One of the genuinely execrable things about Libertarians/Objectivists/”Conservatives”, is their tendency to completely misunderstand (or “selectively” apply), the concept of “Limited Government”.
Quite frankly, this is so consistent and blatant that it basically guarantees that self-described “Libertarians” and “Objectivists” will continue to be lumped in with overt racists, and the wider “Conservative” movement — whether they like it, or not.
The basic issue is blatantly obvious in terms of Barry Goldwater, a senator who ran for president back in 1964.
In many ways, Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign is the most recent “common ancestor” of the Objectivist, Libertarian, and “Conservative” movements.
It is also illustrative of why those “movements” continue to fail.
Here’s the thing:
The history of the United States has essentially consisted of a “duel” between two conflicting (and irreconcilable) facts:
- The Professed convictions (some would say “Glittering generalities”) invoked by the “Founding Fathers” as pretext for insurrection against the British Empire. (The “authorized” term for that insurrection is “The American Revolution”).
- The ACTUAL CONDUCT — bot of the “Founding Fathers” themselves, AND of the nation-state which they created.
In another post, I described a conversation with Karl (KA3RCS) some years back, which illustrates what I’m getting out:
The “Founding Fathers” made a big deal about the concept of ‘unalienable rights’ — to the point where they incited armed insurrection against the then-ruling power (the British). At the same time, many of them “owned” slaves.
Slavery (in any form) necessarily involves ignoring the “unalienable” Rights of the enslaved (most particularly, those of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.)
My question was: How did they do it? What level of “Doublethink” was involved?
Well, Karl’s answer was revealing, to say the least:
“They said ‘men’, not ‘niggers!’.
At the time, Karl attempted to pass the above off a “only joking” (which is inherently problematic in its own right — would he have dared to risk making the same “joke”, with a Black guy in the same room?)
The thing is….if you read the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision….well, judge for yourself:
“[T]he legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument (the Constitution).
They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect…This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics, which no one thought of disputing, or supposed to be open to dispute; and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.”
Now, here’s the problem:
IF the “founding Fathers” actually believed that Non-Whites were subhuman, and thus, not possessed of “Unalienable Rights” (like, for example, “Life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”), then quess what? The U.S. — from its initial founding right on down to the present day — is fundamentally no different from any other racialist hellhole.
In other words: IF the “Founding Fathers” really did believe that the glittering generalities for which they are (in)famous only applied to ,”White” male land-owners — then the U.S. becomes just another “caste system”, which attempts to rationalize the brutalization of its various “underclasses” (Non-Whites, females, etc.) — in hopes of preventing itself from being BURNED TO THE GROUND, by its own victims.
Actually, viewed from that perspective, U.S. history makes a hell of a lot more sense:
- 1776-1865: “Race”-based chattel slavery
- 1865-1965: “Jim Crow”-style apartheid
- The systematic “relocation” (and — often — deliberate extermination — of (Non-White) “Indians”.
- The fact that the “Bill of Rights” was not explicitly held to apply to the “Several States” until 1925.
- The fact that it took until 1965 for the Southern apartheid regime to finally be de-legitimized.
That’s where the true rat-fucker of “States’ Rights”-advocates comes in:
Unless “Limited Government” explicitly applies to EVERY “level” of government, it is nothing but a “floating abstraction”, glittering generality, or thought-terminating cliché.
That’s where Barry Goldwater comes into the picture:
Goldwater also carried his small-government convictions into the arena of civil rights. “Conscience” features numerous dog-whistle appeals to American racists. Pretty much everyone, including Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, and Julian Bond, is willing to concede that Goldwater was not personally bigoted. But his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act would speak for itself, even if Goldwater didn’t speak for it: “the Supreme Court decision is not necessarily the law of the land,” he said in 1964, and he (or [ghostwriter Brent] Bozell) said likewise in 1960, describing Brown v. Board of Education and allied decisions as “abuses of power by the Court.” In italics, Goldwater declares that politics needs to take into account “the essential differences between men.” And the only states he won in 1964, apart from his own, were Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, a Deep South bloc that, with the exception of Louisiana in 1956, hadn’t gone Republican since Reconstruction.
Quite frankly, Barry Goldwater didn’t give two liquidy shits about “individual freedom” or “limited government”. His biggest concern was limited one level of government (Federal), while systematically evading the fact that OTHER levels of government (the “Several States”) were actively perpetrating what amounted to a “racial” caste-system.
That’s the bottom line: advocacy of “limited government” MUST apply to ANY AND ALL forms and levels of Government — else, it is nothing but a particularly mealy-mouthed rationalization for tyranny.
And ultimately, that is why Libertarianism/Objectivism/Conservatism FAIL to appeal to anything but a (limited, and rather pathetic) subset of Non-Whites and Women: they comprehend the fact that INDIVIDUALS JUST LIKE THEM have been tyrannized and oppressed in the past, while purported advocatees of “limited government” ACTIVELY enabled their continued victimization — often as a matter of “conscience”.
The message? To paraphrase Orwell: SOME “RIGHTS” ARE MORE “UNALIENABLE” THAN OTHERS.