Interesting piece in Salon today: My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked
The greatest examples of libertarianism in action are the hundreds of men, women and children standing alongside the roads all over Honduras. The government won’t fix the roads, so these desperate entrepreneurs fill in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris. They then stand next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists. That is the wet dream of libertarian private sector innovation.
The author — Edwin Lyngar — makes many good points. I particularly like how few Americans ever see the results of their idealistic vision.
Only 30 percent of Americans have passports, and if Americans do go places, it’s not often to Honduras.
And a few years ago, William Chalmers made an argument that only about 5 percent of the American people actually use those passports to travel to other countries.
The lack of international perspective is a real problem, especially for people promoting an ideology or political perspective. It is also a problem for reporters and editors who have to deal with immigrant communities in their local areas. (But more on that old chestnut another time.)
Lyngar makes a strong case that for all those promoting the libertarian views of Any Rand (and there are many in the GOP leadership), they should look carefully at what is happening around the world. In this case, Lyngar is looking at Honduras, but I bet examples can be found in many other countries around the world with weak governments and legal systems.
A disservice Lyngar does to Honduras, however, is take after them as if he were a fallen Catholic taking off on the Pope.
[Q]uestions about how best to provide a good society are not being asked in Honduras…
Actually they are being asked. The problem is asking such questions are new to Hondurans. Not because of political repression but rather because of a system that did not encourage it. Elites ran things and provided help to the poor to keep them in line. The breakdown in that system, along with a growing NGO community and rising expectations of more democratic participation, are now leading more Hondurans to question what is best for their country.
A good example of how a sector of society that was persecuted — not by the government but by the society as a whole — began to stand up for its rights is the LGBT community.
The LGBT community became natural allies with former president Manuel Zelaya and his LIBRE coalition. The rhetoric of LIBRE is all about helping the disenfranchised, with a strong dose of anti-USA and pro-Venezuela tossed in.
As the U.S. embassy began standing up in defense of LGBT organizers and inviting them to attend more embassy related events, the LGBT leadership saw that they did not have to put all their eggs in the LIBRE basket. The LIBRE leadership at times was so upset with the LGBT leaders at times that the LGBT leadership was told they might be bounced from the party if they keep attending US-sponsored events.
The LGBT leaders balanced the threats with the very public support from the US embassy and called the LIBRE leadership’s bluff.
In the end, LGBT activists learned it is possible to build coalitions with other organizations on one or two issues but still disagree on other. This revelation was a major step forward.
Along the way other NGOs also learned, through discussions and programs, that they do not have to agree with other NGOs all the time, just enough to get things done to improve society.
That is called progress and it is called thinking about what is best for the country, not just a small set of individuals.
All that said, I can understand Lyngar’s complaints. And his main point really does need to be stressed.
The view of government so many libertarians have does resemble what is happening in Central America.
If the no-tax, less-government people have their way, basic infrastructure will not be done. It will not be long before people start writing about American entrepreneurs filling in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris and then standing next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists.”
Here is John Oliver talking about infrastructure