While it does not address directly how Libertarianism is the new Social Darwinism, Bill Moyers indirectly argues the point in this post over at TomPaine. He's trying to explain how we let things get so out of control since Reagan--how the ordinary people in the middle let the wealthy and their interests drive policy:
What is finally at the root of these reactionary forces that have so disturbed the social fabric and threatened to undo the republic? If a $4 billion dollar investment in chattel labor was worth the price of civil war and 600,000 dead in 1860, is it really any wonder that the richest Americans would not suffer for too long a political consensus that pushed their share of national income down by a third, and held it there—about at the level of their counterparts in “socialist” Europe—for a generation? Make no mistake about it, from the days of the American Liberty League in 1936 (the group Franklin Roosevelt had in mind with his crowd-pleasing battle cry, “I welcome their hatred!”) they never gave up on returning to their former glory. They just failed to do it. Ordinary people had powerful institutions and laws on their side that thwarted them—unions, churches, and, yes, government programs that were ratified by large majorities decade after decade.
The scale of the disorder in our national priorities right now is truly staggering; it approaches moral anarchy. Alexander Hamilton, the conservative genius of the financial class, warned this could happen. Speaking to the New York State legislature in 1788, he said:
As riches increase and accumulate in few hands; as luxury prevails in society; virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature: It is what, neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is common misfortune, that awaits our state constitution, as well as others.
Conservatives who revere the founding fathers tend to stress the last point—that there is nothing to be done about this "common misfortune." It is up to the rest of us, who see the founding fathers not as gods but as inspired although flawed human beings . . . to take on "the tendency of things " to "depart from the republican standard," and hold our country to its highest, and most humane, ideals.
As stewards of democracy, we, too, have a covenant—with one another.
The point I've been making over and over in this blog is that this tendency of things to depart from the republican standard is rooted in the need for the already rich and powerful to obtain more wealth and power. It is precisely this human tendency that must have limits set upon it by any society which cherishes republican ideals, and the ordinary people in the middle have failed in their vigilance mainly because too many decent, thoughtful people have been seduced by the logic of Libertarianism.
The problem with these Libertarians is that they think everyone is as decent and fairminded as they are, and don't realize how Libertarianism is essentially the ideology of the reactionary Liberty League that Roosevelt fought. It's the ideology that seeks to remove the "limits" required to maintain the republican standard. It's the ideology that provides justification for the rich and powerful to aggregate more wealth and power, and in doing so to subvert the Republic by transforming it into a plutocratic oligarchy. That's what Hamilton was talking about, and he was no leftist radical. He was just talking common sense.
Democrats are no less immune from this tendency in human nature than Republicans. They were the more reliable party for most of the last century because they were beholden and responsive to the ordinary people, which composed their base. But as the Republicans since the 1980s have become caricatures of themselves as the party representing the interests of the wealthy, the Democrats have lost touch with that ordinary-people base (by suppporting things like NAFTA), much of that base has drifted into the Republican camp because the Dems no longer deliver, and they feel more comfortable with either the GOP's ability to somehow talk out both sides of their mouth with traditional values rhetoric on the one side and Libertarian rhetoric on the other.
Many hard-core Democrats persist in their belief that they are the voice of the people, but it's obvious (to me anyway) that the Dems natural constituency no longer feels all that comfortable in self-identifying as Dems. If the non-wealthy no longer believe the Democrats can deliver on political and economic issues for them, they will vote for the party that they perceive or misperceive represents their cultural values and security interests. This is the point that Thomas Frank makes in What's the Matter with Kansas. He thinks it's irrational and self-defeating, but I think it comes from the very basic experience and perception tht the Dems simply don't deliver. I think ordinary Americans will vote for the party that represents their political and economic interests, but the Democrats have lost their credibility in being able to do that, and it remains to be seen whether they can win it back.
It's doubtful because as a voting block, the Democrats have become in effect Republicans lite. They have become almost as beholden to the powerful moneyed interests as the Republicans have. Why? Because they feel more pressure from those interests than they do, say, from the unions or advocacy groups for the poor. And politics for your average Democratic politician is not about principles; it's about pressure.
And that's all our common misfortune right now if we are not wealthy. The non-wealthy don't have an effective voice to represent their interests because they are not organized to exert pressure that competes with the pressure exerted by wealth. People can argue that the Dems were limited in what they could do because of their minority status, but that's no longer an excuse. The two tests they must pass to earn all our respect are, first, to prevent Bush from getting his "surge" in Iraq, and, second, to repeal or radically revise the Military Commissions Act.
I haven't lost all hope that they will be able to do this, but if the Dem congress can't successfully defeat this discredited, unpopular, lame-duck on these two issues, what good is it to have a Democratic majority?