The 99 Percenters Prove that ‘Libertarianism’ Is Doomed

by Jonah Goldberg

Dear Reader,

DEAR READER!

. . . and . . .

AND!

. . . those of you . . .

THOSE OF YOU!

. . . who are . . .

WHO ARE!

. . . hearing this . . .

HEARING THIS!

. . . read to you Occupy Wall Street style.

READTOYOUOCCUPYWALLSSSSSTREETSTYLE!!!! [jazz hands!]

After a long hiatus, I’m writing for the magazine again, so I’m going to try not to exhaust all I have to say on the subject here (or even here). But suffice it to say, I’m still loving Occupy Wall Street.

Again, I know that small bands of kooks tapping into popular angst can lead to very bad things (why, just look at what happened with Up With People!), but I still have confidence in America. There have been far, far, far more impressive gaggles of revolutionary goofballs in the past, and they failed to usher in a utopian realm where complaints about the unfairness of life are immediately translated into remunerable grievances against the State. How was I supposed to know that borrowing $200K to get two master’s degrees in two different dead languages wouldn’t land me a high-paying job? Why should I have to pay rent just because I signed the lease? Since when is it my fault that I have a credit rating that sounds like the temperature of the dark side of the moon expressed in Kelvin?

Or, my favorite, why should landlords refuse to rent me an apartment just because I’m an incredibly annoying person who is only 33 but still can’t figure out how to wait tables or make coffee and has no idea where my next paycheck is coming from? It must be because I’m a lesbian.

No, really. Read this:

Like so many teenagers, I believed in the “American Dream,” that I could move to New York from the Midwest and become an artist. I would achieve both fame and success, and I would never have to think about money. The first half was true. I made art and lived activism, and I achieved amazing amounts of success that I feel incredibly proud of. The second half, not so much. I have been able to live well, eat well, invest in my arts and make my own schedule, but I forgot to save money and think about my future.

This summer I tried to rent an apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The process sent me into an emotional crisis and awakened me into a whole new realization of our economy, the music industry at large and, more specifically, what it means to be a queer artist in 2011.

I spent days trolling around Williamsburg, looking at shitty apartments with cockroaches lining the doorways, fighting neighbors, rats in the ceiling, bedbugs infesting the linoleum floors, fifth-floor walk-ups and cat-pee-soaked carpets. The rent was exorbitant, availability was scarce, and I was turned down by two different landlords for being “freelance.” To be honest, I don’t blame them. Not only am I freelance, but I’m lesbian freelance. Double whammy. What was the reason they turned me down? Because it was easier to rent to a rich, trust-fund, straight-guy banker who wants to live in the coolest borough in the world? Because when he met me he saw a tattooed gender outlaw who makes “queer electronic punk music” and isn’t sure when the next check is going to come in? Yeah, I don’t blame him. He doesn’t give a shit about how kids email me all the time thanking me for keeping them from committing suicide. It’s not part of his capitalist business practice.

You know those awesome farmer’s markets where you can get 20 different kinds of fresh tomatoes, weird mushrooms, and exotic apples? The above essay from “a tattooed gender outlaw” is just like that, except instead of “fresh tomatoes” insert “stupid” and replace “mushrooms” with “self-loathing” and “apples” with “unjustified and economically illiterate resentments.” Seriously every kind of stupid is available here for your inspection. Does this woman think that “rich, trust-fund, straight-guy bankers” are taking the pad with the cat-pee-soaked carpets and cockroaches? Really? Does she really think the “coolest borough in the world” is full of landlords turning down lesbians because they’re oh-so-edgy and subversive? Does she have any clue that her real enemies in this regard aren’t heteronormative landlords or trust-funded bankers, but liberal Democrats who cling to rent-control laws like a Liberty Park squatter with the last roll of toilet paper?

Then there’s this bit:

And if I need to, I’m ready to get a job, go to work in the morning, get a paycheck once a week, go to the dentist, get a check-up, bottom out to a boss and appreciate music without being worried that I can’t keep up.

Good for her. She’s willing to do her part! She’s “ready” – at age 33 – to go to the dentist. And yet capitalism remains unwilling to meet her half-way. Again, it must be because she’s a lesbian.

 

Why Liberaltarianism Is Doomed

The gist of it goes like this. There are libertarians who really hate conservatism and/or the Republican party. They like liberals for one reason or another. Therefore, they want to dissolve the conservative-libertarian marriage and get the libertarians and liberals hitched instead.

Well, what’s sort of fascinating about the Occupy Wall Street/Tea Party comparison is how much overlap there is between their complaints. Scrape off the 31 different kinds of Marxist mold growing on the surface of the 99 Percenters, hose off the stench of urine, bong water, and failure, and you’ll find a complaint that many Tea Partiers can appreciate: disgust at corporate bailouts, crony capitalism, and economic mismanagement.

That’s a major swath of agreement. The problem? The 99 Percenters’ proposed solutions and the Tea Partiers’ are absolutely incompatible with each other. The 99 Percenters aren’t against taxpayer bailouts – why would they be? They don’t pay much in taxes – they’re just against taxpayer bailouts of the wrong constituencies. After all, if Obama somehow forgave their student loans tomorrow, most of them would go home happy. They want debt forgiveness – and that’s a bailout. Meanwhile, the Tea Parties formed in no small part because, as Rick Santelli put it, taxpayers didn’t want to pay for their neighbors’ mortgages.

It’s really intriguing how the policy differences are informed by cultural differences. The twentysomethings haven’t paid much, if anything, in taxes and have received more than they’ve given. The Tea Partiers tend to be older and have spent a lot of time paying into the system. They resent paying for handouts. The Occupy Wall Streeters resent not getting them. And their definition of greed is not merely wanting to keep your own money, but resisting when others try to take it from you.

That’s a huge, huge difference.

Anyway, libertarians may be culturally “progressive,” but they aren’t economically. The protesters’ answer to the problem is more government and more bailouts, even as they trot out prefab arguments about self-sufficiency and getting away from materialism. (“We can charge our iPhones with generators made from, and running on, 100 percent renewable hemp!”) And yet somehow, the libertarians can’t explain to them that the reason government and big business are in bed together is that the government keeps intruding into business. Libertarianism is the answer, but these people refuse to ask the right questions.

It’s a shame that the libertarians can’t better exploit this as a teaching moment. But that’s just it, they can’t. Because psychologically, culturally, and intellectually, the Left is always going to be economically statist and egalitarian. Why? Because that’s what it means to be left-wing.

Libertarianism and leftism are – and here comes the vocab word of the day – incompossible worldviews for the simple reason that one simply means the opposite of the other.

 

Potpourri

I know I linked this in the Corner already, but everyone I’ve made watch it is glad I did. I think this guy is going to get himself killed. But it’s mesmerizing stuff.

In last week’s G-File, I somehow used the word “spendthrift” in exactly the wrong way. Blurgh. My apologies.

For those of you who liked all the Hoover stuff last week, here’s Steve Horwitz’s Cato paper which, weirdly, came out the same day as the G-File.

Mark your calendars: I’ll be on Special Report tonight. Also, on November 1, I’ll be speaking at Furman University in South Carolina. And I’ll also be speaking at the Americans for Prosperity Convention a few days after that.

The G-File

By Jonah Goldberg