From climate change deniers to religious believers, there is certainly no shortage of intellectuals championing nonsense in the public sphere. But today let’s focus on the Champion of Libertarianism, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Libertarianism is an extremist version of barely restrained Capitalism. While it may sound reasonable and appealing when presented by a faux-intellectual like Paul, it falls apart completely under the slightest scrutiny, just as it did when Rachel Maddow probed just below the surface of Paul’s position on privatized lunch counters (see here).
For a Libertarian zealot like Paul, Socialism is his most horrifying nightmare. It is therefore unsurprising that in response to increasing public support for Socialist policies, Rand Paul wasted no time in publishing a book denouncing it (The Case Against Socialism).
In making his “case against Socialism” Rand Paul focuses mainly on historical bogeymen by raising the long-dead specters of Stalin and Mao Zedong. In a television interview just the other day, he was asked what Millennials in particular who support Socialism don’t get. Paul replied that they don’t get that Socialism means that the government owns all means of production and that it has been a disaster in every country in which it has been tried. He went on to once again invoke the horrors of Stalin and Mao Zedong.
Here’s what Paul doesn’t get or does not wish to acknowledge. Supporters of Democratic Socialism are not advocating those extreme forms of Socialism. They are not advocating that the government seize all private enterprise. And further, there is no reason to think that such Socialist extremism is inevitable, likely, or even possible in America.
Paul’s entire premise against Socialism is based on an obviously specious argument. It claims that Democratic Socialism is evil because something else called Socialism was evil. It’s the reverse of the logical fallacy used by gun zealots who claim that since revolutionary era guns were protected, modern guns should be protected.
Consider this analogy to understand what Paul is doing here. It is like he is railing against tablets. Tablets, he says, are evil. They waste paper and the spiral binding can cause cuts. We did away with tablets long ago and these Millennials who support them simply do not understand how dangerous they are. But no, they are talking about electronic tablets, not spiral notebooks. And similarly they are talking about Democratic Socialism, as practiced in Norway and Finland, not what was once called Socialism in China or Russia.
If we reflected the same disingenuous form of argument back against Paul, we would say that what Paul doesn’t understand is that Anarchy has been tried and it has always been a disaster. Of course, Paul is not talking about total anarchy when he talks about modern Libertarianism. And likewise no one supporting Democratic Socialism today is talking about the form of socialism attempted by Stalin or Mao Zedong (see here).
Further, when Paul claims that Socialism has always been a disaster, he fails completely to recognize that modern Socialist countries are at on the top of every measure of health and happiness (see here). Nor does he happen to mention that virtually every country that has adopted the more Libertarian economic policies of Milton Friedman has suffered direct human and economic calamity on a massive scale. This was excruciatingly documented in Naomi Klein’s landmark book (The Shock Doctrine).
So no Rand Paul. Sorry, but it is not the supporters of Democratic Socialism that don’t understand history. You are the one who is either delusional in your blind rationalization of Libertarianism, disingenuous in your rabid fear-mongering of Democratic Socialism, or most likely both.
Rand Paul does not understand that Socialism is just an idea, an outline, an ideal to aim for. Every country that attempts Socialism does it in its own way and they succeed or fail based on the people involved, hard work, persistence, their available resources and their ability to fight off capitalist troops while building up their subsistence level and democratic government
There are other reasons why Socialism has failed in some countries, reasons that are never mentioned by the likes of Rand Paul: Capitalist countries work very hard to make sure that the aspiring Socialist country don’t succeed! The send armies and drones and saboteurs to destroy the embryonic Socialist country, they kill the leaders, they cut off the aspiring Socialist country’s food and other supplies, they infiltrate and sabotage, they turn countries against each other, they bombard the airwaves with anti-socialist propaganda. The beauty and joy of Cuba is that it survived all this; that poor little country survived when their food, oil, medication and transportation was sabotaged by the American embargo. They survived!
And that is what the capitalists need to be aware of: That the people will survive and outlive them and ultimately prevail because capitalism is basically inhumane.
You are absolutely right Jane, and thanks for adding this. Rand Paul is only our latest fear-monger. We have long wielded all of our rhetorical and physical tools of power to ensure that any fledgling Socialist movements home or abroad are suffocated in their cribs. It is only surprising that Paul is not generally invoking the ghost of “Marxism” in his scare tactics.
Well, I think if Marx were alive today he would revise a good deal of his treatise, Das Kapital. I think the main game-changer in the capitalism/socialism rivalry today is the nuclear bomb. When one capitalist can suicidally destroy half the world by pressing a button, a militant uprising of the masses is irrelevant, isn’t it?
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