overthrew the government and instituted a new society without regulations. They called it Freedomville, and it was a magnificent place of liberty -- or at least that is how it was advertised. The truth was however more grim. Instead of becoming a democracy, they had a plutocracy. Instead of authoritarian elected officials, society was controlled by a small group of rich authoritarian dynasties. Instead of a free market, wealth was inherited. Things, in short, were worse than ever.
"Well," the libertarians wondered, "where did we go wrong?" So they searched their documents from before the revolution, and they found something interesting. It just so happened that the person who came up with the idea of the free market, also stated that for a market to be free there would have to be an initial equality to begin with. Otherwise we would just be left with "the vile maxim of the masters... all for ourselves and nothing for other people." But how to solve this problem? One them stroked their goatee, because libertarians were fond of goatees, "These people pass on their wealth from son after son, like kings of old. No inheritance!" He shouted. They murmured their agreement. "A clear solution!" They clamored.
So a revolution happened, more bloody than the last, and old rich families were dispensed with. And everyone was happy and positive that things would work this time. History, alas, has a habit of repeating itself, and after a time, new rich families emerged. While they couldn't directly pass on their wealth to their children they managed to find other ways to give their children a leg up and thus, in essence, pervert the free market. T he libertarians were furious, so they set up some regulations for the good of liberty. One said that children could not take over the business of their the parents. Another said that they couldn't attend private schools. They thought that these things would solve the problem. Much to their chagrin, they were wrong. The children of the rich still got to travel the world, eat better food, and on a whole have more stimulating life experiences. And thus, while the regulations limited the plutocracy, the children of the rich still seemed to do better and the plutocracy remained. So the Libertarians came up with another regulation: Parents can no longer raise their children, instead newborns would be raised by the state. This way everyone will start off equal and the free market will finally arise!
Generations passed and things were good, at least for a time. While it was true that some became rich and some became poor, people thought things were pretty just and fair. After all, when the rich died their money went to public good, and everyone essentially started out equal. Sure, some complained about shipping their newborns off to education facilities, but by most this was generally considered to be for the good of the market. "The free market," they were known to say, "isn't free."
Greed and power, however, are tempting things and after many generations some of the more successful people started thinking: "Why are we abiding by this free market? We hold all the power, certainly it makes more sense for us to seize control." So it came to pass, that all the regulations on the rich were obliterated. Inheritance was legalized, private schools were reestablished, financial legacies began anew. Indeed, the rich people went farther, and made it so their businesses were too big to fail. This allowed them to take huge risks, and if those risks didn't pan out, they relied on government to bail them out. Thus Dictatoria was reestablished and the Libertarians were left very confused. Where did they go wrong? How did they screw things up? They were lost.
It was at this time that a plucky young woman came forward and suggested that the problem wasn't that they screwed up the free market. The problem was, in fact, that they trusted in the free market, which was based on property. "All the property comes from the ground," she said, "and we have acted liked plunderers by claiming we have some right to it. Instead of seeking to enrich ourselves with something that isn't ours, we should take what we need and share it for the common good of all."
Well the Libertarians were quite taken aback by this, and grumbled about themselves until they came up with a solution: "String her up!" They shouted. "After all," the Libertarians stated, "we have to have some restrictions on liberty. We aren't anarchists."
Ross Brummet is a student and writer in Los Angeles. He recently wrote a short dystopian film called And Upside Down In Air Were Towers -- currently in post-production. Considering himself a utilitarian with libertarian socialist sympathies, he is (more...)
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