The Absurdity of Amoral Positions: The Ethics of Libertarianism

Libertarians (Rand Paul is a perfect example of this) often claim an ethically neutral position when implementing their neo-liberal policies. Either by direct plan or consequence of it (does it really matter?), these policies most often minimize access to and defund public services, deplete public education, etc. – things which disproportionately affect lower income, non-white Americans. “I’m not racist or classist! I’m just pro-individual empowerment and privatization!” they say.

This is a part of the ethically neutral guise most neo-liberals hide behind (“the market is amoral”) which completely disregards the situation in America – racially, socio-economically, and otherwise – and is by definition, thus, unethical. Not to mention it fuels fantasies of meritocracy. This ethically neutral facade overlooks existing injustice/disparity/inequality by acting like it isn’t there (or that it isn’t all that bad). Free-market ideas aren’t ethically neutral; they presume a state of affairs – that we’re all currently equal enough in terms of access to resources that no systemic change is necessary – that is contextually blind. Even that this point is debatable is crowded out by their quixotic ideology.

Free markets create considerable wealth disparity and stratification. To ignore this and focus merely on individuals, especially in terms of responsibility, is to give the system a pass. Such a pass grants it longevity. This preference to be critical of the individual (or even communities) rather than the economic system that bears considerable responsibility for the current state of things is what I deem most problematic about neo-liberalism. Our economic structure is wrought with systemic problems we cannot adequately solve if we ignore it as a place for improvement.

There is no such thing as an ethically neutral (or amoral) position. Every position has ethical implications and consequences whether proponents acknowledge it or not.

This is why politicians such as Mitch Daniels must claim activists and historians like Howard Zinn are wrong and inaccurate (and even “anti-American”). The tapestry of Zinn’s work reveals precisely this systemic point and that, if there’s even a kernel of truth in what he writes, Mitch’s policies are indeed unethical. Mitch’s demagoguery about Zinn’s writings and the absence of substantive critique undergird his desperate attempt to despotically erase them.


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