Privileged Social Positions


    What many libertarians and conservatives fail, or do not care, to understand is the privileged social positions that they were born into. When they tout the virtues of “individual freedom,” “individual liberty,” “freedom of entrepreneurship,” and the like, they seem to assume that these virtues apply relatively equally for all Americans. And here they are wrong.

    If you were born on the wrong side of town where the crime rate is one of the highest in the country, where your network of contacts consists mainly of drug dealers, gangsters, drug users, or pimps, and where opportunities for advancement seem so remote as to be a pipedream, can it logically be said that you have an equal chance of using your “individual liberty” and “individual freedom” to become a wealthy business person compared to an individual born into an affluent suburban community or city?

    This seems to be exactly what libertarians and conservatives assume about the ability of different individuals “to make something of themselves.” Thus, sociological perspectives are not taken into account when individuals from these two groups proselytize about opportunities of a “free market” and “individual freedom.”

    Their classical liberalism, then, seems like little more than a self-interested ideology that only concerns itself with individuals already in affluent social positions, ignoring past and present systemic inequities. And here is the fundamental divide between liberals and these two groups.

    Liberals take into account these past and present systemic inequities and look for a space in our society for social justice and communal welfare. Not everyone, after all, wants to be a businessperson and not everyone has the means to be a businessperson.

    Libertarians in particular have a number of points that I agree on, even if the starting points for our arguments are not the same. However, libertarians and conservatives alike go too far in announcing an end to government-run welfare programs. Can these programs be improved? Absolutely. But to say that these programs are not perfect is not to say that they should be privatized, as if privatization were the solution to every societal woe.

    The ideological call for constant privatization of government-run programs simply replaces reality with predetermined ideas of how society should be. That is, these individuals overlook facts to support their ideas.

    Government, in and of itself, is not an evil. What makes it act in an “evil” manner are the individuals who constitute it. But the same can be said for private businesses. The only difference is that citizens can vote bad politicians out of office. Can private executives be so easily voted out of office? History appears to suggest not.