The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'libertarianism'
I'm gentrifying the neighborhood. I'm adding special bus service for my employees. I've figured out a way for white people to make money from taxi cabs again. I'm replacing your favorite restaurant with a reptile park. I'm driving Filipino fusion food trucks on your kid's basketball court. I got next and I'm taking all the vowels out of this shithole.
It's time we divide this state into eleven smaller states with Galt's Gulch consisting of this city and the various gate communities to the north. If you don't like it you can just move to one of the other states like Hoboland and whatever we call the desert where we force all the cholos to drive their low riders.The last part is a reference to the recent proposal to split California into six states, allowing them to race each other to the bottom on tax rates, deregulation and labour costs. (Or, “take all the poor people who used to live in this cool 'hood before we gentrified it, declare them to be Not Our Problem and let them fend for themselves”.)
Meanwhile, a piece by Mark Ames (formerly of The Exile) on the US Libertarian Right's courting of the Bay Area techno-elite at a libertarian-themed conference named Reboot, yet somehow inexplicably booking a theocratic hatemonger to give the keynote, and the sometimes uneasy fit this highlights between Californian-style libertarianism (think along the lines of Robert Anton Wilson's Guns And Dope Party—a bit wild-eyed for the average North London Guardianista, let alone the highly regulated yet highly contented citizens of Jante-law Scandinavia, but moderately cuddly, in a Californian hot-tub kind of way—and you won't be far off) and the older and more unsavoury US Libertarianism that grew out of a reaction to Roosevelt's New Deal and, along the way, took in local strains of fascism and white-supremacism:
And then there’s the uglier, darker side of the Kochs’ libertarianism on display in Reason’s archives: the fringe-right racism and fascism that the movement has tried to downplay in recent years to appeal to progressives and non-loonie techies. Throughout its first two decades, in the 1970s and 1980s, Reason supported apartheid South Africa, and attacked anti-apartheid protesters and sanctions right up to Nelson Mandela’s release, when they finally dropped it.
The two libertarianisms — the hick fascism version owned by the Koch brothers, essentially rebranding Joe McCarthy with a pot leaf and a ponytail; and Silicon Valley’s emerging brand of optimistic, half-understood libertarianism, part hippie cybernetics, part hot-tub-Hayek — should have met and merged right there in the Bay Area. And yet — they really were different, fundamentally different. The libertarianism of the Kochs is a direct descendant of the Big Business reaction against FDR’s New Deal, when the DuPont oligarchy created the American Liberty League to undo new laws establishing Social Security and labor union rights. Their heroes are the America Firsters led by Charles Lindbergh. And they haven’t stopped fighting that fight to dismantle the New Deal and everything that followed, even though most Americans have only a dim understanding of what that political war was about, and how its redistribution of political power still shapes our politics today. For the Kochs and their die-hard brand of libertarianism, that war with FDR and the New Deal is fresh and raw, and still far from resolved.Finally, here is a quite decent biographical comic about Ayn Rand, which manages to be somewhat sympathetic whilst not hiding that she was a generally awful human being across the board. (And isn't that her appeal? Not that she was a decent person, but that she gave assholes permission, with the diploma-mill authority of the language of philosophy, to be assholes and regard themselves not only as decent human beings but superior to the losers around them.)
As Russia annexes Crimea and makes threatening noises towards the rest of Ukraine, many people have opinions, not least among them the Pick-Up Artist community, where the consensus is that anything that prevents Ukraine from joining the EU is good for the supply of beautiful, submissive women, uncorrupted by Western notions of equality:
“If Ukraine joins the EU, the girls will vanish like cockroaches when the lights are turned on,” one wrote. “It saddens me deeply because Ukrainian girls were always much more accessible than Russian ones,” lamented another. “Joining the EU may reduce overt corruption in favour of systematised ones, but feminism will spread like wildfire and destroy all the traditionalism that lays in that land.”
As of mid-March, gendered pontificating continued apace both among prominent conservatives and on Roosh’s “Ukraine Conflict Lounge” subforum. One PUA shared his thoughts on why it would be better for Crimea and East Ukraine to go to Russia: “It seems to me this will insulate Crimea from the feminism . . . that will over take Ukraine as they move towards the EU. Fat feminists, slut walks, and mass muslim immigration could be in store for the parts of Ukraine that wish to join Europe instead of Russia.” Meanwhile, Sarah Palin told Sean Hannity that the perception of Obama’s “potency” is one of “weakness.”Unsurprisingly, Vladimir Putin is seen as somewhat of an idol among such traditionalists, mostly as an exemplar of that most manly of ideals, the Alpha-Male:
“Putin sees himself as a macho man who’s going to do pretty much what he wants,” said Fox News talking head Bill O’Reilly. “The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate.” K.T. McFarland, another Fox News analyst, tweeted, “Putin seizes countries, Obama threatens maybe to kick Russia out of the G-8 club. Bet Putin’s sorry now! Winners write history, not whiners.” Fox even published a “must-watch highlight reel of Putin doing macho things,” including karate and riding a horse shirtless.If the name Roosh sounds familiar, it's probably from his previous news appearance, failing to pick up in Denmark and bitterly blaming gender equality and “Jante Law”.
There seems to be a new reactionary axis forming on the fringes: on one hand, you have the PUAs going from fedoras and subliminal crotch-pointing in bars to an almost Talibanic hostility to the very idea of unsubjugated women, and from there, to a hostility to any relations not predicated on dominance and submission. And approaching from a slightly different angle, you have the “Dark Enlightenment”, that odd offshoot of Libertarianism which contends that the Enlightenment, and the notions of democracy and human rights, were bad ideas, and longs for a return to feudalism.
The latest idea making the rounds of the fringes of the Libertarian Right (and, to be fair, the Libertarian Right is a fractal body that is 99.999% fringe): Neoreaction, also known as Libertarian Monarchism or, among those partial to wearing fedoras and goatees, the “Dark Enlightenment”; the idea that, perhaps, the Enlightenment and the rise of democracy wasn't such a good idea, and a return to absolute monarchy would be better for freedom:
“Demotist systems, that is, systems ruled by the ‘People,’ such as Democracy and Communism, are predictably less financially stable than aristocratic systems,” Anissimov writes. “On average, they undergo more recessions and hold more debt. They are more susceptible to market crashes. They waste more resources. Each dollar goes further towards improving standard of living for the average person in an aristocratic system than in a Democratic one.”
Exactly what sort of monarchy they’d prefer varies. Some want something closer to theocracy, while Yarvin proposes turning nation states into corporations with the king as chief executive officer and the aristocracy as shareholders.Funnily enough, neoreactionary ideas overlap considerably with the Pick-Up Artist movement (which is probably where the aura of diabolic mystique that comes from calling it the “Dark Enlightenment” comes in handy); I would be surprised if the Mens' Rights movement didn't also get a look in. I wonder what else is correlated with Neoreaction: Anton LaVey-style Satanism, perhaps (which, to be fair, is essentially Ayn Rand with a Sixeventies countercultural mystique added), and/or John Norman's Gor books (as manuals for intersexual relations).
Neoreactionaries also believe in what they term “human biodiversity”, i.e., that some people and/or ethnic groups, for reasons of heredity, are simply better than others, and that current society is in the grip of a vast left-wing conspiracy (and, when you regard the Enlightenment as a mistake, everybody's left-wing) which they term “Progressivism”, or “the Cathedral”, which enforces a politically correct silence about such issues.
And here is Charlie Stross' take on the matter, where he speculates that Neoreaction is a reaction to the collapse of Neoliberalism, by removing the polite fiction of democracy and a large, prosperous middle class, and also adds the spectre of lapsed Trotskyists seeking to accelerate the collapse of Capitalism by embracing it as hard as they can:
We get former Trotskyites who have decided that the best way to achieve Communism is to encourage the worst excesses of Neoliberalism, until the system implodes under its own weight and it becomes apparent that the only way out of the rat-trap is forward on full afterburner into the Accelerationist future. They therefore establish Libertarian fronts and enthusiastically encourage the worst excesses of capitalist globalization, including the application of the shock doctrine to the western economies that originally applied it to their former colonies ... all the time living it up. (Because, let's face it, right wing think tank gurus might plausibly get to wear expensive suits, snort cocaine, and drive expensive BMWs rather than sitting around in dismal squats with leaky roofs holding self-criticism sessions like silly old-school Maoists: which lifestyle would you rather have? Alas, I am informed by Ken Macleod that the folks at Spiked Online are not in fact Gordon Gekko-like creatures of the night. Damn, I'll just have to file that caricature away for a near-future novel ...)
We also have former libertarians who, in despair at the failure of the tin idol of the free market, conclude that the Enlightenment was all some sort of horrible mistake and the only solution is to roll back the clock. Today, we are all—except for the aforementioned Neo-reactionaries—children of the Jacobin society: even modern Conservativism has its roots in the philosophy of Edmund Burke, who formulated a radical refutation of and opposition to the French Revolution—thereby basing his political theories on the axioms of his foe. As Trotsky observed, "Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies." Despair is a common reaction to defeat, as is Stockholm syndrome: with the impending death of neoliberalism becoming clearer to the many libertarians who assumed it would bring about the small government/small world goals of the paleolibertarians—as it becomes clear that the fruits of neoliberalism are instability and corporate parasitism rather than liberty and justice for all—is it unreasonable of them to look to an earlier, superficially simpler settlement?And here is David Brin's take on Neoreaction.
Today's Champions of Liberty: EasyJet, the European budget airline, who moved to exercise their right to decide with whom a free corporation does business by refusing to let a passenger who criticised them on Twitter board. (The criticism had to do with EasyJet staff being less than helpful with advice concerning rail connections after an evening flight was delayed, but, hey, absolute personal responsibility and all that.) Unfortunately for EasyJet, the passenger turned out to be a law professor, and was aware of yet-to-be-repealed regulations tying the hands of wealth-creators, and thus they were forced to allow him to board the flight he had paid for.
Continuing the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Season on this blog: why the Left gets neoliberalism wrong, by political scientist Corey Robin. It turns out that the thing about rugged individualism is (once one gets beyond the pulp novels of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein, not exactly founts of academic rigour) a red herring, and the true atom of the neoliberal world view is traditional, vaguely feudal, hierarchical structures of authority: patriarchial families, and enterprises with owners and chains of fealty:
For all their individualist bluster, libertarians—particularly those market-oriented libertarians who are rightly viewed as the leading theoreticians of neoliberalism—often make the same claim. When these libertarians look out at society, they don’t always see isolated or autonomous individuals; they’re just as likely to see private hierarchies like the family or the workplace, where a father governs his family and an owner his employees. And that, I suspect (though further research is certainly necessary), is what they think of and like about society: that it’s an archipelago of private governments.
What often gets lost in these debates is what I think is the real, or at least a main, thrust of neoliberalism, according to some of its most interesting and important theoreticians (and its actual practice): not to liberate the individual or to deregulate the marketplace, but to shift power from government (or at least those sectors of government like the legislature that make some claim to or pretense of democratic legitimacy; at a later point I plan to talk about Hayek’s brief on behalf of an unelected, unaccountable judiciary, which bears all the trappings of medieval judges applying the common law, similar to the “belated feudalism” of the 19th century American state, so brilliantly analyzed by Karen Orren here) to the private authority of fathers and owners.By this analysis, while neoliberalism may wield the rhetoric of atomised individualism, it is more like a counter-enlightenment of sorts. If civilisation was the process of climbing up from the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is nasty, brutish and short, and establishing structures (such as states, legal systems, and shared infrastructure) that damp some of the wild swings of fortune, neoliberalism would be an attempt to roll back the last few steps of this, the ones that usurped the rightful power of hierarchical structures (be they noble families, private enterprises or churches), spread bits of it to the unworthy serfs, and called that “democracy”.
On a related note, a piece from Lars Trägårdh (a Swedish historian and advisor to Sweden's centre-right—i.e., slightly left of New Labour—government) arguing that an interventionist state is not the opposite of individual freedom but an essential precondition for it:
The linchpin of the Swedish model is an alliance between the state and the individual that contrasts sharply with Anglo-Saxon suspicion of the state and preference for family- and civil society-based solutions to welfare. In Sweden, a high-trust society, the state is viewed more as friend than foe. Indeed, it is welcomed as a liberator from traditional, unequal forms of community, including the family, charities and churches.
At the heart of this social compact lies what I like to call a Swedish theory of love: authentic human relationships are possible only between autonomous and equal individuals. This is, of course, shocking news to many non-Swedes, who believe that interdependency is the very stuff of love.
Be that as it may; in Sweden this ethos informs society as a whole. Despite its traditional image as a collectivist social democracy, comparative data from the World Values Survey suggests that Sweden is the most individualistic society in the world. Individual taxation of spouses has promoted female labour participation; universal daycare makes it possible for all parents – read women – to work; student loans are offered to everyone without means-testing; a strong emphasis on children's rights have given children a more independent status; the elderly do not depend on the goodwill of children.So, by this token, Scandinavian “socialism” would seem to be the most advanced implementation of individual autonomy and human potential yet achieved in the history of civilisation whereas Anglocapitalism, with its ethos of “creative destruction”, is a vaguely Downtonian throwback to feudalism.
The Bacon-Wrapped Economy, an article looking at how the rise of a stratum of extremely well-paid engineers and wealthy dot-com founders, mostly in their 20s, has changed the San Francisco Bay Area, economically and culturally:
You don't need to look hard to see the effects of tech money everywhere in the Bay Area. The housing market is the most obvious and immediate: As Rebecca Solnit succinctly put it in a February essay for the London Review of Books, "young people routinely make six-figure salaries, not necessarily beginning with a 1, and they have enormous clout in the housing market." According to a March 11 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, four of the ten most expensive housing markets in the country — San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Marin counties — were located in the greater Bay Area. Even Oakland, long considered a cheaper alternative to the city, saw an 11 percent spike in average rent between fiscal year 2011-12 and the previous year; all told, San Francisco and Oakland were the two American cities with the greatest increases in rent. Parts of San Francisco that were previously desolate, dangerous, or both are now home to gleaming office towers, new condos, and well-scrubbed people.The economic effects of gentrification, soaring costs of living and previous generations of residents being priced out are predictable enough (and San Francisco has been suffering from similar effects since the 1990s .com boom, when a famous graffito in one of the city's then seamy neighbourhoods read “artists are the shock troops of gentrification”). And then there are the effects of the city's wealthy elite being replaced by a new crop of the wealthy who, being in their 20s and from the internet world, share little of the aesthetic tastes and cultural assumptions of the traditional plutocracy, favouring street art to oil on canvas and laptop glitch mash-ups to the philharmonic; their clout has sent shockwaves through the philanthropic structures of patronage that supported high culture in the city:
Historically, most arts funding has, of course, come from older people, for the simple reason that they tend to be wealthier. But San Francisco's moneyed generation is now significantly younger than ever before. And the swath of twenties- and thirties-aged guys — they are almost entirely guys — that represents the fattest part of San Francisco's financial bell curve is, by and large, simply not interested.
"If you're talking the symphony or other classical old-man shit, I would say [interest] is very low," an employee at a smallish San Francisco startup recently told me. "The amount of people I know that give a shit about the symphony as opposed to the amount of people I know who would look at a cool stencil on the street ... is really small."And not only the content of philanthropy has changed, but so have the mechanisms. Just handing over money to a museum, without any strings, no longer cuts it to a generation of techies raised on test-driven development and the market-oriented philosophy of Ayn Rand, and believing in fast iteration, continuous feedback and quantifiable results. Consequently, donations to old-fashioned arts institutions have declined with the decline of the old money, but have largely been replaced by the rise of crowdfunding, with measurable results:
(Kickstarter) The self-described "world's largest funding platform for creative projects" has, in its three-year existence, raised more than half a billion dollars for more than 90,000 projects and is getting more popular by the day; at this point, it metes out roughly twice as much money as the National Endowment for the Arts. And though hard statistics are difficult to come by, it's clear that this is a funding model that's taken particular hold in the tech world, even over traditional mechanisms of philanthropy. "Arts patronage is definitely very low," one tech employee said. "But it's like, Kickstarters? Oh, off the map." Which makes sense — Kickstarter is entirely in and of the web, and possibly for that reason, it tends to attract people who are interested in starting and funding projects that are oriented toward DIY and nerd culture. But it represents a tectonic shift in the way we — and more specifically, the local elite, the people with means — relate to art.
"A lot of this is about the difference between consuming culture and supporting culture," a startup-world refugee told me a few weeks ago: If Old Money is investing in season tickets to the symphony and writing checks to the Legion of Honor, New Money is buying ultra-limited-edition indie-rock LPs and contributing to art projects on IndieGoGo in exchange for early prints. And if the old conception of art and philanthropy was about, essentially, building a civilization — about funding institutions without expecting anything in return, simply because they present an inherent, sometimes ineffable, sometimes free market-defying value to society, present and future, because they help us understand ourselves and our world in a way that can occasionally transcend popular opinion— the new one is, for better or for worse, about voting with your dollars.Which suggests the idea of the societal equivalent of the philosopher's zombie, a society radically restructured by a post-Reaganite, market-essentialist worldview, in which all the inefficient, inflexible bits of the old society, from philanthropic foundations in support of a greater Civilisation to senses of civic values and community, have been replaced by the effects of market forces: a world where, if society is assumed to be nothing but the aggregation of huge numbers of self-interested agents interacting in markets, things work as they did before, perhaps more efficiently in a lot of ways, and to the casual observer it looks like a society or a civilisation, only at its core, there's nothing there. Or perhaps there is one supreme value transcending market forces, the value of lulz, an affectation of nihilistic nonchalance for the new no-hierarchy hierarchies.
The article goes on to describe the changes to other things in San Francisco, such as the attire by which the elite identify one another and measure status (the old preppie brands of the East Coast are out, and in their place are luxury denim and “dress pants sweatpants” costing upwards of $100 a pair–a way of looking casual and unaffected, in the classic Californian-dude style, to the outside observer, whilst signalling one's status to those in the know as meticulously as a Brooks Brothers suit would in old Manhattan), the dining scene (which has become more technical and artisanal; third-wave coffee is mentioned) and an economy of internet-disintermediated personal services which has cropped up to tend to the needs of the new masters of the online universe:
And then there are companies like TaskRabbit and Exec, both of which serve as sort of informal, paid marketplaces for personal assistant-style tasks like laundry, grocery shopping, and household chores. (Workers who use TaskRabbit bid on projects in a race-to-the-bottom model, while Execs are paid a uniform $20 per hour, regardless of the work.) According to Molly Rabinowitz, a San Franciscan in her early twenties who briefly made a living doing this kind of work — though she declined to reveal which service she used — many tech companies give their employees a set amount of credit for these tasks a month or year, and that's in addition to the people using the services privately. "There's no way this would exist without tech," she said. "No way." At one point, Rabinowitz was hired for several hours by a pair of young Googlers to launder and iron their clothes while they worked from home. ("It was ridiculous. They didn't want to iron anything, but they wanted everything, including their T-shirts, to be ironed.") Another user had her buy 3,000 cans of Diet Coke and stack them in a pyramid in the lobby of a startup "because they thought it would be fun and quirky." Including labor, gas, and the cost of the actual soda, Rabinowitz estimated the entire project must have cost at least several hundred dollars. "It's like ... you don't care," she said. "It doesn't mean anything because it's not your money. Or there's just so much money that it doesn't matter what you spend it on."
Newspapers in France recently published a letter sent by a US tyre company CEO to the Socialist government's industry minister, telling the French where to stick their union-coddled workers:
"Do you think we're stupid?" Taylor wrote to Montebourg in the letter, which was made public on Wednesday. "I've visited this factory several times. The French workers are paid high wages but only work three hours. They have one hour for their lunch, they talk for three hours and they work for three hours. I said this directly to their union leaders; they replied that's the way it is in France.
"Titan is going to buy Chinese or Indian tyres, pay less than €1 an hour to workers and export all the tyres that France needs," Taylor boasted. "In five years, Michelin won't be producing tyres in France. You can keep your so-called workers. Titan is not interested in the factory in North Amiens,"Perhaps the only thing that can save France, from a certain neoliberal point of view, is a General Pinochet of its own, a libertarian strongman who can crush the unions, smash the Left and introduce the radical shock therapy France needs to race China and the US' “right-to-work” states to the oh-so-profitable bottom.
More seriously: if it's that much cheaper to produce tyres in China or India and ship them across the world, does it make sense to pay French workers French wages (or wages which cover French living expenses, anyway) to do the same locally?
Dispatches from the global battle against socialism and Cultural Marxism: As a Tea Party-style convoy travels across Australia to put an end to the wicked queen's socialistic, carbon-taxing reign and restore the One True King to the Lodge, Exiled Online profiles the "true blue Aussie battlers" who constitute this movement. Not surprisingly, it's a lot less of a spontaneous grass-roots movement than the Murdoch press (which seems to be backing it in the way that Fox News backed, if not created, its US inspiration) would have you believe, apparently being run largely by a hard core of a few dozen people who met on a climate-change-denial message board long before Gillard was PM.
That’s because a typical Teabagger spectacle consists of a small nucleus of professional Astroturfers and a large nebula of weirdoes and mutants who’ve just rocked up. Some of the mutants are there to proselytize; they hope they can convince other mutants that Lady Gaga is an Illuminati puppet or that Lyndon LaRouche predicted the GFC. Other mutants appear because joining a mob helps their self-esteem. But miracle of miracles, the muties are never the ones who get interviewed, especially not by News Corp reporters. In fact, they’re really little more than film extras – their job is to stand in the background while the Astroturfers take questions and make the corporate libertarian viewpoint seem more widespread.The article looks at the opinions of the views of the organisers—the "ordinary battlers doing it hard" the Murdoch press would have you believe they are—and their fellow travellers, and finds some ugly things, from the mundane (pig farmers pissed off with the temerity of the little people complaining about the smell) to the more sinister (praise for Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile and claims that the same struggle as in Chile is taking place in Australia, conspiracy tracts published by think tanks run by mining firms), and the bizarre (peddlers of legalistic sophistries claiming that the Commonwealth Government doesn't really exist, presumably making anoyances such as tax law and pollution regulations invalid), and then takes a ride with the motley crew of teabaggers:
Didn’t take long before the ginger-haired guy started ranting about boat people, “gooks,” and immigration quotas, which he claimed was all part of a wider conspiracy to dismantle Australia’s constitutional monarchy. The reason so many Asians were being allowed into the country was so they’d vote to turn Australia into a republic, which, to Ginger, meant that “all our rights, rights we never even fucking knew about, would go down the drain.” Australian republicanism was a scheme by some shadowy organization to establish a World Government – Ginger went on about the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Rothschild dynasty… I asked if he really thought someone was trying to form a World Government. “What do you think the carbon tax is for?”Meanwhile in New South Wales' state parliament, a Liberal Party MP has struck a blow against the Communist menace of traffic lights:
"Traffic lights are a Bolshevist menace... Traffic lights are things which are set up to try and control traffic to try and control individuals on the roads," Dr Phelps told Parliament.
"Roundabouts. Roundabouts represent freedom. Roundabouts represent democracy at its finest," he said.
Three young girls in Poole, Dorsetshire received a lesson in property rights after being told off by police for picking flowers in a park, which is technically theft of council property:
But Councillor Peter Adams, who said a family member of his had reported the incident, said taking the flowers amounted to stealing and the behaviour was "unacceptable".
Whitecliff is a council-owned park and therefore removing property from it is technically classed as an offence.Cllr. Adams stated that the girls were not merely picking a few flowers, but removing them in large quantities. Perhaps they were running some sort of industrial bouquet-making operation?
Thanks to her simple message (selfishness is a virtue, altruism is evil), Ayn Rand has become a leading philosophical figurehead of the American Right, alongside those other two cartoon characters, (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes. But now, new reports have emerged asserting that Rand secretly claimed welfare payments under a false name, whilst publicly thundering against the "parasites" who did exactly that:
As Pryor said, "Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out" without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn "despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help."
But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so. Apart from the strong implication that those who take the help are morally weak, it is also a philosophic point that such help dulls the will to work, to save and government assistance is said to dull the entrepreneurial spirit.Which seems, on the surface, like the height of hypocrisy, though only if one assumes that honesty is part of the equation. If one assumes that Objectivism (as Rand called her philosophy) entitles the self-chosen aspiring ruler of the world to do anything to further their own interests, including lying to others (who, being "sheeple", are unworthy of any higher consideration unless they prove themselves by similarly enlightened ruthlessness), then being a stealthy parasite upon the contemptible masses is one's prerogative.
(via Boing Boing)
The Ten Stupidest Utopias is not a Cracked-style list of wacky stuff, but a fairly insightful rundown of various utopian ideals, from Plato's Republic, through Thomas More's original Utopia, and then onwards through various permutations of utopian ideals (the American Calvinist city on a hill, racial-supremacist and feminist-separatist enclaves, heavy-handedly didactic Libertarian scifi utopias, the pipe dreams of cyberpunks, and the diametrically opposite yet oddly similar quasi-totalitarian visions of Le Corbusier and the Situationists):
The violence of More's historical period is never far from the surface of More's island Utopia, where a single act of adultery is punishable by slavery and serial adulterers are punished with death. If More's narrator had looked past the happy smiling faces of Utopia, what fear and violence might he have seen?
Exactly how stupid is Plato's Republic, and who am I to call one of history's greatest philosophers "stupid"? Is Plato's time simply too different from our own for us to pass judgment? I don't think so, for The Republic lives on in the rhetoric of contemporary political movements of both right and left—every elitist and technocratic fantasy of our time has grown from the seed of The Republic. Plato would not have understood the term "dehumanization" as we understand it—he'd never, of course, seen a factory floor or a gas chamber—but when his ideas have been enacted in places like the Soviet Union, Mussolini's Italy, or modern state-capitalist China, they have proven brutally dehumanizing, his apparat of "guardians" thoroughly corrupted by power.A more mundane utopia in the list is that of post-war American Suburbia:
Historian Robert Fishman calls American suburbia a "bourgeois utopia," whose hopes for community stability were founded "on the shifting sands of land speculation," backed up by racially discriminatory covenants and lending standards. The postwar American suburb, each a Nueva Germania of the soul, organized men's life around commutes and women's life around the home: the result was absent fathers, isolated mothers, and alienated children, who seldom knew anyone of a different race. In providing for the material needs of the growing middle class, the suburb created social and spiritual cavities that numerous social movements—from the 1960s New Left to today's Christian fundamentalism—have tried to fill.
The latest development in Libertarian thought: Libertarian Monarchism, or the belief that democracy was a step towards the decline of civilisation, and that an absolute monarchy would be a far superior system of government from a libertarian (i.e., "hands off my property") point of view. Yep, it's as crazy as it sounds:
To understand how democracy destroys civilization, we must first understand how civilization comes about. Civilization is the outcome of saving and investment, in other words: capital accumulation.
As a result of taxation, the rate of return on investment is diminished. Saving to invest becomes less lucrative, so people consume more and save less than they otherwise would have. People become more present-minded and the process of civilization is impeded. The amount of taxation determines how significant this effect will be. CastleIf the government is privately owned (i.e., a monarchy), then this effect will be limited. Since the government is his personal property, a monarch has an interest in both the present tax revenues and the long-term capital value of his kingdom. His incentive is to tax moderately, so as not to diminish the future productivity of his subjects, and hence his future tax revenues.
Since the kingdom is the private property of the king, he has a strong incentive to uphold the integrity of private property law (the validity of his ownership of the kingdom depends upon it). The king also has an incentive to uphold economically beneficial law—private property law—to increase value of his kingdom. Democratic rulers have no private ownership stake in the government and thus have no incentive to uphold the integrity of private property law. Nor do they have an incentive to maintain economically beneficial law. On the contrary, they can benefit by creating artificial laws—legislation—that serve to undermine private property law for their own benefit.
Libertarian Troll Bingo; print it out and cross it off the next time Randroids invade your favourite discussion site:
According to the Political Compass (you know, the are-you-a-good-Libertarian-or-an-evil-fascist/stalinist test), virtually all Presidential candidates are right-wing authoritarians; or at least all the ones remotely likely to get elected. Bush is, of course, the most extreme in both right-wing and authoritarian dimensions, though current Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is shown as being almost near the centre; i.e., only a tiny bit right-wing and authoritarian. Oddly enough, the most libertarian candidate is Al Sharpton (isn't he meant to be some kind of extremist black-nationalist, and/or funded by the Republicans as a spoiler?).
20,000 Libertarians to move to New Hampshire, vote as a bloc, create anarchocapitalist utopia, where Man can smoke dope, fire guns and be free of the depredations of evil collectivist parasites. (via bOING bOING)
Although Jackie Casey had voted for Wyoming, she just moved from Portland, Ore., to Merrimack, between Nashua and Manchester, renting a basement apartment with her cat, Soopa Doopa Hoopa, and her two 9-millimeter handguns. (She wants a machine gun "or at least a rifle" for Christmas.) She has already hung one wall and her bathroom with framed posters of Frank Zappa, who was a libertarian himself.
Dr. Sorens wrote that "within about 10 years after our move, we should have people in the state legislature and we should have entrenched political control of several towns and counties." He added that "once we have control of the county sheriffs' offices, we can order federal law enforcement agents out, or exercise strict supervision of their activities," and "once we have obtained some success in the state legislature, we can start working on the governor's race."
(Why does the name "Clearwater, FL" come to mind at this point?)
Libertarianism, of the American Ayn Rand-influenced Propertarian bent, is weird; in particular, the part about putting property rights above all other concerns. I half suspect that, had Libertarianism as we know it existed during the American Civil War, most Libertarians would have sided with the slave-owners, whose sacred and inalienable property rights were being threatened by the evil statist Abraham Lincoln (the "American Lenin", as some Libertarians call him).
What happened to the Extropians, those space-bound, cryogenics-obsessed children of Ayn Rand and the WELL, after the WIRED Long Boom came crashing down? Well, they've swallowed their anti-statist convictions and mutated into Strangelovian neo-conservative think-tanks, which have the ear of the President and were behind things such as the aborted terrorism futures market. Or so Andrew "blogs are killing Google" Orlowski says anyway.
Much has been said about the recent trend of libertarians turning into (neo-)conservatives as a result of (the collapse of socialism/the collapse of libertarianism/September 11/the aging process in general). I was wondering whether there was a sexual dimension to this trend, with libertarian/progressive kinks giving way to more conservative/reactionary alternative lifestyles without passing through the mainstream. I.e., are we likely to see Heinleinian polyamorists and hot-tubbers becoming Goreans or old-sk00l-Mormon-style polygamists en masse?
Is the new Harry Potter book a thinly-veiled Libertarian diatribe against government interference and gun control? Maybe J.K. Rowling is not so much the next C.S. Lewis as the next Ayn Rand. (via Reenhead)
A survey of Anarchist and Libertarian Societies in Science Fiction; encompassing everything from Stateless to Libertaria to Port Watson, including pirate anarchist utopias, Randian-Heinleinian gun-toting anarcho-propertarianisms, the psychedelic milieus of Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, H.G. Wells' Fabian socialism and the "fascist-socialist" utopias of H.P. Lovecraft's alien races.
I found this on this page of essays, which is a few links away from Ken MacLeod's blog. The page has a number of other intriguing essays, including one on Christian symbolism in Blade Runner and Iain M. Banks' notes on the Culture, his post-Singularity anarchosocialist utopia.
If you were a neo-Trotskyist libertarian, you would probably have to be a Scottish science-fiction author. And now you'd have a blog here. And his commentary is as sharp as his novels.
America: a country where ridiculous proportions of the population believe they were created by god, abducted by aliens, and attacked by Iraq. Also where some people believe that someone who burns a paper drawing of a US flag is as good as asking to be crushed under a bulldozer. It's not just the Right. Every political persuasion in the US contains many more stupid people than it or its equivalent does in Europe. On the Left Bank of the Seine you see poststructuralists smoking, flirting, and eating veal. Poststructuralism in America gave us La-La Land liberal toytown totalitarianism. French Maoism gave us Sartre and Althusser. American Maoism gave us Klonsky and Avakian. (I could go on.)
Via Graham and others, a very lucid critique of what's wrong with libertarianism. Or in particular, the market-fundamentalist, Ayn Rand-quoting, gun-toting, all-taxes-are-evil strain that's popular in the US. The argument there is pretty much the same one that shoots down Communism.
By the way, Russia is the answer to those testosterone-poisoned folks who think that guns will prevent oppression. The mafia will always outgun you.
Want to do your bit for the moral defense of capitalism? Why not buy a copy of the Libertarian Girls calendar; each month has a different latter-day Dagny Taggart in a patriotic pose (and showing lots of flesh too). And proceeds go towards the Libertarian Party's campaigns, so rich people can smoke dope without government interference. (via die puny humans)
Open-source identity and guns-and-Ayn-Rand-libertarian whacko Eric S. Raymond has a righteous rant about Liberals and Conservatives, and why they are inpardonably unappealing. To which, Charlie Stross offers a reasoned response. (Note: link corrected.)
(My beliefs on the last two questions would be fairly similar to Charlie's; I find legislating to control human behaviour based on some theory repugnant (whether it's Christian Fundamentalists, Marxists, copyright absolutists or any other stripe of true believers doing the legislating), but don't like the dog-eat-dog social-darwinism of what passes for "libertarianism" in the US. And I think Ayn Rand is one notch above L. Ron Hubbard in terms of credibility.)
Also on ESR's page, an essay applying the scientific method to why porn is so ugly and unstimulating; keeping in mind that he's a libertarian polyamorist of the Heinlein stripe with a keen interest in all things bootywhangular, you can probably guess that it's not written from a puritanical angle.
Eric Raymond has written a smug Libertarian critique of Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod, rooted in the fundamental notion of the total bankrupcy of socialism and indeed the undeniable supremacy of the Free Market. No Ayn Rand quotes though. And here's Charles Stross' rebuttal.
(IMHO, the Randian/Propertarian argument of the supremacy of the Free Market is somewhat naïve, for the reasons Charlie describes (markets are good for some things but not all); the recent fashion of defining everything as being, in its basic sense, a market is rather daft. OTOH, I don't think the future belongs to any variant of Marxism (which was, after all, constrained by its 19th-century backgrounds).)
And then there's the "Cowboys vs. Eurotrash" subtext that usually emerges in the whole recurring argument, with predominantly American Libertarians making smug digs at the bankrupcy and impending collapse of Eurosocialism (usually coming down to how the ultimate oracle of the Market has shown that Big Macs and Britney Spears are inherently superior to baguettes and Johnny Hallyday, and any argument to the contrary is just the elitism of sore losers in the global cultural marketplace), and left-leaning Europeans pointing at rampant obesity, firearm deaths and other aspects of the Ugly American stereotype in response.
An interesting (if somewhat old) interview with Ken MacLeod where he talks about his books and the political/social systems speculated on therein:
I think a lot of people who are libertarians now are just libertarians because the stock market is going up, frankly. As long as the market is booming, they'll be pro-market. If there was another depression or something like that, they'd probably change their tune pretty damn quick.
(from the archives of a mailing list, from about a year ago.)
Seen on Plastic: Are America's lunatic-fringe capital-N Nazi groups trying to make themselves more relevant by rebranding themselves as the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, or is this a hoax of some sort?
The Onion has a go at Libertarians.
The classic libertarian-anarchist temporary autonomous zone travelogue Visit Port Watson! is online here. (via bOING bOING)