Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Libertarianism and Corruption

One question that conservatives and libertarians like to ask of the liberals is, “Where do you get your trust in the government?”

I respond to that with another question. Where do you get your trust in the private sector?

My friend Arindam told me that when the East India Tea Company ruled India, it did so in a much more brutal and irresponsible manner than did the English government when it likewise ruled India. And the Latin American corporate states were not much better than the Communist blok.

That the government is capable of corrupt and tyrannical practices, is certainly correct. However it is far from the only entity capable of such practices. Russian mafia is not the government, but it is more cruel and murderous than were Khruschev, Brezhnev or Gorbachev. And we know from the example of the subprime mortgage lending crisis that the private companies are also capable of extremely unethical practices that rip people off and send them into poverty.

There are other entities capable of exceptional corruption as well. Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Scientology, and the old-boy networks in the American South are all vastly corrupt, and none of them is the government. There is also vast corruption in medicine and law. I know a woman who had three of her relatives murdered in American medical system. The corrupt doctors enlisted corrupt lawyers and corrupt coroners to bury her case. There have been judges taking money to take children away and send them to private juvenile prisons. And in some places, the racket disorder called Parental Alienation Syndrome has been used to take children away from mothers reporting abuse and give them fully into the hands of child rapists and batterers.

The libertarian sentiment is understandable, but it is badly misdirected. Unlike Enron or the Church of Scientology, the American government is elected, accountable, checked and balanced. That goes vastly to correcting its potentials for tyranny and corruption. And while the libertarian spends all his time obsessing about the government, he does nothing to correct private entities of tyranny and corruption. Instead he protects them from government scrutiny by claiming that they are “the people” - and the people they batter, intimidate, rape and murder are not.

I would take the Obama government over the KKK any time. One is elected; the other is not. One is rigorously scrutinized by the media; the other isn't. One is accountable to the public; the other is not accountable to the public. One preaches humane and compassionate conduct; the other does not.

Doing away with “big government” does not begin to do away with tyranny or corruption. Rather it opens the way for private entities to exercise tyranny and corruption. These entities can be anything from unscrupulous businessmen and professionals to corrupt communities and religious groups to organized crime; and none of them begin to be better than the governments in Western democracies.

So no, the Obama government is not the bogeyman. In many cases it is vastly better than any number of private entities; and unlike these private entities it is elected and scrutinized. If the libertarians really seek to defend liberty, they would be scrutinizing old boy networks, vicious communities and religious sects, corrupt networks in law and medicine, and other real offenders. And until they do so they are hypocrites who obsess over one potential source of tyranny and corruption while ignoring a thousand others.


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