Currently viewing the category: "Big Government"

ob2James Kunstler is a brick-throwing leftie, but he’s had it with Barack Obama, the dissappointer in chief:

“Barack Obama, who I voted for twice, is on his way to becoming the worst US president in my lifetime, at least — and maybe in the whole cavalcade going back to the very start of the republic. I don’t want to get too sidetracked in this brief blog space today, but isn’t it stupendously asinine that Mr. Obama’s Justice Department and his SEC appointees only just last week became interested in the pervasive swindle of high frequency trading on Wall Street after author Michael Lewis went on 60 Minutes. Like, they hadn’t heard about this years-long orgy of front-running until now? Strange to relate, I actually might feel more comfortable if Vladimir Putin was massing troops on the Mexican side of the US border to keep Americans safe from our own bungling and destructive government.”

Thirty years ago Ronald Reagan disappointed me because he gave speeches like a libertarian but governed like a practical politician and didn’t do much of anything to reduce the size and scope of the federales, no matter what his followers say today.

Obama must be a huge disappointment to progressives and true believers like Kunstler (not the moronic masses who blindly voted).

After almost six years Obama has shown he was nothing but an attractive Chicago-style pol with the right skin color who could write nice speeches and read a TelePrompter real good.

Instead of bringing a socialist paradise to America, which is what his followers and haters both thought he would do, he’s just screwing up healthcare stuff and still doing evil military and financial stuff that any Republican could do.

Maybe it’ll be Obama who brings us the WWIII everyone thought RR was going to bring us by doing something stupid in Ukraine (this time, unlike Syria, he won’t have Putin around to save his intervening ass).

He’s proved, for those who are paying attention, that there is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats who go to Washington.  Both parties suck for the same reason — they’re in it to get more power over us, not for freeing us up and leaving us alone.

To boot, and for the benefit of all, and I hope but I’m not counting on it, Obama’s made it impossible for any openly Big Government guy to get elected again.

He did the whole country and future generations a favor by botching health care because now no politician like Hillary who wants to be prez will ever dare to approach the subject of national single-payer healthcare. Half-assed federal healthcare, as we see, is awful enough.

Obama, bless him, has betrayed the “promise” of national healthcare and given it the third rail it didn’t have before.

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

– Barrack Obama, 2009, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

DISCLAIMER: This is a photoshop. Obama's not going anywhere :(Although President Barack Obama still has a few years left, it’s becoming clear that he has no intention of bringing any sort of increased transparency to government. His administration has continued the abysmal precedent of the George Bush administration and has even sunk to new lows.

Since the very beginning of his term, Obama has hurried down a path of obfuscation and redaction, denying more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in his first two years than George “Patriot Act” W. did.

Even when the Obama administration wasn’t denying requests outright, it showed a disturbing tendency to censor or withhold information. In a 2011 report by the Center for Effective Government analyzing the percentage of requests fully and partially granted since 1998, the Obama administration was found to have fully granted only 44.4 percent. This placed the administration well behind both Bush, who granted 62.8 percent and Clinton, who granted 72.4 percent.

How did we reward Obama for his new-found affection for opaqueness? By giving him a transparency award. Which he received in private. Okay, it wasn’t the end of the world. It made more sense than the whole “Nobel Peace Prize” thing, and, after all, he did release the White House visitor logs. There was still plenty of time to set his administration on the right path.

But then 2012 happened, and another report on FOIA by the Center for Effective Government found that:

Although the number and timeliness of the FOIA requests processed has improved, fewer people are getting complete and full documents. Over the last four years, the proportion of FOIA releases that go out with redacted information has significantly increased. Well over half of all processed requests withhold some information. Agencies are increasingly using exemptions to limit the amount of information disclosed in response to FOIA requests. This is a troubling development for an administration with an avowed commitment to openness.

Unfortunately Obama’s recalcitrance towards enacting any real reforms to improve the FOIA process was only one of his failures. In October of 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalism released a report that accused the administration of “prosecuting more more people as whistleblowers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all former presidents combined.” Hardly the actions of a president worried about transparency.

With the administration busy prosecuting journalists, maybe 2013 would be the year it rolled up its sleeves and got serious about improving its FOIA response. After all the boss no longer had to worry about running for re-election, and (theoretically) had more time to concentrate on the issues. Let’s go back to the Center for Effective Government for a report!

The Freedom of Information Act was purportedly a priority for both the executive and legislative branches in 2013, although nothing made it over the finish line. Our report analyzing the FOIA performance of major federal agencies found that agencies were processing more requests and reduced the number of unprocessed requests; at the same time, they were using exemptions to redact or withhold information more often.

Zing. When even the .govs are getting in on the action you know you’re in trouble.

Finally the mainstream media seemed to take notice — not until after the election, naturally — but better late than never. In January The New York Times editorial board asked What Happened to Transparency, as they cut into the Obama administration over a secret memo that “outline[d] the supposed legal authority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect Americans’ telephone and financial records without a subpoena or court order.”

Now with 2014’s sunshine week here at last, we can again take a look inside the administration’s once and future promise of being the most transparent ever. And the news is not good.

In a devastating report, the AP castigated the government’s pathetic response to FOIA requests, saying:

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.

[…]

In category after category — except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees — the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

These recent revelations should not be a surprise. The Obama administration has spent 6 years slowly tightening its grip on government information. And with 2014 being the worst since Obama took office, there’s no reason to believe the future will hold any improvement.

After all, why would Obama even care at this point? It was a virtual non-issue in 2012 during the presidential campaign. His awful record was public knowledge, yet it was hardly ever mentioned by anyone in the press other than Jon Stewart. He skated by unscathed and now Obama has nothing to gain by attempting to work towards his original promise of an open government. Obama won his re-election, and there’s no one left to pander to anyway.

obama-openAll right, seriously, you can take this down now.

This chart represents bad news for American’s who are worried about global warming:

That blue line with its scary upward rise represents China, the earth’s leading producer of CO2 emissions, and it’s projected to keep on growing. The bad news is if carbon emissions  are solely responsible for anthropogenic global warming, then there’s nothing you the American consumer can do about it. The good news is you can buy that super low gas mileage muscle car you’ve always wanted, because guess what — your efforts to reduce your carbon footprint are wholly and completely irrelevant. Now just because China and India will continue to make all of America and the EU’s carbon reduction irrelevant doesn’t mean you should stop recycling, or not cranking up the AC in the summer, or riding your bike to work. Pollution is still a real problem in some parts of the United States. Just remember, when you’re out there biking in 3 degree weather to save a few emissions, feeling good about yourself and your carbon reducing ways, you’re literally doing nothing to reduce global warming. As John Stossel so succinctly puts it:

What we do now is pointless. I feel righteous riding my bike to work. That’s just shallow. Even if all Americans replaced cars with bicycles, switched to fluorescent light bulbs, got solar water heaters, etc., it would have no discernible effect on the climate. China builds a new coal-fueled power plant almost every week; each one obliterates any carbon reduction from all our windmills and solar panels.

I know what you’re thinking, “a full blown invasion of China is the only way to stop catastrophic global warming.” But I’m going to have to stop you right there. That strain of thinking can only lead to the most famous of all classic blunders: Never get involved in a land war in Asia. To say nothing of the horrific death toll and the moral and philosophical problems. The developing world, especially China and India, is going to produce a lot of emissions as they grow into a fully developed and modern economic country. The good news is that once they reach that point, carbon emissions will likely flatten out. Much like what has happened with OECD countries like the United States and the members of the European Union.

Contrary to the mass hysterics of the Al Gores and Barbara Boxers of the world, who can’t wait to blame every deadly storm on global warming, there’s plenty of new evidence that shows that warm temperatures result in fewer severe weather events. (Read the abstract here.) And of course there’s Al Gore’s “scientific” “predictions” in his magnum opus Inconvenient Truth, that have been spectacularly wrong so far. Let’s take a deep breath and remember that mass predictions of Armageddon don’t usually come true; human ingenuity is rarely factored into doomsday scenarios.

Even though 97 percent of climate scientists believe that global warming is anthropogenic, not all scientists subscribe to that theory. Fortunately, even if global warming is caused by humans, there are still scientists that believe that the whole thing is overblown and that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Cchange is a joke. Then there’s the 15 year pause in global warming that no one can figure out. The problem is, If global warming is as catastrophic as the doomsdayers want to believe, then we’re all screwed anyway. Worldwide emissions have already blown past the 350 parts per million threshold, IPCC head James Hansen’s so-called tipping point. The developing world isn’t going to shut down their economies just because we ask. And any self-imposed pollution limits from the US or the EU will have little to no effect on worldwide emissions.

So what do we Americans do? First off ignore people like Eugene Robinson, who right after admitting that China and India aren’t going to actively reduce their carbon emissions in a way that hurts their economies, stumps for the “United States, Europe and Japan [to] do what they can, at the margins, without surrendering the comforts that industrialization provides.” Then purge from your mind United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, who thinks that communism is our only hope (which sort of ignores the whole China is a communist country yet the largest producer of CO2). Instead, maybe take a page from John Stossel and not worry about things completely beyond our control:

Someday, we’ll probably invent technology that could reduce man’s greenhouse gas creation, but we’re nowhere close to it now. Rather than punish poor people with higher taxes on carbon and award ludicrous subsidies to Al Gore’s “green” investments, we should wait for the science to advance. If serious warming happens, we can adjust, as we’ve adjusted to big changes throughout history. It will be easier to adjust if America is not broke after wasting our resources on trendy gimmicks like windmills. […] So let’s chill out about global warming. We don’t need more micromanagement from government. We need less. Then free people — and rapidly increasing prosperity — will create a better world.

In other words, You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N. If this message of doom upsets you, please share it and instruct your friends to direct all angry comments to Joe Steigerwald. You can find him on Twitter @steigerwaldino or on Facebook at the Stag Blog. However, if you’re one of those “global warming deniers,” please use it to troll your friends and relatives by posting it on their Facebook walls.

Vizzini Says: Don't Commit the Classic Blunder: No Land Wars in Asia

Charity: it's for God damned communists.

Charity: it’s for God damned communists.

Today we have Scott Parker, who begins his tale of redemption thusly:

During college, a friend admitted he was confounded by my politics. He didn’t know how to reconcile my libertarianism with my other commitments. We were Buddhists and vegetarians, and I knew exactly what he meant. The tension centered around compassion. He wanted to know how someone concerned with the world’s suffering wouldn’t adopt a more compassionate political perspective.

How to reconcile? Let’s see, you personally believe in Buddhism and practice it. You, I assume since the vegetarianism is in reference to”compassion,” are concerned about factory farming and the suffering of animals, so you personally do not eat meat. And you personally believe that a small government is the most effective pragmatically for society (and more wealth and more success leads to more money for charity!) or morally (it’s my life, my money, my choice!) or even both (free markets are best, small, decentralized government is more efficient and more choice is moral). You chose all three beliefs. None of them conflict with the others. This hand-wringing over the contradictions within are a screamingly false scenario.  Since it’s the entire first graf, it’s hard to want to keep reading. But let’s all the same.

Parker has the ghost of fair point buried in the rest of his vaguely written piece, that libertarianism or free markets can sound too easy a solution in our big, complex world. But that is only to and coming from people who don’t know what libertarianism or free markets means. People say communism works only on paper (though it doesn’t really) and that being true of libertarianism instead is a popular liberal critique of the latter. Parker notes this, and he notes that he now believes libertarianism doesn’t work in the real world. This sounds profound, because it implies that he, and other critics, have taken the time to actually consider the ideology before dismissing it. But they haven’t. It’s just a variation on the asinine idea that saying “the market will take care of it” is somehow equal to saying the government will take care of it, or the deus ex machina will. See: lots of liberal jokes about the invisible hand.

Saying the market will take care of it is simply saying that voluntary decisions will be made, leading to a likely to be localized solution to, say, a lack of restaurant diversity or transportation options in a city. And there are concerns over this. No respectable libertarian believes in utopia, only improvement.  And they wonder over who will help the very poor or disadvantaged. They have written books upon articles upon books about every facet of this. And somehow, often, even in our crony capitalist, big government world, people will see a problem and try to solve it, either because they are motivated by enlightened self-interest or because people, for myriad reasons, do actually work hard in other to help people who are down on their luck, either temporarily or permanently. They do. But liberalism demands that we ignore the stunning voluntary generosity of people, because it is inconvenient to the ideology that some people must force others to help others. (But help often means in a bureaucratic, stifling manner that may include zoning or health regulations or other laws that unquestionably restrict voluntary charity.)

So why does someone like Parker, who claims to have read certain (unnamed) books on libertarianism imply with every word that he was the first libertarian to consider compassion, or to worry about the poor? Why does he not mention a single scholar, author, thinker, or anyone else to demonstrate what he believed before, and what he believes now as a healthily nuanced liberal?

Because it’s about feelings in the end! And Parker felt bad.

 My thoughts and feelings were at odds. The feeling nagging me was that I couldn’t reconcile my humanity with my ideology any more than my friend could for me. Over time, that feeling became a reason in its own right.

It’s hard not to think he just gave in to peer pressure. He convinced himself he couldn’t possibly care about people without wanting to force others to do so in a rigid, legalistic fashion.

But why is (supposed) rigidity only the domain of the libertarian (or, we presume, the communist)? Why is, people will figure out their own lives and the lives of their loved ones, and maybe help figure out the lives of the people in their cities or neighborhoods or blocks, somehow a one-size fits all, abstract, clunky philosophy? And of course “more government spending, more federal oversight, we’ll hash it out in Congress” is not? And when does Parker’s new noble, compromising and “messy” virtue become slightly less virtuous, after the second Iraq war? A couple of drone strikes? The war on drugs?

Parker is reminiscent of one of those people who responds “run for office!” or “vote!” when you express moral qualms over something, even something they as a progressive should agree is wrong, such as war or injust imprisonment. Say, aren’t some things just wrong? Rape is surely wrong, but isn’t decades in prison, with the potential for rape, over the consumption and sale of a substance? Murder has got to be wrong, the ultimate wrong. So maybe murder by missile and drone is the very same thing, no matter who voted for what, or how neat and tidy the process of getting there happened to be?

It’s not lazy ideology to say that the onus should not be on the person whose life is being ruined to prove it should not be. (Not to mention, voting and running for office is more likely to lead to no change at all.)

Libertarians philosophy is chock full of thinkers and writers, none of whom Parker bothered to mention. But more importantly, government, not libertarianism, is the entity that tries to fill every crevice of human experience and existence without nuance. It is the intellectually feeble answer to every real or imagined ill. And what is more smug than believing you know best how strangers should live their lives, and you know it so damned well, it’s going to happen by force?

Previously on Salon’s Praise Me, I Am No Longer a Libertarian: ‘What’s The Point of This Salon Article By a Man Who Went From Libertarianism to Liberalism?’

Since their founding in 2010, San Francisco-based car service Uber has made advances into more than 30 cities around the world. Staying there, however, is often an uphill slog as they battle regulators and buddies of the taxi or limo industries.

Objections to a service that allows consumers to order a car through a Smartphone app that come from trade groups, regulators, or other anti-capitalist capitalists are’t surprising, though their transparency on occasion is darkly amusing. It’s the objection from the common man, blogger, or journalist that is baffling. Uber, unlike taxis and their fixed rates, changes their prices based on weather, demand, and other logical economic factors. They do this to make the trips worth it for their drivers — thereby preventing a shortage of Uber cars when the demand is high. And that doesn’t mean they’re going to subsidize for those of us who can’t accord to pay $47 for a 2 mile cab ride. They have neither reason, not obligation to do so.

Pricing this honest makes some people unhappy. Indeed, hundreds of dollars for short rides during the recent winter stores, or during New Year’s Eve in New York City sound shocking, but these fares are based on high demand.  There some allegations that consumers weren’t warned ahead of time what the increase might be (though a commenter who professes to be an Uber driver disputes that). If so, that’s not going to win them good press. But most accounts of fare-shock don’t include specific allegations that say they weren’t warned about the jump in prices.

In fact, perhaps to sooth some of the recent backlash against them, just yesterday Uber announced they were experimenting with temporarily lower prices in 16 cities. This means that the price of an UberX car — a less fancy type of vehicle than Uber often sends — in some cities will fall below that of taxis. And taxis, for all their ills, do tend to be pretty cheap rides. The problem tends with them tends to be an almost complete lack of them in certain cities (like Pittsburgh), or a shortage of them made artificial by caps the drivers or on starting a new company all together.

We see it in New York City, where the cab medallions that let customers hail you from the street were capped at 11,000 for 70 years, and there are only a few thousand more today. No wonder they cost as much as condo in New York City. We see it in Pittsburgh, where I have waited for three hours for cabs that didn’t come (waited at a liberal arts college in a nice neighborhood, so let’s go out on a limb and assume minorities in worse neighborhoods don’t bother to call Yellow Cab at all). A few years ago, I drove around for a few hours with a jitney driver(/cartoonist/generally fascinating character). He swore there must be 1000 illegal cabs in the city, mostly serving poor, black neighborhoods, as he does.

The law in Pittsburgh puts the onus on a new, upstart cab company to prove that they won’t take business way from Yellow Cab or which ever company got into the turf first. This makes a mockery of competition, and there’s no way I can think of to sell it as a pro-consumer action, though be my guest if you want to give it a try. Now, I’ve heard people complain about DC cabs, and there are plenty of clunky laws and advocates for worse ones, but coming from Pittsburgh, DC was a joy. I could hail a cab and be in one in five minutes.

Though Uber is currently out of the price range of some poorer folks, railing against their existence is still the privilege of someone with lots of transportation options. Bitching about the convenience-dystopia that Uber is ushering in with the touch of a Smartphone is your prerogative. But like all myopic declarations of how the world should be, the Valleywag piece that said as much neglected to consider the implications of their shitty, no-show cabs paradise. (Valleywag seem to have a bizarrely intense vendetta against Uber, judging by past blogs.) How many of those illegal jitney cabdrivers in Pittsburgh might like to advertise their services and perhaps earn more money by starting a legal company?

It’s hard to argue that multiple cab companies is somehow less safe than hundreds of unmarked cars. Complaints about the standards or the behavior of driver from Purple Cow Cabs can be acted upon by authorities. Whereas, that guy in the unmarked car stole my wallet, tried to assault me, or dropped me on a highway overpass instead of home is a bit harder to follow up on. Similarly, drivers would be safer knowing they can go to police and report robberies or other problems. (Police mostly look the other way about Pittsburgh jitneys, as far as I know, but that’s not the same thing as giving them freedom to advertise their services and grow their business.) Like every other banned substance or service, from sex-for-pay, to narcotics, to abortion, to immigration, transportation happens regardless of restrictions. And like those other “vices”, the safety of those involved in these economic transactions could be heightened by giving people the freedom to work without fear of government crackdown.

So why are so people objecting to Uber? Last month, Slate’s main econ guy Matt Yglesias wrote a surprisingly solid piece on the company, his premise being that yes, they should be regulated, but no more so than regular transports. Emissions, safety, licensing, insurance, and other standards that already apply will apply. Basically:

“You need rules about what’s an acceptable vehicle, who’s an acceptable driver, and what’s an acceptable way to pilot the vehicle.

But you don’t need rules that specifically discriminate against rides for hire.”

Relative to much of humanity and their slack-jawed hunger for more revenue and restrictions, that was a Rothbardian cry of freed markets, ho! Any leftist who has a terror of a world without regulations should at least be able to grant that the ones on taxi cabs are too much. The restrictions favor one business over others at the expense of the consumer, and untold potential entrepreneurs, many of whom are poor minorities or immigrants.

That knowledge is spreading a bit, or at least has become more news-worthy thanks to Uber and its ilk. Even folks with a sad story of Uber surge pricing to tell, like The New York Times’ Annie Lowrey, don’t seem entirely opposed to the company. Lowrey also makes the savvy point that Uber’s painfully honest prices feel particularly bizarre because taxi services have had their prices fixed long before the invention of the car.

On the other hand, pieces like George Mason assistant professor Siona Listokin’s are disheartening. So close, but so wrong; Listokin describes (also in Slate) some of the horrible, stifling, unfair taxi laws currently n existence. And then she writes that Yglesias is wrong about Uber:

[T]here are very good reasons to regulate hired vehicles. Giving my friend a ride somewhere in my car has different economic and social implications for a city than picking up a stranger and driving her someplace for a fee, Uber style. That said, Uber should be regulated differently than other taxi services, for a reason that may seem odd at first: The company collects a plethora of data that has never before existed in the cab industry. For the first time, Uber’s data can allow policymakers to directly measure taxi fares, the availability of cars, and the safety records of drivers without having to control every element of the market. If cities are smart, that could mean better oversight with less regulation.

The entire rest of the piece mixes examples of rubbish laws with a creepy hope that Uber’s data can be used for smart regulations of this industry. Listokin could be a lot worse here, but she could be a hell of a lot better. Her faux-pragmatic call for not less, maybe but definitely better laws, with lots and lots of useful data, will sound good to the people who believe it’s the job of private citizens to ask for permission for every endeavor. (Not ask, why shouldn’t I be free to peacefully pursue this? Prove to me why I shouldn’t be able to do this, etc.)

To Listokin, couldn’t it be argued that since cities all over the country have demonstrated that their regulations are not hands-off, not smart, and not fairly applied among different companies, that it’s time for a change? Let’s do it. Let’s go wild west and let people drive one another two and from destinations for a fee. No Michael Badnarik-esque call to rip up our driver’s licenses, no call to abolish auto insurance, for now can’t we all agree to let people drive each other from point A to point B without rubbing our hands together with glee over what else we can get out of it?

roadzThe headline: “Why I fled libertarianism — and became a liberal”.

The subhead: “I was a Ron Paul delegate back in 2008 — now I’m a Democrat. Here’s my personal tale of disgust and self-discovery”.

Edwin Lyngar was a Ron Paul delegate in 2008. Once he got to the GOP convention,  he was baffled by the number of Birthers, Truthers, MoonTruthers and Chemtrailers who apparently made up his fellow Paulbots. (Lyngar also casually equates interest in gold, the Fed, and the JFK assassination with such conspiracy theories. He is not alone in this attitude — the highly-touted conspiracy theory  poll from last spring was similarly sloppy. An enthusiasm for monetary policy is dry, so why not spice it up by implying that to believe in the gold standard is to be sure that the president is from Kenya?)

Lyngar had no libertarian moment of aha!, thanks to a Hayek book, or a Ron Paul speech. He doesn’t really explain why he cared enough to be a delegate for Paul in 2008. He was just vaguely born libertarian, in that he comes from a small town in Nevada where, he writes, “we burned our own garbage and fired guns in the back yard.” He even admits that libertarians are pro-pot, mostly pro-gay, and mostly anti-war, so they have their bright spots still. But also, when he left his small town, his eyes were opened:

I learned that libertarians are made for lots of reasons, like reading the bad fiction of Ayn Rand or perhaps the passable writing of Robert Heinlein. In my experience, most seemed to be poor, white and undereducated. They were contortionists, justifying the excesses of the capitalist elite, despite being victims if libertarian politics succeed.

If you think that selfishness and cruelty are fantastic personal traits, you might be a libertarian. In the movement no one will ever call you an asshole, but rather, say you believe in radical individualism.

Heinlein is only “passable”? Buddy, you read the wrong Heinlein. And if you’re in the libertarian movement, someone will call you an asshole at some point. Or they will call you a statist. Though there are generally agreed upon tenets in libertarianism, there is also tedious in-fighting and minute-to-vital points of disagreement on issues, interpretations, and conclusions. We are not your cheap Dagney Taggart or Randy Weaver jokes, as much as you try to cram us into that convenient mold. We are diverse, and by God, we will shoot ourselves in the foot whenever possible. (Lyngar does acknowledge this incompetence later in the piece, so at least he’s not one of those “dear God, the libertarians have taken over!” folks.)

Lyngar is mostly done with specifics after his live from the GOP Convention ’08 beginning. He changed slowly after his realization that libertarianism indeed attracts weirdos. Soon he was crying for unspecified, but positive reasons when Obama was elected president. And then the financial crisis:

Libertarians were (rightly) furious when our government bailed out the banks, but they fought hardest against help for ordinary Americans. They hated unemployment insurance and reduced school lunches. I used to say similar things, but in such a catastrophic recession isn’t the government supposed to help? Isn’t that the lesson of the Great Depression?

I’m going to give our friend the benefit of the doubt and say, sure, okay, you met three libertarians who were most passionately opposed to school lunches. That was their number one issue, closely followed by the horrors of unemployment insurance. But there are a lot of libertarians who would prefer to tackle the bigger issues first: war, prisons, police, the drug war, financial ruin for the country, occupational licensing, zoning laws, lack of school choice, the death penalty, transportation, whatever you like. And you would know that if you spoke to more than three libertarians — that no, most of them wouldn’t start with cutting the lunches for shoeless Appalachian children program. They’d probably start with trimming the military, the Department of Homeland Security, or that sentimental favorite, the Drug Enforcement Administration.

(And no, that is not the lesson of the Great Depression. That is not even close to being the lesson of the Great Depression. Suggesting that means you paid no attention to economics even while you were a libertarian, dude.)

Lyngar goes on to marry a Canadian liberal, then be disgusted by the racist Birthers in the Tea Party movement. He lurches towards nuance by implying that libertarians who work with the Tea Party are not necessarily the same thing as those religious freaks, etc. But then he notes that at last he has learned to “care about children — even poor ones.” Thereby separating himself from monstrous libertarians, he writes:

I love the National Park system. The best parts of the America I love are our communities. My libertarian friends might call me a fucking commie (they have) or a pussy, but extreme selfishness is just so isolating and cruel. Libertarianism is unnatural, and the size of the federal government is almost irrelevant. The real question is: what does society need and how do we pay for it?

To paraphrase the best French guy ever, Frederic Bastiat, man, liberals really seem to think that if you’re not for government funded, or government-run institutions, you must be against them entirely. Parks are awesome. Some parks also have a long history of hilariously-arrogant mismanagement by government. And it’s cool that you love communities. That means literally nothing in general, and nothing specific to libertarianism. Most of us do not wish to live alone, Unibomber-style. But we’re very keen on anyone’s right to do the best they can at achieving that sort of lifestyle.

The best part of the piece — the part that elevates it to an artful act of trolling — might be the very end. Old Ed says of libertarians: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” That quote, and its accompanying viewpoint, is common in libertarianism. It sounds arrogant, but it’s the evangelizing of a fringe belief that is forever trying to gain converts. How else do you change minds except by convincing someone they are mistaken? And it is no different than liberals who shake their heads at all those folks who “vote against their own interests” — meaning, not for Democrats. To them, libertarians, if they’re not cold, rich, Randian cutouts, they are stupidly opposed to the communitarian pleasures of the left that could benefit them so much.

We’re all snobs when we’re in our own Google Groups, bars, or political rallies. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in “yes, totally! That!” for an evening. But the folks at Salon have the ideological privilege of not ever needing to convert libertarians to their viewpoints. Liberals often treat every conservative victory (one which with libertarians may or may not agree) as an assurance that the barbarians are at the gates. Mentions cuts, and there is nothing between that and Somalia. Liberals refuse to believe that their view of the proper role of government has been a dominant one for decades. They suffer from being The Man denial.

So then, what is the the point of this piece? Optimistically, we could say it could help prove to Salon readers that all libertarians aren’t monsters. Why, there’s always the hope that they will change their evil ways! But it’s more banal than that. This intensely shallow piece is solely an exercise in back-patting. It’s one man’s courageous story of being saved from the darkness of everything Not Liberal, without even the drama of a road to Damascus moment. It’s just that the election of Obama, and the worst of the Tea Party eventually took him on a self-satisfied journey away from conspiratorial meanies to the safe ” bosom of conventional liberalism.” He finally “developed [his] own values.” But a vague sense that libertarianism by nature is cold, cruel, and crazy is not an analysis of an ideology.

Some libertarians choose to interpret the recent cascade of anti-libertarian pieces on Alternet, Salon, and NSFWCorp the last few months as proof that the philosophy is getting somewhere — it can no longer be ignored by the mainstream. But Lyndar’s piece confirms lazy liberal dominance, because why try? Why fight libertarian beliefs, when you can simply revel in having beaten their imaged end-game, as Alternet did recently, — Libertopia apparently outlaws feeding or clothing the homeless! — or simply rejoice in having banished its evil from your own mind, as Lyndar does here.