The Danger of Pragmatism

As an anarchist who refuses to take part in the political system I’m often derogatorily referred to as a purist or idealist. Those calling me a purist usually consider themselves pragmatists. Pragmatists like to harp on idealists because, in their view, idealists bitch while pragmatists get things done. What pragmatists seldom see is the cost of, as they say, getting things done.

This rant was brought on by the recent death of Margaret Thatcher. For some reason many pragmatist libertarians love Thatcher because she reduced the political influence of public unions and privatized a great deal of infrastructure. I, on the other hand, don’t view Thatcher as a bastion of libertarianism who rode a white horse and delivered freedom to the suffering serfs of the United Kingdom. Because of my unwillingness to ignore the results of her actions I’m accused of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Unlike so-called pragmatists I would not support Thatcher were she alive and running for a position of power. The cost of her actions were too great.

Thatcher may have bitch slapped socialism back in the United Kingdom but she did so by replacing it with fascism. Under Thatcher’s policies the denizens of the United Kingdom suffer under a police state. Their every action is captured by Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) that rise above most street corners, their Internet is censored, and their every communication is recorded by the state. Thatcher’s advancement of the police state was the catalyst for these modern problems.

I already hear the pragmatists screaming, “But she privatized nationalized industries!” Privatization, as defined by the state, is another word for nationalization. Instead of the state directly owning an industry a crony, who is part of the state in all ways that matter, is given ownership over the industry. The state gets away with this practice by claiming the nationalized industries are natural monopolies. That claim fools many libertarians into supporting the state’s definition of privatization but the truth is natural monopolies don’t exist. Natural monopoly is a made up label used to sucker free market advocates into accepting the state’s transferring of ownership from one branch of itself to another. True privatization would require entirely deregulating nationalized industries so anybody wanting to compete in those markets could compete.

It’s also worth spending a few seconds looking at Thatcher’s foreign policy. One of the biggest criticisms libertarians aim at the current United States government is its interventionist foreign policy. The United States loves to go around the world and start shit with other nations. Thatcher also enjoyed this practice. I’m not talking about the Falkelands War, which a minarchist may consider legitimate as it involved Argentina invading a British colony. I’m talking about her insistence that the United States invade Iraq and her support of Pol Pot. While some may be willing to forgive her support of starting the Gulf War I don’t see how anybody can forgiver her for supporting a man who murdered an estimated 2 million Cambodians. Even the most flexible of pragmatists must admit that supporting such a murderer goes against everything libertarianism promotes.

Pragmatism is a term most often used by those who aren’t principled. By calling themselves pragmatists, people can claim the label libertarian without actually supporting libertarian principles. I understand why they do it, working within the currently established political system offers a path of least resistance. Using the political system to force your beliefs onto an entire population is much easier than leading by example and living your life in accordance with the principles you claim to support. I also understand why pragmatists berate idealists. When a pragmatists looks at an idealist they see everything they want to be but can’t bring themselves to be. In order to cope with the guilt of betraying their own principles they accuse the idealist of wrongdoing. Pragmatists blind themselves and, in so doing, end up working against the ideas they claim to support. They may, as they say, get things done but they get all the wrong things done.