Excerpted from “The lesson of Rand Paul: libertarianism is juvenile
” BY GABRIEL WINANT, Salon
, FRIDAY, MAY 21, 2010 08:30 ET
t's time to stop taking libertarianism seriously.
Ironically, the best way into this point comes from
another brilliant libertarian, legal scholar Richard Epstein. Says Epstein, "To be against Title II in 1964 would be to be brain-dead to the underlying realities of how this world works."
There’s the key -- "the underlying realities of how the world works." Because never, and I mean never
, has there been capitalist enterprise that wasn't ultimately underwritten by the state. This is true at an obvious level that even most libertarians would concede (though maybe not some
of the Austrian economists whom Rand Paul adores): for the system to work, you need some kind of bare bones apparatus for enforcing contracts and protecting property. But it's also true in a more profound, historical sense. To summarize very briefly a long and complicated process, we got capitalism in the first place through a long process of flirtation between governments
on the one hand, and bankers and merchants
on the other, culminating in the Industrial Revolution. What libertarians revere as an eternal, holy truth is in fact, in the grand scheme of human history, quite young. And if they'd just stop worshiping for a minute, they'd notice the parents hovering in the background.
Libertarians like Paul are walking around with the idea that the world could just snap back to a naturally-occurring benign order if the government stopped interfering. As Paul implied, good people wouldn't shop at the racist stores, so there wouldn't be any.
This is the belief system of people who have been the unwitting recipients of massive government backing for their entire lives. To borrow a phrase, they were born on third base, and think they hit a triple. We could fill a library with the details of the state underwriting enjoyed by American business -- hell, we could fill a fair chunk of the Internet, if we weren't using it all on Rand Paul already.