24 February 2011

Libertarians aren't rationalists

There's been a remarkable amount of commentary about a Volokh Conspiracy assertion that it is immoral to tax[1] to build defenses against an expected, humanity-eradicating, asteroid impact.  I'm firmly on the "barking mad" side of things, but I think takes such as Brad DeLong's are missing something.

Libertarians are the sincerely Creationist wing of the American Right.  The fundamentalist wing of said Right is almost completely atheistic; they lack all evidence of religious awe (or indeed any other kind of awe.)  They may back positions associated with religions. They may use religious language, in the interest of preventing rational or quantified discourse about anything where actually measuring results would not support their position (such as the quantifiable economic and social benefits of a non-patriarchal society, or the observable fact that an economy can EITHER permit greater concentration of wealth in fewer hands OR provide general prosperity, but not do both) but they have no actual observable belief in a higher power, no moments of awe or transformation.  (Which, to my mind, makes their expectations about how people with no belief think or would act disturbingly illustrative, rather than laughably deluded.)

The Libertarians, though; they have a God, carefully constructed out of selfishness and string.  They have a rigid, never to be questioned, never to be permitted the least exposure to empirical testing, set of axiomatic beliefs, and they BELIEVE.   They believe that they are special, and deserving, and that no one has any right to ever tell one of them what to do, because their privilege and everything in terms of power or the suffering of others necessary to maintain their privilege as the only possible means by which the world can or will function is likewise ordained, and that it is only through the machinations of evil that these things are not immediately and materially apparent in this world that their God has made for them.

Libertarians have an internal status contest for who can most vehemently adhere to the purest beliefs.  The beliefs involve denying everything we know about how humans evolved, from what we evolved, and how groups of humans derive competitive advantage by co-operating; it is simply not possible to hold Libertarian views and accept anything about evolutionary biology.  (It's all connected; you can't have parts of it.)  But because they take pride in being rational, they can't acknowledge this; it just... doesn't exist.

So attempting to argue based on facts, what people are actually like, or outcomes is pretty much pointless; anybody declaring themselves Libertarian[2] is declaring that they disdain all works, reason, and numbers because their faith alone produces virtue.

And, yes, Brad's willingness to argue—or, as in this case, assert that there is crazy here—is a virtue of rationalism, but I'm really surprised he hasn't noticed that the Libertarians are a (nasty) religious movement.

[1]paying your taxes is a duty of citizenship, from back when it was repairing bridges, building forts, and serving in the fyrd in the time of Alfred born in Wantage.

[2]in the American political movement sense, though the term is starting to become useless for any other meaning.

1 comment:

Lurking Canadian said...

The solution seems simple to me. Any libertarian who, on principle, refuses to pay the asteroid tax is at liberty to do so. But in doing so, he is freeloading on all the asteroid taxpaying citizens.

Therefore, he is a thief and should not be allowed to stay on the Earth. I do not say that we should kill him, mind, but maybe the passing asteroid would make a good ice floe on which to push him.