The Libertarian Trojan Horse

How Western Liberalism was Hijacked and Killed

People tend to simple answers and simple beliefs. The continued presence and damage done by single issue people proves that reality. But, as with everything else in our lives, there are levels to this. The true single issue people, those known as ‘single issue people’, are at the lowest and simplest level.

These are the true believers in one evil that is the cause of all other evil, e.g. abortion is murder. That this is so simplistic and ignorant of the reality of human biology, social structure, history, and human rights at a higher level is completely lost on these people. They understand only the one thing that they have come to understand and reduce everything to that.

On a less emotional topic, they follow only their team and no other team is of any value. That team’s honor must be defended against all defamation. We consider this example as occasionally annoying but harmless unless you live next to one of these and their house and car is covered with team logos.

The base absurdity of this is easier for the great majority to see. Particularly with sports teams, the players change, the team may move to another city, so, in reality the fans are supporting the clothes, i.e., the logo worn by the players.

This level can be seen as acceptable loyalty if the object of belief is their company, school, or political party. Dependent on the extremity of their emotional involvement they can be seen with slight positivity or simple mindedness that could lead to potentially dangerous behavior.

These are the child like followers cherished by all authoritarians down to neighborhood bullies. With a little work these people can become fully weaponized and a threat to society in general. The object of their belief is not relevant to their potential for destructiveness. We understand that and realize the danger but have little means of dealing with this in our current, Western cultural tradition.

The problem is our hard earned recognition of the value in respecting diversity and human rights as fundamental to social equality. People have a right to their opinions and beliefs. The pragmatic justification for this is that repression maintains uniformity that become oppressive and then encourages individual radicalization that can produce violent social explosions.

As populations increase and become more dense the need for virtual space around people’s identities and beliefs becomes more important. This is, in essence, the central success of Western Civilization as a product of the European Enlightenment based in Renaissance humanism.

Ironically this evolved concurrently with the development of market economics and mechanical systems replacing human power, literally the first phase of automation in the 12th century. The result was great expansion of wealth, commerce, power, and the reduction of human subjugation, e.g. slavery in many forms. This reduction of subjugation resulted from growing awareness and horror as reaction to the initial expansion of slavery as a capitalist process.

This conversion of slavery to capitalist product quickly evolved to repopulate the Americas with African slaves after the indigenous population genocide. The expansion of areas for resource exploitation and ability to ship goods to the home country was initially built on increasingly brutal slavery to meet the demands of the new economic system.

But the point here is the much longer term result of a more complex single issue belief system that is destroying the original states that were the most successful liberal capitalist nations. That is the belief in a solely individual, greed based system of permanent competition and material wealth as the only value.

The end product of this centuries long process is late stage or predatory capitalism. This is built on zero sum economics with great wealth as the sole goal of life and denial of wealth to all others as both a good, by creating a social hierarchy, and a right of exploitation by those at the top of that resulting hierarchy. It is predicated on a basic misunderstanding of modern Western Civilization and its successes as well as failures. It is now a threat to both our species and to all life forms on this planet.

At a more fundamental level it requires change in how we, humans, manage our societies for success and the well being of our planet. This stems directly from our simplistic nature and strong tendency to grasp only single issues as important or as able to stand in for a vast array of other, often contradictory, variables.

I think that this is a key point of human failure that can no longer be ignored. This is definitely not our sole point of failure but it is one that is not being addressed while being fundamental to a range of social and political symptoms that are proving very difficult to understand and discuss.

The error

Simplicity in language and communication is a virtue. Simplicity in systems and solutions are virtuous by being efficient. In logic we use Occam’s Razor to identify the most likely answer to a question based on simplicity and the least speculation. This does not apply so well to complex and, particularly, nonlinear systems.

To remain as simple as possible here let’s just say that we have built a very complex world with nearly eight billion humans and many hundreds of millions of other creatures and things (material things are understood now to be not at all that distinct from living things) under our care. That care is ours by virtue of their potential death and destruction as a result of our actions, intentional, conscious, or not.

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

The error: Single issue beliefs either ignore or actively deny complex collateral responsibility. Solving for one solution, in this case material wealth above all else, will automatically solve all other problems.

In complex systems there are a great array of variables with individual responses as an array to any action. We are now at a stage where this needs to be understood at a day to day level. While this was once limited to rocket science, as an example, this complexity must be dealt with by people constantly. Rocket science is now elementary to our species.

Once we add nonlinearity into this we lose simple cause and effect. This is the reality of a butterfly initiating a sequence of events that produces mass devastation due to tornadoes on the other side of the planet. Climatic warming through the introduction of vast amounts of carbon to the atmosphere over two centuries is the grand example.

Full libertarian capitalism in the form of the American Koch family and others has been forced onto societies multiple times with the same result. Vast concentration of wealth and steady increase in human anxiety and suffering.

The result: A single criteria for success produces massive failure in a complex system.

The key to maintaining these systems is the required narrowing of awareness of morality and ethical standards to abstractions divorced from reality. From this human action is limited to wage labor supported by the illusion of great wealth just beyond reach. This illusion is maintained by the provision of increasingly expensive debt for which people can only qualify by wage labor. This is used to both convince the population that they are ‘making it’ even though, in the US for example, the mass of the population has no net value, while also extracting any remaining income as interest on the debts, a capitalist good.

The single issue of success as material ownership comes to include the maintenance of great debt as a symbol of moral good. Those that cannot achieve great debt are publicly demeaned and marked for general exploitation. This is supported by versions of religion that are maintained, particularly in the US, as part of the single issue complex of beliefs.

For the great majority of the population moral ranking requires debt and payment of both principal and interest on that debt. Without that you are valueless in society and are free to be exploited or abused in anyway. The inability or reluctance to acquire debt and repay it indicates an inability to understand and accept moral standards of society.

The only exception to this is the control of great wealth by any means which, with control of capital, removes the need to work and produce. The nature of capitalist economics returns wealth to those with wealth and justified removing it by any means from those without wealth.

Looked at objectively this is obviously unsustainable although its very single mindedness has managed to keep it going in full form for two or so generations at a time without major rebellion. Modern Western economic history is dominated by the cycles of massive greed followed by threats of rebellion leading to socialist redistribution. This is assumed to be inevitable and to endlessly repeat.

The brutality of the capitalist system was somewhat mediated by its ability to create great wealth that, even in the most abusive times raised all levels of society. The rise of socialist solutions in the late 19th and early 20th century drew on democratic principles to create labor unions to correct for the inevitable concentration of wealth in a parasitic oligarchy.

Ironically this set of corrections allowed faster growth of social equity and improved market economic sustainability. But the oligarchic families waged endless war to destroy this social wellbeing as this did not fit the capitalist morality of endless greed.

While this conflict continued for two hundred or so years and spread planet wide and would probably continue as the overall benefits were often adequate to prevent active revolution, the single issue morality of greed required endless growth and endless destruction of planetary assets.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

We are at the end of that system's ability to survive for both internal and external reasons. The internal reasons are related to human density, diversity, and limits to wellbeing for great segments of the population. That reveals itself as anxiety and exhaustion in the struggle to achieve wealth that is an illusion. This is greatly exacerbated by the realization that continuing this has no future.

The external reason is the climate crisis that requires massive change. This change is inherently destructive of all elements of the liberal capitalist civilization. A new mode of existence is required.

The Western world based on liberal economics and nation states as semi representative political systems has survived and grown by counterbalancing periods of brutal exploitation with periods of greater democracy and social support. The dominance of social democracy in the majority of modern states from the late 20th century was the golden age of this era.

In those states that have maintained strong social democratic systems the collapse of the enteric Western system is befuddling. This has been caused by the longer term evolution to it’s inevitable end in the two earliest and leading states, Great Britain and the US. The wild card in this long process of social evolution and cyclical change is the climatic disaster that has resulted from the unintended consequences of a greed driven economic and social system.

While the abuses and unsustainability of the basic structure of the liberal economic and capitalist system is cyclically alternated with social democratic corrections and controls providing some balancing of the asset distribution, it is still simplistic and destructive to the planet and all life. The climate crisis is the debt for this destructiveness and single issue morality.

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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