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L. Neil Smith's
Number 601, January 1, 2011

"Okay, here's THE PLAN"

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The Market: Brand X or Libertarianism?
by Carl Bussjaeger

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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Claire Wolfe recently asked, "What one thing about freedom makes it worthwhile for those who seek it? What One Great Thing can make all the struggle worthwhile?"

That's been on my mind for the past year, although I've been looking at it as a market question. To libertarians, free markets are pretty much everything. And the answer is:


Libertarianism is a free market failure. A flop. Couldn't even hack it as a passing fad. Pet rocks were more popular.

When offered the choice of voting (or simply living) for freedom, self-responsibility, self-determination, et cetera, or voting for a state that will treat them as helpless, hapless children in need of cradle to grave guidance, Americans have by an overwhelming majority chosen the State.

It's easy to understand. If you choose responsibility, then it just might be your own fault when you fail. But if all your tough decisions are magically made by the State... First, screw-ups aren't your fault, you can't be blamed; and that's so much easier on delicate egos. Second, failure doesn't even matter, because if someone does better than you, then mommy and daddy State will exercise a little social justice and see to it that you get your share anyway.

A libertarian who can't afford to raise children has to spring for contraceptives or – oh, the deprivation! – keep his pants zipped. But the lucky people who left the box of libertarianism on the store shelf and bought Big Government have it easy:

  • Those with some residual sense of responsibility can get freebie condoms in their socialized education day care facilities.
  • Free stuff being worth what you pay for them, they can always get a State-financed abortion when the condom leaks.
  • But hey, when you can get WIC, long term unemployment checks, SSAN checks, free day care, and so forth, why not have those kids and let some greedy, capitalistic over-achiever (who kept his own pants zipped) pay for it all?

And hey, ladies; it isn't as if the government is going to make you have sex with the suckers you make pay for all this.

Want to be a farmer? A libertarian has to take his chances. Bad weather can wipe him out. So can a bad guess as to what's going to be popular in a few months. Someone else's poor sanitation can cause a market busting PR problem for you.

Ah, but drink the kool-aid, and you get crop subsidies. Guaranteed markets (People aren't buying enough corn chips. I know! Make 'em stuff corn in their gas tanks.). Guaranteed prices. Competition-breaking tariffs.

Incipient failure, guaranteed success... Oh, dear; how to choose?

And bankers, do we really need to go into the relative merits of having to maintain adequate assets to cover obligations versus fractional-to-no-reserve banking with gov bailouts when you screw up even that?

Or 1)you can go bankrupt in a morally uplifting way, 2)get bailed out by daddy State. Why face consequences?

Then there's that whole initiation of force thing. The purist type libertarians can sit around arguing whether fraud, deception, or breach of contract count as initiated force that they can retaliate against, while the gov-worshippers get to hire thugs to rob them at (at least potential) gunpoint, which is cool with the Statists: the tax-feeders get the money while the violent sociopaths get to threaten and assault people while wearing the funny government hat of impunity. And the libs will argue whether that is initiated force instead of defending themselves. Looks like a good deal for the non-libs.

International trade. The libs can work their asses off trying to efficiently market desirable products and out-compete the other guys. Statists don't have to bother with that; tariffs, "free trade" treaties, and when all else fails, you can send a bunch of welfare victims off to invade anyone whose marketing tactics you don't like. Want cheaper oil? Demonize a couple of Mid-East countries and set 'em up for a little preemptive nation-building. And the really neat part is that the poor schmucks sent to fight, die, or just get mutilated will be be glad they have jobs, courtesy of mommy and daddy State,

The State offers, and on its terms delivers, everything. Cradle to grave subsistence for the masses, protected markets and fail-proofing for the politically connected, and an endless supply of scapegoats.

Libertarianism offers doubt, the potential for failure, no guaranteed assistance.

Tough call, eh?

And it isn't as if the lib marketing problems are anything new, a recent statistical glitch meaningless in the long run. Since the first governments sprang up thousands of years ago – gangs of thugs protecting farmers an the weak out of their worldly goods and livelihoods – people not only tolerated it, but embraced it. They've built monuments to coercive mommy and daddy Statism, from the fable Tower of Bable through the Pyramids and sundry palaces to little things like the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.

When's the last time you saw people passing a petition to raise a statute of Thoreau?

If – Americans, for example – had even the slightest passing interest in real self-determination and responsibility (i.e.- liberty), would a "lame duck" Congress exist, in which scum-sucking congresscreeps who have been voted out of office, their policies supposedly repudiated, get to implement all those policies without reprisal anyway?

Libertarianism is a market failure. Peddle something people want. And people by and (very ) large want more statism.

At best, libertarianism is a niche market, a damned small one. How small? What percentage of the eligible American voters opted for the Lib candidate in 2004? (Forget 2008. Barr?!) Or look at Mike Vanderboegh's Doctrine of the Three Percent: You start with American gun owners (at best, one-third of the population). Threepers are – duh – 3% of that. You're down to less than 1% of the population now. If you judge by posted comments at Sipsey Street Irregulars, real, hard-core libertarians might be one-third of Threepers; be generous and call it 1,000,000 people (which makes a nice cross-check against the 2008 vote).

After 30+ years of marketing libertarianism, you pull less than one-third of one percent of the political market (Microsoft gets more competition from Linux distros).

America (and obviously the rest of the world) ain't buying.

Visit Carl Bussjaeger's web site at


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