Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What This Free Market Needs is Some More Virtue, Part II (JM)

Must... Destroy... Milton Freedman...
By Wil Wilkinson

I would like to take this time to appreciate the fact that sometimes I agree with crazy libertarians. It is totally funny that in a fairly major publication they misspelled Milton Friedman’s name. Though I bet if he read this, he’d also do the crazy market-destroying robot pretend thing about me as well. But let’s hit the other side of the argument.

Benjamin Storey & Jenna Silber Storey: “The moral vacuity of dogmatic libertarianism is poisonous to public life.” Translation:

Libertarianism is dangerous because it discourages juvenile romantic attachment to higher things — meaningful things like Honor, Virtue, and the indescribable joy of sacrificing one’s life to the service of the American Volksreich. All libertarians care about is superficial shit like not starving, living a long time, and being creative and happy. Blah blah blah. But, really, what’s the point of living to 200 if all you do is enjoy yourself the whole time? I mean, don‘t you want to know what it is like to kill a man? DON’T YOU WANT TO TASTE BLOOD!? Besides, virtue.

Libertarianism sounds awesome! Where can I get me some of that?! Oh, I just need to stop caring about other people? Assume that things will work out for the best if we just leave things up to individual creativity? Hmm... well what if someone who has no resources really wants to better themselves, but can't get out of debt or work their way to the grand utopia that is Libertaria? What? Shut up and enjoy myself? Well... okay.

Vote John McCain.

Oh, goodness that’s not fair! But, really, that whole thing is just as embarrassing as misspelling ‘Friedman’. I am more and more coming to the conclusion that National Greatness Conservatism, like all quasi-fascist movements, is based on a weird romantic teenager’s fantasies about what it means to be a grown up. The fundamental moral decency of liberal individualism seems, to the unserious mind that thinks itself serious, completely insipid next to very exciting big boy ideas about shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue, and (most of all) power. And reading Aristotle in Greek.

Seriously, it made me chuckle, but how deeply condescending are intellectual libertarians. Seriously, their banner magazine is called Reason. Replace “duty, glory, virtue, and (most of all) power” with “market, freedom, individual and (most of all) money” and there you have it. Also replace “Aristotle” with “Bentham, Friedman, or Ayn Rand” and replace “in Greek” with “in the bathtub, listening to minimalist music while admiring that spiffy manicure you got earlier today.”

I sometimes think that liberal individualism is something like the intellectual and moral equivalent of the best modernist design — spare, elegant, functional — but hard to grasp or truly appreciate without a cultivated sense of style, without a little discerning maturity. National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire. Only the most vulgar tuck in next to that fire, light a fat cigar, and think they’ve really got it all figured out. But I’m afraid that’s pretty much the kind of thing you get at the Committee on Social Thought. If you declaim the importance of virtue loudly enough, you don’t have to actually think.

The only question I have is, is this more pretentious than it is silly? I mean, it’s both, by the barrel load, but if we could only give it one award “Most Pretentious Paragraph of All Time” or “Silliest Paragraph of All Time” which would it be? Oh screw it, let’s just enjoy it for what it is. Liberal individualism is “the best modernist design”, the thinking man’s apartment of intellectual disciplines, really… I seriously imagine these people sitting around, “By god, our intellectual ethos is so efficient. We needn’t bother with details, like practical effects, the utterly unfree yoke of the market or the possibility that like the so-called “insipid” belief in virtue that is equally insane to believe that if we just leave individuals up to their own reckoning that we will end up with the best and most just outcome. The truth is, I do like freedom (and also a decent conception of you’re crazy minimalist apartment), but of course if you had it your way, most people would have minimalist, modernist apartments without such luxuries as clean water, heat and food. But hey, that’s because of market regulations and distortions, not the fact that a pure market system is actually stacked against most individuals.

I think the conception of a conservatives apartment is kind of adorable. Let’s explore this a bit further. A big government liberal would live in a giant, hippie commune where individual creativity was oppressed and no electronic gadgetry would exists, because innovation only comes from markets; a member of the Labour Party would live in a small studio apartment, with a feather bed and a manservant; Green Party members would live a fantasy land filled with made up evil creatures like dragons and supercobras, it would also be powered by the burning of bras; members of the Whig party would live in a tiny dollhouse and drink tea out of tiny cups; and members of the World Party, well… there is no World Party, it is only an idea. And now I am done, because even the small amount of time listening to insanely wrongheaded people disagree has probably not been terribly worthwhile.

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