, Salem, MA

January 15, 2014

Letter: On old-fashioned libertarians

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Barbara Anderson (“No, we have never been able to get along,” Jan. 9) is pleased to be considered an Old Wise Libertarian. I worry that in fact she is an Old-Fashioned Libertarian. First, she seems to couch her thinking only in the Western tradition where, yes, fighting and conflict and the idea that there are clear rights and wrongs are at the very center. During the last century, many of us from in the West, from philosophers to car mechanics, have learned a little about the thought tradition of the East, which more seriously values peace within and without and accommodates complexities and interrelationships and ambiguities.

It may be her limited Western perspective that leads Anderson to ask, “How will mankind survive if hard work and superior intelligence aren’t rewarded?” She misses how loaded her own question is. Talk about ironies! The very intelligent people that I know work very hard and earn little money but are, indeed, rewarded tenfold when they see how they have helped others less fortunate. I’m thinking, among others, of nurses and teachers and scientists. (There are some great ones who unfortunately don’t win Nobel prizes.) And then I see other folks who accumulate a great deal of money, and surprise, surprise, these people are actually stupid and lazy. Consider the stockholders and executives and lawyers of insurance companies who have long denied medical benefits to people in need. Also consider folks like the Koch brothers, or earlier, the Dulles brothers. In these cases, stockholders, executives and lawyers of corporations exploit the environment, thereby destroying our common wealth (particularly of the wealth of our children and grandchildren who will lack clean food, forests, fields and oceans, and need to cope with more and more ravaging storms and a rising sea level). Perhaps they accumulate money, but I suspect that in the long run, their rewards are actually not too hot. Hard to know. I guess we could ask their shrinks and pastors.

Finally, I think that Anderson’s libertarianism is old-fashioned regarding her concept of tyranny. Those who deny medical care to the needy and who liquidate our environment to make money for themselves, it turns out, they’re the same ones, the Koch brothers especially, who use millions of dollars to influence congress persons and elections, so they can keep doing what they’re doing. Are they not the new tyrants that we need to overthrow?

Paul Dobbs