04 January 2012

Snowflake Syndrome

This sort of thinking is something I find amusing about libertarians:

I’m not interested in identifying which among the many kinds of bleeding-heart libertarian I am because I’m not interested in identifying myself a libertarian. Ideological labels are mutable, but at any given time they publicly connote a certain syndrome of convictions. What “libertarian” tends to mean to most people, including most people who self-identify as libertarian, is flatly at odds with some of what I believe. So I guess I’m just a liberal; the bleeding heart goes without saying.
Here are some not-standardly-libertarian things I believe: Non-coercion fails to capture all, maybe even most, of what it means to be free. Taxation is often necessary and legitimate. The modern nation-state has been, on the whole, good for humanity. (See Steven Pinker’s new book.) Democracy is about as good as it gets. The institutions of modern capitalism are contingent arrangements that cannot be justified by an appeal to the value of liberty construed as non-interference. The specification of the legal rights that structure real-world markets have profound distributive consequences, and those are far from irrelevant to the justification of those rights. I could go on.

I’m beginning to think that libertarians don’t exist.  Everyone who could be classified as such always tries to be hyper-precise with the exact pigeonhole in which they desire to placed.  “I’m not a libertarian, I’m a theistic libertarian.”  “I’m not a libertarian, I’m a classical liberal with a few social conservative tendencies.” And so on.

Given that political policies can be placed a continuum in which increased government power is at one end and increased individual liberty is at the other, it seems absurd to complain about being labeled as a libertarian when the main options are either pro-liberty or anti-liberty.  And if one is generally pro-liberty, they are, by definition, a libertarian.  So why get upset about the imprecision of a set label?  After all, a liberaltarian is still a libertarian, albeit a specific type of libertarian.  The only difference is that one chooses to be defined by the subset instead of the set.  The thing is, the set still fits.

Anyhow, this goes to show that the rationalization hamster exists in all of us, even the most intellectual realists.  Deep down, we all want to believe that we are special, and we will spend lots of time and energy arguing why we are.  Every last one of us.

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