A recent piece by Mike LaSusa entitled “ The Nightmare Libertarian Project to Turn This Central American Country Into Ayn Rand's Paradise ,” published on Alternet and reposted on Salon , is a disjointed collection of out-of-context semi-factoids that bear no relationship to the title.
The piece reveals what's wrong with the minds of the leftists who seem to lap this stuff up.
LaSusa tells us that stating with a military coup in 2009 Honduras has had a succession of governments that have sought the “privatization of Honduran society” and “the militarization of public security efforts.” Crime in the country is out of control and growing, with gang activity contributing to corruption of the police and government. But a group of leftists headed off a constitutional amendment to give “permanent status to the country’s militarized police force” which is under the control of the president. Further, while only 27 percent of the people have confidence in the ability of the police to deal with crime, 73 percent think the military should be involved in crime-fighting.
What does this have to do with libertarianism? Nothing!
LaSusa complains about the government’s “heavy-handed” approach to fighting crime. Since he is concerned with crime but also with the country’s constitution, shouldn't he prefer a more militarized police to a military prone to pulling off coups?
Be that as it may, what does it have to do with libertarians? For the record, libertarians oppose police states with open-ended powers but argue that the basic function of government is to provide police protection from the sort of crime about which LaSusa complains. But so far he offers no indictment of libertarians whatsoever.
LaSusa then turns to a discussion of special employment and economic development zones (Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico or ZEDE s) proposed by the Honduran government. Private investors would develop infrastructure, set up enterprises, establish educational and policing systems and, in effect, write laws. He quotes from the ZEDE website that they seek to provide “a 21st century, business-efficient, non-politicized, transparent, stable, system of administration, plus a special police and institutional security to overcome regional issues and meet world standards.” Sounds pretty good! And he tells us that lots of libertarian thinkers from around the world had a hand in developing this concept.
So are ZEDEs a bad idea? Why? LaSusa seems to have the usual leftist visceral hatred of private folks with money making money, since he complains about private investors exploiting “Honduras’ voluntary surrender of its national sovereignty to make a ‘legal’ profit.” Does he prefer the current corrupt system? And would private investors create conditions any worse than the poverty-stricken, crime-ridden dump that is Honduras today?
But the discussion of ZEDE's is irrelevant, it turns out. LaSusa provides us with no information whatsoever about how ZEDEs are functioning and no recitation of nightmare stories. Perhaps this is because none are actually functioning as yet. LaSusa tells us that the ZEDEs were declared unconstitutional. The government tried to change the law to allow them to operate legally but failed, and is now trying to allow ZEDEs and local municipalities to request help for security from the militarized police. And the problem is, what?
LaSusa’s attention then wanders to the fact that since 20008 the United States has provided $65 million in aid to Honduras for security. Libertarians generally oppose all foreign aid but again, where is the “nightmare?” Let's see: no libertarian policy has actually been put into effect in Honduras, so how on earth can Honduras's current problems be due to libertarianism? As Ayn Rand would say—Blank out!
Let’s put this discussion in a wider context by considering how Honduras does on the Index of Economic Freedom . (Full disclosure: I developed this index concept at the Heritage Foundation in the late 1980s.) Honduras scores only 57.4 out of 100, meaning it is “Mostly Unfree.” Of special note, it only scored a 30 on protecting property rights. And it only scored 26 for freedom from corruption. Overall, Honduras ranks only 116th out of 178 countries evaluated, in terms of economic freedom. This country is not nor ever has been an Ayn Rand laissez-faire paradise.
Here is a crucial point that leftists refuse to acknowledge. A free market system is built on the moral premise that individuals should deal with one another based on mutual consent. This requires the rule of law with governments protecting private property.
In her novel Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s villains are corrupt crony businessm e n who use government force against competitors or to extract money from them through confiscatory taxes. The heroes are true capitalists who prosper by creating goods and services to sell to willing customers.
When LaSusa complains about a libertarian “Peruvian economist” he is no doubt referring to Hernando DeSoto. DeSoto documents how governments in his native country as well as throughout the region are crony, or what he calls “mercantilist,” systems. They are the principal reason that the poor are denied the opportunity to prosper through their own efforts. To the extent that ZEDEs would afford everyone a “non-politicized, transparent, stable, system of administration, plus a special police and institutional security,” this is just what Honduras needs.
LaSusa’s attention deficit discussion then swings to immigration. He complains about “U.S. government practice of deporting thousands of Hondurans with criminal records” thus contributing to crime in Honduras. What does he expect the United States to say? “Welcome criminals! Come here where the pickings are better!”
He also complains about deportation from the United States of women and children immigrants. But libertarians tend to oppose such deportations and favor an open and welcoming immigration policy . LaSusa also complains about America’s war on drugs, but then, so do all libertarians.
LaSusa’s meandering mess offers no indictment of libertarians. He offers no evidence, data or logical connection at all between pro-freedom policies and Honduras’s sad state. Yet he declares the “disastrous results” of “neoliberal economic prescriptions.”
LaSusa’s piece is most interesting for what it reveals about the leftist mind. It is unfocused. It seems self-satisfied with lists of disconnected factoids that in no way hold together. A tone of indignation alone is supposed to prove the fallacies of political opponents.
The goal of DeSusa’s piece seems to be to damn libertarians and Objectivists in the minds of fellow leftist by plucking at their emotional chords rather than offering serious discussion concerning problems like crime and poverty that he claims to want to vanquish.
Relying on self-delusional rather than clear-eyed, honest analysis simply ensures that such problems will continue. All this obfuscation should suggest that there is much in the libertarian and Objectivist approaches to society and economy that should be seriously explored!
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted February 6, 2015.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.