Now that Rand Paul has declared his intention to campaign for the office of the presidency it seems important to consider his ideological perspective. Paul considers himself a Libertarian. In the wake of the Great Recession Libertarianism has experienced a mild resurgence with ideas originating from this school of thought permeating right wing, some mainstream, and even liberal, discussions about how society should be structured. Simply put, Libertarianism is the most extreme form of capitalist ruling class ideology. It is an ideology founded on the belief that mavericks, or rugged individuals, make history rather than the masses, or the “herd”. This perspective is deeply ingrained in both the conscious, and unconscious, of American culture. In fact, it is the basis of the modern American Dream, becoming fabulously rich as a result of your own hard work, without relying on a single other soul. Which is precisely why Libertarians loathe taxation, redistribution, and public services. Any attempt by the State to intervene on behalf of people instead of property is considered “tyranny”. The Tea Party is one of the more recent socio-political movements that express these ideas, and Rand Paul has been a vocal proponent.
Filled with people who firmly believe in the supremacy of the rugged individualist, this movement regularly conflates fascism and socialism; as well as labeling even the most modest attempts at building social democracy and the welfare state as dreaded collectivism. For these people the State is the enemy, which is why they see fascism and socialism as two sides to a single, collectivist, coin. Regardless of which direction a particular State takes, implementing either fascist or socialist totalitarianism, the end result is Big Government dictating every aspect of each individual’s life, destroying their autonomy, and stifling the free market system of capitalism, causing economic crises. What is ironic about this point of view -beyond the fact that Rand Paul is an adherent and is a fucking Senator, an official of the big bad government- is that this perspective is completely ahistorical, and no successful capitalist can implement these ideas in the running of their business because capitalism cannot function without the labor theory of value and the intervention of the State.
Just examine the practices of one of the most successful capitalist enterprises in the world today: Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart understands, perhaps only on the level of the unconscious, the laws of capitalism discovered by Marx, which is why they take any and every opportunity to exploit their workforce and get the State to pick up the tab for the social costs incurred by paying people subsistence wages. Over half of the Wal-Mart workforce is receiving aid from government programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, welfare, etc. This does not even take into account the construction and maintenance of the physical and cultural infrastructure built by the State over the last several centuries to advance the interests of commerce. Wal-Mart, and capitalism generally, could not exist without roads, bridges, the criminal justice system, and the myriad number of other forms of pro-capitalist intervention in the market system fostered by the State. Without the State to enforce the rule of the capitalist system why would anyone choose to starve, live in poverty, go without health care, or work for meager wages at a company run by billionaires? If the State is so anti-capitalist then why does it come to its rescue during each crisis, panic, recession, and depression? Why does it bail out banks, loan them money for next to nothing, subsidize investment, protect monopolies, etc., etc., etc.? How else is the capitalist to get the masses to create all the value from which they derive their profit if there is no mechanism in place to deprive them of that which they need to survive? The truth of the matter is that any class society is dependent on the State for the construction and maintenance of the ruling class’ hegemony.
However, in order to distract, diverge, and displace popular anger the capitalist ruling class must still propagate asinine theories about the functioning of the state and the economy like Libertarianism. What is most useful about these ideas is that they are utopian, and will never be subject to any kind of praxis. They will never materialize in the real world and can never be proven false; Libertarianism cannot fail, it can only be failed. If only we instituted a more perfect capitalism the system would function without failure and would meet the needs of every individual. Ideas like this perpetuate the system while forming the basis of political movements such as the Tea Party, or Conservatism more broadly, by convincing the masses to organize on behalf of a mode of production predicated on their own exploitation. In the utopianism of the Libertarian, the rugged individualist as such exists in order to hide the simple fact that without the exploitation of the masses there would be no one to farm the fields, work in the factories, or teach the children. For the truth of the matter is that the masses do not need the capitalists, it is the capitalists who need the masses.