“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

libertarians, rally round! our freedoms are being threatened

LI was reading the Elle article in the NYT for professional reasons – you never know when you can use information about a magazine’s masthead changes – when we were pulled up short – or perhaps the word is socked in the jaw – by the following graf:

The September issue includes a new column by Nina Garcia, the fashion director whose manicured claws appear on “Project Runway,” and some intriguing articles, notably Megan Deem’s critical report on Myfreeimplants.com, a Web site that connects women with men who would like to sponsor their breast implants.”


And people say that American men are uncharitable!

This put a whole new light on the current battle, by the administration, to stifle the expansion of health care benefits to kids before it threatens to make them healthy. I think a congressman from LI’s great state put it best:

“Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, said the bill embodied the Democrats’ “vision for the future: socialized medicine and Washington-run health care.”

“The bill uses children as pawns in a cynical attempt to make millions of Americans completely reliant on government for their health care needs,” Mr. Sessions said.”

Can you believe those socialists? Children, innocent children, who desperately want the mumps, measles, tuberculosis, rickets, broken bones and other minor and major injuries to either carry them off or be healed solely by the magic of the marketplace are now being forced into totalitarian healthiness by the Dems. And then, right there in an article on Elle, we see that the demographic which, by all accounts, gives the Republicans its base of support – men – bestirring themselves from the bottom of their souls to contribute to a charitable cause – breast implants – without expanding the government. The libertarian in me joins with the humanitarian in dancing around an inner tree of liberty at the very thought.

6 comments:

love and terrorism said...

Roger,

I like the way that you play with the tree of liberty metaphor, though the image of dancing around it made me think about the different types of political action that are associated with libertarianism, and the ways that this plays out in different political cultures. For example, I often imagine the stereotypical American libertarian as a paranoid southerner, the Timothy McVay type hoarding guns and waiting for the UN to invade etc; however, I’m Australian and if you asked me what Australian libertarianism would stereotypically look like it would be the intellectual and creative sub-cultures that emerged in Sydney during the 70s, and that still have an important influence on Sydney intellectual culture.

That said, ideological libertarianism isn’t politically influential here; there is an anarchist scene, though that’s mostly attached to syndicalist union movements which for the moment aren’t influential. I suspect that in part these different libertarianisms are typical of a distinction between a characteristically anglo political context and an American one. For example, our conservative party, the Liberal party, has a stronger affinity with Millsian utilitarianism than it does with the discourse of individual rights; individual liberties aren’t even embodied in our constitution and very few people care. Problems of social and economic management are the most common discourses in liberal-conservative politics.

Though the stereotypical libertarian identity doesn’t have a recognizable political role here, I think there might be an important affinity with the figure of the ‘hick’, which as far as I know is stereotypically associated with the stereotypical enclave-dwelling American libertarian that I mentioned above. In the case of Australia I’d say that our equivalent of the hick is the figure of the ‘westie.’ Actually, this is called different things in different Australian states but generally it means that if you don’t live near the coast of Australia, which in New South Wales is in the east, then you’re probably working or lower-middle class and unsophisticated; also, like the hick, generally the stereotypical westie is white.

In Australia, this demographic is politically influential, and has played an important role in the success of the conservative government here for the past 10 years, but they can’t be identified with ideological libertarianism. As I said, this ideology is very minor here. Rather, for me the common element with the American hick is in their relation to the nexus of cultural and economic capital. That is, often conservative politics capitalizes on a perception that the lower-middle class has been excluded from the pleasures of cultural capital that are enjoyed by a class of politicized sophisticates. I think that this idea of an ‘elitist sophisticated political class’ is probably common to most liberal-democracies

I’m not sympathetic to America’s particular brand of libertarianism, but I want to understand what you’re really talking about when you talk about it. As far as I know, ideological libertarianism even in America is a pretty minor influence; though it shares some things with conservatism and populism it isn’t nearly as influential as either. Because both of these latter ideologies fit much more neatly with the ideological constellation of modern liberal-democracies I wonder whether defining yourself against libertarianism provides a way for you to avoid some of the dangers of radical critique. For example, I know that Hillary Clinton is subject to a lot of caricature, but do you have any opinion about what kind of role the ‘hick’ social set would have on her presidency?

roger said...

Actually, L and T., I am one of those American southern hicks, born and bred, although I haven't shot a gun in anger at a copperhead in some time, now. Really, I play around with libertarian, a phrase that once was, as you point out, a carrier of a real dissident meaning - for instance, in the 1970s, the libertarians seriously debated the whole question of whether large chunks of the U.S. shouldn't be given back to the Indian nations.

However, that was long ago and far away, and libertarian now has increasingly come to mean Republican, but crazier. Thus, you can count on libertarians, even anti-war ones, to make insane attacks on environmentalists, or swap around their fave folk tale of how Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Hitler (from the banning of DDT, a tale that the lib.s get so fantastically wrong, a tale of state sponsored pesticide control, for one thing, and property rights violations, for another, and selection pressure put on the carrier of the malaria virus, that the watermark of big corporation support - the vile petro-chemical industries - becomes pretty quickly visible underneath the tease) that one can only despair. On the best of days, I think slogans about the scale of government are, on the face of them, untrue. The scale of government depends utterly on the context we are talking about, so small or large are senseless values - it is like claiming that every male should be obligated to only wear small shirts.

But mostly I am teasing that constituency of the charitable, private supporters of breast augmentation and the supporters of gutting government sponsored children's healthcare. I have my suspicion that the Venn diagram of those two groups would capture a lot of dittoheads and Instapundit freaks.

roger said...

ps- as for Hillary, I don't know. I can't even guess, at the moment. I think that there are things in time's womb, at the moment, that are going to effect the 2008 election in surprising ways. Hurricanes, for instance. Weather events. But perhaps not. I think a surprise issue may be the price of food, which hasn't really been an issue in the U.S. since 1979. We'll see.

Scruggs said...

Roger, I've long suspected that your animus towards libertarians comes mostly from too much exposure to low rent media personalities, the ones who quote a little Ayn Rand as they masticate the tired bigotries of the paranoid right; the bedbug scholars with an axe to grind over the Civil War and the free market breast augmenters. To a large extent, I can't say I fault you. I loathe them as well. Now they've started calling themselves anarchists, too, in addition to wheezing out claims to be "classic liberals". Some even call themselves socialists. But they're the same regardless of what they call themselves. They're bootlickers in the morning and bullies in the evening. They have no claim to an ideology. All the little seekers after state power are trendies of the worst kind. They'd adopt whatever they thought would get them there.

And, though you don't do it, there's a lot of tendentious misrepresentation coming from people who want to further marginalize anyone still capable of moral reasoning, whatever ideology they bring to the table. It's a pity because there are still libertarians who can do that real, empathetic thinking.

love and terrorism said...

Roger,

My criticism of your position is based on the Nietzschian observation that anarchism is generally ‘one of the worst movements of resentment’, which is why it tends or tended to be the ‘agrarian’ equivalent to socialism. Official libertarianism is one of the means for the conservative political class to tap into that base, and to surreptitiously wedge them apart from their ‘singularity’, in Badiou’s terms. That’s why conservatism is a better target than libertarianism. As long as your enemy is ‘the libertarians’, you’re not critiquing the base of the political problem or trying to understand how conservative-capitalist ends are translated into political means.

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