Posts tagged Ridiculous Strawman Watch

Ridiculous Strawman Watch (Part 4 of ???)

It’s R.S.W. time again, which puts me in a bit of a quandary. Not about who to recognize in the Watch: Bruce Bartlett’s recent column on libertarianism and Jim Crow obviously deserves a place in the R.S.W. far more than any lesser imitator. But Bartlett’s post does raise a very serious problem: the problem of how I’m supposed to decide which pull-quote from the post actually represents the most ridiculous Ridiculous Strawman that Bartlett has to offer?

Is it Ridiculous Strawman A (of the free market):

The Court’s philosophy in these cases led logically to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which essentially gave constitutional protection to legal segregation enforced by state and local governments throughout the U.S.

As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation.[1]

Or is it Ridiculous Strawman B (of the libertarian philosophy and freedom):

In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s [?! sic — Ed.] gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. … Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn’t work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.

Long-time readers may remember that Bartlett was already named as an R.S.W. laureate a little more than a year ago (in which he decided that the problem with American libertarians is that they never talk about interventionist foreign policy or the War on Drugs). But such a man of action is not content to rest on his laurels, and he has certainly outdone himself this year.

As usual, of course, I have little interest in defending a weaselly conservative statist like Rand Paul; and none at all in defending the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s. But I do have some passing familiarity with the libertarian philosophy, and with the meaning of the term free market; and I think that if you consider almost a century of legal segregation enforced by state and local governments to be the right setting for a historical on free market outcomes; or looking at what happened under politically-enforced white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs and the KKK to be a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy — apparently on the notion that libertarian anti-statism is identical with a doctrine of unlimited States Rights, and the free market is identical with the market outcomes that you get when pervasive racism and segregation are explicitly required by an extensive system of government economic regulation — well, then, you, sir, are eminently qualified for the R.S.W.

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  1. [1]Of course, to be fair to Bartlett here, it is true that the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation in the American South. Neither did a Communist invasion of the United States, or a visitation by space aliens. Guess what all of these things have in common? —R.G.

Ridiculous Strawman Watch (Part 3 of ???)

In recent political news from Nepal:

UML Leader Oli accuse Maoist of establishing anarchism in country

KATHMANDU, Nepal – CPN-UML [Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist)] influential leader KP Sharma Oli has on Saturday criticized the UCPN (Maoist) terming that Maoist is hell-bent to establish authoritarian regime in the country.

— reviewnepal.com (2009-07-04): UML Leader Oli accuse Maoist of establishing anarchism in country

There’s obviously some translation issues going on here, so one should tread carefully; but I am pretty sure that in any language, when you try to describe the parliamentary gamesmanship and political designs of a political party made up of a bunch of self-identified Maoist, if the first thing that comes to your mind is Anarchism, then, sir, your understanding of Anarchy has definitely earned you a place in the R.S.W.

Ridiculous Strawman Watch (Part 2 of ???)

(Via Roderick Long @ Austro-Athenian Empire 2009-05-30.)

For the moment, I’ll set aside the contemptuous mocking that Bruce Bartlett richly deserves for prolonging the life and expanding the scope of the utterly vile portmanteau liberaltarianism. Let’s focus on the content of his article, instead; here’s Bartlett’s advice to libertarians on libertarian priorities

The reason [libertarians don’t typically vote for Democrats] is that most self-described libertarians are primarily motivated by economics. In particular, they don’t like paying taxes. They also tend to have an obsession with gold and a distrust of paper money. As a philosophy, their libertarianism doesn’t extent much beyond not wanting to pay taxes, being paid in gold and being able to keep all the guns they want. Many are survivalists at heart and would be perfectly content to live in complete isolation on a mountain somewhere, neither taking anything from society nor giving anything.

. . . [T]here is a theoretical case to be made for liberals and libertarians at least continuing a dialogue. But for it to go anywhere, libertarians must scale back their almost single-minded focus on economic freedom as the sole determinant of liberty. They must work harder to defend civil liberties and resist expansion of the police state whether it involves suspected terrorists, illegal aliens or those who enjoy smoking marijuana.

Libertarians should also be more outspoken about America’s disastrous foreign policy, which Obama seems to be doing very little to fix. This would seem like an obvious area for cooperation. The main problem seems that neither liberals nor libertarians are up to challenging the loudmouthed bullies on talk radio and Fox News who equate anything less than a 100% commitment to the war on terror as treasonous.

It’s a fair cop: after all, libertarians hardly ever talk about encroachments on civil liberties, the police state, onerous immigration laws, the War on Drugs, or interventionist foreign policy. It’s true: I read it on the Internet.

I mean, look, dude, if your point is just that libertarians need to put more rhetorical and political distance between themselves and the Right, including even supposed small government conservative types, then, hey, I dig. But if your impression of what the modal libertarian is like is something that could be refuted by picking up a couple issues of reason (reason-fer-Christ’s-sake) at your local Barnes & Noble — or, hell, just walking by the newsrack and looking at the cartoons on the damn cover — well, then, sir, you have definitely earned a place in the R.S.W.

P.S. Also, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to pay your taxes.

Ridiculous Strawman Watch (Part 1 of ???)

Finance capital — possibly the single most heavily regulated market in the entire global economy, which is shaped by the dictates of literally hundreds of government central banks around the world, which is constantly carried on with a background promise of bail-outs by government agencies like the IMF, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the European Central Bank, etc., and which is overseen by so many different regulatory agencies that they often can’t even decide which is supposed to be regulating a particular subset of the market — is empirical proof that Financial markets have been given their freedom, and they have disgraced themselves. As my Scottish headmaster used to say [sic!], back in the 1950s, privileges that are abused will be withdrawn. The time has come to put markets back under strict controls and restrictions, such as those under which they laboured from the 1930s till the 1970s.

Also, little did I know how much cause I had to rejoice: I never realized it, but it turns out that the libertarian movement [conquered] the world at some point within the last 40 years. It’s true: I read it on the Internet.

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Cognitive Dissonance of the Non-Libertarian Left

Pam Martens’ recent article in CounterPunch looks at the rickety finance sector and the role that CDOs–complex securities that tap into the cash flow from a multilayered portfolio of debt obligations–have played in the money barons’ recent woes. Her piece is, oddly, titled The Free Market Myth Dissolves into Chaos. I say it’s odd, because here is what we find by the second and third paragraph from the top:

Given that these big Wall Street players now own some of our largest, taxpayer insured, depositor banks (courtesy of a legislative gift from Congress called the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) and the Federal Reserve is shoveling tens of billions of our dollars into some very big black holes, …

… The Bush administration is spinning the mess as a subprime mortgage problem lest the public figure out that a $1 Trillion unregulated market has blown up under the free market noses of this administration.

— Pam Martens (2008-01-03): The Free Market Myth Dissolves into Chaos

There are many kinds of manipulation and jobbery that go on actually existing capital and finance markets that deserve criticism, and the Left, including Martens, have some wise and insightful things to say on this point. The mystery is where the terms unregulated market and free market come into the picture. When one directly mentions government-imposed, tax-funded deposit insurance, and government cartelization of the entire banking industry under the auspices of a government-created, government-controlled central bank, one would expect at least a little recognition of the fact that we are dealing with a market rigged by government interventions to insulate and direct high finance. If nothing else, one would expect that the switcheroo from a critique of actually existing state capitalism to a critique of free markets might wait for at least a few more paragraphs, in order to make the manifest cognitive dissonance a bit less excruciating.

Further reading: