We have now reached peak Libertarianism, and this bizarre experiment that has been promoted by the billionaire class for over forty years is literally killing us.
Back in the years before President Ronald Reagan, a real estate lobbying group called the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) came up with the idea of creating a political party to justify deregulating the real estate and finance industries so they could make more money. The party would give them ideological and political cover, and they developed an elaborate theology around it.
It was called the Libertarian Party, and their principal argument was that if everybody acted separately and independently, in all cases with maximum selfishness, that that would benefit society. There would be no government needed beyond an army and a police force, and a court system to defend the rights of property owners.
In 1980, billionaire David Koch ran for vice president on the newly formed Libertarian Party ticket. His platform was to privatize the Post Office, shut down all public schools, privatize Medicare and Medicaid, end food stamps and all other forms of “welfare,” deregulate all corporate oversight, and sell off much of the federal government’s land and other assets to billionaires and big corporations.
Since then, Libertarian billionaires and right-wing media have been working hard to get Americans to agree with Ronald Reagan’s statement from his first inaugural address that, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
And Trump is getting us there now. Every federal agency of any consequence is now run by a lobbyist or former industry insider.
The Labor Department is trying to destroy organized labor; the Interior Department is selling off our public lands; the EPA is promoting deadly pesticides and allowing more and more pollution; the FCC is dancing to the tune of giant telecom companies; the Education Department is actively working to shut down and privatize our public school systems; the USDA is shutting down food inspections; the Defense Department is run by a former weapons lobbyist; even the IRS and the Social Security Administration have been gutted, with tens of thousands of their employees offered early retirement or laid off so that very, very wealthy people are no longer being audited and the wait time for a Social Security disability claim is now over two years.
The guy Trump put in charge of the Post Office is actively destroying the Post Office, and the bonus for Trump might be that this will throw a huge monkey wrench in any effort to vote by mail in November. Trump has removed the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and fossil fuel lobbyists now control America’s response to global warming.
Our nation’s response to the coronavirus has been turned over to private testing and drug companies, and the Trump administration refuses to implement any official government policy, with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar saying that it’s all up to “individual responsibility.” The result is more than 140,000 dead Americans and three million infected, with many fearing for their lives.
While the Libertarian ideas and policies promoted by that real estate lobbying group that invented the Libertarian Party have made CEOs and billionaire investors very, very rich, it’s killing the rest of us.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put America back together after the Republican Great Depression and built the largest and wealthiest middle class in the history of the world at the time. Now, forty years of Libertarian Reaganomics have gutted the middle class, made a handful of oligarchs wealthier than anybody in the history of the world, and brought an entire generation of hustlers and grifters into public office via the GOP.
When America was still coasting on FDR’s success in rebuilding our government and institutions, nobody took very seriously the crackpot efforts to tear it all down. Now that they’ve had forty years to make their project work, we’re hitting peak Libertarianism and it’s tearing our country apart, pitting Americans against each other, and literally killing hundreds of people every day.
If America is to survive as a functioning democratic republic, we must repudiate the “greed is good” ideology of Libertarianism, get billionaires and their money out of politics, and rebuild our civil institutions. That starts with waking Americans up to the incredible damage that forty years of Libertarian Reaganism has done to this country.
Pass it on.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Thom Hartmann is a talk show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than thirty other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast called The Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.