Why libertarians apologize for autocracy

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Niccolo and Donkey
Why libertarians apologize for autocracy


Michael Lind

August 30, 2011


Having denounced liberals as crypto-communists for half a century during the Cold War, the American right now routinely accuses the center-left of being fascist. This libel was given currency in Jonah Goldberg's 2009 book "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning." From the support of a few progressives a century ago for eugenics, and expressions of admiration by a few 1920s liberals for Mussolini’s ability to make the trains run on time, Goldberg and others on the right have crafted the latest in a series of right-wing conspiracy theories about American history, this one claiming that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt deliberately set the U.S. on the road to an American version of Mussolini’s corporate state.

Given their professed interest in admirers of Mussolini, it is curious that American conservatives and libertarians have not seen fit to discuss the view of fascism held by one of the heroes of modern American libertarianism, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. In his book " Liberalism ," published in 1927 after Mussolini had seized power in Italy, Mises wrote:

Friedrich von Hayek, who was, along with von Mises, one of the patron saints of modern libertarianism, was as infatuated with the Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet as von Mises was with Mussolini, according to Greg Grandin:

The Pinochet dictatorship was admired by the right in the U.S. and Britain for turning Chile’s economic policy over to disciples of Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago, who inflicted disastrous social experiments like the privatization of social security on Chile’s repressed population. Following the libertarian reforms, the Chilean economy collapsed in 1982, forcing the nationalization of the banking system and government intervention in industry. According to Grandin :

Friedman politely neglected to mention the lack of political and civil liberty under the Pinochet regime. Many of its victims were drugged and taken in military airplanes to be dropped over the South Atlantic, with their bellies slit open while they were still alive so that their bodies would not float and be discovered.

One of the members of Pinochet’s cabinet, Jose Piñera, has enjoyed a second career at the leading American libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, and is credited with having influenced George W. Bush’s failed attempt to partly privatize Social Security in America. The Cato website says :

Piñera, the brother of Chile’s billionaire president Sebastian Piñera, has a personal website in which he claims that he played a major role in the transition to democracy in Chile. Piñera’s portrayal of himself as a champion of democracy is somewhat undercut on the same Web page by several defenses of Pinochet's regime that he includes, including this one by a writer in an Australian magazine:

The Cato Institute’s problem with democracy is not limited to its appointment of a former functionary of a mass murderer to direct its retirement policy program. Cato Unbound recently hosted a debate over whether libertarianism is compatible with democracy. Milton Friedman’s grandson Patri concluded that it is not :

In his recommendations for further reading, Friedman included the Austrian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s book "Democracy: The God That Failed," which appeared in 2001, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, during the greatest wave of global democratization in history. In his Cato Unbound manifesto, Friedman called on his fellow libertarians to give up on the whole idea of the democratic nation-state and join his movement in favor of "seasteading," or the creation of new, microscopic sovereign states on repurposed oil derricks, where people who think that "Atlas Shrugged" is really cool can be in the majority for a change.

In a similar spirit, a libertarian economics blogger named Arnold Kling has proposed his own alternative to democracy , which he calls "competitive government":

When it comes to American history, libertarians tend retrospectively to side with the Confederacy against the Union. Yes, yes, the South had slavery -- but it also had low tariffs, while Abraham Lincoln's free labor North was protectionist. Surely the tariff was a greater evil than slavery.

The posthumous induction of Jefferson Davis into the libertarian hall of fame was too much for David Boaz, a vice president of Cato. In a 2010 essay in Reason magazine titled "Up From Slavery: There’s No Such Thing as a Golden Age of Lost Liberty," Boaz observed that even whites in the antebellum North "did not actually live in a free society ... Liberalism seeks not just to liberate this or that person, but to create a rule of law exemplifying equal freedom. By that standard, even the plantation owners did not live in a free society, nor even did people in the free states."

Boaz asked his fellow libertarians, "If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?" It says something that in 2009 this question stirred up a controversy on the libertarian right.

Libertarians and conservatives, to be sure, can point to many examples of naive liberals in the last century who embarrassed themselves by praising this or that squalid, tyrannical communist regime, from the Soviet Union and communist China to petty police states like North Korea, communist Vietnam and Castro’s Cuba. But the apologists for tyranny on the left were always opposed by anti-communist liberals and anti-communist democratic socialists. Where were the anti-authoritarian libertarians, denouncing libertarian fellow travelers of Pinochet like von Hayek and Milton Friedman?

For that matter, where was the libertarian right during the great struggles for individual liberty in America in the last half-century? The libertarian movement has been conspicuously absent from the campaigns for civil rights for nonwhites, women, gays and lesbians. Most, if not all, libertarians support sexual and reproductive freedom (though Rand Paul has expressed doubts about federal civil rights legislation). But civil libertarian activists are found overwhelmingly on the left. Their right-wing brethren have been concerned with issues more important than civil rights, voting rights, abuses by police and the military, and the subordination of politics to religion -- issues like the campaign to expand human freedom by turning highways over to toll-extracting private corporations and the crusade to funnel money from Social Security to Wall Street brokerage firms.

While progressives betray their principles when they apologize for autocracy, libertarians do not. Today’s libertarians claim to be the heirs of the classical liberals of the 19th century. Without exception the great thinkers of classical liberalism, like Benjamin Constant, Thomas Babington Macaulay and John Stuart Mill, viewed universal suffrage democracy as a threat to property rights and capitalism. Mill favored educational qualifications for voters, like the "literacy tests" used to disfranchise most blacks and many whites in the South before the 1960s. After the Civil War, Lord Acton wrote to Robert E. Lee, commiserating with him on the defeat of the Confederacy.

In a letter to an American in 1857, Macaulay wrote:

By "purely democratic" Macaulay meant universal suffrage; he opposed democracy even with checks and balances and written constitutions.

Macaulay’s solution was to limit voting rights to those who drink champagne and ride in carriages, on the proto-Reaganite theory that some of their wealth would trickle down to people with hungry, crying children, "none of whom has had more than half a breakfast, or expects to have more than half a dinner."

The history of democratic nation-states since the 19th century proves that Macaulay, and von Mises, and Hayek, as well as lesser lights like Patri Friedman, have been right to argue that democracy is incompatible with libertarianism. Every modern, advanced democracy, including the United States, devotes between a third and half of its GDP to government, in both direct spending on public services like defense and transfer payments. Given the power to vote, most populations will not only vote for some system of government-backed social insurance, but also for all sorts of interventions in individual behavior that libertarians object to, from laws banning nudity in public to laws mandating that people support their children, do not torture or neglect their pets and water their lawns during droughts according to scheduled rationing.

Unfortunately for libertarians who, like Hayek, prefer libertarian dictatorships to welfare-state democracies, even modern authoritarians reject the small-government creed. The most successful authoritarian capitalist regimes, such as today’s China and South Korea and Taiwan before their recent transitions to democracy, have been highly interventionist in economics, promoting economic growth by means of state-controlled banking, state-owned enterprises, government promotion of cartels, suppression of wages and consumption, tariffs and nontariff barriers to imports, toleration of intellectual piracy, massive infrastructure projects to help industry, and subsidies to manufacturers in the form of artificially cheap raw materials, energy and land.

The dread of democracy by libertarians and classical liberals is justified. Libertarianism really is incompatible with democracy. Most libertarians have made it clear which of the two they prefer. The only question that remains to be settled is why anyone should pay attention to libertarians.


In the first and second sentence he takes Jonah Goldberg seriously. That's where I stopped reading.

Niccolo and Donkey

idiot author:

All this is libertarian reform :tard2:
Yeah, because that's all the war was about. Slavery. :tard2:
More retardism. No human out there thinks that privatizing roads takes precedence over repealing the patriot act or invasions of privacy. Find one person who does and you'll get a cookie.

This is unbelievable. Does this person believe what they are writing?


look at the shit this guy produced:


"The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics, Doubleday, 2001" LOL

Team Zissou
Denouncing them as unprecedented intrusions into the individual's freedom of association, as they should. What a tool.