Letter to an Angry Libertarian
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We don’t know each other, but I’m writing because you’re one of the many people who wrote to me in responce to a piece I wrote recently ("11 Questions You Should Ask Libertarians to See If They're Hypocrites").
A lot of people responded. Some of you made reasonable points, while some of you simply ranted. A frightening number of you expressed hostility to democracy itself.
I don’t know your name, your age or your life story. But I’m addressing this to you in the hopes that we can get to know one another a little better.
Who are you?
I’m writing because you wrote a blog post, or addressed me on Twitter, or made a YouTube video about what I’d written. Or maybe you sent me an email. I’ve learned that you guys use Internet technology quite a bit. That’s no surprise, since the Silicon Valley is swarming with libertarians. But it is somewhat ironic, don’t you think, that so many of you disseminate your opinions on government-created technology? (Defense Department research created the Internet.)
What’s even more ironic is that so many Internet billionaires (I’m looking at you, Peter Thiel) are extremist libertarians in their views. They support their views with wealth they’ve accumulated using government-created technology, government-protected patents, a government-educated workforce, and consumers who are protected and educated at government expense.
I called that hypocritical in my last piece, which made some of you angry. Hey, it’s my opinion! Sue me, as the expression goes. (Wait: as libertarians, I suppose you can’t literally sue me. Courts are a government entity.) But I’m not writing this letter to pick a fight. I want to address those libertarians who were essentially courteous and respectful. You wrote thoughtful responses to my piece, and I’ll respond to some of your specific points shortly.
But first, let me say that I appreciate the dedication so many libertarians have shown in defending civil liberties and opposing the militarized state. I wish that liberals had been more steadfast on these principles since Obama took office. Ron Paul was the only 2012 presidential candidate to speak the truth about US military intervention, and Rand Paul’s anti-drone filibuster was admirable.
I also appreciate and admire your willingness to reject conventional thinking. We should never stop discussing new concepts, however radical. Ideas are beautiful things when they’re well constructed, and some libertarian ideas are admirable in their construction—even if I find them sorely lacking in real-world situations.
Finally, libertarians have also been great allies on the subject of Wall Street and large corporations, especially when it comes to ending their government funding, their implicit subsidies and exemptions from prosecution.
Before we continue, an anecdote: I went on a talk show to discuss banking reform with one of the guys from Reason magazine, and in the kitchen afterward we were both surprised at how much we agreed. He was funny and imperturbable. We decided to air our differences over coffee.
I said “You people are 60 percent great, and 40 percent irrational.”
“I’ll take 60 percent,” he cheerfully. “What else?”
“Talking with you guys is like being on a first date that’s going really well, until all of a sudden she starts talking about her alien abduction and how space people are speaking to her through her fillings.”
He said, "The existence of alien life is a very real possibility."
Like I said: Very funny.
Finally I said “Okay, I’ve told you what I think. What do you think about people like me?”