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A Punch in the Gulch

Here is Jeff Sachs on libertarians:

Yet the error of libertarianism lies not in championing liberty, but in championing liberty to the exclusion of all other values. Libertarians hold that individual liberty should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of other values or causes. Compassion, justice, civic responsibility, honesty, decency, humility, respect, and even survival of the poor, weak, and vulnerable — all are to take a back seat.

It is totally understandable why someone would say such a thing. But is it too much of me to ask that Mr. Sachs stop to think about what it is he just said and implied in that sentence? And yes I understand that this is supposed to be a take-down of libertarians – but he would have had my fuller attention had he made more (any) mention that there has to be some default rules for living socially, and that there is perhaps a little more than an “error” in the pragmatism he promotes (and certainly other “-isms” that he does not).

5 Responses to “A Punch in the Gulch”

  1. Harry says:

    He begs the question. Same thing with Ron Paul. Does one sympathasize with some people who call themselves libertarians who have some good ideas? Well, I am for liberty, as wintercow proclaims too. I would prefer to be called a Bastiatarde, but whatever you call me, don’t call me Krugman.

  2. chuck martel says:

    Sachs employs some pathetic rhetorical devices in this screed. Why should anyone with a libertarian bent allow him to define their ideas and why would anyone believe that someone that calls themselves a libertarian has exactly the same values as another libertarian?

    Sachs dwells on the “rich man living next to the poor man” situation and the necessary role of the state in addressing it. Assuming that the state should indeed redistribute the wealth of the rich to the poor, that the rich are obliged to support their neighbors, what obligations do the poor have? As one of the rich, is it right or wrong for me to require the poor that I support to mow my lawn or do my dishes or curry my polo ponies?

  3. Tyler says:

    How is one to know when libertarians have gone too far? I am not disagreeing with wintercow here, however I do want say that Singapore has the worlds best healthcare system and they are a “live and let live” country.

  4. Speedmaster says:

    I disagree w/ Sachs assumption. I think that those things he describes are somewhat true when I choose a govt., but personally, I hold an extremely high regard for compassion.

    And I think that all libertarians still want their govt. to be honest, even when small.

  5. Rod says:

    Sachs takes a jab at Barry Goldwater at the end of his article, citing his “extremism in the defense of Liberty” as the reason why he lost to that famous thinker and humanitarian, Lyndon Johnson.

    It’s never the case in modern America where the poor man, living next door to the rich man (zoning laws take care of that) finds himself starving at the feet of the greedy capitalist. So now it’s just the rich man who has an obligation to feed the poor? More likely there are political consultants calculating how many votes are in the middle class, a group that supposedly wants to be on the receiving end of the welfare state.

    What I deplore is extremism in the assault on my liberty. If I want to start a business, I have to check first whether the business I want to start fits with the local zoning code (I bet Bill Gates was illegally operating a business out of his garage), or else I have to rent or buy a place in a commercial or industrial zone and go before the township and county to get their approval. And I have to get an employer’s identification number so the feds and state can take a cut before I have even made a profit. OSHA wants a piece of me, as does Pennsylvania L&I and the county health department. And heaven help me if I violate some obscure environmental regulation, like allowing stormwater runoff to leave the boundaries of my property. And then I’m dubbed an extremist by some snot-nosed columnist at the Huffington Post. (I wonder if Arianna gives table scraps to her Mexican gardeners?)

    All that having to be said, I don’t agree enough with Ron Paul to want him president. I think he has reached his ideal place as a curmudgeon in the House.

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