Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Um, who's missing here?

New York magazine has a long article out, "The Trouble With Liberty," which surveys the modern libertarian movement. It has some criticisms, but I thought the article generally did a pretty good job.

The author, Christopher Beam, explains where libertarians become illuminated to their brand of politics: "Ayn Rand has been called the “gateway drug” to libertarianism, but many converts keep toking well into adulthood. Her novels, including 1943’s The Fountainhead and 1957’s Atlas Shrugged, sell more than 800,000 copies a year. Other libertarians credit their conversion to Hayek, fellow Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (Ron Paul’s personal fave), American free-marketer Milton Friedman, or Austrian-influenced American anarcho-capitalist and father of modern libertarianism Murray Rothbard."

Those suggestions all seem useful, but when I went to college in the 1970s and discovered my political identity as (more or less) something called a "libertarian," ILLUMINATUS! had a bigger effect on me than anything else.

I'm guessing the book influenced other folks' political thoughts, too. Dan Clore, in his list of "Essential Science Fiction and Fantasy for Libertarians," writes that "Robert Anton Wilson probably ranks as the quintessential libertarian science fiction writer."

6 comments:

michael said...

RAW once said he thought Rand turned around and invented Objectivism as an atheistic religion to compete with the atheistic religion that killed her family members.

For sombunall of what RAW thought of Austrian economics, see the New Libertarian interview from Sept 5, 1976.

RAW seems more radical in general that any of the acknowledged-by-the-likes-of New York mag's "libertarians." Chomsky has often accepted the term "libertarian socialist." RAW's politics seem much closer to Chomsky's (who is almost totally marginalized in mainstream US media, but NOT in the rest of the world); the right-libertarians had ideas that RAW thought needed more of a hearing in the mass marketplace of ideas in the US; however, he thought the right-libertarians could care less about the poor, and that their ideas about regulations protecting the commons and the poor and disenfranchised had been shown to be demonstrably wrong...RAW was so radical he thought land/rent/banks/money were questionable ideas. I don't see much of that in Rand/Rothbard/Hayek/Mises/Friedman...which is why comsumers of mainstream media get to read about THEM as "libertarians," I suspect.

michael said...

Aye yay yay! I meant to say the right libertarians probably COULDN'T care less about the poor, although they paid lip service, certainly.

supergee said...

Another obvious omission is Robert A. Heinlein.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Supergee,

I wish I had said that. When I was in high school, still trying to figure out my political identity, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" was my favorite Heinlein novel, and one of my favorite books.

Michael,

I agree with many of RAW's critiques of right-wing libertarianism, but I disagree with RAW that big business is as much of a threat as big government. There is an element of coercion in government largely absent in the world of business. Whatever you think of Microsoft, it can't force you to use Windows (I am typing these words on a Linux laptop.) Whatever you think of Walmart, it can't force you to shop there instead of Target or Kmart or Meijer, or draft you to serve as a store greeter.

michael said...

Tom: good points, but what about when ITT was having "problems" whith Chile's democratically elected President, c.1972? Or how about United Fruit's "holdings" in Guatemala: who did they prevail upon to help them? There are literally hundreds of similar examples. Ever read IBM and the Holocaust? The State and Multinationals act together.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Michael: I take your points, but in all of those cases you cited, the involvement of the state was crucial. That's where the violence and the coercion comes from.