For those who don’t know him, this is Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist. Dr. Tyson spends a lot of time presenting science-related material to laypersons; think Bill Nye the Science Guy, but more serious. As a result of his success and popularity in that pursuit, Dr. Tyson is often treated as an authority on non-science matters, such as government. The result, well, you see above; inane rhetoric treated as serious and profound. Obviously, no one studies science or engineering because they want to run for office, and when voters are evaluating a candidate’s background, I doubt they consider degrees in mathematics or technology to be assets. And from the nonsense I’ve heard from the mouths of scientists who comment on public policy, the less of their statist foolishness, the better.
That said, although those from STEM fields might not make good contenders for congress or parliament, I don’t doubt the political field could be much improved by some diversity. Replace some of those lawyers with historians or economists, and we might be all the better for it. Until then, though, I suggest one consider political advice given by celebrities carefully before embracing it, even when that celebrity is a scientist.
At “The Bright Pink Libertarian”, Chris Murphy shares some of Stephan Kinsella’s opinion concerning ‘Left Libertarianism’ -
“ They want libertarians to stop saying capitalism because they want us to adopt their substantive unlibertarian, Marxian agenda. Yet they pretend it’s just for strategical or lexical concerns–which it’s not. This is yet another reason I think we should dig our heels in and not give in: they will then count it as a substantive victory for unlibertarian, leftist ideas.”
At the risk of gilding the lily, let me add this: if you claim to be either a left libertarian or a right libertarian, and by that claim you mean that you support some level of coercive governance, then you are no libertarian at all. Progressives can lean libertarian. Conservatives can lean libertarian. But libertarians do not lean. We are upright.
Mitchell has pointed out plenty of this type of conduct before, and he notes that Republicans are tickled to mock left-wing hypocrisy (chiefly, I think, because it distracts from right-wing hypocrisy). But I think this sort of response misses an opportunity. Rather than mocking the opposition for being hypocrites, it might be better to point out that they have, through their actions, revealed that they actually approve of the practice/regulation/what-have-you that they have been speaking against. Afterwards, never miss an opportunity to defend your own position by citing the implicit endorsement of it by your opposition. If we demonstrate to left-wing and right-wing voters that the politicians they support are actually opposed to the values they hold, perhaps we can bring them that much closer to libertarian enlightenment.
Several libertarian scholars (such as The Cato Institute’s James Dorn) have made the case that Taoism is a philosophy supportive of libertarian values. Having read the Tao Te Ching a few times, I have to agree. For example -
“Colors blind the eye. Sounds deafen the ear. Flavors numb the taste. Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart.”
Hmmm. Well, maybe something got lost in translation, or perhaps this passage doesn’t make sense when taken out of context. But there are portions where the connection is decidedly clearer -
“The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be.”
In all honesty, the Tao Te Ching has far more passages like the first example than the second. But the unmistakeable message of the second example suggest that there may be truth and wisdom to be gathered from the more obscure portions. If you are interested in studying The Way, you can begin your journey here.
This video is a re-edit of one in which celebrities promote an anti-firearms agenda. It has been re-cut with TV and movie scenes in which those selfsame celebrities portray characters engaged in the most horrific gun violence imaginable. The aim is to reveal these celebrities as hypocrites, and in that respect it is entirely successful. To which I say; So what?
To my mind, this video is yet another attempt to say an argument is wrong because of who made it. It attempts to create a sort of guilt-by-association. But being hypocritical is not the same thing as being wrong. There are plenty of people who have encouraged good behaviour, yet appear to act against their own exhortations. Consider your parents, for example. Now, I’m not one to say we have to forgo the evil pleasure of mocking celebrities when they behave foolishly, but let’s be aware of when we are doing so, and of what over-indulging in such behaviour can cost.
Having just yesterday admonished over-enthusiastic progressives against indulging their hatred of the right to the point of self-delusion, I was please to find this image all over the liberal blogosphere today -
This was allegedly left for restaurant waitstaff in lieu of a tip. In the hundreds of comments I’ve read, and in all the places I’ve seen this posted, there is a lot of outrage against ‘bitter one-percenters’ and ‘greedy Rethuglicans’, all coupled with recommendations to sully the customer’s food with everything from various body fluids to deadly poison (should he ever return, that is). What I haven’t seen is an attribution, or a source, or any sort of indication that this is a true story. Worse yet, in all those comments, I have yet to find the slightest bit of skepticism. Heed me, progressives! Indulging your preference for stoking the narrative rather than recognizing the truth comes at great cost to your movement. Turn from the darkness!
Recently, market research group Experian Simmons found that when Republicans watch TV, they prefer things like college football and The Antiques Road Show. The same research found that when Democrats watch TV, they prefer shows that mock Republicans. This is a demonstration of what I believe to be an unfortunate tendency of the left to exaggerate and distort the arguments of the right to to the point of absurdity. Unfortunate, because it causes much of the left to waste time and energy battling phantoms. Case in point -
“… San Rafael resident Jonathan Frieman’s creative ticket appeal fell on unsympathetic ears Monday at Marin Traffic Court.
Frieman was contesting his $478 carpool lane violation on the grounds that while driving south through the two-passenger lane in Novato last October, a set of incorporating documents constituted a second person in the vehicle—if the U.S. Supreme Court grants corporations the same free speech rights as citizens, as it seemed to in the 2010 Citizens United ruling, argued Frieman, then he and his corporation papers count as two people in the carpool lane.”
Poor Mr. Frieman, like so many leftists, seems to have convinced himself that the U.S. Supreme Court has recently confirmed that ‘corporations are people‘. But this often-repeated fantasy has been clearly rebutted many times, by many libertarians (some examples). It appears Mr. Frieman has expended an awful lot of effort in attempt to mock a position no one is advocating.
So, progressives, a friendly observation: conservatives are probably not as ignorant, anti-science, racist, or greedy as it pleases you to imagine they are. It’s true that they present a target-rich environment, but if you cannot bring yourselves to forgo the sweet satisfaction of indulging in stereotyping, you will not make the kind of progress you might otherwise.
I found a couple of stories recently in which private-sector actors undertook actions which libertarians would take exception to… but only if those actions had been undertaken by government -
“Dozens of strata members at Vancouver’s tallest all-residential tower hooted and hollered after a motion passed Tuesday outlawing smoking in any of the building’s 237 units.
Roughly 70 strata members of the 42-storey Melville building in the city’s tony Coal Harbour neighbourhood voted to fine residents caught smoking, while about nine opposed the bylaw.” Link
“… rather than taking yummy calorie-laden choices like cheese and chocolate away to help help employees watch their waistlines… [Google] decided to “nudge” people to make better food choices.
In snack-filled micro-kitchens… Google now puts healthful options like apples and bananas front and center while relegating sugary and starchy foods to opaque containers in less accessible locales.” Link
So we have one case of apparent coercion, and one case of paternalism. Why would a libertarian defend that? Two reasons -
1. The ‘victims’ (tenants and employees) entered into their contracts voluntarily.
2. The ‘enactors’ (fellow-tenants and employers) must bear the cost of their actions. In the case of the condo owners, banning smoking may lower the value of their units by decreasing the number of purchasers interested in buying units that come up for sale. Or, the value of the units might rise because some people will be willing to pay a premium to live in a non-smoking building. In the case of Google, if they have chosen poorly, then they may lose employees or diminish employee productivity. If they have chosen well, productivity will rise, and more people will compete for Google jobs. In all cases, the enactors are incentivized to carefully consider new policy, and to monitor it to confirm it either (A) achieves its intended goals or (B) gets repealed.
Isn’t it amazing how genuine, voluntary cooperation makes all the difference in the world.
The U.S. presidential election is upon us, and a few media organizations have been good enough to let us know how their staff intend to vote. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you can get the gruesome details over at The American Conservative, Slate, and Reason. Inspired by these articles, I have taken it upon myself to ask my fellow Libertarian Book Club members to respond to the following -
If you were eligible to vote in the US presidential election, for whom would you vote?
Barack Obama Mitt Romney Gary Johnson Other/Write In (Please specify) Prefer Not to Say Would Not Vote
The response was underwhelming, which I take as a revealed preference by most members for “Prefer Not to Say.” Of the 6 who did respond, 4 have declared they would not vote -
“I would not vote. The primary reason is that I think its a waste of time, since it makes no difference. I also think it harmful psychologically, and undignified”…. “On the other hand, if someone else feels like voting, I have no problem with it. I just choose not to myself.”
One respondent declared not only his preference, but his ACTUAL vote -
“I voted in the Colorado election, and I voted libertarian (Johnson) across the board. I truly believe Obama is the lesser of two evils, but not even the prospect of a Romney win in CO by one vote would stop me from voting for Johnson.”
And the last repondent?
“I would select my candidates, presidential and congressional, in such a manner as to contribute to the greatest likelihood of division of the branches between the parties, in the hopes of generating as much gridlock as possible. The less they can do the better.”
Who that might be was not made clear, but since I suspect Republicans will maintain or increase control of the House, and will strengthen their position in the Senate, I will chalk that up to a libertarian vote for Obama.
As for myself, I would have liked to say that I would vote for Johnson. However, the fact is that, as a U.S. citizen, I actually COULD have voted for Johnson, but I didn’t. It seems that going through the steps necessary to vote as a U.S. citizens living abroad was so tedious that I procrastinated myself right out of the election. What that says about me, I’m not sure, but I must confess that I don’t feel very good about myself.