Libertarians Want to Make a Fool Out of You Again…

On Sunday, the Libertarian Party selected former New Mexico Republican Governor Gary Johnson to run for president with former Republican Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld as his running mate.

Just a day later, families spent the day gathering for picnics, visiting cemeteries, and posting social media tributes to our veterans and the servicemen who have died serving our country since the Revolutionary War.

What do the military and libertarians have in common?


In fact, the mentality of dog-eat-dog survival-of-the-richest Libertarianism stands in direct conflict with the fundamental idea of group sacrifice that defines service in the U.S. Military.

In Sebastian Junger's recent book "Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging", Junger draws on his experiences as a war reporter and the intense feeling of belonging that he's noticed that soldiers feel at the platoon level.

What he describes leads to the startling conclusion that PTSD might have less to do with the trauma that soldiers experience in the military and in combat, and more to do with trauma they experience coming back to an increasingly Libertarian (my phrase, not his), individualistic, civilian society.

A recent analysis from the New York Times provides strong evidence that Junger is onto something.

According to Benedict Carey, for the approximately 90,000 Army veterans who have served multiple tours of duty, their "risk of committing suicide actually drops when they are deployed and soars after they return home. […] The idea that these elite fighters can adapt solely by addressing emotional trauma, some experts said, is badly misplaced. Their primary difficulty is not necessarily one of healing emotional wounds; they thrived in combat."

Proving this is the statistic that it's not just combat veterans who experience PTSD, in fact, nearly half of the military has applied for some form of disability based on PTSD, even though only 10 percent of the military was actually engaged in combat.

But what Junger points out, and what the two of us discussed at length on The Big Picture recently, is that the human need for tribalism goes far beyond the military.

Noting the importance and benefits of tribal-based tight communities, like existed among American Indians in his time, Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1753 that, "When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return, and that this is not natural [to them] merely as Indians, but as men."

On the other hand, even when white settlers were taken prisoner and ransomed for their freedom, Franklin noted that "in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them."

So, what was so appealing about the native's society that white Europeans were constantly fleeing to live with the Native Americans?

French immigrant Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur speculated in "Letters from an American Farmer" that, "[T]here must be in their social bond something singularly captivating, and far superior to anything to be boasted of among us; for thousands of Europeans [have become] Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those Aborigines having from choice become Europeans! There must be something more congenial to our native dispositions, than the fictitious society in which we live; or else why should children, and even grown persons, become in a short time so invincibly attached to it?"

What Sebastian Junger's book and these examples of modern day veterans and colonial era settlers show, is that tribalism is ingrained in our humanity.

But Libertarians reject this aspect of human nature.

Ayn Rand laid out the Libertarian fantasy of "Going Galt", when all the wealthiest people in the country go on strike and refuse to produce anything, so that all the so-called "parasites" and "takers" in the country, you and I would call them "working people", learn how helpless they are without the ultra-rich "makers".

But it's an ideal that goes completely against our biological and psychological nature, and in our military, such an action would be considered treason in a combat situation.

When Bowe Bergdahl abandoned his platoon, got captured, and arguably cost several soldiers their lives while they searched for him, commentators and politicians from both sides of the aisle joined together to call for his head.

No one pointed out that Bergdahl had simply fulfilled the Libertarian ideal of abandoning the protections and obligations of his tribe to pursue his own personal goals outside the fence of the platoon's outpost.

Banksters on Wall Street did the same thing in 2008 when they robbed the American people and cost the American economy as much as 14 trillion dollars, about 45,000 dollars per American citizen.

Oil companies are doing the same thing right now by lying to the American people and refusing to take any meaningful climate action that might cost the industry a few bucks.

They put their corporate profits, executive pay, and shareholder dividends ahead of the well-being of the American economy and the well-being of future generations on this planet.

It's clear why this mentality is destructive in combat and why it needs to be punished, and it's safe to say that there are no practicing Libertarians in foxholes.

But we also must point out that the Libertarian greed of Wall Street Banksters and fossil fuel executives is guided by the same destructive Ayn Rand sociopathic philosophy of placing the individual above the tribe or community.

"We the people" wasn't just a slogan that our Founders and Framers used to open the Constitution, it was a rejection of them British aristocracy's notion that only the rich and well-born should own anything of consequence and that all must serve them.

We've been a nation of communitarians and barn-builders since the start of this nation.

So, even if the news media won't expose the bizarre and fundamentally anti-American positions of the Libertarians, I will.

America is waking up, as we can see in the Sanders movement, and the Reaganesque Libertarian theory of, "I got mine, and screw everybody else" is finally being exposed for the fraud it is.


tim1234 7 years 4 days ago

Dear Thom,

A book that reinforces this point is the modern classic: "Little Big Man." When the young man is "captured" by the Indians and then lives with them, he describes his experience as wonderful, like being on a vacation. It is just so that people are not meant to live alone. It is not complicated. We are like the wolf or dog family, not cats.

c-gull's picture
c-gull 7 years 4 days ago

Beginning with the Roman Empire, hierarchical forms of government took from those of us with Celtic ancestors that which we can never get back. Living close to grandmother earth in a tribe. The next best thing is Native American cosmology which of course fits North America but gives us a chance to have some idea of how our distant ancestors lived. They had sacred groves of trees, sacred springs and sacred mountains and animal totems as do aboriginal Americans. The Hopi among others say we were given "original instructions" for living in harmony on the planet but along came the Greco-Romans who re -wrote the instructions and or destroyed them. We have been suffering from 2000 years of ignorance forced upon us by a hierarchy of leaders like Constantine and Alexander the not so great. If there was no rich class then there would be no poor class.

If you know the earth and the animals and plants and trees then you will not fit into the paradigm of capitalism but you will never be alone.

Stucco Homes's picture
Stucco Homes 7 years 4 days ago

I hope Thom reads this on the air and comments on it, because I've never really heard it discussed on his show before (although I don't listen to every minute of every show, just wish I could).

I know what it is like growing up in a cradle-to-grave socialist environment, because my father was a career Army officer. Dad had a job provided for him by the US government. He received a decent wage, and we were not fabulously well-to-do but lived what I would call a middle class lifestyle. He made the same amount as an Army doctor or an Army lawyer of an equivalent rank and time in service, though he was actually in the ordnance corps.

We lived in government-subsidized housing on base, ate government-subsidized food from the commissary, and wore government-subsidized clothes from the PX. We went to schools and churches and doctors and playgrounds that were all provided by the government. At some of the bases we lived, there were even golf courses and horse stables, all provided by Uncle Sugar.

My father enjoyed a decent pension from the Army, and when he died in 2011 he was buried with full military honors on behalf of a grateful nation. After high school, I myself joined the Navy and saw first-hand what a socialist worker's paradise it is. When I was on a ship, we got "three hots and a cot," meaning that basic needs were provided for us. Pay was low, but I didn't have to spend any of it on rent or bills. Now I am 57, and even though I basically served five do-nothing years during the peaceful Carter administration, I can use the VA hospital and be treated like the war hero I am not.

So anyone who wants to complain about Bernie Sanders being a socialist or how socialism just can't work in America can come talk to me, because I lived it for nearly all my life. I've even heard someone try to posit the following: "Socialism has failed in every country it's been tried!" Baloney. You need look no further than the US military.

leigh23's picture
leigh23 7 years 4 days ago

Agreed! Bernie is a coalescing force that we, the people, have been yearning for; the sense of community and "getting each other's back" that is experienced in the military and, in some memories, the communes of the sixties and earlier. The country is ready to rally around a strong, no bullshit center in order to recover from the fraudulent decadence of the past fifty years. The oil economy is being challenged for real now, and there is an opportunity to swing the apparatus of government to represent the true wishes of the people, united.

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 4 days ago

"Banksters on Wall Street did the same thing in 2008 when they robbed the American people"

Some banks sold some mortgage packages to *other* banks that did not care to look inside them.

And the banking regulations should have *prevented* people from getting loans.

To say this is *robbery* of people is ludicrous.

And the rest of your article is simply argument by analogy and only has rhetorical power to those who agree with you. In in order to prove libertarianism is false, you must show it is inconsistent, right here, right now. But even more absurd is that your meaningless diatribe is false: Libertarianism would be perfectly fine with groups of people doing any non-matket altruistic endeavors.

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 4 days ago

"I know what it is like growing up in a cradle-to-grave socialist environment"

Who are you? Think about it. First, I have no idea who you are. Second, I have no idea if what your saying is true. Third, I have no idea if what you are saying is significant.

Further the idea that you actually want the government to hire, feed, clothe everyone is absurd: that is not what Sanders wants at all.

The reason why good men like yourself can have such great experiences is because you have a higher purpose in life. Most people don't, which is why you need the competition of the workplace.

The actual evidence - as opposed to your personal experience - is overwhelming.

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 4 days ago

"If you know the earth and the animals and plants and trees then you will not fit into the paradigm of capitalism but you will never be alone."

Why? Aboriginals traded a bit. Western settlers traded more, and worked and new the land quite well. And they also worked in common with each other. Capitalism does not have to be inconsistent with public rights to nature - provided you can lease the land and have freedom to profit from the land. For example, Alaska leases land to oil companies. The profit goes to all the citizens, who are free to live in the wilds if they want.

Your real problem is that a mixed economy is on average so much better than living off nature in a tent. Our lands support hundreds of millions, and many millions can actually enjoy nature without the terrible penalties that one often had to endure.

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 4 days ago

"We the people" wasn't just a slogan that our Founders and Framers used to open the Constitution, it was a rejection of them British aristocracy's notion that only the rich and well-born should own anything of consequence and that all must serve them."

That's just stupid. There was no right to vote in the Constitution. Many were slave holders, the majority well off. The Constitution did not say that the federal government should aid the poor, construct poor houses, hospitals, prosecute monopolies or ensure just prices, make police or fire forces - all that was left to the states, which the states were expected to do.

Further, the Constitution did not say the federal government owned the land for the people, they did not confiscate private English estates or divide them up and give it to the people. They did not enforce any equality of property, but only of the application of law. There were no laws limiting how much a man may own, or mandating minimum standards or conditions of employment.

The only thing that kept things looking good was the fact there was so much land. But that would change.

Dwain's picture
Dwain 7 years 4 days ago

Thank you. Insightful comment.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 6 years 52 weeks ago

That's correct Thom, crazed, obsessed, facile causistries not withstanding, socialism is the inevitable. The idea that the wealthy are indispensable is the ridiculous beyond anything. They are nothing but thieves and parasites. It is THEY who are the "takers".
The Native Americans represent the pre agriculural political economy before the domestication of plants and animals. After which the principle of domestication was soon applied not only to animals but to other people as well and different forms of slavery and patriarchy began and since, in all the systems of private property, the same slavery continues in different clothing.
In feudal times noblemen would advise one another to "Never oppress poor peasants. Their land doesn't produce and they [the peasants, the nobility's beasts of burden] will themselves starve if you take anything of any notable wealth from them. Always oppress rich peasants whose land is good and fecund. Then you can take very much from them leaving them only what they need for their own basic survival."
The very same principles guided capitalism only the capitalists gave the process inocuous and even cheery sounding language. They called that part of the wealth the labor of their workers produced that had to be left them for them to be able to survive to come to work the following day "labor costs" and part of "production costs" which also includes the tools the workers were to use in their labor. The amount of the wealth produced by the labor of the workers that was taken from them by their parasitic slaver, their employer, left after the deduction of those production costs is then called, not "the ill gotten, stolen product of the worker's labor" but something much more pleasant sounding. It's called "profits" or the "profit margin".
The employer with the superstitious, mystical faith in the infallibility of free enterprise considers a "fair wage" the least amount he can get away with paying his employees, as close to the bare minimum necessary for their basic survival as he can get it to be. Only government intervention or collective bargaining (which, without government intervention is of dubious effectiveness) would ever prevent that employer from getting his wages to that bare minimum point.
Dr. Econ was right about one thing. It was only at all possible to believe in the canard of the inherent fairness of capitalism in the 18th and 19th Centuries when land in the U.S. was everywhere and for the taking. Then, if someone wasn't doing well for themselves they were more likely to be just not working their land hard enough. But even then, different land has different capacities of productivity and a host of other factors can figure in.

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