The Libertarian Defense League v. George Will — George Will bizarrely characterizes libertarianism as “faux conservatism.” Have libertarians ever tried to pass off their ideology as conservative? Are gay marriage, legalized heroin, open markets for prostitution and so forth easily confused for conservatism? Someone please explain this to me.
In any case, the libertarian view is not “that freedom exists where government compulsion does not,” as Will puts it. If my next door neighbor puts a gun to my head, dresses me in a latex body suit, and chains me to the pool table in his rec room, my freedom no longer exists, and government compulsion didn't have anything to do with it. The libertarian view is just that government compulsion is not morally special. If it's wrong for my neighbor to force me to do things I wouldn't volunteer to do, then it's wrong for the government too, and for the same reasons. After all, the government is just a bunch of folks like me and my neighbor.
Will goes on to argue that libertarians make a fetish of freedom in a way that fails to face the reality of conflicting political values, such as freedom, equality and order. Well, these don't seem to me to conflict. Freedom is about being unconstrained by others to do what you like as long as you don't use violence to keep others from doing what they like. Order is just the efficient maintenance of the peace that freedom entails. And the only kind of equality that matters morally is equality of violent power over others. We should all be as equal as is possible in having no (or as little as is really necessary) violent power over others. If everyone is equal in violent power such that no one can coerce others, then there is order, and everyone is free. Ta da!
Of course, the trick is how you keep people from coercing others by allowing some people (police) to have special powers to use pre-emptive and retaliatory violence, but without allowing this power to be abused? And how do you defend your borders against agressors without a big expensive military? And how do you pay for it if no one is allowed to just take your money, whether you like it or not? Good questions, all of which have interesting anwers!
Sullivan has reconsidered his suggestion that Johhny Taliban springs from the corrupt mores of those blue Gore-voting states. But he does so not because the suggestion is full-on stupid, but because Mr. Walker is in fact a right-wing extremist. In the end Sullivan holds fast, reasoning that the only authentic rebellion against liberal permissiveness is illiberal authoritarianism. He concludes:
… the link between his chosen lifestyle and the culture in which he was born is still valid, I think.
The link is what, Andrew? That the culture in which he was born didn't flat out prohibit Walker's eventual choices? As Daschle might put it, I'm disappointed in Andrew's sloppy thinking. Walker is one guy. He is not a representative sample of Marin County. I know the first rule of punditry is to make wild generalizations on the basis of your own experience, and I guess it carries over naturally to wild generalizations on the basis of some other guy's experience. But hasty generalization remains a canonical fallacy.
I know folks with permissive parents from permissive places who are conservative/liberal activists (take your pick). I know folks with strict parents from conservative places who are themselves permissive/strict (take your pick). So what! Sullivan's misplaced eagerness to use Walker as a bludgeon against “permissiveness,” liberalism, and bluehood is mystifying.
I guess when you see cracks in the walls of hegemony, you beat at them with anything you can grab.
Andrew Sullivan won't rest until the last liberal is smoked out of its cave! Geesh, was he beaten as a child by hippies? Sullivan near enough gets an intellectual hernia straining to map Johnny Walker/Mike Spann onto the dubious Blue/Red electoral division. It's really just dumb. Where was Timothy McVeigh from again?
(Upstate New York, it turns out.. But you know what I'm getting at.)
Good essay by Claire Wolfe arguing against national IDs.
I just now see that my previous points echo many made by Andrew Sullivan in his posts about Fisk's Fisted Face. Well, great minds… (though I don't have Sullivan's unstoppable urge to grab each dumb statement by someone on the left and hold it aloft as a representative example of the inner depravity of the left as such.)
Unlike some, I feel sorry for Robert Fisk for getting the crap kicked out of him. It's just callous to take pleasure in a man being beaten bloody. And it's plain repulsive when a generally thoughtful person like Glenn Reynolds calls the beating “well-deserved.” (Tell me it's just macho bluster, Prof.!)
But it's repulsive when Fisk calls his beating well-deserved, too, as he does here:
And I realised there were all the Afghan men and boys who had attacked me who should never have done so but whose brutality was entirely the product of others, of us of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war and then armed and paid them again for the “War for Civilisation” just a few miles away and then bombed their homes and ripped up their families and called them “collateral damage”.
So I thought I should write about what happened to us in this fearful, silly, bloody, tiny incident. I feared other versions would produce a different narrative, of how a British journalist was “beaten up by a mob of Afghan refugees”.
And of course, that's the point. The people who were assaulted were the Afghans, the scars inflicted by us by B-52s, not by them. And I'll say it again. If I was an Afghan refugee in Kila Abdullah, I would have done just what they did. I would have attacked Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.
This kind of exculpatory reasoning is disturbing, as it denies people any meaningful sort of self-determination and moral responsibility. To whatever extent Fisk is right about the West having harmed the Afghans, Fisk himself has done nothing. He is not a symbol of us any more than a randomly chosen Afghan is a symbol of them. The assailants did not know who he was. They had no warrant for believing him to be a cause of their grievances. They lashed out irrationally, wrongly.
Fisk, who wishes to insulate his assailants from responsibility, manages to insult them instead, and us, by casting them as mere conduits for the West's brutal agency. Fisk says they “never should have done so,” but it's not clear that he believes there was a real choice. In context, it sounds rather like “the world never should have been such that they felt they had to.” It is surely a virtue to sympathize with others and to strive to know what drives them. It's no virtue, however, to sympathize so intensely that you would strip autonomy from your objects of sympathy in order to spite what they hate. If someone does something awful and wrong, at least give them the dignity of having done it of their own volition. If they are brutal, let them own their brutality. The West may be the source of some misery, but it doesn't therefore have a monopoly on causing it.
Apologies for the dead air. I've been a bit busy to blog. Thanks to those of you concerned that I was dead.
Bad Sex Awards! — The year's most notably execrable passages of sordid prose. Includes Jonathan Franzen, whose honored passage contains such pungent wonders as
He was kneeling at the feet of his chaise and sniffing its plush minutely, inch by inch, in hopes that some vaginal tang might still be lingering eight weeks after Melissa Paquette had lain here.
(Link from Arts & Letters Daily.)
Man, so close!