The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Saturday, March 06, 2004
ANARCHY, BLOGS, AND UTOPIAS: Various liberal bloggers have discovered Reason's
roundtable on coercion and consent. I'll let Belle Waring's remarks stand in for everyone else's:
Just wish that we might all live in a state of perfect liberty, free of taxation and intrusive government, and that we should all be wealthier as well as freer. Now wish that people should, despite that lack of any restraint on their actions such as might be formed by policemen, functioning law courts, the SEC, and so on, not spend all their time screwing each otaher in predictable ways ranging from ordinary rape, through the selling of fraudulent stocks in non-existent ventures, up to the wholesale dumping of mercury in the public water supplies. (I mean, the general stock of water from which people privately draw.) Awesome huh? But it gets better. Now wish that everyone had a pony.
Blogger: I've just learned that some people believe things that sound strange to me.

Interlocutor: How interesting. Are you going to read up on the literature that defends their ideas and, perhaps, addresses some of the questions you might have as to why someone would believe such things?

Blogger: No, that's far too much work. I'm just going to make a joke about it.

Interlocutor: Oh. Will it be a funny joke?

Blogger: Why bother?

Buried in those bloggers' complaints, you'll find a point I actually agree with -- though not one that's necessarily relevant to the Reason debate. Libertarianism to me is a matter of defending and extending the zones of free action, not dreaming up a utopian endstate that has no connection to the world we live in now. Talk all you want about the liberty you'd like to impose from above; I'm much more interested in the sort of change that's rooted in social institutions and percolates from below. Radicalism is fine. Too much abstraction is not.

I could elaborate the point, I guess, but I've got something else on my mind. What's really interesting to me, because I'm such a navel-gazer, is the new variations this burst of blogging has given to that familiar theme, "What Reason believes." A commenter on Kevin Drum's site refers to "Reason Randite Nozick Utopians," then remarks that "many Reason types...dream of Arcadia, the Jeffersonian semi-rural landowning freeman." You can add this to all the other theories you'll hear from people who rarely bother to read the magazine: that Reason is a bunch of neocon Republicans, that we're a bunch of Bush-hating liberals, that we're "Beltway libertarians" with no interest in radical libertarian thought, that we're radicals who sneer at any libertarian who isn't sufficiently hardcore, that we're "cultural leftists" who don't know the difference between libertarianism and libertinism, and -- always popular, though it has the least basis in real life -- that we're Objectivists. Collect them all!


posted by Jesse 5:20 PM
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