Reason magazine and racism
July 25, 2014 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Last week, Pando.com's Mark Ames posted an article on the efforts of the GOP to recruit in Silicon Valley using libertarianism as a wedge and the history of libertarian links, particularly through Reason magazine, to racism. Reason responded, calling Ames a "conspiracy theorist". Ames, who has a history of digging into the seedy history of libertarianism, has responded by posting a copy of Reason's holocaust denial and revisionist history issue, along with profiles of its contributors and their involvement with Reason and late 20th century libertarianism.
posted by Pope Guilty (179 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

 
PandoDaily contacted noted Holocaust historian and Holocaust Museum expert Deborah Lipstadt to ask her opinion. In 2000, Lipstadt won a much-publicized libel trial in Britain against a leading Holocaust denier, David Irving. When we shared with her the list of Reason’s “special issue” contributors and authors positively cited in the issue, Lipstadt described it as “the Who’s Who of early American Holocaust deniers.”

I was very lucky to have read Lipstadt's "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" as an undergrad, and her clear thinking has influenced how I think about thinking about the Holocaust. Interestingly, I had always thought she was a Canadian, most likely because David Irving somewhat perplexingly was a regular visitor to my home town of Victoria BC (itself home to Doug Christie, a lawyer who frequently defended Holocaust deniers. His office was a whitewashed shack on the corner of a parking lot across the street from provincial court. He once made a pass at a friend of mine who is now a prominent human rights lawyer).
posted by KokuRyu at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's probably one of the sweetest and most comprehensive written smack downs since TNC and Jonathan Chait.
posted by RedShrek at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Related (sorta) - The National Review recently tried to make hay off of the fact that several southern democrats in the senate were pro-Jim Crow laws back in the 50's and 60's and voted against the Civil Rights Act.

The problem of course is that the National Review was also pro Jim Crow.
posted by JPD at 11:36 AM on July 25, 2014 [24 favorites]


Thankfully stuff like this and the Paul family's longtime affiliation with Neo-Confederates, Lost Causers, and racist sociobiologists won't disappear down the memory hole. The only question is whether or not those affiliations are seen as positives by their intended audiences. I'd thought that Reason was largely on the right side of things here, but that was just their blog, and I wonder if they've got stinkers like the pieces in the FPP waiting to be discovered in some of their print-only archives.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:37 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have opinions on Mark Ames and what he does and how he goes about doing it but holy shit in the big list of journalists I wouldn't want to go to war with, he's definitely in the upper echelon. You'd think if you were hiding a sieg-heiling skeleton in your closet you'd be a little more prudent about making it personal.
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on July 25, 2014 [29 favorites]


On the other hand, I'm not exactly sure what is wrong with Reason, in the case of helping the GOP recruit in Silicon Valley, speaking to the converted. Reason has always seemed like boring, partisan crap to me, more of a jeremiad than actually using "reason" to think things through.

As for the Silicon Valley types, I think you are going to find that they are going to consider themselves more self-reliant than others (and they largely are), and will see the social contact as misguided, inefficient, and oppressive. These are also folks who never think an idea is good unless they thought of it themselves first. So they will question all assumptions.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:41 AM on July 25, 2014


The 1976 archives ( on unz.com!). Reason published between 10 and 12 issues a year from 1971 to 1979, but only 8 in 1976.

I wonder what happened to February '76?

You'd think they'd use the Holocaust as an example of the evils of State power, but I guess not!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:43 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Before I read any of this, I'm going to go buy a nice single malt Scotch so I can savor it alongside what looks to be a complex and gratifying read.
posted by boo_radley at 11:44 AM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


The 1976 archives ( on unz.com!)

For those of you playing the home game, that's the same Ron Unz who was the former publisher of The American Conservative.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Interesting that so many internet billionaires and other Silicon Valley types are libertarians, considering they've built their careers around the World Wide Web, created by publicly funded CERN, and the internet, created by publicly funded DARPA.
posted by rocket88 at 11:46 AM on July 25, 2014 [58 favorites]


I wonder what happened to February '76?

Some sort of frantic bicentennial masturbation presumably.
posted by elizardbits at 11:50 AM on July 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


Libertarianism is a pretty attractive philosophy once you've got yours, no matter how you got it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:51 AM on July 25, 2014 [78 favorites]


On the other hand, I'm not exactly sure what is wrong with Reason, in the case of helping the GOP recruit in Silicon Valley, speaking to the converted.

Lemme tell you!

Speakers included Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who:

"In the mid-late 90s, McMorris Rodgers took office in the Washington state legislature and co-authored a bill banning same-sex marriages, then later earned notoriety for blocking a bill that had already passed unanimously in Washington state’s upper house to replace the pejorative “Orientals” with “Asians” in official state documents."

and

"Since coming to Congress, she co-sponsored a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, voted against bills that would protect the LGBT community from hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, against the equal pay bill for women, against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and she opposes legal abortions in the case of rape or incest (unless the mother’s life is in danger). The Pensacola Christian College grad did, however, co-author a bill “recognizing Christianity’s importance to Western civilization.”"
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:57 AM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I had my teenage "you are not the boss of me" libertarian period and I subscribed to Reason for a couple years. (Thankfully not via Atlas Shrugged. My Rand novel was the Fountainhead, which appears to have a somewhat less toxic effect on its readers.)

Anyway, what made me start to wonder wtf was going on with libertarianism - and I think I may have mentioned this here before - was when Reason praised Ciskei, an apartheid era South African bantustan, as a laboratory for libertarian policies (pdf link) and the best thing that could have happened to South African blacks.
posted by Naberius at 11:58 AM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Interesting that so many internet billionaires and other Silicon Valley types are libertarians, considering they've built their careers around the World Wide Web, created by publicly funded CERN, and the internet, created by publicly funded DARPA.

But what did the Romans government ever do for us?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:59 AM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wonder what happened to February '76?

Some sort of frantic bicentennial masturbation presumably.


That's how I remember it. Of course, I can't say for sure whether anyone else was doing this.
posted by maxsparber at 12:00 PM on July 25, 2014 [10 favorites]


I've been thinking about this a lot, the prevalence of rockstar egos in development and the libertarian bent of Silicon Valley. Unlike fields like engineering or biochemistry or architecture, writing a piece of software entirely by yourself is...well, not easy, but feasible. It's an immense amount of work and a big achievement, but you don't need to work in a team. There are lots of indie games written by a solo dev, lots of good apps that started out with a team of one. You can write Facebook by yourself, but you can't build a skyscraper by yourself.

I imagine that kind of--for lack of a better term--power can be intoxicating, and make you feel like you don't need anyone else around you in order to succeed, that anyone who suggests otherwise is just jealous. Never mind that, chances are, you're working with open-source projects and frameworks and lanugages that thousands and tens of thousands of other developers have contributed to, standing on the shoulders of those who have paved the way before you. And let's not even get into the importance of having grown up in an environment that fosters that confidence in you, with parents who provided you with access to the technology and teachers who can and were willing to mentor you. When all you see with your tunnel vision are the SLOCs that you put down with your own fingers, it's easy to delude yourself into thinking you got there all on your own.
posted by Phire at 12:01 PM on July 25, 2014 [38 favorites]


I think that's too simple. It's also attractive to those who are able to get theirs easily -- whether through improved circumstance or just aptitude.

I think it does, for a lot of people, come from a positive place, a belief in human potential that springs from their own experience. It's sad how (political) dogma, again, turns this naive feeling into a unrealistic, naive, sometimes mean-spirited, ideology to be used by the sociopathic for their own ends.
posted by smidgen at 12:01 PM on July 25, 2014


Libertarianism is a pretty attractive philosophy once you've got yours, no matter how you got it.

Yeah, I always found it interesting how Neil Stephenson went from a scathing condemnation of Libertarianism in Snow Crash to championing cyber-currency for dodging taxes in Cryptonomicon. Royalties, yo.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:02 PM on July 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


Lovely to hear that Robert Poole who was co-editor of the Holocaust denier issue is now a consultant to the very unpopular governor of Florida Rick Scott
posted by photoslob at 12:04 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


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.
Man, I love it when Ames gets going on a good muckraking jag. Real intellectual and institutional history here, and very well-placed rage, too.
posted by RogerB at 12:04 PM on July 25, 2014 [24 favorites]


Unlike fields like engineering or biochemistry or architecture, writing a piece of software entirely by yourself is...well, not easy, but feasible.

And almost all software is utter shit. If we built bridges like that, America would be forever divided by rivers and chasms.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:06 PM on July 25, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'm going to see how many times I can use the phrase "hot-tub Hayek" in a conversation over the next six months.
posted by JPD at 12:07 PM on July 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


As someone who works in the tech industry, I've always found "Silicon Valley libertarianism" to be vastly overstated. While there is some overlap — specifically in ways that many SV folks believe in the world-changing power of capitalist activity — the SV ethos looks very little like libertarian ideology.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:07 PM on July 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


Can someone enlighten me as to how a Libertarian sees their way to opposing gay marriage? Or does "Libertarian" have a different meaning in modern American politics than the "free love and free thought" philosophy using that name with which I am familiar?
posted by 256 at 12:10 PM on July 25, 2014


Libertarianism is a pretty attractive philosophy once you've got yours, no matter how you got it.

It's also attractive to people who are rules-oriented.

Eventually, many of them figure out that not everyone is starting the game on equal footing.

Or so I hear.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:10 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


The answer for those wondering why so large a slice of our wealthy elite is libertarian is in the article:

"There is a politics to all of this, a politics that’s barely budged since the days of the American Liberty League: The goal is to discredit the New Deal and FDR, which can’t be done effectively without discrediting FDR’s most popular cause, the victory over fascist Germany and Japan. To far-right extraction industry billionaires like the Koch family, FDR and his New Deal politics were a kind of anti-business “holocaust,” because the the New Deal forced the long-dominant plutocrats to part with a portion of their wealth and political power. To the nation’s Big Business oligarchs in the 1930s, FDR’s New Deal reforms — breaking up the power of finance, trusts, and industrialists, while empowering labor unions —was a crime and a wound as raw in 1976 as it was in 1936.

For them, FDR was a tyrant and a criminal, an American Hitler, only no one else could see things their way, because the real Hitler was widely believed to be one of the worst figures in history. Therefore, libertarian “historical revisionism” had to convince these Americans that Hitler wasn’t nearly as awful as they believed, which meant that the Holocaust couldn’t have happened — if the goal was to discredit FDR and the New Deal."


The pathology in their thinking/ideology - that any check, ever so slight, on their continued accumulation is a slippery-slope, existential threat - should be obvious.
posted by sensate at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2014 [33 favorites]


I find Silicon Valley libertarianism sort of fascinating. Regular Ayn Rand libertarianism is basically just a pseudo-intellectual defense of being an jerk, but with Silicon Valley you get these weird offshoots like Mencius Moldbug and the "Dark Enlightenment," which apparently have actual sincere devotees! I find it interesting the same way I find EST and Scientology interesting.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:17 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


You have to be careful as well because you get these Republicans in Democrat clothing who try to take out one of the most progressive, liberal members of Congress. Like putting a D in front of your name means we don't notice all those republican donors lining up to pay for access to you and your votes in Congress.

My only satisfaction is that Ro outspent Honda 2:1 and only managed to pull 28% of the primary vote compared to Honda's 48%. If this techbro douchebag makes it into Congress it'll be a sad fucking day for Silicon Valley.
posted by Talez at 12:18 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


These are also folks who never think an idea is good unless they thought of it themselves first.

An exercise in futility as there isn't such as a thing as an original idea (how many people have said that?), and an interesting common thread of self-delusion.

Interesting that so many internet billionaires and other Silicon Valley types are libertarians, considering they've built their careers around the World Wide Web, created by publicly funded CERN, and the internet, created by publicly funded DARPA.

Not so much an ideology, but a short-sighted and self-serving strategy of convenience -- we get to exploit one group, but then we don't have to pay taxes on our windfall that we would never have gotten on our own.

This group is big money, but fleeting money. Technology is evolving rapidly and much of the allure is that it essentially appeals to teenagers who don't have money, experience, strategic knowledge or stability, are easily swayed, seek novelty until it becomes mundane and discard it, and lose interest when their ideals and theories prove wanting -- namely, throwing your selfie on every social media site imaginable will not make you rich, famous or immortal. When that reality truly sinks in, the blowback is going to be severe. Disillusionment has not quite arrived just yet.

Courting a group who do not invest in their surroundings or truly think about tomorrow in a significant way is not the wisest course of action. We are living in times of anarchy, and when the dust settles, it will be a very different landscape with a very different political and ideology system at play, hopefully ones where there is an understanding that when you take, you have to give something of equal value in return or else everything will crash...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Big L" Libertarianism originates from the "plague on both your houses" that comes when you compare Democrats and Republicans.

P.J. O'Rourke:

"The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."

"Little L" libertarianism is a little more cohesive. Also, P.J. O'Rourke:

"When government does, occasionally, work, it works in an elitist fashion. That is, government is most easily manipulated by people who have money and power already. This is why government benefits usually go to people who don't need benefits from government. Government may make some environmental improvements, but these will be improvements for rich bird-watchers. And no one in government will remember that when poor people go bird-watching they do it at Kentucky Fried Chicken."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:24 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Let's say you think that rich people are rich because they deserve to be rich and poor people are poor because they're lazy leeches and deserve to be poor. But then you notice that there's a significant racial imbalance when it comes to poverty.

What do you do? I guess you either revisit your philosophy, realizing that the real world is not a meritocracy, or you become racist as hell a "race realist."

I was not aware of Reason's track record of racism, but I am not surprised either.
posted by brundlefly at 12:25 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


you become racist as hell a "race realist."

"Race realist" still has "race" in it, so nowadays it's called "human biodiversity." Swear to god.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:30 PM on July 25, 2014 [23 favorites]


You can cover the whole damn pig in lipstick, it's still a pig.
posted by griphus at 12:31 PM on July 25, 2014 [13 favorites]


Yup. That's a big part of the Dark Enlightenment that infinitywaltz mentioned.
posted by brundlefly at 12:32 PM on July 25, 2014


I actually think most "libertarians" in Tech and on Wall Street are really just Rockefeller republicans w empathy issues.

Keep government small, taxes low, regulation for non health and safety light, pro open borders and pro free trade - and who cares about anything else.

I have problems with that, but its not insane. I think a lot of it is just social conservatives so totally dominate the GOP now they don't really have a place to turn, and these guys don't scare them away at first glance.

I know lots of guys like that
posted by JPD at 12:32 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Don't forget the FeMCINOs ...

(Free-Market Capitalists In Name Only)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:34 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


An exercise in futility as there isn't such as a thing as an original idea (how many people have said that?), and an interesting common thread of self-delusion.

I think there have been original ideas in mathematics. Nash equilibria, Turing machines, Godel numbers... it probably just boils down to how you would define "original", and as soon as you do that, the conversation is just a rote application of the definition, so eh.
posted by Jpfed at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


The culture surrounding wealth is casually libertarian/conservative one. One of the weirdest things about becoming wealthy is people constantly telling you how smart/deserving you are. A lot of tech people grow up craving validation, so it's not so surprising that they fall into that line when they become successful.
posted by phooky at 12:47 PM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


I actually think most "libertarians" in Tech and on Wall Street are really just Rockefeller republicans w empathy issues.

But were Rockefeller Republicans really Rockefeller Republican? I mean, old man Rockefeller was a bit of a religious zealot, and then if you look at the history of the brothers real estate plays/political career in NY i.e. Rock. Center or the "twin" towers... not much capitalism, red in tooth and claw, there.

I mean, maybe you're right but it says more about RRs than the conservatarians.

Eisenhower republicans, on the other hand, their living descendants are the Clintons.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:57 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Can someone enlighten me as to how a Libertarian sees their way to opposing gay marriage? Or does "Libertarian" have a different meaning in modern American politics than the "free love and free thought" philosophy using that name with which I am familiar?

Inasmuch as it's a thing, Silicon Valley Libertarianism is absolutely socially liberal, and I don't really see anyone claiming otherwise.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:58 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


There is also the fact that outside the USA libertarian means "anti state leftist", and in the US we have our own special somewhat-socially-liberal right wing version.
posted by idiopath at 1:00 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I gotta say, to the extent the Reason response attempts to prove the point that it ran many, many pieces containing views critical of apartheid, to the point that Reason looks more like a forum for open debate rather than a special P.W. Botha edition of Tiger Beat, it succeeds. Ames appears to have begged the question on this narrow slice of the situation.

My favorite Reason piece ever was by a wheelchair user saying we should get rid of the ADA because market forces would sort disability discrimination out. Makes you wonder why we'd need the law in the first place, amirite?
posted by radicalawyer at 1:02 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Race realist" still has "race" in it, so nowadays it's called "human biodiversity." Swear to god.

I've looked at a bunch of these type of blogs and this an impression I formed, but you also have people like Razib Khan writing Gene Expression for Discover Magazine, which I assume is more respectable (although he's now left that site). I'm vaguely aware of people like Steve Sailer who's easy enough to avoid, but I've also stumbled across similar stuff on researchblogging.com (which belongs to the publishers of Seed Magazine), specifically theunsilencedscience.blogspot.com who had a post arguing Trayvon Martin was obviously high on some sort of cough syrup drug mixture which made him violent. I'm aware there's a long history of this stuff and the blogosphere is the wild west, but just how much of this stuff is cloaked in HBD science? Is HBD respectable at all in academia?

Not sure if this is too off topic?
posted by dimejubes at 1:06 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


When government does, occasionally, work, it works in an elitist fashion. That is, government is most easily manipulated by people who have money and power already. This is why government benefits usually go to people who don't need benefits from government.

Certainly, at this point in history, this framing of "government" is a well-known rhetorical ploy: it underlies an attitude that is hardly unique to O'Rourke. What he's saying here comes across as a more rational-sounding critique of "Big Government" than one might hear from your typical GOP operative, but engendering disdain for government is still a core piece of the oligarchs' social engineering project. Why? Because the would-be aristocratic class knows very well that the government is the only possible countervailing force to the political power arising from massive wealth concentration, particularly after it becomes hereditary, as it has after the abolition of the successfully-demonized "Death Tax". But let's not kid ourselves: in the absence of a strong civil government, WalMart, or the Kochs, or whichever wealth-concentrating entity was operating in your neck of the woods, would be your government. And that is their dream. That is their vision of "freedom".

It's revealing how O'Rourke sneaks by his implication that government rarely works (it works, but only "occasionally") by pairing it with something that is manifestly true: government is most-easily hacked by the wealthy and powerful. That's what corporate capture is all about. But if one were truly libertarian (in the original sense of wanting to maximize liberty for individuals), then one would understand that a truly libertarian society cannot exist with massive wealth disparities. The solution to the desire for greater freedom is not to abolish democratic civil society (which is what our government is), but to expand it by eliminating the primacy of personal wealth.

As a left-wing libertarian anarchist believer in non-hierarchical and egalitarian social organization, I despise this glib government bashing. It's a cancer that quite literally aims to destroy constitutional democracies world-wide. After all, what is the government? It's us. To hate the government of a democratic constitutional republic is to hate its citizens. If only we had a political party with the energy to state this, and use it to make a sustained critique of the heretical and intellectually dishonest farce that is contemporary libertarianism.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:09 PM on July 25, 2014 [115 favorites]


I'd say that observation is absolutely correct, radicalawyer, at least when it comes to Reason's recent history. The only viewpoint that seems to be universally shared among its contributors and staff seem to be that the War on Drugs and police brutality are both appalling. Beyond that, the magazine (and its website) expresses little in the way of consensus on almost any other issue.

It's also, for what it's worth, frequently perfectly happy to give its contributors enough rope to hang themselves. I'm not saying this was the case in 1976, but it's definitely the case now.
posted by incomple at 1:10 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interesting that so many internet billionaires and other Silicon Valley types are libertarians, considering they've built their careers around the World Wide Web, created by publicly funded CERN, and the internet, created by publicly funded DARPA.

Remember in the summer of 2012 when some idiot from the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial arguing that the government did not play a meaningful role in creating the internet and then the people that he cited in his argument had to rebut him?
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


Can someone enlighten me as to how a Libertarian sees their way to opposing gay marriage?

I've encountered Ron Paul fans who defend his opposition to gay marriage by pointing out that he doesn't think the federal government should get involved and that it should be up to the states.

Why that shit is acceptable when states do it, I have no idea.
posted by brundlefly at 1:16 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


most "libertarians" in Tech and on Wall Street are really just Rockefeller republicans w empathy issues.

this is a tangent but also, you can't forget the Rockefeller drug laws. The RRs weren't libertarians, they were classic 19th century Liberals: Freedom of Trade, Freedom of Contract, and moralizing Protestantism.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:19 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


"HBD" is in no way respectable in academia. Actual biologists know that race is a social construct based on a few easily observable but unimportant phenotypic traits that don't tell you much about ancestry. Phylogenetics tells us that "black" people are the most diverse "group" of human beings on earth, and there is no evolutionary group of "black" people that does not include the rest of us. There is no single evolutionary group of "asian" people. etc.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:22 PM on July 25, 2014 [22 favorites]


Inasmuch as it's a thing, Silicon Valley Libertarianism is absolutely socially liberal, and I don't really see anyone claiming otherwise.

Ask Nick Hanauer about that. The way TED killed his talk demonstrated quite clearly that SV "liberalism" only extends as far as it supports their interests.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is HBD respectable at all in academia?

In a word, no.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:25 PM on July 25, 2014


Can someone enlighten me as to how a Libertarian sees their way to opposing gay marriage?

I've encountered Ron Paul fans who defend his opposition to gay marriage by pointing out that he doesn't think the federal government should get involved...


But why stop there? Why do so-called libertarians think that employees basically have no rights while on their employer's property--and, increasingly, even off their property? Sure, they rail against the Big Bad Government spying on you or telling you not to roll coal or whatever... but your boss can read your emails and keep you from urinating, and that's A-OK as a matter of principle. Say whaaat? The "principle" here being, apparently, that the only real right one has is to own shit and control it in every way, even if it interferes with the rights of others (I'm talking to you, Hobby Lobby). It's a massive crock of shit that, yet, many of us seem to be eager to buy into.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:27 PM on July 25, 2014 [13 favorites]


mondo, it extends naturally from the notion that a bargain made with a starving man has no backsies.
posted by The Gaffer at 1:28 PM on July 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


mondo dentro:
The right does like government. They want a government which protects their incumbent advantage in property rights.
posted by wuwei at 1:28 PM on July 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


Interesting that so many internet billionaires and other Silicon Valley types are libertarians, considering they've built their careers around the World Wide Web, created by publicly funded CERN, and the internet, created by publicly funded DARPA

It's been said above, but I want to reiterate. Have you actually lived in the area? Because yes, there are a class of engineers that tend to get really into libertarianism (and I understand why, it's a philosophy that, if you ignore how much it doesn't work, really appeals to engineering sensibilities combined with nerdy lack of social empathy) but from my experience libertarian engineers are a lot less that you'd think, especially as you move up the totem pole.

What I do see is distrust of government regulation, especially for certain fields, which is different than libertarianism, although it can look like it at first glance.
posted by aspo at 1:31 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Radley Balko, as a reporter working for Reason, drawing money from the Koch money tap, covered the Corey Maye case and got the guy spring from death row.

This was just a few years ago, and Mr. Ames will have to forgive me if I think that says more about the staffers at Reason today than the holocaust ddenier article in 1976, at least at a first glance.

Welch's response is a little less than edifying, but Ames and his associate Yasha Levine have this 6-degrees-from-something-vile style of writing that makes me wonder what the point is of reading anything from them. We're ALL 6 degrees away from something vile.
posted by ocschwar at 1:34 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


What I do see is distrust of government regulation, especially for certain fields, which is different than libertarianism, although it can look like it at first glance.

Yes - this is what I was alluding to. I think that's the hook that brings the groups together, but once the whackjob Austrians start talking you see most reasonable folks kind of walk out backwards.

I don't think the "Rockefeller Drug Laws" are necessarily part of being a Rockefeller Republican, and the Protestant Moralizing revealed it self as Protestant Elitism by the post-war era. Don't forget a big part of those drug laws was Rockefeller trying to move right to make himself a viable national candidate, as we were already past Goldwater et al, and on the path to Reagan.
posted by JPD at 1:39 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why do so-called libertarians think that employees basically have no rights while on their employer's property--and, increasingly, even off their property?

This is a distortion of what they think.

I dont believe this but I'll give you a precis

Capital and Labor have equal power and they can fairly negotiate wages and rules on neutral terms if the market is allowed to work.


Its basically all a caricature of Smith. They vastly underestimate how often markets fail and why markets fail.
posted by JPD at 1:48 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


The right does like government. They want a government which protects their incumbent advantage in property rights.

Of course, wuwei, and that dishonesty goes all the way to the core idiocy of the faux-libertarian view that markets are, apparently, metaphysically prior to governments. The idea that governments "distort markets" is nothing short of monumental stupidity: markets have never ever existed without governments, but rather are created by governments. This idea that every market is sacred, springing as it must from Zeus' own forehead, is one of the primary myths of the libertarian mind.

By the way, I say "metaphysically" up above because despite the seemingly rationalist stance of libertarians, who are always are eager to lecture everyone about "how things work in the real world", they are mystics and irrationalists, not scientific empiricists. The empirical evidence simply does not support one goddamn thing they have to say about political economy. Since governments create markets in the first place, we really should be concluding that markets are nothing more than a "pure distortion" of Nature, much as organized agriculture is. And the implication of that is truly liberating: we, as free citizens of a democratic society can organize our markets any way we goddamn please. No way of organizing a market is more "distorted" than another. Once we realize that, the only issues will be functional, according to the needs of the citizenry: that is, does method A of organizing a market benefit society (that is, meet our needs) more than method B.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2014 [44 favorites]


By the way, I say "metaphysically" up above because despite the seemingly rationalist stance of libertarians, who are always are eager to lecture everyone about "how things work in the real world", they are mystics and irrationalists, not scientific empiricists.

on this note it's worth noting that the liberal conception of free markets established by smith was lifted wholesale from medieval persian scholars who attributed market mechanisms to the will of allah (literally the invisible hand). free markets are seen as natural law a priori, and this assumption is the foundation of their moral framework -- anything that contradicts the 'natural system' of the market (which is obviously anything but) is a violation of nature.
posted by p3on at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think even Graeber would say exchanges exist in nature in for the form of debt and gift. Others would say barter was the first exchange. Either way - those didn't derive from the government.

In both the classical view and the Graeber view I think the role of government was more about regulating those terms.

I'm not sure if you want to draw a difference between exchanges and markets - maybe you do.
posted by JPD at 1:59 PM on July 25, 2014


I don't think the "Rockefeller Drug Laws" are necessarily part of being a Rockefeller Republican, and the Protestant Moralizing revealed it self as Protestant Elitism by the post-war era. Don't forget a big part of those drug laws was Rockefeller trying to move right to make himself a viable national candidate, as we were already past Goldwater et al, and on the path to Reagan.

I don't disagree... the only god the Rockefeller's really believed in was Wall Street and 8% annual return. The whole point of the Ames/eXile jeremiad against the 'L'ibertarians is that it's always been a scheme (back to Friedman in the 50s) to sell Wall Street to racist boobs and whackjobs... who have traditionally hated Wall Street as a nexus of the Jew banker communist blah blah blah. Getting the Birchers onto the same team as the brokers has been a neat political trick.

You have people like Krugman who are at pains to distinguish between Friedman the economist and Friedman the libertarian "ideologue." But, then Krugman is confused why his profession tacked so far in the wrong direction in response to the Great Recession... which makes more sense if you consider both Friedmans to be inseparable and the ideology, a put up job...
posted by ennui.bz at 1:59 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


on this note it's worth noting that the liberal conception of free markets established by smith was lifted wholesale from medieval persian scholars who attributed market mechanisms to the will of allah (literally the invisible hand). free markets are seen as natural law a priori, and this assumption is the foundation of their moral framework -- anything that contradicts the 'natural system' of the market (which is obviously anything but) is a violation of nature.

Smith thinks markets can fail.
posted by JPD at 2:00 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Welch's response is a little less than edifying, but Ames and his associate Yasha Levine have this 6-degrees-from-something-vile style of writing that makes me wonder what the point is of reading anything from them

I find your ad-hominems convincing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter Reason magazine!

In general, arguments in the form of 'if only $writer was more polite I would find his facts convincing' need to be taken out behind the barn and shot disrupted.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:01 PM on July 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


Capital and Labor have equal power and they can fairly negotiate wages and rules on neutral terms if the market is allowed to work.

Thanks, JPD. Yes, this is a good representation of their dogma. And it's a good example of why I say their ideology is a fundamentally metaphysical (and moralistic) one that masquerades as rationalist and pragmatic: we can think of what you described as a theory that can either be supported by empirical facts or not. I think the facts do not support this, while acknowledging that people of good faith can disagree. But the way libertarians treat this theory it's non-falsifiable: they* do not acknowledge, for example, that disparities in social standing (including but not limited to wealth) can be, in themselves, "market distortions" that interfere with the free choice of labor.

_____
* A faction who call themselves "bleeding heart libertarians" is, to their credit, more cognizant of such things.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:04 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


The whole point of the Ames/eXile jeremiad against the 'L'ibertarians is that it's always been a scheme (back to Friedman in the 50s) to sell Wall Street to racist boobs and whackjobs... who have traditionally hated Wall Street as a nexus of the Jew banker communist blah blah blah. Getting the Birchers onto the same team as the brokers has been a neat political trick.

Yep. Also interesting to see this in the light of the Chamber of Commerce's actions during the Primary cycle to defeat Tea Partiers. The pendulum finally swung too far.
posted by JPD at 2:04 PM on July 25, 2014


Why do so-called libertarians think that employees basically have no rights while on their employer's property--and, increasingly, even off their property?

The point is "freedom of contract," the rights of employees are exactly specified by the contract they sign when they are hired by the employer. This was actually a radical idea in pre-revolutionary France. The point being that subjects and serfs can't sign contracts with kings and aristos...

let's hear old Kropotkin:
Two great currents prepared and made the Great French Revolution. One of them, the current of ideas, concerning the political reorganisation of States, came from the middle classes; the other, the current of action, came from the people, both peasants. and workers in towns, who wanted to obtain immediate and definite improvements in their economic condition. And when these two currents met and joined in the endeavour to realise an aim. wllich for some time was common to both, when they had helped each other for a certain time, the result was the Revolution.

The eighteenth-century philosophers had long been sapping the foundations of the law-and-order societies of that period, wherein political power, as well as an immense share of the wealth belonged to the aristocracy and the clergy, whilst the mass of the people were nothing but beasts of burden to the ruling classes. By proclaiming the sovereignty of reason; by preaching trust in human nature — corrupted, they declared, by the institutions that had reduced man to servitude, but, nevertheless, certain to regain all its qualities when it had reconqured liberty — they had opened up new vistas to mankind. By proclaiming equality among men, without distinction of birth; by demanding from every citizen, whether king or peasant, obedience to the law, supposed to express the will of the nation when it has been made by the representativesof the people; finally, by demanding freedom of contract between free men, and the abolition of feudal taxes and services — by putting forward all these claims, linked together with the system and method characteristic of French thought, the philosophers had undoubtedly prepared, at least in men’s minds, the downfall of the old régime.
for all of the radicalism of the Paris commune, the original revolution was a rather middle class affair...
posted by ennui.bz at 2:07 PM on July 25, 2014 [10 favorites]


ocschwar: We're ALL 6 degrees away from something vile.

Nice try, but the damning quotes Ames has found in the Reason archives demonstrate that the magazine was zero degrees from something vile for decades. Furthermore, as Ames points out, many of the same people are still involved, so it's not like this is an isolated thing that happened 40 years ago.

Radley Balko's commendable efforts don't erase history, and Matt Welch's refusal to acknowledge that history and distance his magazine from it calls into question whether the magazine can be trusted on these issues today.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:08 PM on July 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


I think even Graeber would say exchanges exist in nature in for the form of debt and gift. Others would say barter was the first exchange. Either way - those didn't derive from the government.

Graeber embarrasses himself when he tries to talk about modern finance/economics. Even talking to a friendly liberal like PIketty, he ends up sounding like a boob. Which is a shame because the anthropology of money and markets could be really relevant.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Radley Balko's commendable efforts don't erase history, and Matt Welch's refusal to acknowledge that history and distance his magazine from it calls into question whether the magazine can be trusted on these issues today.

As Ames puts it, the right response would be "yeah, we fucked up back then, but that is not representative of our position now and we repudiate those sentiments." Welch's response, of course, is "how dare you accuse us of historical ties to racism!", and the easy response to that is to take a big bundle of said historical ties, roll them up like a newspaper, and smack him on the nose with it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:25 PM on July 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


The point is "freedom of contract," the rights of employees are exactly specified by the contract they sign when they are hired by the employer.

There was an thought-provoking back and forth, between Chris Bertram, Corey Robin and Alex Gourevitch over at Crooked Timber and some self-identified bleeding heart libertarians, regarding the veracity of this putative "principle" (see Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace, which includes links to the various responses, as well):
Libertarianism is a philosophy of individual freedom. Or so its adherents claim. But with their single-minded defense of the rights of property and contract, libertarians cannot come to grips with the systemic denial of freedom in private regimes of power, particularly the workplace. When they do try to address that unfreedom, as a group of academic libertarians calling themselves “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” have done in recent months, they wind up traveling down one of two paths: Either they give up their exclusive focus on the state and become something like garden-variety liberals or they reveal that they are not the defenders of freedom they claim to be.
And thanks for the fantastic Kropotkin quote, ennui.bz. It seems to be a great example of Robin's idea that conservatism is a shape-shifting ideology that, from age to age, adopts the rhetorical posture of its opposition (movements of social liberation): the part you highlighted was once part of the rhetoric of liberation; now it's part of the rhetoric of control. So very interesting.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:29 PM on July 25, 2014 [13 favorites]




There's probably many different strains of SV libertarianism. There's one that is pro-civil liberties and against authority, deriving from the hacker/anarchist ethos. There's private enterprise cheerleaders who think government is inefficient and intrusive. And there's nerds who simply like collecting and playing with firearms and dislike gun control. (And not simply guns, but things like tinkering that breaks regulations, nootropics and other mind-altering substances that the FDA wouldn't approve of, crypto-currencies, and other counterestablishment toys.)
posted by Apocryphon at 2:58 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


All you need to know about Reason Magazine is contained in this June 2014 cover

So many questions: Why is he wearing a suit while playing video games? Why is she wearing exercise clothes (I think?) to yell at him about playing video games? Why is he giving her the index finger instead of the more traditional middle finger? And, most importantly, why doesn't she sit down next to him and they play some Diablo together?
posted by hydropsyche at 3:47 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Whoah. Now that I read the article, I take it back. Reason's staff should go find another place to work.
posted by ocschwar at 3:48 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: Now that I read the article, I take it back.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:50 PM on July 25, 2014 [31 favorites]


The Whelk: "All you need to know about Reason Magazine is contained in this June 2014 cover"

What is that sort of gun-looking thing next to his foot?
posted by brundlefly at 4:00 PM on July 25, 2014


What is that sort of gun-looking thing next to his foot?

That's a 3D-printed gun.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:03 PM on July 25, 2014


> So many questions:

As they say: I don't believe this but I'll give you a precis

> Why is he wearing a suit while playing video games?
He just got back from his job lying for rich people, where you have to wear a suit to indicate that you are a serious intellectual. The very first thing he wants to do is unwind with a little bit of Diablo, even before he changes his clothes.

> Why is she wearing exercise clothes (I think?) to yell at him about playing video games?
The artist's understanding of women is mostly derived from pornography. I can't tell if she's supposed to be his bitchy girlfriend, his bitchy sister, or his bitchy housemate. Or Anne Coulter.

> Why is he giving her the index finger instead of the more traditional middle finger?
The index finger means "Not now, I'm doing something more important." Women need to be kept in their place, but it's easier if you don't flat out tell them to fuck off.

> And, most importantly, why doesn't she sit down next to him and they play some Diablo together?
There's not enough room on the bed-couch.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:21 PM on July 25, 2014 [29 favorites]


I'm pretty disappointed that "libertaryan" still hasn't taken off yet.
posted by Ouverture at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2014 [21 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: "That's a 3D-printed gun."

Oh FFS.
posted by brundlefly at 5:00 PM on July 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


If that magazine was looking for a less-flattering depiction of their core readership, they would be hard-pressed to do so. Who would want to be that guy?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:05 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


The number I remember about political donations in Silicon Valley is that they go 80-90% to Democrats, and that voting patterns are similar. There are certainty libertarians, and a particular flavor, I guess, but the article and comments here seem to imply it's a large majority, when in practice there's a pretty heavy tilt in another direction.
posted by lorimt at 5:05 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


lorimt: The number I remember about political donations in Silicon Valley is that they go 80-90% to Democrats

Even if that statistic is correct, it's misleading, because the big money tends to flow to whatever team is in power at the time, and California has a lot more Democrats in positions of power. You don't waste your money paying off the guys who can't do anything for you.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:09 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is the part that should cause Matt Welch to crawl away in shame forever:
Welch urges readers (and us) to “please mine the archive for yourselves” and make our own judgements about what Reason truly stands for, then and now.

As someone who has spent the past few months doing precisely that — including many hours spent in public libraries, digging through microfiche copies of issues that (for reasons that will become obvious) are not available online [emphasis mine] — it seems to me that digging more into Reason’s past is the last thing Welch should want anyone to do.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 5:10 PM on July 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's really fucking simple: Libertarians profess to want individual freedom without acknowledging the government that has given them the leisure to ponder these questions. In the absence of government, contracts and freedom go right out the window. In a governmentless world, the only thing that counts is power.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:11 PM on July 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


That's a 3D-printed gun.

The best part? It's carelessly left on the floor and aimed at his own foot. Artist got opinions, yo.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


tonycpsu: Here's Santa Clara county's 2012 election results. That's above the democratic average for CA. (Here's all of CA). Notice that the libertarian vote was pretty much non existent, and in line with the rest of the state.

Maybe, seeing as how you live on the other side of the country, you don't know what you are talking about. Maybe people who actually live in the Bay Area do. Is that possible?
posted by aspo at 5:26 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


That cover is my new go-to example of fractal wrongness. Each part of it is fully as dumb as the cover as a whole. I just wish they had included the full version of the cover on the copy of the magazine at his feet, so that the infinite regress could really drive home the theme.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:27 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]




Got the reference, still think it's maybe the dumbest thing I've ever seen in my life.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:33 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


aspo, I have no idea what point you're trying to refute. My point was that the money follows the power, so a statistic that 80-90% of Silicon Valley donates to Democrats doesn't have anything to do with how many Libertarians there are. Nobody votes for Libertarians in elections because nobody votes for third parties in elections, not because the state leans left (which I acknowledged in my comment.)
posted by tonycpsu at 5:39 PM on July 25, 2014


I did double check some donation stats by looking up wall street political contributions - they do show swings from party to party, but the largest Democrat swing is about 60%, vs 70+ for Republicans in nearby years. I can buy some amount of "prefer winners" in campaign money, but the Silicon Valley donation and voting edge (as @aspo found) seem to be pretty constently for Democrats, and the absolute number of libertarians looks pretty low.
posted by lorimt at 5:42 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


lorimt: and the absolute number of libertarians looks pretty low.

Because, as I just said, voting in elections for big-L Libertarians means nothing about how many small-l libertarians there are. Nearly nobody votes for third parties because they rarely have a shot of winning.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:45 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you don't use voting libertarian, and you don't use donating to libertarian candidates, how do you identify them, and what makes them libertarian, I guess? To me it looks like most people in Silicon Valley are walking, talking, and quacking like Democrats, and most of the ones I know personally are pretty standard liberals. There definitely *are* libertarians, but they seem to be getting attention disproportionate to their actual number, and the much more measurable political leaning is being ignored. Particularly when they're being called out as the worst kind of "have mine, get yours" right wing libertarian, that seems unreasonable.
posted by lorimt at 5:57 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apocryphon: "None of the commenters above play video games, do they?"

I got it. But that makes them look even worse, considering what that character is like.
posted by brundlefly at 6:02 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


lorimt: "There definitely *are* libertarians, but they seem to be getting attention disproportionate to their actual number, and the much more measurable political leaning is being ignored. "

Maybe the other people should start planning crazy shit, like floating city-states populated by nothing but mainstream democrats.
posted by brundlefly at 6:04 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I know well that I'm not the first to similarly complain.

I'm not an economic libertarian but I am a social libertarian and I think it's unfortunate that the two are conflated. I agree with Reason sometimes.

Immigrant Kids and the Fear of Disease.

Barbarism in the USA: Arizona’s Botched Execution

How Much Longer Until the Government Thinks Everybody Is a Terrorist?
posted by vapidave at 6:26 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as another Bay Area resident I think the prominence of libertarianism in the tech industry is more based in media narrative than actual reality. The area votes pretty heavily to the left (and, if anything, is still moving in that direction).

From my experience, at least, if you were to listen in on lunchtime conversations in the cafeteria of a random tech company, you would be much more likely to overhear a rant about the lack of universal healthcare in this country, rather than tax policy or gun rights or whatever.
posted by what of it at 6:34 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


lorimt: There definitely *are* libertarians, but they seem to be getting attention disproportionate to their actual number

I don't dispute this point! I never said or implied that I think libertarians (small or big L) are a majority. What I'm saying is that neither campaign donations nor voting patterns are sufficient to determine how many there actually are. And, I also agree that we have to be specific about what we're counting as libertarian. My point was simply that the metrics put forth so far to identify them are flawed, and we would need polling data on self-identification, attitudes toward the size of government, non-interventionist foreign policy, Austrian economics, etc. to get a better handle on how much libertarian sentiment there is out there.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:43 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Apocryphon: "None of the commenters above play video games, do they?"

I've spent the past couple of years playing Skyrim. And, as referenced, my husband and I still love to play Diablo together. But, no, would you believe that a feminist doesn't play GTA? I know that must be shocking?
posted by hydropsyche at 6:44 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tonycpsu: So maybe most libertarians don't vote, or vote D or R, but wouldn't you expect an area that has a significantly larger portion of libertarians to vote MORE libertarian? Because looking at California's results for the last few elections I don't see any obviously significant libertarian skew to the tech counties. You are inventing narratives that don't exist.
posted by aspo at 6:49 PM on July 25, 2014


tonycpsu - I do agree with you that all those are good ways to measure libertarians, and that more metrics are good. My original comment was partly based on the article and early comments suggesting the area was heavily libertarian, and doing some weird equating of presumed programmer mindsets with libertarian perspectives that didn't seem very connected with the actual data I've seen or people I've met.
posted by lorimt at 7:24 PM on July 25, 2014


The problem isn't the entire "Tech Community", it is a few Tech Moguls with an incredible amount of power. If you got honest survey results from the Top 10 people in the Top 100 Silicon Valley companies, you'd get a far different distribution of political opinion and party affiliation than if you included all their 'code monkeys' and 'cubilcle dwellers'. You would never need more than 400 Libertarians to rule the world if they were all of the Forbes 400 (which, fortunately, they are not - yet).
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:43 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the thing about "Government doesn't work" is that government is the people. Though there are flaws in the system, the government of the United States is undeniably chosen by and composed of the citizens of this country.

So, it's us, doing our best. If things don't work in an ideal way, maybe it's because making a government work in a way that's fair for everyone is an incredibly difficult challenge that no one has ever gotten totally right in the five thousand-odd years we've been trying?

To come in and say "Oh, it's broken there" and think you must be right because you're "smart" or made an app once or whatever... it's like walking into a physics or biology lab where scientists have been working their whole lives and thinking you're going to immediately see the answer they've been looking for.

It's the same attitude that makes "Elon Musk" think it's easy to start from zero and build a car that meet the quality standards that Toyota and Honda have taken 70 years to reach, and then when his little toy car breaks on a simple test drive, claim the reporter from one of the world's most-respected publications must've been "driving it wrong."

It's that incredibly childish combination of naivete and arrogance that says, "If smart people have been working hard on something for years and years and haven't gotten perfect results yet, it must be because they aren't as smart as me, or haven't been trying, or are too 'corrupt,' or need to be 'disrupted.'"

It's like walking up behind someone at work, having no understanding at all of what they're doing or the particular constraints and challenges of their project are, and demanding, "Why is this taking you so long?" Which, by the way, happens ALL THE FUCKING TIME in the tech industry.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:05 PM on July 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wow. At the very least, I'd sure love to hear Matt Welch explain why the 1976 Holocaust revisionist issue is not available in the Reason archives. It looks like Welch makes some good points in his rebuttal about the way Ames distorted the South Africa articles (though it's hard to tell for sure without reading them in full, I suppose), but that Holocaust issue looks to be just stunningly awful. The link between pro-Nazi WWII-era businessmen like the Koch brothers' father and the stuff Reason was publishing in the 1970s seems really, really clear.

I'm glad Ames was angry enough to work so thoroughly on this.
posted by mediareport at 8:07 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


I did not get the reference. Please, someone explain what the deal is with that cover.
posted by mlis at 8:16 PM on July 25, 2014


Thinking about this some more, I'm bothered that Ames avoids dealing directly with Welch's rebuttal; instead, he moves the goal posts with a shocking revelation. I mean, I'm glad/flabbergasted to read that revelation (it's far more damning than the South Africa stuff), but wish he'd at least respond to Welch's accusation that he unfairly misrepresented Reason's position on apartheid.

But then, you return to that Holocaust denial issue, and fuck, all that fades away in the sheer, ugly mess of so many racist shits being given a feature platform. What on earth was Reason thinking?

Why Ames didn't lead with the Holocaust issue is beyond me, but I'm very happy this spat, however clumsy, has revealed it.
posted by mediareport at 8:25 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


mils, I don't know from video games, but I think the second link was to a pre-existing piece of promotional art for Grand Theft Auto. The Reason cover seems like a tribute to it, with a few Libertarian shout-outs (plastic gun, government-banned Four Loko, etc.) added.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:30 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


s/tribute/tracing.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:36 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


In case it's not perfectly clear, check the Reason archive Welch points to for 1976; the man of twists and turns linked it above. The "Special Revisionism Issue" from February 1976, a regular issue of the mag that focused on the general subject of Revisionist history, is just gone. No explanation.

Even searching for the odious authors in the revisionism issue, like Gary North, turns up their work in other issues (March 1976 in North's case, e.g.), but nothing from February of that year.

What a disgusting attempt to cover up history. Welch really needs to own that one if he wants his defense of his beloved mag to be taken at all seriously.
posted by mediareport at 8:41 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the thing about "Government doesn't work" is that government is the people. Though there are flaws in the system, the government of the United States is undeniably chosen by and composed of the citizens of this country.

Given that many citizens of this country don't choose (e.g. do not vote), I think you can very plausibly deny that the government of the United States is chosen by the citizens of this country. It's also the case that the government is comprised solely of elected official; there are many more government employees and appointees than there are elected officials who are part of the government, so once again, it's reasonable to deny that the government is chosen by the citizens. (In the case of the civil service, I believe the government is intentionally undemocratic.)
posted by layceepee at 8:41 PM on July 25, 2014


aspo: Tonycpsu: So maybe most libertarians don't vote, or vote D or R, but wouldn't you expect an area that has a significantly larger portion of libertarians to vote MORE libertarian? Because looking at California's results for the last few elections I don't see any obviously significant libertarian skew to the tech counties. You are inventing narratives that don't exist.

And you're being unnecessarily confrontational, and seem to be reading something into my comments that I'm not intending, or perhaps confusing me with someone else in the thread who's saying other things that I'm not.

Anyway, I honestly don't know if your hypothesis is correct. When you're talking about the tiny slivers of the electorate who decided to throw away their votes by casting them for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, and whoever the hell else was on the ballot, it's hard to make any kind of definitive statement about what motivated them to do so, or what ideology those votes came from. In this group, you're no longer talking about people who wanted their vote to affect the outcome, instead, it's narcissists who wanted to "send a message", perhaps on a single issue, or just to say "I don't like either of the major party candidates", or even "I think the two party system is bullshit." I wouldn't feel comfortable using that data to make any kind of statement about the larger electorate.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:51 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


In this group, you're no longer talking about people who wanted their vote to affect the outcome, instead, it's narcissists who wanted to "send a message", perhaps on a single issue, or just to say "I don't like either of the major party candidates", or even "I think the two party system is bullshit."

If most voters want their votes to affect the outcome, aren't they terribly disappointed in almost every election?
posted by layceepee at 9:05 PM on July 25, 2014


If most voters want their votes to affect the outcome, aren't they terribly disappointed in almost every election?

It's amazing how many people don't really get democracy as a concept and scream about how their voice isn't being heard every time they don't get what they want.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:18 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the thing about "Government doesn't work" is that government is the people. Though there are flaws in the system, the government of the United States is undeniably chosen by and composed of the citizens of this country.

So, it's us, doing our best.


I mean you put a bunch of Americans in charge, you can't expect much, right?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:35 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


The number I remember about political donations in Silicon Valley is that they go 80-90% to Democrats, and that voting patterns are similar. There are certainty libertarians, and a particular flavor, I guess, but the article and comments here seem to imply it's a large majority, when in practice there's a pretty heavy tilt in another direction.

Almost every engineer I know or knew in Silicon Valley was liberal. It's unfortunate that the current climate that is tearing apart that city is pitting the left against the left. There's a rift being created between two liberal philosophies.


I'm not an economic libertarian but I am a social libertarian and I think it's unfortunate that the two are conflated. I agree with Reason sometimes.

Immigrant Kids and the Fear of Disease.

Barbarism in the USA: Arizona’s Botched Execution

How Much Longer Until the Government Thinks Everybody Is a Terrorist?


Every day on MeFi we see some new systematic issues. Here's some hypothetical questions: at what point are your taxes doing more harm than good? Is that point possible? What do you do at that point? What if there's not a high likelihood of things turning around?

By demonizing libertarianism, and catching social libertarianism along with it, we lose one tool that could be used to fix these issues now or in the future.
posted by formless at 10:33 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the thing about "Government doesn't work" is that government is the people.

I reject that assertion. It's a strawman argument.

The government is not "the people." Rather, it's a group of people that have been elected or appointed to spend the resources of the people. The problem is, they're given a set of rewards, perks and incentives that rapidly disconnect them -- professionally, ethically, pragmatically -- from the people.

Now, you can say, "but who elects them, who appoints them?" And you're right, to a point, but the argument you're making is that it's turtles, turtles, turtles all the way down. It doesn't deal with the idea that the bureaucracy grows and disconnects, as bureaucracies do, because they're incentivized to do so.

Trust me, the guy down at the IRS that sits in a cubicle doesn't think of himself as "the people." The alphabet soup of departmental agencies are bureaucracies that create career bureaucrats that themselves lobby the government to maintain the bureaucracy. Or didn't you notice a defense department that lobbies onward for more and better guns to fight ... someone ... I guess.

The American Founding Fathers knew this would happen, which is why they explicitly set up a government with a rocks-paper-scissors setup of checks and balances right from the get-go. But it still fails and we should approach the bureaucracies created by the system with a lot more skepticism.

When I think of "little L" libertarianism, I think of this:

It all comes down to what you value, and whether you're willing to use the legal force of law and violence and fines and imprisonment to get it. Because that's what government ultimately is -- legalized force, which we all collectively level at the heads of everyone that is "the people."

In other words, would you imprison your grandma to get what you want?

Look, if grandma doesn't pay her taxes to fund the thing you value, grandma goes to jail, right? Grandma pays her taxes to fund a government to serve the people, and she gets a vote to help decide what the government should do.

But if the vote doesn't go her way, she doesn't get to stop paying taxes. If you refuse to pay your taxes, the people get to throw you in prison. This applies to everyone.

Even grandma.

So, how does that conversation go?

"Grandma, there are sick people out there, so we need basic health services. Pay up."

I think we can get behind that one, right?

"Grandma, we need to set aside some land for national parks. Pay up."

Again, that one's OK. I'd throw grandma in jail so we could all have Yosemite.

"Grandma, we need to spend about a $1 million on The Popular Romance Project, a National Endowment of the Humanities project aimed to "explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective—while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.

"Well? Pay up, bitch."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:45 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes. Pay your third of a cent and stop acting like a five year old. Maybe even look at what the project actually is. Of course, visiting that web site probably used more than a third of a cent of resources.
posted by aspo at 10:54 PM on July 25, 2014 [24 favorites]


(And if that's the best you can find as waste in a budget the size of the United States Government, I think we are doing pretty fucking good.)
posted by aspo at 10:55 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Lame. Didn't even try to read the link. Here, let me help you, if you're really that lazy.

The nearly $30 billion in questionable and lower-priority spending in Wastebook 2013 is a small fraction of the more than $200 billion we throw away every year through fraud, waste, duplication and mismanagement. There is more than enough stupidity and incompetence in government to allow us to live well below the budget caps. What’s lacking is the common sense and courage in Washington to make those choices – and passage of fiscally-responsible spending bills – possible.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:57 PM on July 25, 2014


$30 billion in "questionable" spending is 0.8% of the budget -- less than a penny of every dollar. If that's the best you can can come up with from a hack like Tom Coburn, the government is far more efficient and less wasteful that any private sector company.
posted by JackFlash at 11:23 PM on July 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


Look, if grandma doesn't pay her taxes to fund the thing you value, grandma goes to jail, right? Grandma pays her taxes to fund a government to serve the people, and she gets a vote to help decide what the government should do.

But if the vote doesn't go her way, she doesn't get to stop paying taxes. If you refuse to pay your taxes, the people get to throw you in prison. This applies to everyone.


Again, democracy does not mean you get what you want all the time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:40 PM on July 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


The entire framing of this issue, that somehow government is about taxes, and no government is about letting people keep their "property" is utter bullshit.

That's because property law itself is a function of government. And in fact, government uses considerable coercion and force to maintain the relationships created via property law. Here's what Robert Hale had to say about it:
the systems advocated by professed upholders of laissez-faire are in reality permeated with coercive restrictions of individual freedom and with restrictions, moreover, out of conformity with any formula of "equal opportunity" or of "preserving the equal rights of others." Some sort of coercive restriction of individuals, it is believed, is absolutely unavoidable, and cannot be made to confirm to any Spencerian Formula. Since coercive restrictions are bound to affect the distribution of income and the direction of economic activities, and are bound to affect the distribution of income and the direction of economic activities, and are bound to affect the economic interests of persons living in foreign parts, statesmen cannot avoid interfering with economic matters, both in domestic and in foreign affairs.
Link
Hale was a Columbia Law School professor and a key thinker in the historically important Legal Realist school of legal scholarship.

More recently, Matt Bruenig has limned Hale's criticism of libertarianism with the following illustration of the coercive nature of property rights:
Imagine I am looking to find housing to live in. I am presented, in the status quo, with the following choices:
  1. Pay a landlord rent to live in some building.
  2. Be homeless.
If I pay the landlord rent, this will be described as a voluntary, non-coercive transaction. After all, I chose option one because it was the best of the two. But wait a minute, these two options aren’t the only conceptually possible options. There could be this third option: just move into a building and pay nothing to the landlord.

If I had that third option available, I would definitely choose it. Why don’t I? Because the state has violently and coercively foreclosed that option. Through its construction of property law, the state has declared that landlords may call it on the phone and have it violently remove me from the building if I chose option three. That is, the state has–through violent, physical coercion–restricted the options that are available to me. It is only due to this coercion that I choose option one and pay landlords anything. In fact, functionally speaking, I pay landlords to get them to waive their state-granted right to violently restrict me from buildings. That is the quid pro quo of a rental arrangement.
Link
Bruenig extends the logic of the apartment rental contract to taxes, stating that libertarians will "describe my choice to pay rent as non-coerced and voluntary while describing my choice to pay income taxes as coerced and involuntary."

Of course, all of this assumes that the prevailing order has enough legitimacy to impose coercive limits without anyone to stop it. But that's primarily a question of political organization, and ultimately, of the power that various groups wield in society.
posted by wuwei at 11:54 PM on July 25, 2014 [18 favorites]


Why are we discussing the validity of libertarian economic theory? It's a derail, that will probably play out the same way it has the last dozen times we've had it. The post was about the crowd you find palling around with Libertarians.

> By demonizing libertarianism, and catching social libertarianism along with it, we lose one tool that could be used to fix these issues now or in the future.

Vast, vast numbers of Democrats are "socially liberal". If you want socially liberal policies to advance I'd think you'd want to work with Dems. And yet Libertarians always seem to run as Republicans. They must really hate the idea of paying that extra third of a cent in taxes. I happen to hate just as much the idea of Holocaust deniers and Neo-Confederates swinging by to visit their friends who are United States Senators.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:16 AM on July 26, 2014 [20 favorites]


Can someone enlighten me as to how a Libertarian sees their way to opposing gay marriage?

They don't. Anyone in favour of banning gay marriage is not libertarian. Rand Paul for example, who is also anti-abortion and opposes marijuana legalization, is not any kind of libertarian. He has said so himself. It's Ron Paul that has some tenuous claim to libertarianism, I suppose that leads to confusion.
posted by sfenders at 5:47 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


ooh, ooh, I get to drag out one of my favorite old lines.

So there's this tendency on the libertarian fringes to mix up the statement "taxation without representation is tyranny" with the shorter statement "taxation is tyranny." Here's how you tell the two statements apart: the first one is a foundational principle of representative democracy, used as a chief justification for the American Revolution, whereas the second one is just dumb.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:06 AM on July 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


As one of MetaFilter's token Libertarians (specifically, a cosmopolitan anti-corporation geolibertarian) and an occasional reader of Reason magazine, my impression has always been that they sometimes run controversial articles just to be contrarian. So the inclusion of articles/editorials endorsing a particular view doesn't necessarily mean that the editors/owners support that view -- they might have just been stirring up shit for the hell of it.

The coverup / denial is super super lame, though, and I'm glad that Ames is pursuing that. Reason's editors/owners should either own up to it and explain how their views have since changed (I'm assuming/hoping that they have indeed changed!) or admit that they just printed that stuff to stir up shit.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:10 AM on July 26, 2014


Can someone enlighten me as to how a Libertarian sees their way to opposing gay marriage?

The Libertarian Party has officially supported marriage equality since the party's founding in 1971.

Unfortunately, there are some people calling themselves Libertarians who do not actually adhere to libertarian principles. They've stolen our name and are ruining our brand and we hate them.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:27 AM on July 26, 2014


I should just be in charge of the whole libertarian movement and then everything would be better.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:39 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Jacqueline:

I don't have hard data, but I'm pretty confident that there are many, many people within the left specrum who, like me, have strong anarcho-libertarian tendencies. The prevaling mythos of mainstream US media/politics regarding "liberals"--namely that they all just luv, luv, luuuuvs them some big, intrusive government---is not born out by any lefty I've every had any sort of interaction with. I'd go as far as saying that the only true "big government" types left are inside-the-beltway policy wonks and staffers, and there aren't many of those these days, either. I don't know if the folks at Political Compass have ever done such a focused study, but my hypothesis is that your garden-variety grass-roots lefty activist (however they actually self-identify) would find themselves in the lower-left quadrant of their two-variable model, meaning that they are both left and libertarian.

In contrast, the most common initial response I get from regular folks who self-identify as Libertarian when I state that I'm a left-libertarian is "that's not possible--it's a contradiction in terms". I then have to patiently explain that whereas right-libertarians oppose concentrated governmental power, but are fine with private concentrations of power, a left libertarian is equally suspicious of both private and governmental power. I'm curious of your experiences as someone who has actively participated in the Libertarian party, but describes yourself as "anti-corporation". My guess is that you would have found yourself an outlier. Is that true? I'm genuinely interested in your experiences.

I know that the libertarian brand, as you say, has been captured by people who are nothing more than conservatives in the sense of Corey Robin (i.e., defenders of social hierarchy). Without knowing the actual social history, I've imagined the Austrian school folks were just pissed that the left (in the US) had ruined their "liberal" brand, so they set their sights on the word "libertarian", since it sorta sounds the same. And, the conceptual confusion engendered by the word has to a great extent helped attract a lot of free-thinking people, especially post-boomers, to a movement that has never shown much practical interest in anything more than securing the rights of property. To me, that is an incredibly impoverished view of liberty, and, frankly, I think for the most part "libertarian" freedom talk is just a sugary lie that helps the dominator poison go down smoothly.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:10 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Jacqueline: my impression has always been that they sometimes run controversial articles just to be contrarian. So the inclusion of articles/editorials endorsing a particular view doesn't necessarily mean that the editors/owners support that view -- they might have just been stirring up shit for the hell of it.

I'm quite surprised to see this kind of apologia coming from someone who comes off as perhaps the single most honest, reasonable libertarian around these parts. We're not talking about "your momma so fat" jokes here -- we're talking about Holocaust denial and support for apartheid.

If you provide a platform for these views, regardless of whether you're joking or not, you're helping those views reach a larger audience, and therefore furthering the cause of those who believe those views in earnest. "Stirring up shit for the hell of it" is an excuse that anyone can retroactively apply to any viewpoint they endorse but later decide they don't want to be seen as endorsing.

Reason doesn't exist for the lulz -- it exists to promote a specific strain of political ideology, just like Mother Jones and The Nation on the left. It's beyond belief that they just devoted an issue to a bunch of Holocaust deniers for shits and giggles.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:13 AM on July 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


The historical revisionism issue was wrong and despicable on several levels, but it wasn't done for "shits and giggles". Read the Editorial Introduction. Two big central ideas: one, that revisionism is a necessary corrective to "black and white" readings of history which generate national narratives, and two, that the Vietnam War was not an isolated mistake, but rather just one more example of US imperialism, of which even the US's "good" wars were a part.

Of course, none of this justifies the Holocaust denial and other bizarreness, but there is a serious, stated, coherent reason for what they printed. It wasn't for the lulz.

Reason's outlets for Holocaust denial and apartheid apologia are comparable to Noam Chomsky's Khmer Rouge apologia, and slightly comparable as well to the Faurisson Affair. I am not saying this to justify Reason's conduct, nor to unduly condemn Chomsky. The point is, Chomsky denied the extent of the Khmer Rouge's atrocities in order to make a broader point about American propaganda, and in a separate case, he had written an essay on the free speech rights of Holocaust deniers. He was certainly wrong about the Khmer Rouge. As for the second issue, that's a stickier one, depending on your views of how universal "First Amendment rights" ought to be. Either way, he had nothing to do with the fact that his essay had been included as an "introduction" in Faurisson's book.

Anyway, I wonder if Reason's libertarian ideology makes the current editorial board less likely to see themselves as a continuation of what Reason had been up to in the 1970s? Eh? Seems like it would've been better press to just say, "yes, those articles back there were wrong". Who knows.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:29 AM on July 26, 2014


Naberius: Anyway, what made me start to wonder wtf was going on with libertarianism - and I think I may have mentioned this here before - was when Reason praised Ciskei, an apartheid era South African bantustan, as a laboratory for libertarian policies (pdf link) and the best thing that could have happened to South African blacks.

What's really rich is that Reason's response to Ames's first article CITES THAT ARTICLE ON CISKEI as an example of Reason's anti-apartheid bona fides:

9) John Blundell, in a long April 1985 feature on the semi-autonomous South African region of Ciskei, enthused that such then-controversial homelands "may just turn out to be a Trojan horse that ultimately destroys...apartheid."
posted by dhens at 9:36 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


What's really rich is that Reason's response to Ames's first article CITES THAT ARTICLE ON CISKEI as an example of Reason's anti-apartheid bona fides:

Well, yeah. So? They were wrong about what would or wouldn't destroy apartheid, but it certainly shows a sincere enthusiasm for the end of apartheid. Their angle was that anti-apartheid activists didn't value what a good idea Ciskei was. Reason was wrong, but is that really the point? Is a leaflet praising the racism-free ideal of the Soviet Union actually evidence of pro-racist intent on the part of the leaflet-writer?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:43 AM on July 26, 2014


Sticherbeast: Is a leaflet praising the racism-free ideal of the Soviet Union actually evidence of pro-racist intent on the part of the leaflet-writer?

It's not like Soviets invented the idea that we all should strive for racial equality, and while it is possible to put forth a highly-nuanced endorsement of this particular aspect of Soviet-era Russia, it's also possible to use that nuance to one's advantage in order to engender sympathy toward the Soviets more broadly. I would certainly question the motives of the person authoring this leaflet, even if I agreed narrowly with the content.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2014


You didn't answer my question. We would agree that they are probably Soviet boosters first, and perhaps fairweather friends of a civil rights movement as a result.

But: is that leaflet evidence of pro-racist sentiment?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:04 AM on July 26, 2014


Sticherbeast: But: is that leaflet evidence of pro-racist sentiment?

No, but that's a terribly inapt analogy to what we're talking about here vis-a-vis Ciskei. Forced resettlement into nominally-independent micro-states was not an effort to end apartheid, and Reason saying that they earnestly believed it was doesn't change the fact that it wasn't.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Forced resettlement into nominally-independent micro-states was not an effort to end apartheid, and Reason saying that they earnestly believed it was doesn't change the fact that it wasn't.

To be fair to Reason (I can't believe I'm typing this), the article did not say that the "homelands" policy itself would end apartheid, but that the magical wonder-working powers of capitalism that were springing up in the homelands would.

It's still a ridiculous article, though. If you look at the Reason piece, their support of Lennox Sebe sounds eerily reminiscent of many "free-market" defenses of people like Pinochet:
On page 23, Blundell reports some of the anti-apartheid activists' criticisms of Sebe: He's a dictator, etc. But the caption under his photo on page 24 says "President Lennox Sebe is reviled by critics of apartheid but is leading Ciskei toward the free market." Then there's a pull-quote where Sebe says that what he is doing is "the only salvation for [his] people."

This article was published in 1985, 2 years after Sebe proclaimed himself president for life.

So, no, in the narrowest sense, this Reason piece is not objectively pro-racist. Just pro-"free market" dictatorship. Quelle surprise.
posted by dhens at 10:37 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, but that's a terribly inapt analogy to what we're talking about here vis-a-vis Ciskei. Forced resettlement into nominally-independent micro-states was not an effort to end apartheid, and Reason saying that they earnestly believed it was doesn't change the fact that it wasn't.

The USSR was not created as an effort to eliminate racism, either. The analogy cannot be "inapt" for your stated reason. Neither the USSR nor apartheid South Africa were good, or "worked".

Forced resettlement into nominally-independent micro-states was not an effort to end apartheid, and Reason saying that they earnestly believed it was doesn't change the fact that it wasn't.

You are only making a claim as to Reason's factual correctness with regard to what would or would not end apartheid, and how much Ciskei would benefit its inhabitants.

Can you forward any arguments as to how Reason's trumpeting of Ciskei shows any pro-apartheid intent? Or, is it unimportant to you whether or not there was any pro-apartheid intent?

...

So, no, in the narrowest sense, this Reason piece is not objectively pro-racist. Just pro-"free market" dictatorship. Quelle surprise.

If the argument is that libertarianism produces and enforces racism, no matter the intent of the movement or any particular individual, then that is a separate issue.

However, as we all know, racism is not the same thing as one's intentions.

So, are we resolved that the Ciskei article is not pro-apartheid? It is factually incorrect with regard to what had stood in the way of apartheid, but that is not the same thing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2014


dhens: So, no, in the narrowest sense, this Reason piece is not objectively pro-racist. Just pro-"free market" dictatorship. Quelle surprise.

Yeah, my point here is that I don't see any reason why we should be treating these narrow distinctions as if they're substantive differences.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:48 AM on July 26, 2014


Breaking: Reason just posted a piece responding to Ames's criticism of their February 1976 "Special Revisionism Issue" a little more than an hour ago.
posted by dhens at 10:48 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sticherbeast: Can you forward any arguments as to how Reason's trumpeting of Ciskei shows any pro-apartheid intent? Or, is it unimportant to you whether or not there was any pro-apartheid intent?

By this logic, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby makes sense, because all that matters is what's in the hearts of the corporation owners, or, more at it, what they say is in their hearts. Intent doesn't move mountains or dam rivers, nor can it be seen or felt. At some point, we have to hold people accountable for what their actions accomplish in the real world, not what they think their actions might accomplish under the right circumstances.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:52 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm disappointed, but not that surprised.

Reason is actually a pretty good magazine in spots, and often I find them neither left nor right. I think on a lot of subjects they're full of shit, but they've been good on civil rights in general. And they're hard on democrats and republicans pretty evenly.

That said, their funding by the Koch brothers gives them a major blind spot. And this recent back and forth about their publishing of antisemitic bullshit makes them look like a cornered deer. Admit your mistakes, and move on, gentlemen.

I don't think the core of libertarianism, from what I've seen, is racist or antisemitic. But it often seems rooted in a very selfish, unrealistic worldview.

And the Koch brothers epitomize the "I've got mine, screw you" ethos.
posted by 4midori at 10:56 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Intent is not the same thing as results. That is the one of the most important points of drawing a distinction between the two.

If it doesn't matter at all about intent, then Ames' piece is totally, literally unnecessarily. It certainly wouldn't matter if or how Welch were to apologize (or not apologize). One would need to only know that Reason is a libertarian publication to have an opinion about them and racism.

Either way, it appears that we would agree that the Ciskei piece lacks any detectable pro-apartheid intent, even though Ciskei's policies would have ultimately benefitted those who had already stood to benefit from apartheid. You claim not to care about the detectable intent in Reason's writings, so I guess that's it?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2014


Shorter Matt Welch:

Did Reason Really Publish a "Holocaust Denial 'Special Issue'" in 1976? Of Course Not. But we did publish a special issue in 1976 that had a whole lot of holocaust denial in it. But, hey, we also talk about ending the drug war and stopping police brutality!
posted by tonycpsu at 10:58 AM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


tonycpsu> Shorter Matt Welch:

That response that dhens linked to was actually written by Nick Gillespie, the Fonzie of Freedom.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 11:05 AM on July 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


My bad -- thanks for the correction!
posted by tonycpsu at 11:06 AM on July 26, 2014


Sticherbeast: You claim not to care about the detectable intent in Reason's writings, so I guess that's it?

I didn't say intent is meaningless, I said that what really matters is results.

My subjective reading of the Ciskei piece is that the fate of black South Africans was of minor importance, and that the establishment of a "libertarian" (I'd say anarcho-capitalist) state was what really mattered. Referring to that project as anti-apartheid was simply an effort to further the true goals of the libertarian movement. The real intent with respect to apartheid was neither pro- nor anti-, but the results were very pro-.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:08 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


And, to be clear, I think that not having a strong position on a racist policy is inherently racist -- neutrality on racism is not an acceptable position.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:11 AM on July 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


> is that leaflet evidence of pro-racist sentiment?

It'd be like a news story talking about how the KKK has opened up a new bar-b-que, where the brisket is delicious. When it comes to some things, failure to be anti- is as bad as being being pro-. Especially if

- you're a political movement, advocating a total vision of society,
- you're an idealistic movement, so can't real claim that you're just doing Realpolitik, and
- the thing in question is Apartheid.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:18 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or "what tonycpsu said."
posted by benito.strauss at 11:18 AM on July 26, 2014


Sticherbeast: While the Blundell piece on Ciskei may lack any "detectable pro-apartheid intent," it seems like he went in wanting to find what he was looking for: Capitalism (peace be upon its name) would undermine apartheid. In doing so, he lavished praise on a dictatorial client state of the apartheid government. It was playing into the apartheid government's hands: the National Party wanted to strip the majority of South Africa's inhabitants of their citizenship, and tried to do so by making them citizens of these "homelands" instead. Note that Blundell ends the piece with a bunch of voices saying that, yes, while of course Ciskei is not ideal, it's better than South Africa! So he was essentially supporting separate-but-equal.

Being generous, I would call Blundell a "useful idiot" for apartheid.

On preview, I agree with tonycpsu that it seems, frustratingly, that Blundell is more interested in the establishment of a capitalist utopia than the ending of racial oppression per se.

But getting back to the main topic: Using the Blundell piece as evidence of Reason's anti-apartheid bona fides is weak sauce. Matt Welch would have done better to leave it out from his documentation of Reason's anti-apartheid history.
posted by dhens at 11:19 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sticherbeast: Libertarianism is about strengthening the strongest in society, and when those strongest in society are anti-black, then yes, a libertarian social policy will be racist and anti-black. Since libertarianism (more properly, propertarianism) emphasizes property rights, as per Hale above, then it means enhancing the power of those who have the property already. In apartheid South Africa, that was the National Party and its supporters.
posted by wuwei at 11:22 AM on July 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


I didn't say intent is meaningless, I said that what really matters is results.

You keep conflating racism with intent. The whole point is that many things can produce racist results, irrespective of anybody's conscious intent. That is why we draw a distinction between the two concepts: because they are different, and that difference really matters. If that difference doesn't really matter, then there was no point in Ames' article, nor would there be a point in people criticizing the piece for not expressing the strongest or most correct sentiments towards the end of apartheid.

Either way, the author of that Reason piece certainly thought that places like Ciskei stood a great chance to supplant apartheid, in a positive way. The author obviously though that his an-cap utopia would end racism: he was, of course, wrong, in many of the same ways that the allegedly anti-racist Soviet booster would be wrong.

There is no coherent way to read that piece as expressing anything except anti-apartheid sentiment. The piece not only literally endorses a way of being which was different from apartheid, but it speaks glowingly of how the hated race laws were supposedly being rolled back in Ciskei.

We would both vigorously disagree with this person and that article, as obviously places like Ciskei were not the way to fight apartheid (or more generally better society), but that is a separate issue from whether or not the article is evidence of pro- or anti-apartheid sympathies.

The fact that libertarianism inherently protects and enforces racism is a separate issue, because racism is not the same thing as intent: there are many ways to "be" racist, without any conscious intention to do so.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:26 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Odd that Gillespie notes the archive at unz.com is incomplete, when readers were being directed to that archive to see for themselves Reason's anti-apartheid bona fides.

Almost looks like they'd scrub anything that was embarrassing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:34 AM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Can you forward any arguments as to how Reason's trumpeting of Ciskei shows any pro-apartheid intent?

That's easy.

(1) The establishment of Ciskei was part and parcel of Apartheid. Not different from Apartheid, not something other than Apartheid, but a way of achieving Apartheid by robbing black South Africans of their citizenship. It was not something distinct or other than racist policy; it was in itself racist policy.

(2) Reason was very positive about the establishment of Ciskei.

It follows then that Reason was very positive about a part of Apartheid established to maintain white supremacy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:38 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, there are some people calling themselves Libertarians who do not actually adhere to libertarian principles. They've stolen our name and are ruining our brand and we hate them.

That's hilarious, since the word "Libertarian" was stolen by from the people who invented the word.
One gratifying aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time in my memory, we, "our side", had captured a crucial word from the enemy. Other words, such as "liberal", had originally been identified with laissez-faire libertarians, but had been captured by left-wing statists, forcing us in the 1940s to call ourselves rather feebly "true" or "classical" liberals. "Libertarians", in contrast, had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety. But now we had taken it over, and more properly from the view of etymology; since we were proponents of individual liberty and therefore of the individual's right to his property.
-Murray Rothbard, "The Betrayal of the American Right"

Sometimes I like to call myself a "classical libertarian" just to be annoying.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:41 AM on July 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Remember that old Onion headline "Desperate Vegetarians Declare Cows Plants?" The Ciskei piece could accurately be described as "Desperate Libertarian Declares Apartheid Anti-Apartheid."
posted by tonycpsu at 11:42 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe, you are not talking about pro-apartheid intent. You are only addressing the factual accuracy of whether or not Ciskei was a sufficient deviation/improvement/etc from existing policies. We would all agree that Ciskei was not an improvement, significant or otherwise, on previous policies within apartheid South Africa. We would also, however, have to agree that Ciskei was in fact different from previous instances of apartheid rule - just not in a good way. Hence the characterization upthread of Ciskei as a sort of libertarian laboratory.

Within the Reason article itself, however, the author makes it quite clear that he thinks that Ciskei is bettering the lives of its residents, rolling back race laws, and so forth. He is of course wrong, but he nonetheless sincerely believed that Ciskei is the path to a better life, including the whole notion that it was a Trojan horse which would ultimately destroy apartheid.

The fact that Ciskei arose within apartheid South Africa is a separate issue, and not an especially important one. Whether something occurred before or after apartheid is not really the deciding issue as to its value. De Klerk's release of Mandela (and other ANC prisoners) also occurred within apartheid South Africa. Obviously, releasing Mandela, et al. was a very good thing and a very important step to the end of apartheid, whereas Ciskei was obviously not.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:19 PM on July 26, 2014


You don't have any fucking idea whether Blundell was sincere or not, and neither do I. All we have is his words on a page, words that may very well have been chosen to further his goal of casting the capitalistic policies of Ciskei in a positive light. It's equally believable that he was using anti-apartheid language to make the rest of his piece more palatable to readers.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:29 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


St. Rothbard, as quoted by Pope Guilty: But now we had taken [the word "libertarian"] over, and more properly from the view of etymology; since we were proponents of individual liberty and therefore of the individual's right to his property...

... even if he took that property from someone else by chicanery, or, hell, even if that property is a person.

You gotta just love the "therefore" in that sentence. Is there any ideology more full of hyper-reductionist horseshit than Libertarianism? Freedom with a capital F: it all comes down to property. Other kinds of freedom (like, oh, I dunno, from want, fear, hunger, disease, exploitation...), well they're all the small-F kind. So suck it, takers!

You know what sums up Libertarianism for me? The fact that, whereas across the left spectrum (and even much of the right) we might argue about reparations to slaves and their descendents, Libertarians will actually have a serious debate about reparations for the slave-holders.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:47 PM on July 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


You don't have any fucking idea whether Blundell was sincere or not, and neither do I. All we have is his words on a page, words that may very well have been chosen to further his goal of casting the capitalistic policies of Ciskei in a positive light. It's equally believable that he was using anti-apartheid language to make the rest of his piece more palatable to readers.

So we've finally come around to the fact that the article is apparently anti-apartheid. In order to find explicitly pro-apartheid, pro-racist intent, one would have to assume that the writer had secret, unwritten intentions. Maybe he does! Maybe I do. Maybe you do.

Either way, if you're holding out hope that it was just insincere concern trolling, then what would be the point of ever reading anything from Reason at all ever, even in a critical way? It doesn't seem to really matter to you whether an article presents itself as being pro- or anti-anything. You aren't trusting them anyhow. Why would you care whether or how they would apologize?

Do you think that Ames' original article was pointless, because it was dealing with words on pages, relating to Reason's stated positions on certain issues? After all, you "know" Reason's real intent either way. Reason's political positions are the same either way. Even if Ames couldn't find a single instance of any article ever complimenting the apartheid regime, it would apparently be of little interest to you. So, why argue about it?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2014


Oh, FFS. I said that another interpretation was equally believable, not that I was making your mistake of thinking I had a monopoly on the truth. Intent can't be divided from the printed or spoken word, and it's kind of relevant that Ciskei came about as a consequence of apartheid, and would have ceased to exist without apartheid. Your deference to what you think the author felt in his soul is totally unfounded, and once you remove that, you have no argument at all.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2014


I'm quite surprised to see this kind of apologia coming from someone who comes off as perhaps the single most honest, reasonable libertarian around these parts.

Oh, I'm not a Reason apologist. I find their tendency to print controversial stuff seemingly just to be contrarian to be incredibly counter-productive and embarrassing to the movement. My comment wasn't intended as "it's OK, they might not have really meant it" but instead as "they print a lot of stupid shit for stupid reasons and these sorts of clusterfucks are the result."
posted by Jacqueline at 1:50 PM on July 26, 2014


I had no idea that there was an anarcho-capitalist bantustan, but I suppose neoliberalism at all cost was all the rage in the '80s. It brings to mind Objectivist Katanga, where filibusters and mercenaries set up an attempted libertarian regime with the covert backing of the Belgian former colonial masters.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:28 PM on July 26, 2014


I'm curious of your experiences as someone who has actively participated in the Libertarian party, but describes yourself as "anti-corporation". My guess is that you would have found yourself an outlier. Is that true? I'm genuinely interested in your experiences.

There were a bunch of us in the Seattle area back when I was the Executive Director of the LP of WA but not so many elsewhere, it seems. We did make it into the "24 Types of Libertarians" comic -- I identify soooooooo much with the second row, first column. :)

In my experience, a major reason that more libertarians aren't explicitly anti-corporation is typical economic illiteracy about what distinguishes a corporation from a very large partnership. When most people hear "anti-corporation" they think it means "anti-big-business" or "anti-capitalism" when I actually mean that I want to abolish limited liability and corporate legal personhood. I have a moral objection to sacrificing the rights of real human beings in order to grant special rights to legal fictions.

Given that libertopian fantasies usually include replacing regulations with torts, pointing out that won't work if owners can just hide behind limited liability to avoid paying damages usually brings most libertarians around. The conclusion is pretty straightforward once they've had a chance to think it through and apply some basic libertarian principles.

Historically, capitalism has been the best economic system for generating wealth and reducing poverty, but it took a serious wrong turn when we invented corporations. It's clear now that the moral hazard created by the perverse incentives corporations operate under has put the entire world financial system at risk. Finance is the nervous system of capitalism and thus I am worried that if we do not abolish (or fundamentally reform) the institution of corporations that they will ultimately be responsible for capitalism's downfall. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 2:46 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's hilarious, since the word "Libertarian" was stolen by from the people who invented the word.

I'm starting to think that at this point the Pauls and Kochs and Tea Party have ruined it and we just need to get a new word.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:57 PM on July 26, 2014


ROU_Xenophobe, you are not talking about pro-apartheid intent. You are only addressing the factual accuracy of whether or not Ciskei was a sufficient deviation/improvement/etc from existing policies. ... The fact that Ciskei arose within apartheid South Africa is a separate issue, and not an especially important one.

That would be true if we were talking about some non-Apartheid element of South African policy during Apartheid. If Apartheid South Africa had experimented with, say, drug legalization or externalities-based environmental laws, which they didn't, then it might make sense for a libertarian to write approvingly of those policies while still disapproving of Apartheid.

But the bantustans weren't some non-Apartheid element. They were part of Apartheid, an element of Apartheid. They were an attempt to strip black South Africans of their citizenship and herd them together, against their will, into zones that South Africa would control while pretending that they weren't part of South Africa. Any policies that Ciskei might have had weren't real policies and were liable to be overturned at any moment if doing so served the interests of white South Africans as perceived by the government.

"Ciskei is great because it has more economic freedom" is right up there with "slavery wasn't so bad because the slaves were guaranteed room and board" or "at least everyone in Camp Dora had a job."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:13 PM on July 26, 2014 [12 favorites]


Is there any ideology more full of hyper-reductionist horseshit than Libertarianism? Freedom with a capital F: it all comes down to property.

You should check out geolibertarians!

We believe that the Earth belongs to all of humankind in common. Individuals can own the product of their labor and ideas but have no moral claim to absolute ownership of land or natural resources. Therefore, anyone who wants exclusive use of the Earth's resources must pay society for this privilege. We can then fund our minarchist libertopia entirely through taxes on real property, natural resource extraction, and pollution. This saves the environment by creating a strong economic incentive to reduce sprawl, resource consumption, and pollution. YAY!

Sadly, we are currently a minority in the libertarian movement. :(

Libertarians will actually have a serious debate about reparations for the slave-holders.

Fortunately, they are an even smaller minority. I really don't understand WTF is wrong with those guys. Contrarian douchebags gotta douche, I guess.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:23 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hate to break it to you, Jacqueline, but you might have to consider using the "A" word (anarchism). I mean, that word doesn't have any baggage at all!

Not to mention eco-communitarian anarchism!
posted by mondo dentro at 4:01 PM on July 26, 2014


Wow, Nick Gillespie's response to his mag's promotion of Holocaust denial is really unsatisfying. Are we expected to believe that he has never seen that February 1976 issue of the mag he edits until this very moment? Oookay. Did he know about it before now, then? If so, was he not in the least interested in seeing it for himself before Ames dug it up from their "incomplete" archive?

How many other issues are missing from the Reason archive at unz.org? What are they?

Gillespie's defense - the "scurrilous topic" of Holocaust denial "is not the focus of any of the articles in the issue" - is a laughable fudge. The articles Ames quotes are full of despicable and quite clear Holocaust denialism. That the titles of those articles, and the framing of the "special issue" in general, do everything they can to avoid stating that the Holocaust as most people understand it today never happened is hardly a defense when so many articles are suffused with the shit.

Gillespie says the issue is "embarrassing," and dismisses with a wave the clear, decade-long connections between pro-Nazi activists and his magazine's founders and editors. That's just not gonna fly. At fucking all.
posted by mediareport at 4:18 PM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey, if you're this far down in this thread, you might be interested in seeing someone else who claims the label of Libertarian try to hide from their past.

Rachel Maddow (@ 1m08s): "You wanna see him [Rand Paul] lie?"

This one's more recent (2010), when Paul was going around saying that disallowing racially segregated lunch counters was too great an imposition on property rights. With Paul's presidential ambitions we're going to get a lot more chances to see reporters fail to call him out for either the original statement of lying about it later. What fun.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:57 PM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


I hate to break it to you, Jacqueline, but you might have to consider using the "A" word (anarchism).

I am definitely not an anarchist. I believe that the liberty-optimizing size of government is significantly less than what we have now but still greater than zero.

Here is what I ask all my anarchocapitalist friends: If the only choice a subsistence farmer in Somalia gets to make today is who gets to eat -- him, because he needs energy to work in the fields, or his children, because they're hungry and crying -- is he "free" just because there isn't a functional government around to tax and regulate him? If the warlords come to drive him off his land, is he "free" because they were private thugs instead of government soldiers?

To me, libertarianism is about creating a world in which people's life outcomes are due to their individual choices instead of external circumstances outside of their control. To that end, we need a government large and powerful enough to defend people against force and fraud (e.g. courts, police, a small national defense) and create incentives that internalize market externalities (e.g. environmental protections, workplace safety, public health). I might also go for a universal basic income as an economically efficient replacement for the hodgepodge of welfare programs and wage regulations we have now.

I'm not against ALL government, just MOST government. I am especially against government regulations and programs that create perverse incentives or are otherwise economically inefficient. Even when they're spending taxpayer money on something I don't support I'd still prefer they not do it in a stupid and counterproductive way!
posted by Jacqueline at 5:01 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Surely this masterpiece will distract everyone from the controversy!
posted by tonycpsu at 7:21 PM on July 26, 2014


Jacqueline: create incentives that internalize market externalities (e.g. environmental protections, workplace safety, public health)

Isn't "regulations" the word you're looking for here?

I'm not against ALL government, just MOST government.

Looking at the list of functions you still want government to support, it appears you're actually for a majority of it, but you just want it to be much more efficient so we can pay less for it. The thing is, aside from defense and safety net programs, the agencies so-called small government types tend to want to gut or eliminate are rounding errors in our budget. We really are "an insurance company with an army" when it comes to where the money goes, and once you say you're open to a UBI, you're really just saying you want a smaller insurance company and a smaller army.

Which is fine! I think even a lot of people who call themselves "liberals" would agree in the abstract. But how much of a UBI do you want? Enough to raise everyone up to the federal poverty level? Well then enjoy your 60%+ average tax rate -- though maybe in your ideal world with a smaller defense department that drops down to 50% or so.

The point here is that once you recognize that we can't just let people starve or rely on private charity (which puts you well above most self-described libertarians), you hit the cold reality that however you structure the safety net, it costs a shitload of money to take care of people. I'd be very interested to hear how you think you could do things more efficiently.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:05 PM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


"To me, libertarianism is about creating a world in which people's life outcomes are due to their individual choices instead of external circumstances outside of their control. To that end, we need a government large and powerful enough to defend people against force and fraud (e.g. courts, police, a small national defense) and create incentives that internalize market externalities (e.g. environmental protections, workplace safety, public health). I might also go for a universal basic income as an economically efficient replacement for the hodgepodge of welfare programs and wage regulations we have now."

While I share that ideal — outcomes due to free choices — where I disagree is that I believe that the abstract organizing principles of systemic capitalism are not always adequate in evaluating social goods. There are a lot of biases within capitalism, i.e. "market failures," like that in a lot of markets the most efficient market solution is a monopoly. Or the general tendency to prioritize short-term gains over long-term costs, or the fundamental inability to account for systemic risks.

I mean, Silicon Valley is kind of a great example of the limits of "the market," in that there's billions of dollars being thrown around over networked laundry service compared to the underfunding of malaria cures. No sane society would say that they're more valuable, but accepting the market as a genuine proxy for social values would lead to that conclusion.

(The other thing that annoys me about the rhetoric of the market is that it ignores that the growth of modern markets coincided with the modern nation state, and libertarians often treat that like coincidence or evidence that pure libertarianism has always been corrupted by democratic statism.)

One of the other fundamental problems is that libertarians don't recognize that most regulations come about because they're cheaper at the moment than having the public pay to assume a responsibility — like, we could have significantly less labor regulation if people were guaranteed a much more extensive social safety net. Ideally, it should cost very little to quit a job or fire a worker, but the reality is that paying for a net of that size both would require a significant increase in the level of taxation and would come with at least some waste. (And, as mentioned, people are often a poor judge of what's wasteful — it's possible to conceive of a hypothetical welfare where there would still be a net economic benefit even if, say, a third of the recipients were fraudulently receiving welfare, thus justifying the cost. Or who knows if having the $1 million humanities endowment for romance novels will enable a large enough corpus to create 10 more Danielle Steel-level authors, who, by the market estimation, has added well more than $1 million in value to the U.S. economy.)

The other fundamental problem is the overestimation of unconstrained choices, generally through normative narratives. I mean, think about something that would be a decent example of broad range of choices available, like buying shoes. There's lots of kinds, and there's the assumption that an individual is free to choose. Except that there are myriad social costs for, say, a man who wants to wear high heels, or a woman who wants to wear, well, women's shoes are always judged so there are costs no matter what she wears. And there's no notion that you can be a perfectly informed contracting party — you have no idea what the exact costs of the shoes are, either to the shoe manufacturer or to you as the consumer. You can make an educated guess (and shoe buyers implicitly do), but your choices are constrained in any number of ways, from materials to labor practices to budget to fashion… And is the market even close to perfectly served? No, any month's worth of AskMe will demonstrate that there are a lot of people who have trouble finding the shoes they want at a price they can afford. Coinciding with those constraints is a general lack of power for any individual person's choices to affect the shoe market as a whole.

I used to be a libertarian, and I still agree with some of the tenets, like "We should have a government that is as small as possible." I just think that the "as possible" part isn't necessarily well-solved by markets and is quite a lot larger than what most libertarians imagine.
posted by klangklangston at 6:55 PM on July 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


I am definitely not an anarchist. I believe that the liberty-optimizing size of government is significantly less than what we have now but still greater than zero.

Oh, the tangled semantic webs we weave! I say almost exactly the same sort of thing, only about why I am definitely not a libertarian!

"Anarchy" no more means "zero government" than does "libertarianism". Indeed, I (slightly) prefer the word "anarchy" because "libertarianism" is now irretrievably broken--it's become the label of a well-funded ideology aimed at defending private property, pure and simple. But, as implied in my first comment in this thread, where I crossed out both "anarchist" and "libertarian" in referring to myself, both words have been successfully demonized--and, as you demonstrate, even among those who are naturally predisposed in their favor.

"Anarchy" and "democracy" were used somewhat interchangeably during the revolutionary period of the late 18th century. It's worth taking a pause to let that sink in. Likewise, "anarchy" and "libertarianism" were synonymous in the late 19th century. It's a testament to the power of the ruling elites to distort and demonize that dictionaries now define "anarchy" as a state of lawlessness and disorder.
posted by mondo dentro at 6:48 AM on July 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


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