Sunday, September 22, 2013

Libertarianism, Social Darwinism And The Southern Strategy

Libertarianism is a form of Social Darwinism.  The basic assumption is that unbridled competition leads to survival of the fittest.  The quote below was taken from a question and answer session following Ayn Rand's graduation speech at the US Military Academy at West Point in 1974.

[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using…. What was it they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.” * Source: “Q and A session following her Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974

Ayn Rand was an opponent of racism but her ideology has an implicit form of racism built into it.  It was OK for the US military to drive Native Americans off of their properties because they did not have a legal right to their property (perhaps they did not have deeds).  Moreover, it was OK for an "advanced civilization" to assume ownership of their homeland because Native Americans were not taking full advantage of its resources.  The survival of the fittest should be allowed to operate so that the cream can rise to the top.  This also justifies the use of military force, and other means, to determine outcomes in less developed countries that do not share our superior culture and ideologies.  The cream should be allowed to rise to the top.  In other words, the single most powerful apparatus of the state should be used to advance the cause of Social Darwinism.  The use of state power is a public good when it serves the interests of an elite that meets with her approval.  This is totally at odds with her ideology of libertarianism.

The following quote is from Lee Atwater, who is a deceased Republican operative who helped the senior George Bush get elected by portraying his opponent, in a powerful ad, as governor who released a black man from prison who was free to commit another violent crime.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N-gger, n-gger, n-gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n-gger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N-gger, n-gger.”

Atwater described the southern strategy perfectly.  It was not OK to be openly racist, but it was OK to employ abstractions that were used as code words.  Libertarian rhetoric, such as advocacy of "state's rights" was used to justify opposition to federal government programs which served the interests of the wrong kind of people.  The libertarian menu was extended to include deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy and for cuts in spending on entitlements.  We are witnessing this in full force in the GOP battle to defund Obamacare.  Libertarian rhetoric is being used to build populist opposition against a federal program that extends healthcare benefits to the "less deserving".  Over time a political party that bases its populism on racism, disguised as libertarianism, will run into problems.  Its hard to win national elections by appealing to the lowest common denominator in our country.  The GOP runs the risk of becoming a regional party that is unable to serve the interests of the elites that have been its historical supporters.

No comments:

Post a Comment