Wednesday, April 18, 2012

10 Bits of Libertarian In-Fighting and Intrigue

Yesterday was Tax Day, but on Thursday, May 17 (8pm), I’ll host the first in a new series of onstage bar events called the Dionysium (at Muchmore’s Bar, 2 Havemeyer St. near the Bedford Ave. stop in Williamsburg) – and at this inaugural one, Reason editor Brian Doherty will speak about his new book Ron Paul: The Man and the Movement He Inspired

More details to come soon – and the events won’t always be libertarian in nature – but here are ten bits of libertarian controversy we might want to chat about next month (and by now Brian surely knows how much the Paulites and Reasonoids fight with each other, which I hadn’t really known about until the past two years or so – though maybe some of the neoconservatives will at least let up on Paul a bit after he endorsed the idea of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem):

An Associated Press article by Michael Hill today notes my plan (no doubt shared by many) to vote for Ron Paul in New York’s Republican primary on Tuesday – and my expectation that I’ll vote for Gary Johnson, not Romney, in November.

•Bizarre, cryptic blog entries, one by Lew Rockwell, hint at a Cato Institute scandal that will take down Ed Crane – yet heal the ancient rift between the Kochs, Cato, and the Mises Institute to boot – possibly with a crime involved.  That’s one artfully-targeted scandal.  And, no, I have no idea what they’re talking about. 

•The aforementioned Doherty quotes a recent blog entry of mine at length in his summary of the debate among and with “liberal-tarians” (hereinafter referred to by the shorter nickname BHLs, or “bleeding-heart libertarians,” which shall be deployed with shameless imprecision) on the (controversial but non-scandalous) Cato-Unbound blog.  That blog entry of mine ended up getting me criticized by both a Catholic libertarian who thought it caved completely to the BHLs and by a gay-friendly libertarian who thought I was too dismissive of transsexuals.  It’s tough keeping everyone happy.

•On Cato-Unbound, the debate has entered a Conversation phase, featuring another fine jab from David Friedman, a reply from Zwolinski and Tomasi encouraging a bit of mushiness, a still more impatient jab from Friedman, and a reply from Zwolinski that frankly leaves me worried he thinks the problem with political thinkers is that they haven’t spent enough time worrying about the poor. 

Really?  Is that the problem?  Next, you’ll tell me it’s high time someone tried thinking about economics in terms of labor for a change.  And, hey, maybe the problem with debates over resource use is that no one has thought about our impact on Mother Earth yet.  (Just stop or you’ll replicate the whole decline from nineteenth- into twentieth-century liberalism, and we did that disaster already.)

•Doherty may have supplied the best evidence that libertarians like Hayek are too mushy and unprincipled to be much of a safeguard against statism when he noted that Barney Frank quotes Hayek in defense of government.  I’m not joking when I say BHLs ought to think about that for a while before opening their mouths again (or dismissing more rigid Randian/Rothbardian-type formulations of the philosophy – as Rothbard once said in defense of anarcho-capitalism, we tried “limited government” already and it didn’t last).

•I do, however, commend John Tomasi for putting out his consensus-seeking, left-meets-right book Free Market Fairness just as Bill O’Reilly announces (on his April 11 show) that this presidential election is one between “a free-marketeer and a social justice liberal.”  America needs this book right now, clearly (dangerous as it may be to play into the hands of a President who likes to talk about “fairness”). 

I’m inclined to think, contra Tomasi and Zwolinski, though
– and contra Rawls himself – that neither my real nor imagined position in a social system should have any effect on my evaluation of that system.  Rawls takes that to mean we should embrace something akin to agnostic randomness in forming the rules.  I say just soldier on and think of utility, not “fair”-sounding rules.  It’s not about me.  Life is utilitarian.  Life is not a game.

Once we realize that, we should look back upon the Tomasi book as the capstone and finale for the BHL chapter in political history, not a beginning.  Time, perhaps, to move on to an even bigger-tent solution that does not fetishize Rawls, the right, liberalism, or the left.  (In the meantime, I notice some anarcho-capitalist jokers I know – with whom I’ll drink tonight at Desmond’s on 29th and Park, if you care to join us – briefly parodied the BHL movement by renaming their own Facebook page “Left-Libertarians for Social Justice.”  It does sound a little ridiculous when you put it that way, doesn’t it?)

•O’Reilly’s comment may mean America needs the book, but not everyone needs Bill O’Reilly.  Take Joe Muto, for example.  He’s the O’Reilly staffer turned “mole” inside Fox for who was fired last week.  He also sat right next to my cubicle (Fox really isn’t glamorous – he got that right) in 2010, when I was working at Fox. 

I wish I could say I have enough dirt to become “the mole beneath the mole,” but mainly I just remember Muto’s conversations with the funny O’Reilly staffer sitting next to him, who would wax philosophical about things like learning life’s most important lessons from G.I. Joe.  (“I learned not to approach strange dogs.  It saved my life because I knew to put my hand against the door in a fire and see if it’s hot.  I learned how to treat a woman by watching Destro interact with the Baroness.”)  He sold me Aqua Teen Hunger Force Live tickets.

Give that guy a radio show and the world won’t need O’Reilly or Gawker.  Perhaps not even G.I. Joe, not that I want society to become unmoored from its traditions.

•You can sort of hear the Stosselness in the more low-key retort to Muto from former John Stossel staffer Andrew Kirell over at Mediaite, for whom Kirell now writes.

•Of course, Stossel himself is not so low-key as to have avoided having to apologize to ABC for saying it “sucks” to work there and be a libertarian (I was in that very situation for six years, but I can’t really complain too much).  More important than all this bickering, though: there’s a big stupid government to get rid of, and Stossel has a new book out about it, called No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails – But Individuals Succeed.

•No sooner to do I write a blog entry semi-defending John Derbyshire after National Review fired him for racism than they have to let another guy go mere days later when he’s outed as an outright white nationalist who dreams of fostering “whitopias.”  Crime stats and the like notwithstanding, let the record show clearly that I want a future in which people of all colors are nerds with robot butlers.  Getting there. 

I still sort of wish NR had salvaged eccentric but witty Derb, but the white nationalist guy is surely a volk too far.  It was sort of funny to see how brief Rich Lowry’s blog entries cutting them both loose were, though.  Has to have been an awkward week.  Onward and upward. 

P.S. This is not exactly a libertarian issue, but I felt a bit betrayed and insulted by food recently.  I had to overcome some real uneasiness to order an appetizer with the suspicious name cordon bleu balls.  And, sure enough, the instant my fork touched one, hot white fluid exploded all over my shirt.  I almost think this was some chef’s idea of a joke.

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