Liberty Stinks


One can’t help but suspect that Libertarian visionaries and conservative ideologues of the sort now assimilated into the Republican Party and wagging its head look at the photograph above of Beijing ensconced in goop, and declare that they have seen the anti-regulatory paradise with their own eyes, a dream realized in that far, faraway land. This pictorial representation of life absent regulation, China’s regulatory regime when it comes to the environment up to now at least, weak to insignificant, conveys in stunning visual terms the radical conservative-Libertarian dream of unfettered development indifferent to externalities and human consequence.

In fact, one can only imagine Kenneth or David Koch, oil barons, right-wing money spigots extraordinaire and champions of the rights of polluters observing this carbon pall and declaring, “I have a dream,” followed by something along the lines of, “that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners all will be covered in soot.”

In fact, one may look at that picture above and imagine that it is similarly a visual representation of the unregulated financial hucksterism and corruption thickening our air prior to the respiratory arrest of the economy it would inflict five years ago, the financial equivalent of that miasma of gunk shrouding Beijing. It might likewise depict the death cloud of largely unregulated health costs hanging over the nation’s economy, bankrupting us all and literally sickening millions, while health providers and insurers make access to care either financially prohibitive or financially cataclysmic.

More directly and hardly less ominously one may observe what the results of the promiscuous burning of fossil fuels implies for the future of everyone as the Earth slowly comes to a boil. One supposes for the likes of the Koch brethren and their ilk photographic evidence of melting glaciers and drought-desiccated farmlands serves as a kind of erotica arousing them with evidence of their great success spewing fluorocarbons at their pleasure for a tidy sum. The propagandistic ideological fraud used to sell this de-regulatory fanaticism is that it is about liberty, though a very one-sided version of it indeed, a liberty defined as the unfettered rights of polluters, businesses, employers, corporations and large institutions to do as they damn please, consequences to fellow citizens be damned, and the government impotent to intervene on behalf of the affected and harmed…the majority of citizens in other words.

The liberty claim is a particularly odious Orwellian ideological feint offered slimily as rationale for actions intended to extend and to fortify the tyranny of accumulated wealth and power, corporate or business or employer unaccountability and entitlement, the rolling over, exploitation and bulldozing of the individual and of communities by profiteers. Profits are fine, but maximizing them at the peril of others and their liberty is not. Feudalists, monarchs, warlords and aristocrats of yore were more forthcoming about their avariciousness by far.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find many instances of these ideologues of liberty in the Republican Party or the conservative movement championing the liberty of women to retain choices concerning their own bodies, nor instances of these meretricious declaimers of freedom making arguments for the rights of defendants or the legal protection of suspects, rather than extolling the expansion of the powers of police and the authority of the security state as they customarily do. Some liberty-lovers these. Indeed, restricting the liberty of others to vote and selectively suppressing their right to do so comes as naturally to them as their love of legal execution: the ultimate power of government over the individual. Your right to breathe air that is clean or to drink water that is not foul they will gladly subjugate to their liberty to make a profit anyway they can.

The polluters and anti-regulation fanatics weakly, awfully weakly attempt to sell the fantastical and preposterous con that it is science that is corrupt, the scientific consensus on the warming climate due to human behavior no more than dank conspiracy. If the goal is to avoid a solution one finds anathema (regulation) a solution that seems eminently reasonable to a majority of Americans, denying that the problem exists is your preferred shot. Photographs such as the one above, as gratifying as such ecological pornography may be to the polluters and their ideological defenders in private, they prefer to keep hid.


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