Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Either David Boaz is an Idiot or He Thinks I'm an Idiot

So, I've made it up to Chapter Two in Libertarianism: A Primer and I can only conclude that either David Boaz is an idiot or he thinks his readers, of which I am one, are idiots. Since he's some bigwig at the Cato Institute* and I am your lowly blogger, I'm going to assume that I'm supposed to be the idiot here. I'm just at the point where Boaz is claiming that libertarianism is the preferred way of getting along in the world. Preferred by whom? By God. Yes, in a real live book about a real live philosophical system, that is supposed to give me enough information to decide whether libertarianism is the right political framework for my thinking, number two on the reasons libertarianism rules (Number one: Because it's better than socialism.) is "Because God Likes It Best." This? This is a reason to pick a philosophical system? Because some god somewhere made some passing reference to not liking kings? Well, shoot, one of my gods says "What does it hurt if a woman has a husband or a lover or both?" Shall I run out and acquire for myself a husband and some lovers just because some god said it wasn't that big a deal? Even if it bothers my husband or my lover or both? Or shall I continue to assume that what gods do is their business and the arrangements people make between themselves are best left to be worked out among themselves? Anyway, there's something deeply, deeply funny about arguing for libertarianism--a political system based on severe individualism and self-determination--by saying "You should do it because God likes it." *It doesn't have anything to do with this post, but this dude is with the Cato Institute as well and I've been totally digging on him since I found him. This is libertarianism a girl like me can take to bed in good conscience.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Chris Wage said...

The Cato institute has a few interesting characters, but by and large they fall into the "capital apologist" category, or as Kevin Carson would put it, "vulgar libertarianism".

1/31/2006 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Sarcastro lent me this book and a book by P.J. O'Rourke. I haven't said anything about the O'Rourke book yet, but it gave me a lot to think about.

I think both books are pitched at the same general audience, but I found O'Rourke's book to be a lot more engaging because it seems to come from a perspective I respect, even if I disagree with it, which is "capitalism is messy and ugly, but look at these other ways of doing it, which are messier and uglier."

I guess the main problem I have with this book, Boaz's I mean, (and I hope to god that the libertarians are skipping over the comments, because I will never live this down) is that the libertarians I know, like Sarcastro and Exador and my dear friend from college seem to share many common traits--incredible pomposity, a certain way of strutting through life like they'll just shoot whatever doesn't get out of their way, and a tendancy to treat people who disagree with them like they're a little stupid.

But, over and over, I've found that, if you can get past that, they're some of the smartest, wittiest, deeply intellectual (but not in some borish way) people you can sit down and share a beer with, even if you disagree with them.

And, I could be wrong but I suspect I'd find Boaz similar. Which is what makes the book so painful for me. How can a man who thinks the country is full of 98.5% idiots write a book trying to convince those idiots to adopt his viewpoint? And why would he? And yet he has.

1/31/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Penn and Teller are also fellows at the CATO Institute.

Penn's a better writer than David Boaz.

Isn't worshipping someone as your Lord antithetical to democracy? If Jesus is King of Kings, that doesn't leave a lot of room for a constitutional republic.

Why do you hate America, Jehovah?

Strange women laying in mangers is no basis for a system of government.

1/31/2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mr. Mack said...

YES! Aunt B, you are now my Goddess. Finally, someone else has the guts to say that too many guys out there do come of as elitist, intellectual snobs. Libertarianism is, at it's core, a tantrum over having to pay taxes. They don't want an end to Govt because they find it all so oppressive, they just don't want to pay for it. I gave them kudos 10 yrs ago for adding the legalization of drugs to their platform, but, in the end, I found the whole argument pretty lame.

1/31/2006 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Wage said...

Libertarianism is a very attractive worldview, because at a superficial level, it requires very little thought.

If your definition of libertarianism is "government is bad", it allows you to be intellectually lazy. You oppose anything and everything that has to do with the government and call it a day, and then act snotty to anyone giving an issue a second thought, because, pfft, they're obviously just unprincipled lefty fascists.

This just means that you have to ask a few probing questions when someone says they are libertarian to find out what they really mean, because there's a lot of variety. This is why most libertarians make such a big deal about the "Big L"/"little L" distinction. Except that these days, the Big L libertarians have realized that people don't automatically assume you are a nutcase if you claim to be a "little l" libertarian, so they've co-opted that.

Anyways, I'm rambling, but in my experience there are as many varieties of "libertarians" as there are grains of sand. Libertarianism, at its core, is belief in the ideal of liberty, and who the hell doesn't believe in that? It's all about where it's applied:

* Big L Libertarians -- the nutcases that give libertarianism a bad name

* Casual Libertarians -- people that are intellectually lazy and/or don't really care about politics. My dad falls into this category, and I think so do a lot of libertarian/conservative bloggers. They espouse libertarianism but they haven't really given a lot of thought as to what it actually means, and are acutely unaware of their often blatant contradictions to its implications, particularly when it comes to foreign policy or the Bush administration wiping its ass with the constitution. This sort of libertarianism is also the reason a lot of Average Joes vote republican, because they think they're voting for "smaller government", but the Bush administration is quickly making fools of them, making it blatantly obvious that their libertarianism was mostly co-opted to the advantage of:

* Capital Apologist Libertarians (aka Vulgar Libertarians) -- i.e., the Cato institute. People for whom "libertarianism" means nothing beyond opposing anything to do with the government at all. People who, after millenia of government intervention to the advantage of capital, say, "okay, no more government intervention ... startiiiiing NOW". Token example: some toolbag from the Cato institute on NPR claiming that municipal governments shouldn't build wireless/fiber networks because it would constitute unfair competitition to the telecommunications companies. Can you believe that bullshit? Yeah, because the fucking telcos never got a government handout in building their monopoly, nooooo. Anyways, that sort of brazen hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty is something you find a lot in "libertarians", in that it generally only translates into the "liberty" for aggregated capital to fuck the little guy in the ass.

* Individual anarchist/anarcho-capitalist libertarians -- My personal favorite, these are generally people who are pretty well-read and have actually given the implications of libertarianism a lot of thought. They have lots of whacky ideas about the way things ought to be, but they're also pretty practical about their expectations in the meantime, so you find a lot of intersection in their ideas with:

* Leftist Libertarians -- people who generally believe in the Marxist framework and influence in the value of aggregate/communal organization, but do so without any delusions of organizing authoritarian compulsion to achieve these goals.

Mutualism is a great combination of the latter two -- sortof an anarchist/leftist hybrid.

Anyways, that's just the start -- a few half-ass examples off the top of my head. If this doesn't make any sense, it's because I was making it up as I go.

1/31/2006 06:49:00 PM  

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