Saturday, January 21, 2012

Can libertarians "claim" RAW?

Richard Metzger's contribution to RAW Week at  BOING BOING has a passage on Robert Anton Wilson's political philosophy:

"There's some confusion about what his political philosophy was like. Wilson is always claimed by the Libertarians because he was against people being arrested for victimless crimes, but the Libertarians won't tell you that RAW also was a strong proponent of the "basic income guarantee" which would make him more of a Socialist than Libertarian, of course, but really he was neither. He wasn't deluded by any political system is perhaps the best way to put it)."

It's true that Wilson favored a basic income guarantee, and later in life he also expressed support for government provided health care for all, something Metzger could have cited to help prove his case. And yes, he broke with mainstream libertarians in certain ways. (See the long interview with New Libertarian Notes, which goes into considerable detail on certain points.)

Still, it feels like a stretch to suggest there's something wrong with libertarians claiming RAW, or to say it's only because "he was against people being arrested for victimless crimes."

Explaining his vote for John Anderson in 1980, Wilson said, "Ideologically, of course, I should have voted for Ed Clark, the Libertarian Party candidate; but I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people."

"Ideologically, of course ... " The ILLUMINATUS! trilogy is filled with pages and pages of libertarian and anarchist propaganda. (Simon Moon, one of the main characters, is a left anarchist, but Hagbard Celine, arguably the most important viewpoint character, is a straightforward libertarian).

Wilson wrote many columns for New Libertarian Notes. He was a celebrity within the libertarian movement. When he ran for governor of California, his Guns & Dope Party platform was straightforwardly libertarian (excepting the surrealistic ostriches). For example, the platform called for voluntary taxation, as well as full gun and drug rights. He sometimes referred to himself as a "libertarian" in his writings.

I don't object if a progressive such as Metzger wants to claim RAW, but libertarians have as much right to him as anyone.

Footnote: This seems like a convenient time to recommend Metzger's excellent Dangerous Minds blog. The New Yorker just gave the blog a nice writeup.


michael said...

Weird: I talked with a friend earlier tonight about RAW as a type of libertarian. I think you're right: they can claim him. The pagans, Forteans, postmodernists, part of the Immortality movement, post-Crowley magickians, Discordians, Subgenii, the General Semanticists, and Illuminati have claimed him, too. Among others.

I think RAW might say there's plenty to go around?

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I would think so, too. He had a wide range of interests, and worked hard on many of them. Aside from the actual quality of the work, I think that accounts for much of his staying power. Many folks have a reason to be interested in him.

Ewan said...

"I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people."

I think that is a huge difference between RAW and the kind of libertarianism promoted by Ron Paul etc.

that along with the "the left worry about big business having too much power, right think government have too much power. both are right". quote.

i can dig the whole libertarian economic philosophy and then Ron Paul etc start coming out with crazy shit about jesus and the gays and abortion and climate change doesn't exist.

sorry, i work in science, you talk nonsense about evolution and man-made climate change not existing and i just can't take you seriously. (as a complete tangent, i've always wondered about RAW and the 'evil' medical profession - you know, his whole Sister Whatsherface Polio cure thing. maybe he was right, maybe he was wrong about that cure but thanks to the bad doctors people of my generation have to google what the fuck Polio was because it doesn't exist in the west anymore).

i've slightly distracted myself there. apologies. my other thought with RAW and libertarianism is his idea that free trade is only achievable between equals.

Jesse said...

Robert Anton Wilson had kind words for several political philosophies, from social credit to anarcho-capitalism to Scandinavian social democracy. But he usually ranked mutualism as his favorite, and mutualism is a form of libertarianism. FWIW, in the book intro where he endorses national health insurance he also suggests that the program might not be necessary in a mutualist economy.

As for endorsing a guaranteed income: If that's enough to make you a socialist, then the socialist army includes Milton Friedman.

michael said...

I have in my notes pp.89-90 of Hayek's Road to Serfdom:

"[...] the security of a minimum income" or the "certainty of a given minimum of subsistence for all" should be "provided for all outside of and supplementary to the market system."

That's HAYEK, teabaggers.