Sunday, October 02, 2011

When Libertarians Dream

I have a confession: I've kinda got a soft spot in my heart for hardcore libertarians of the Randian-anarchist variety.  Because they're just so damned earnest in their beliefs.  For as much as they like to believe they're the cynical reality-based objectivists Rand idealized, just a quick review of their basic belief system exposes them to be the wide-eyed dreamers they really are.

Like with their belief that everything will work out, as long as government authoritarians step out of the way and let people live their lives.  But why?  Why do they assume that nature will protect them, when they fully acknowledge that anything goes and the weak should perish?  More importantly, they can never explain how, without laws and government, they could possibly prevent authoritarians from taking over and forming a tyrannical government.

Because that's the thing: It's not as if our governments just formed themselves overnight or were imposed upon us by aliens.  Instead, our current system is the product of thousands of years of people doing whatever the hell they want, and this is the outcome.  This is how anarchy arranged itself.  Human history has been a long experiment in anarchy, and so far, it's led to powerful men ruling our lives with laws, taxes, and police.  I mean, duh!

And yet these people really imagine that they'd be the masters of their domain, if only the power-mongers stepped out of the way and let them do their thing; completely unaware that Rand was arguing on behalf of the power-mongers, whether she knew it or not.  It just doesn't occur to these innocent naifs that power-mongers will always exist and that government and democracy is the best proven method for dealing with them.

These people aren't looking for a new solution to government; they're looking for a do-over button, in hopes of trying it again.  But unless your system of anarchy can prevent me and my buddies from taking over, then a do-over is the last thing you want.

Lassiez Faire Fairies

And so I read with relish when I stumbled upon such a person discussing his trials and tribulations with a like-minded group of anarchist libertarians.  It was part of a movement called Lassiez Faire City, which apparently was setup in Costa Rica, as a way of finally establishing the libertarian utopia they keep imagining can exist.

As he explained it:
LFC was an organization that had some publicity in the mid-nineties for gathering money in a trust to found a free city. Unfortunately, it couldn't find a willing government with reasonable land, and the project lost steam. It was reinvented as a project to create an independent, sovereign state in cyberspace, with physical territory as a longer-term goal. Dodge City was the most visible arm of the project to outsiders, being a sort of web-based BBS with message groups, internal email, and access to various LFC projects being tested, such as an internal stock exchange.
Needless to say it didn't work.  And from what I read, the whole thing sounds like a total scam, with the people in charge bilking the rest out of their hard earned money.  And what's so hilarious about this is reading the libertarians complaining about this, while continuing to go along with it.  And rather than realize they were scammed, they instead think the people running it just didn't understand the philosophy properly.

But of course, that's completely backwards: The guys running this thing understood Randian libertarianism perfectly. It was the suckers who were confused.  The leaders came up with an idea for making money and reaped the benefits of their idea.  It's not their fault that the people who gave them the money had a different idea in mind.

I mean, what would you think about an online group that was established to sell web services, and yet their only income source were "founders" who paid $5000 a pop for the privilege, and rather than provide the services they were supposed to provide, they instead used funds to "sponsor teams of kids across the world on internet projects."  Right.

And when anyone questioned this on the messageboard, they were attacked, censored, and finally banned from the group; never having received answers to their basic questions about where the money was going and why they weren't hiring more programmers to finish any of the projects.  Needless to say, they didn't get their $5k back after they were kicked out.

Now, the natural assumption would be that it's a scam, right?  I mean, duh.  The money didn't go to teams of kids across the world.  It went into the pockets of the people running the site.  Duh.  And yet these libertarians were so infatuated with their fantasy world that they refused to admit to this possibility, and preferred to believe that the offending leaders of the group didn't understand libertarianism well enough.  And really, that's just tooooo cute, right?

But as this page from 2003 will attest, when the group finally split up, having collected millions of dollars from Randian suckers, all they had to auction off was an encrypted email service that had been created by a separate group, as well as posters showing what their ideal city would eventually look like.  How precious.

Building on Quicksand

And just so you understand, I actually agreed with much of what the guy said and believe him to be quite intelligent...when he wasn't talking about our "terrorist government" and his inability to realize he had been scammed, anyway.  And that's what makes it so mystifying that he could be so stupid about all this.

But of course, no one is truly all-intelligent or all-dumb, and it was likely the shaky Randian foundations in his brain that allowed him to be so blind to reality, while the other parts of his brain functioned properly.  It's like someone building a house and placing the bedroom over quicksand.  The rest of the house might be fine, but you'll need to find somewhere else to sleep.

And the funniest part about reading his story was that so many of his complaints really boiled down to him not being in charge.  He kept coming up with good ideas about how things should be done, ranging from encryption on software to the seating arrangement at the LFC bar in Costa Rica.  And since they weren't doing it "right," they were wrong and part of the problem.

And that's the thing: He had his idea of how things should be done and was miffed that no one was following his suggestions.  Typical Randian: It only works when they're the one in charge.  That's why Ayn Rand was the undisputed voice of her movement, while everyone else had to shut up and repeat what she said.  That's not the outcome of her philosophy; that was the point.

Our Momentary Ego-Thing

And really, the whole damn thing was a farce.  Even if these people weren't scammed, and I'm sure they were, they were still stuck in an authoritarian group that ruled with an iron fist, instituted arbitrary rules, and dealt with dissent with censorship and banishment.  Seriously.

And yet like abused wives, they'd send private emails to one another, quietly complaining about this in hopes of changing things for the better, rather than understanding that they were part of the dumbest group on the internet and needed to move on.  I'm sure Ayn Rand, a world-class cult leader of her own, was laughing in her grave about this one.

From that 2003 page, I found this little bit of hilarity:
Freedom lovers need community -- not just "cybercommunity," which we have, but real-world communities and networks of mutual interest and support. But we tend to be absolutely lousy at long-term cooperative endeavors. The most philosophically "pure" of us, especially, seem to lose sight of the fact that, in order to accomplish anything with a group, we have to put the group goal ahead of our momentary "ego-thing." 
Uhh, looks like someone forgot the entire lesson of everything Ayn Rand wrote.  I mean, putting the group goal ahead of the "ego-thing" is the very anthesis of Randian thinking.  That's why the rest of us know it's so ridiculous, dummy.  I mean, duh.  The whole point of their philosophy is that individuals don't need the community, as communities are parasites that drain the talents of the individual.  I knew that simply from watching Foutainhead, as it was the whole point of the movie!

Yet, these people are convinced that if they work together as a team and follow the unwritten rules of everything, we'll finally get our ideal society that has no rules and abhors teamwork.  And it's that exact sort of delusional obliviousness that makes them so damn adorable.

It's because of people like this that Ayn Rand didn't have to work for a living.


Doctor Biobrain said...

Wanted to add this little bit about one of the links I provided. It was from the guy who led the subsidiary group of LFC which eventually created their email program after it split off.

The guy was giving an update of the group in late 2001, which started with a reference to how he was on a flight that had real knives and forks, unlike in America after 9/11, and how he'd be perfectly safe because all the passengers had knives and forks and would attack any hijacker who also tried using knives and forks. Somehow, it didn't occur to him that NO attacker could use knives and forks to recreate 9/11, whether or not the other passengers had similar weapons. After all, it wasn't the weapons that held people back, it was because they thought it was a hostage situation, not a terrorist attack. But of course, since knives and forks won't protect anyone against a bomb brought on the plane, it would probably still be wise to have all the safety precautions that he thought were loony.

And after a long rant against the government and all sorts of lunacy about how the government planned 9/11 and flew the planes by remote control, he finally got into explaining what had happened with the movement, and how it was continuing under his guidance.

He ends by writing
"So, yes, there are real forks and knives and some sanity still left in the world. And we are here to see that sanity remains."

Or...maybe not. As it turns out, arming everyone in a group doesn't necessarily mean that no one in the group will get hurt.

Betsy said...

First of all, thank you for leaving so many posts lately. As you know, you are the first place I look every day. (Don't you hate the dummies that say "second of all") Anyway, I did not know about the subject of the post, but I chuckled at the first paragraphs. I read them to my husband. Libertarians are as stupid about basic human nature as fundamentalist religious people.