Libertarian conservatism: a contradiction of stolen terms.

It’s a sorry state of affairs in this world when the people who are pretty comfortable with mass exploitation are both here and abroad. This along with an ever shrinking group of individuals controlling more and more of the global economy, whilst celebrating the work of a woman who said “there’s no such thing as society”, get away with claiming political decadency from the likes of Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Both of whom advocated policies that would make Gideon Osborne’s black heart explode with the amount of money not allocated to the upper classes.

The problem comes the fact that the right have done a brilliant job of stealing terms from anarchists; at best muddying their meaning, at worse expropriating them altogether. The best example of this would be the label of ‘libertarian’, which used to simply mean someone who didn’t wish anyone (including the boss) to force them to do anything… you know; an anarchist, is now paraded by the worst and most virulent proponents of wage slavery around as though their philosophy is somehow about freedom for all, whilst advocating more and more control for those privileged few who have over those who have not.  Put bluntly, no one can be both a libertarian and believe in capitalism: these are mutually exclusive ideas.

The ‘free market’, though not a term that originates in anarchism, certainly has some stolen ideas because, after all, a free market would be where individuals can freely create and trade their produce without inhibitors, understood literally that has to be anarchism, as what is a bigger inhibitor to individual prosperity than the fact that a small number of people own the lion’s share of wealth and almost all wealth creating materials?

The latest incarnation of this right-wing doublethink in the UK at least is the ConDem’s idea of ‘the big society’ wherein the community will come together, work for each other for mutual benefit along with trying to break down the atomised society we have come to live in. At a glance this sort of looks like people taking control of their communities and making decisions affecting that community within itself… you know, anarchism. But let’s look closer, the government has no plans to give up policing the community: what this ‘big society’ consists of is the Tories telling us that we are responsible for our own public services, down to organisation and the supply of resources. Now, whilst the government decides it has a right to beat, kill or incarcerate us, I feel it has an obligation to the old, the sick and the education of children at the very least, and taking away not just the services.

This weird political cross dressing began – it’s probable to assume – as a ploy to get the plebs on board by arguing ‘hey we just want you poor people to get along in life, whilst these lefties just want to spoon-feed you and keep you poor’ is a more appealing argument than ‘we want us and our friends to control the economy so us and people like us can continue to rule you peasants’. The fact that this terminology has become the norm, however, has to be laid at the door of the left and their willingness to play along. I’ve had a discussion with an American who, whilst is not a liberal lefty is fiercely against the ‘libertarian right’ telling them why individualism is a bad thing. And that’s a right wing victory, they’ve got people who are – whilst very little better – arguing for a better deal for poor people that the worst nightmare of conservatism will allow, attacking them by attacking freedom. Instead of pointing out that ‘free market’ is not free, we are letting people get away with describing safeguards against the worst excesses of neo-feudalist global companies as restrictive.

We can’t allow this to continue, so make sure when next you see a so called ‘libertarian conservative’ or something similar, telling everyone that he’s for liberty somewhat akin to Tom Paine, make sure they don’t get away with looking like the rebel for supporting those who oppress us.

by MFT

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January 2011

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