The Hardest Part of Being a Libertarian…

The hardest part of being a Libertarian is having to deal with the head trauma from slamming my head against the desk when comments like this are not only publicly expressed but are so popular, “This should really piss you off. Cut-crazy Republicans always try to point to the NSF and NASA as giant wastes of Federal money, and try to “fix government waste” by harassing individual programs and scientists. But you know what, the entire NSF program request was $7.25B for next year, less than 1/10 the cost of the free tax giveaway to the top 2% of earners.”

The poster has conflated three different concepts in that screed.  It is not uncommon and the huge amount of upvotes it got it is clear most people have the same problem as well.  Here are the three different concepts:

  1. That Science research and education is a good thing.
  2. That Government should fund science research and education.
  3. That cuts here are inexcusable compared to the cuts for the rich.

Now, as a Libertarian I do not see a link between those three topics.  I seem them as discrete issues.  Clearly as a geek atheist I have absolutely nothing against science research and education.  I think we should have more of it.  Lots more of it.

However I don’t think that it is just for the government to take money from some people to funnel to other people to fund those activities.  I have no problems in saying, “Yes, science is a good thing.  No, it should not be funded.”  But read the responses that comment gets.  Pages and pages of rants against the ignorant who want to destroy science.  It never once enters their minds that someone can have a rational, logical and valid reason for not wanting to have coerced government funding of such activities.  Not because they are against the activities but because they are against coercion in obtaining the funds!

Which bleeds into the third topic.  Notice the verbage used.  It is a “giveaway” to the top 2% of earners.  It is ironic that they can recognize that those people have earned that income.  So how, exactly, is it a giveaway if they earned it?

Yes, we can get into the semantics of how it was earned, what was done to have earned it, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But that’s a different discussion.  This is about conflating the concept of cutting spending while “giving away” money to people who, in their estimation, don’t deserve it.

No, they earned it.  The government takes a portion by force.  Lowering the rate is not giving them anything.  It is letting them keep more of what they rightfully earned.

It all comes down to the pervasive notion that “we” should do something and by “we” they mean the government.  Also what should be done is always somehow in line with what that individual wants done.  Meanwhile when the government does something they dislike that another individual thinks “we” should do then the government is doing wrong.

I tackled that in response to this comment in a similar post, “I don’t want to cut science spending, I want to add funding to science. Can someone start a site called YouAdd, or something like that?”  My response, “Nice. You want to add funding? It’s called donate. I’d love to hear why you think you have a right to spend the money of dozens of million other people.”

I got downvoted for having the audacity to point out that if they wanted to spend more on science they could do it right now.  Donate!  Imagine that!  Voluntarily contributing above and beyond the mandated minimums through coercive government funding!  But the point isn’t that he wants to donate more, it is that “we” should donate more.

It is dealing with that breakdown in the thinking of an otherwise rational, moral person that is the hardest part of being a Libertarian.  The notion that what is morally reprehensible to do as individuals is morally acceptable to do via the proxy of government.  Or, as Sheldon Richman put it in a ReasonTV video, “…government is this great moral alchemist or moral launderer.  Things that you would never think to do in your own life, that you know would be wrong in your own life , suddenly become, not only acceptable, but even a positive good if it’s done through the political system.


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