The Rodney Dangerfields of the Ideological Universe

Libertarian anarchists are the Rodney Dangerfields of the ideological universe. Born and reared in a world pervaded by the state and statism, we must fight our way through a dense jungle of clinging, collectivist vines, obscured by murky, mendacious propaganda, and populated by brainwashed lizards, political opportunists, and a multitude of wormy moochers. If we are hardy and continue to hack our way toward the light of truth, we ultimately grasp an understanding of the state in all its violent, unscrupulous, and shameless glory. Our reward for these arduous efforts is being seen as kooks and weirdos, at best, and all too often as unwashed, bomb-throwing vandals bent on senseless acts of destruction. I tell ya, we don’t get no respect at all.

Anyone who defends any form of freedom from the state, much less someone who espouses the state’s abolition, quickly encounters a standard set of baseless comebacks. The first, of course, is the progressive knee jerk, the claim that we are nothing but shills for soulless corporations that are raping the world for the exclusive benefit of a handful of corporate plutocrats who already possess almost all of the world’s wealth and will not rest until they have snatched the remainder and despoiled the environment in the process. It’s a life’s work merely to explain some basic economics to these nincompoops, to enlighten them to the startling news—well known at least since Adam Smith discussed it clearly in the latter half of the eighteenth century—that business people are typically the free market’s greatest enemies, and to clarify that libertarians endorse the free market, not the corporate privileges, subsidies, and legal protections from competition that now masquerade in the guise of “capitalism.”

Next, if not indeed first in the litany of statist reactions, comes the personal attack on our sincerity. If we really do not believe in the state’s various involvements in social and economic life, why do we ourselves drive on public streets, attend public schools, drink water purified in public water-treatment plants, and so forth—a list whose limits are defined only by the endurance of our critics in enumerating the countless elements of contemporary life run or regulated by the state. In view of the nature of the world in which we live—the world into which we had the temerity to be born, blameless for its accumulated sins—the indictment is basically that we libertarian anarchists are hypocrites for continuing to live at all, given the manifold “benefits” that we enjoy owing to the state’s provisions, requirements, and prohibitions. How dare we live in this world! As the yahoos like to say, “Why don’t you filthy anarchists go back where you came from?”

I tell ya, it taxes our patience that we must explain again and again that simply because we happened to be born into this twisted, hyper-politicized world, we bear no responsibility for its current configuration. We have been taxed, fined, charged, bullied, and tricked into providing our pro rata share of the resources with which it sustains its ugly self, yet, if our critics be credited, we have no right whatever to enjoy any of its benefits. I don’t want to be unkind to people of limited intellectual capacity, but I must say, I’m getting a bit tired of their idiocy in this regard. Do they really think that after having been taxed to support the Social Security system throughout my working lifetime, I would be a hypocrite to draw a miserable pension from it? I didn’t create this damned Ponzi scheme. If I had been asked—which I was not in regard to this or any of the state’s other criminal enterprises—I would have said, don’t create this monstrosity.  Had I been asked whether road building  should be left to private enterprise, I would have said yes, it should be. Had I been asked whether the state should be involved in education, I would have said that it absolutely should not be; and so forth, right down the line from A to Z of the alphabet of state interventions. But, again, I was not consulted. Statists and their supporters created this world. My fate was to be tossed into it, only to realize, in the fullness of time, how utterly fouled up it is owing to the state’s pervasive involvement in it.

Punishment is unpleasant even when one has sinned and has it coming, but punishment—and even relentless, ignorant criticism—is even worse when one’s only crime is that one has, after long and difficult effort, pried open his eyes to see the state and its actions for what they are—the emperor that has no clothes, the falsest of false gods, the fairy tale that nearly everybody believes even though it consists of little more than fantastic counter-factual claims and dreamy wishful thinking.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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