Saturday, June 4, 2011

Crunchy Libertarianism

Jeffrey Tucker, with whom I usually agree, writing for, with which I usually agree, condemns the "growing moral scrupulosity going on in libertarian land, to the point that every really existing business is closely examined for any hint of state involvement (sin!), even when one stage removed (sin!), and then, upon discovery, condemned to hell has yet another example of the terrible things that the state does to the world" — Scrupulosity and the Condemnation of Every Existing Business.

He takes on those of us who believe that "in a heavily interventionist economy, nothing is immaculately conceived outside the smallest autarkic production unit," and "who just enjoy standing in moral judgement over the whole world as it really exists." I can appreciate Mr. Tucker's anti-zealotry, taken in the same vein as his classic declaration that "there's hardly anyone so annoying as a new Catholic convert" — I Hate Converts (and I Am One).

But those who choose to support the "the smallest autarkic production unit" should not be condemned for doing so. What's wrong with choosing the most "immaculately conceived" of the businesses from which one can shop? These customers, too, are consumers making choices, it's just that principle counts as one of their considerations. Instead of WalMart and Taco Bell, two businesses Mr. Tucker mentions by name, these libertarians choose to spend their money at Vidler's 5 and 10 and Gramma Mora's, to name two competing local businesses with which I grew up, both offering far better services often at better prices.

As much as I hate to invoke Rod Dreher, it is he who comes to mind reading about those Mr. Tucker's article condemns. (Mr. Tucker's review of Mr. Dreher's book — Crunchy Conned.) Yes, they can be as annoying as Catholic converts, and a happy medium can and should be struck; it's just as silly to say WalMart and Taco Bell consumers are evil.

Mr. Tucker informs us that "Murray Rothbard used the phrase 'do you hate the state?' to ferret out real from mild libertarians." Doesn't it follow that someone who would answer "yes" to this question would naturally patronize businesses having as little state connection as possible? The other day I was thinking about what car I would buy should I return to the U.S. My first thought was to buy American and my second thought was not to buy GM.

And finally, Mr. Tucker's conclusion, that "[i]n a free market, everything would thrive even more than it does today, and that goes for fast food too," is simply and self-evidently mistaken. Ever since the command economy of the FDR dictatorship, the economy has been planned for the big players. "Get big or get out," said the Nixon's regime's Earl Butz to farmers. "Too big to fail," we hear today.

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