Snarky Behavior

The Sexy Appeal of Libertarianism

July 17, 2007 · Leave a Comment

The blue-blood/hipster divide in Washington really got me thinking: just what exactly is it about this city that attracts young, pretentious, unattractive kids to come here straight out of college?

[Imagine me, in a world without laziness, creating a venn-diagram with the overlapping categories of "young"," pretentious," and "unattractive." Thanks.]

And yes, I have considered that I may very well exist in that tri-overlap (along with most hipsters and blue-bloods), or at least very close to it. But I’ve already explained my reasons for coming to DC , which provide us with little insight when we’re attempting to extrapolate to the aggregate.

Strictly on the basis of presumptive-subjective analysis (my favorite brand of social science), I would venture to guess that these people (who, let’s be clear, are the Young Republican/Model UN/Mock Trial kids in college) feel the need to justify their Political Science BA (or more appropriately, BS) degree by finding employment directly in the field. They are freshly branded ideologues armed with the philosophical absolutes of Kant, Rawls, Hume, Dewey and Struess to inform their politics.

When the bambinos actually get to DC, they find the city full of wonks who have long since ditched most political philosophy, or at least boiled all concepts down to simple practicums that can be defended with a casual understanding of Adam Smith, Milton Friedman and (surprisingly) Woodrow Wilson on the right, and John Maynard Keynes and JS Mills on the left. Commitment to moral absolutes is traded in for commitment to party, a crash course of real-politik and pragmatism ensues, and after two years, every headstrong idealist who hasn’t already defected to law school is a humorless, pessimistic, cynical (pretentious, ugly, still young) wreck.

But why the hipster/blue-blood divide? Once the passionate idealists recognize that passionate idealism is summarily and universally mocked/scorned by all parties, they are desperate to self-congregate in circles of like-minded people and hone the skills of sarcasm, feigned outrage, ironic humor, etc., etc. that passes for indignation or passion amongst DC’s bourgeoisie class. That, and the drinking/casual sex. That’s important too.

But you know who never abandon their roots? Libertarians. Those bow-tie freaks.

You may or may not have heard that the Libertarian candidate for President (Ron Paul) recently surpassed the former Republican front-runner (John McCain) in both quarterly fund-raising and cash-on-hand.

Now, the rational part of my brain recognizes Paul as a traditional muck-racker, redefining his party’s philosophical base (which had been wrenched away by neo-conservatives). The irrational part honestly believes that Paul is more than an idea broker— he really thinks he can win, and he really would enact all of the restrictions on government which he espouses. (Note: this would leave me FUCKED. Paul wants to abolish the Department of Education, which I indirectly work for currently… and he wants to end all financial aid, which will be putting food on my table over the next two years).

Most libertarians fall in one of two camps: the John Wayne or the Ayn Rand. Paul is a John Wayne libertarian. He just wants the gahbermant to git’ff is back. Taxes? Too much. War abroad? It’s a sandbox, we don’t need any. Pretty simple stuff.

The Ayn Rand Objectivists are a different breed, although they arrive at nearly identical conclusions. They are equally suspicious of government regulation, which stifles the entrepreneurial spirit. All difficult policy decisions can and should be made on the basis of the self-interested individual. Greed is good. Etc., etc.

The simplicity and unambiguity of the political philosophy is astounding. And, as the post title says, it has great “sex appeal.” Especially for me, being from the OC and all.

The reason I am NOT a Libertarian? It’s an incomplete philosophy. It doesn’t account for market failures that bedevil the capitalistic system. It doesn’t provide for a safety net. And it unwisely assumes that everyone acts in their own rational self-interest.

But, I will admit, the political philosophy of “soft paternalism” seems right up my alley. As it turns out, Libertarian Paternalism Is Not An Oxymoron.

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