Universal Translator

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Liberalism vs. Libertarianism

Over at Digby's, David Atkins has a great post up titled "No, Stoller and Sullivan:  There Is No Liberal Conflict Over Ron Paul."

One of the things I like about it is that he doesn't shy away from the fact that - at its heart - Liberalism is paternalistic:  that the liberal philosophy is one that recognizes that the proper role of the government is to prevent the rich, the powerful, and the ruthless from simply running roughshod over those less rich, less powerful and more mild-mannered.  Here is the nut of the thing, but do click over to read it in its entirety:

Liberalism is and has always been about intervention. It is the opposite of libertarianism, and always has been. Liberals understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Left to their own devices, people with weapons and money will always try to exploit and dominate people without weapons and money unless they are stopped from doing so. It is not because we are taught to do so. It's just innate human nature. If this were not the case, libertarianism would work as an ideology. It does not, and never has at any point in history.

When the government steps in to stop a corporation from dumping noxious chemicals into a stream, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless. When the government steps in to enforce desegretation in schools, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless.

[snip ]

This is what liberalism is. It is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature. It is so because it understands the inevitable tendency of human beings to be truly awful to one another unless social and legal rules are put in place--yes, by force--to prevent them from doing otherwise.

Conservatives use force of government as well, of course, but not in defense of the weak and oppressed, but rather to maintain the power of money, of patriarchy and of the established social pecking order. Where the oppressive hand of government helps them achieve that, they utilize it. Where libertarian ideology helps them keep power in the hands of the local good old boys, they use that instead.

But a liberal--a progressive, if you will--is always an interventionist, because a liberal understands that society is constantly on a path of self-perfection, in an effort to use reason and good moral judgment to prevent insofar as possible the exploitation of one person by another.

The division between liberals lies in how far to intervene . . . .

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