An Open Letter to My Friends on the Right

By | August 16, 2012

A letter from a libertarian to his conservative friends.

My friends on the right, I find that you have failed in two ways.

The first is that you have mistaken mere wealth for market process. You praise the industrialist and the banker. Very well. Often they deserve it. But have you looked closely at the industrialists and the bankers just lately?

Among Ayn Rand’s villains, I don’t believe that a single one was poor. Every one of them was a member of the elite, and almost all of them were rich. They were people much like we know today, who maybe once upon a time set themselves apart through their own efforts. But at some point they committed a cardinal sin — they reached for the state to keep themselves on top. They made bad bets, then pleaded that they were too big to fail.

Often the biggest enemies of the market properly understood are precisely those who have made large fortunes—and who now want the government to shield them from all further risk. They are also trying their best this election cycle to portray themselves as your friends, and as friends of the market. You’ve spent way too much time listening to them and doing their bidding.

A politician who loves the market as a moral institution would be the very last one to do any favors for individual market actors. And I do mean any favors. I mean subsidies, tax breaks, eminent domain, no-bid contracts, and all forms of regulation that keep honest competition out. I mean our intellectual property system, which if conservatives had any tactical sense they’d already be attacking—cheap entertainment for the consumer, less cash for liberal Hollywood elites. What’s not to like?

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And now for your second failing: The market has moral value because it is an arena of self-fashioning. But there are other arenas. They have value too, and they should be free for exactly the same reasons.

Consider immigrants. In particular, if our free market is so great, why do you work so hard to exclude immigrants from it? Is the immigrant laborer less a moral self-fashioner than the Wall Street banker? I wouldn’t say so. He’s clearly at least as motivated. If the immigrant wants to make a life in America — why not let him?

Consider our surveillance state. Mass secret data collection has grown almost unchecked over the course of the last two administrations. What chance is there for dignity, for autonomy, for self-fashioning when the government may well be spying on almost everything we do?

Consider the Drug War. In the final analysis, it’s a war on the market process, at least for some goods. But it also appears purposefully designed to wreck individual lives and to make a mockery of the kind of self-fashioning that we so value in our defense of the market. Nothing kills self-authorship like being thrown into prison. Not business regulations, not high taxes, not even the demon weed itself.

All emphasis is mine. Via An Open Letter to My Friends on the Right | The Agitator.