23 Nov 2008

Are Libertarians Superlative in More Ways Than Political Analysis?

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In an MR thread discussing Paul Samuelson’s (rather hypocritical) condemnation of libertarians, someone calling himself goodnessOfFit declared:

As someone who identifies with libertarians more than the other guys I will say this. For some reason it (along with Objectiveism and Austrian Economics) attracts some of the rudeist a**holes you will ever meet online or in person. I am not sure which way the causal arrow runs or what the selection mechanism might be but man is it true.

Besides Mr. Fit’s refusal to drop e‘s after certain words–he’s a non-conformist!–we have to ask, does his claim fit?

I think that if it does fit for a particular person–i.e. if a certain person can truthfully say that some of the rudest people he or she has met online or in person are libertarians–then it is because the person in question is attracted to libertarian ideas, and so hangs out at the relevant websites. Thus, the most dogmatic and cocksure people, will necessarily be hardcore libertarians (or Objectivists, or subscribers to the Austrian school of economics).

I mean, as in-your-face as you think some libertarian commentators are, are they really worse than people at a union rally? Check out the comments at Mark Thoma’s blog regarding a recent Tyler Cowen article on the New Deal. What’s funny is that (a) these people accuse Cowen of being a libertarian and (b) they are extreme jerks about it.

So I think what is happening is that goodnessOfFit is embarrassed by obnoxious libertarians more than obnoxious interventionists commenting on Tyler Cowen. And if you went to any other site discussing political issues, you would find the most “extreme” people being complete jerks and questioning the honor and intelligence* of the “less pure” people.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that I think libertarians need to study the tactics of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and leaders of the civil rights movement in the U.S. If the majority has no problem violating (what you perceive to be) your basic rights, then you need to change their minds (or leave the country). And you don’t do that through name calling or, even worse, blowing stuff up or hurting people.

* In contrast, it is completely acceptable to accuse one’s intellectual opponents of temporary insanity.

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