Kevin Drum is surprised by who turns up on Reason’s poll of prominent libertarians, and I suppose I am, too: any movement than can (avidly) count Wendy McElroy and Charles Murray as members is—oh, hell, one just doesn’t know what to say. —But at the same time, I’m not at all surprised: it’s the usual suspects who measure their liberties in tax cuts and care more about being right than trying to do right—and run the risk of fucking up. You all know these guys, if you’ll permit me a gross generalization: he’s in every comics shop and sci-fi club and weekly Dungeons & Dragons session—actually, let’s swap that out for Diplomacy, or maybe Starfleet Battles, or, yeah, Advanced Squad Leader. —There’s a certain social power that comes from digging into an argument and overwhelming the other side, and nothing fosters argument like making an abstruse, persnickety, anti-conventional choice, clasping it to your bosom, and defending it rigorously against all comers. (“The grapes are sour, as anyone with eyes can plainly see.”) Hence the impish delight that wafts from the screen when Reason asks its assembled panel for their favorite presidents: “Bush 41,” says Jonathan Rauch, almost daring you to ask why. “Grover Cleveland,” says Robert Higgs. Losers fall back on the classics: Washington, Lincoln; Jesse Walker scores over-the-top cool points: “Richard Henry Lee,” he says.
But that certain social power easily evaporates when you find you have to walk your rigorous defense back, and power’s a hard thing to give up, and maybe this is why so many libertarians on this list are voting for Bush again, in spite of. Tax cuts, they say, ignoring the explosive growth of a government that will never fit in that bathtub; Islamofascism, they say, and blithely order up another round of aerial strikes in urban areas full of people who mostly just want to get on with their lives—but really, it’s for much the same reason as the principled non-voters and the Elmer Fudd write-ins: I’d rather be right on my own damn terms, they say, than run the risk of ever being wrong. —The poetic justice of the reality-challenged candidate so many of them have backed into, who clasps his impetuous choices to his bosom and defends them against all comers, on his own damn terms, is chilly comfort. —It’s not that I think that Libertarians for Bush is a large-enough constituency to swing a state, much less the election; it’s just that it’s always hard to see a dream so shiny turn so foully rancid.
(I mean, the Greens at least have a basic faith in the enterprise, however touchingly naïve. —Us Greens? Oh, look: my own concern for coolth is getting in the way!)
The ice has gotten thin beneath my feet out here, so it’s time for me to walk it back. I had a much pettier point to make, before I got distracted; a bean-counting, politically correct point, persnickety in the extreme: reading my way down Reason’s poll, I was surprised to note there’s three times as many Kerry supporters listed as there are women.
One just doesn’t know what to say.
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