The rise of the Libertarian movement in Australia, and other capitalist democracies, poses a far greater threat to our way of life than the isolated acts of terrorism that cause so much fear and hatred.
Libertarians are more dangerous because they are insidiously campaigning to undermine the very fabric of our society. For them, governments should get out of the way. Let the free market reign. Low taxes. No rules. Every man for himself, or “individual liberty” as they like to put it.
This overwhelmingly privileged crowd are focused on what they can get out of society rather than what they can contribute.
They also share an overconfident smugness, a certainty that they are right without having to actually examine the consequences of their laissez-faire approach on those who don’t enjoy their elevated status.
Look at David Leyonhjelm, Tim Wilson, James Patterson, Tom Switzer, Judith Sloane, Henry Ergas, Simon Breheny and Chris Berg for example. They tell us how it is, or how it should be, with such unquestioning self-belief that one starts to wonder if they may be right.
They play on Australians’ aversion to authority, using terms like “nanny state”. The government can’t make you wear a bike helmet or build a pool fence, they say, and they have no right to stop you from smoking or owning a gun.
There are an increasing number of organisations in Australia devoted to spreading this philosophy – the Liberal Democrats, the Institute of Public Affairs, the Centre for Independent Studies, the Australian Libertarian Society, and the Australian Taxpayers Alliance to name a few.
Libertarians spit out the word ‘socialism’ like it is a terrible plot to steal from the rich. They are much more concerned about property rights than human rights and see no role for government in providing services and hence no need to collect taxes.
The free market will take care of it all and if no-one wants to run a bus service that caters to only a few, then they should just buy a car. If no-one wants to operate a vocational college in regional areas, then they should buy a unit in the city for their kids to complete their training. Why should we give an aged pension to people who didn’t take advantage of John Howard’s generous offer to stash a million dollars in superannuation tax free?
Libertarians are also implacably opposed to governments doing anything to address climate change as shown by an email from the IPA’s Ian Plimer in 2014 asking for donations to continue their war on climate science.
Today, you and I are winning. Kevin Rudd’s ETS is gone. Julia Gillard’s carbon tax is about to be repealed. None of this would have happened without the Institute of Public Affairs and its members. But more needs to be done. Australia is still suffering under bad policies (like the renewable energy target) based on bad science.
They also reject any obligation or need for foreign aid, altruistically suggesting that we lift people out of poverty by selling them coal.
As American author Michael Lind points out:
If libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn’t at least one country have tried it? Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalized drugs, no welfare state and no public education system?
In Australia, we could add universal healthcare and subsidised medicines as things that would be thrown on the scrap heap if the libertarians had their way.
Laissez-faire capitalism does not necessarily produce the best or most efficient outcome, nor does its policy of deregulation prevent the abuse of natural resources or encourage ethical behaviour from companies. It does nothing to protect the environment or the vulnerable in our society.
If you don’t give a toss about any future except your own, if all you care about is using the system for personal gain (looking at you Tim Wilson), if you think poverty is the result of laziness and that the environment can look after itself, then libertarianism probably sounds good.
But what a heartless, ravaged world it would be.