Sunday, April 29, 2007

Libertarianism (1)

Shuggy is rightly a bit perplexed by a certain sort of libertarian. And, replying, the plumpest Popinjay offers a *very* good account of modern libertarianism’s progenitors.

It is a really *really* excellent post and you should read it (and apologies for taking about a week to say so – I bin busy)

If I have one small criticism, I’d suggest that neither of them considered the cultural factors – the form-and-content relationship that exists because of the emergence of the internet as a platform for public debate (something that has never been as uncoupled from the dynamics of power as it is today).

More internet = more libertarians. Or certainly, a higher profile for a certain type of libertarians.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the open source movement for example, while not being exclusively libertarian, appeal to a logic (respectively a individualist / mutualist) that has an appeal for some libertarians. Implicit in a lot of both the EFF / open source movement positions (particularly on copyright) is the view that – until now - value hasn’t been assigned fairly.
These factors may even have created a few new libertarians, and this lot are not *all* a bad thing.

Less attractively, so much Sci-Fi and cyberpunk literature tends to use tooled-up Stirnerite individualists as its quixotic heroes in wired and dystopian near-future. With any popular literature, it comes as no surprise that some of its readers are acting out narcissistic fantasies based upon the contents of their bookshelf. The politics is just an role-play extension of this, and it isn’t really meant to be taken seriously.

Sadly, it is in some quarters, and I suspect that these clowns are the libertarians that really annoy Shuggy (and me). What Flying Rodent (in Shuggy’s comments) calls ‘a whining sack of self-righteousness’. What the rest of the world, sadly, calls 'everyone who blogs'.

We should console ourselves that we have an ‘availability’ distortion here. We read political weblogs. Most people don’t. If an extraterrestrial visitor were to sample online debate and extrapolate the results, they would draw the conclusion that a terrible showdown was imminent. The entire political class would appear to be in revolt.

The same ETs would see the wider material world (in Western democracies, anyway) currently as a none-too-violent tussle between a variety of forces, with a large state as (for now) the immovable factor. Then they’d look back at this highly vocal minority of individualist libertarians and – once they realised that no social cataclysm was about to happen - they’d wonder why anyone takes them seriously.

More on this later I think?

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