Federalism, Why Libertarianism Won’t Work

There are many things appealing about Libertarianism. The whole, “Don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you.” philosophy for starters. The concept of a smaller, less obtrusive government for another. However, as appealing as it may be the fact is that it is flawed for larger countries like the United States. When our country was smaller, post revolution the concepts of individualism and self reliance were a mainstay of American life. At the same time, American society was seperated by distance and economic realities as well as  regional identities. All of which would eventually come to a head in the American Civil War, although some consider it a second revolution.

Individualism when considered separately, is not a negative concept.  Being responsible to one self is an important aspect of self growth but the very name excludes outside factors. Same with Self Reliance. On an individual level self reliance is a admirable trait.  Yet as a society increases in number and economic potency those factors do not translate onto a national stage in the form of a fully integrated and functional society. Especially in an economic sense when competition is a global system and not a local situation.

Individualism and Self Reliance, while hallmarks of libertarianism, it is by no means the entire scope of libertarianism. Some range from free market promotion and property right authority based in natural rights to anarchist concepts of little to no state interference. Despite any specific school that libertarianism adherents cling to, the overall concept of little or limited state authority is at the heart of their resistance to a federalist based governing system. The background of this belief is as varied as the schools of thought on libertarianism. In this specific instance, the focus will be on the overall concept of libertarianism as espoused by many in the United States.

In the United States the classical liberal concept of socially liberal and economically conservative has morphed into modern American Libertarianism. This includes a direction on policies that limit federal role in the governing of the country as well as policies that promote free market ideals. However, the social liberal stance is limited by preventing the government from affecting aspects such as welfare, medical care and other social programs. In fact, the concept real or imagined of wealth distribution is almost revolt making to the average libertarian.

Libertarianism, as a form of government is non static. Meaning that as time progresses in a libertarian society as the number of individuals climb and the wealth increases the gap that occurs between the top percentile and the lowest percentile widens, creating fissures in the libertarian philosophy that can only be corrected by using a form of governmental authority.  This will increase further as the numbers also increase until the system of libertarianism can no longer sustain itself and must revert to another form of government. Of course, it is equally possible that as a libertarian society increases the numbers the society itself could devolve into a number of communal situations. This is not just speculative fiction. There are sociological models that can predict at which point the population ratio to percentage of gross national product becomes untenable for a libertarian society that is based on minimal state control.

That does not mean that libertarianism is a bad concept only that it is inefficient and impractical on a large scale. Some current libertarians attempt to work their philosophy into the concept of the current United States. They tout the idea that states could become the framework of local government while the Federal government is limited to defense and small economic regulations. They further make the claim that this is born out of the United States Constitution. However, nothing can be further from the truth. The United States Constitution in its very form a description of Federalism. The concept of Federal control with limited state control. Many will bring up the 10th Amendment. However, as it has been mention in this blog before the 10th Amendment sets up a co-sovereignty not a dual sovereignty. Meaning it reaffirms the hierarchy of the law as laid out in the Supremacy Clause. This has been attested to by the Supreme Court.

Naturally, no libertarian would agree with what is mentioned here. It is after all more of a moral philosophy than a way of government. However, it is that philosophy that is helping to drive much of the current division in this country.  Granted, it does not rest solely on the shoulders of the libertarian as it is only a small part of the whole partisan situation. Still, it would should be recognized by the libertarians that for a country our size, their concept of government just won’t work.


2 thoughts on “Federalism, Why Libertarianism Won’t Work

  1. I think you’ve got it back to front. It’s not that prosperous nations can’t function without an enormous government…. it’s that fledgling nations don’t yet have enough wealth for an enormous governments to feast on (or more accurately, parasite off)

    It’s no coincidence that the most free and self reliant nation quickly became the most prosperous and functional one. That demonstrates how a tiny and impotent government allows a society to get on with the job of becoming a more prosperous and pleasant place to live in – which is what 99.9% of people want, right?

    But this very freedom and the subsequent prosperity it allowed is the very thing which allowed the government to steadily increase taxes and grow and grow and grow and GROW. By the time it had become a huge cancer on society it was too late, it had already attached its tentacles onto the media, education system, the economy and had amassed so many weapons that no one could oppose it.

    This is how and why the nation with the smallest and most impotent government became the nation with the biggest and most heavily militarised and warmongering government on the planet.

    And if the US government was cut down to size and the constitution restored tomorrow it would just happen all over again…. with massive increase in freedoms leading to massive increases in productivity, efficiency, social harmony and wealth, enabling government to increase taxes and grow all over again and eventually take over again too.

    The only thing which limits this cancerous growth is when the government overreaches, gets into too many wars of empire, too much debt, sells off too much industry and generally becomes too corrupt….. economic and social collapse then ensues, often preceded by a spell of total fascism….. and when it all collapses in a massive blood bath government is once again reduced in size (as is the population) ….. ready to start the whole process all over again 🙂

    If you don’t believe me, just study history…. or look out the window.

    • As a student of history I would have to say, I disagree. The factors that influence a society such as poverty, crime, and mortality rates are minimal during the fledgling phase of a new nation. Meaning that they have yet to reach the numbers in which to drastically effect population and wealth growth, if you take into account the technological advances occurring simultaneously. American prosperity did not increase till after the advent of several industrial technologies that allowed the population to take advantage of wealth generation. As the advancements came into action, the population factors such as poverty, crime, etc were temporarily offset. However, that effect did not last and the gap between the impoverished and the top wealth achievers were widened. At which point, it became an determinate that had to require governmental action. In any society where the gap between the poor and the wealthy are extreme the situation reaches a critical mass and freedom has not effect and actually becomes a flashpoint. That does not mean that an advocate of socialism is necessary as the government is should not possess the power for a total redistribution.
      I also think you are looking at things from a skewed perspective. Regulation of media, education and the economy are necessary for the proper functioning of any country. While regulation imply control, but I think we could agree that regulation is not always control. There are no nationalized media or education systems in this country. As far as the number of weapon systems, I can point to other nations that have similar if not more of the same weapon systems. Several hold a quantitative advantage but not a qualitative one. Then when we arrive at your statement, “most heavily militarised and warmongering government on the planet.” That when you account for time period, and per capita defense expenditures we are not the “most heavily militarised and warmongering government on the planet.” We are only the most recent and that too is subject to change due to the rising influence of China and Russia and India as economic powerhouses.
      Your next statement is false on its face. First of all the Constitution is still in force and has not been suspended in any way. The checks and balance system of our government is still working. See the recent rulings concerning the Labor Board as an example.
      Right now, fascism is indeed an concern as we have several in the Tea Party that are advocating that position currently, although I doubt they even realize it.

      Overall, I believe you are mistaken in your concepts for our country. You see the country as separate from society and ignore the regional and socioeconomic realities that are associated with a global economy. Libertarians want the country to move backwards and not forwards because they fear a loss of identity. Yet, in any case you are correct about one thing. Ultimately, it will probably lead to a blood bath but not on the scale that would allow the “preppers” to be prepared for. It will be a long and hard bloodbath that would eventually touch the lives of millions.

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