A glimpse of the libertarian utopia

Here is a blog post on the fate of horrible Internet troll “Old Holborn”, who seems to have decided to insult the whole of Liverpool, and succeeded in inspiring at least one Liverpudlian to dox him and report him to the police in his home town. I haven’t laughed so much in years, as this character was literally the only person in the British political blogosphere to recommend drawing up lists of enemies, and actually linked to one of my posts in so doing. Also, apparently the angry Scouser threatened to tell his employer all about the computer diary, which is salutary, given as his comments thread did that about twice a week to some poor public servant or other.

Beyond mere snark, a couple of points. For a start, this points up a huge problem with libertarians and their ism. If you really mean it about absolute free speech, doesn’t this place you under a duty to use it responsibly? Remember the crack about putting a big knife in the boss of cars’ steering wheels as a road-safety measure. If, rather than in the steering wheel, the knife was attached to a hub cap like the scythes on Boudicca’s chariot, surely it would be incumbent on you to take extra care? Obviously, a libertarian or anarchist society would be much more dependent on individual tolerance, forbearance, and civility just to keep the show on the road and daily life non-kinetic. Especially if everyone’s allowed to have guns.

Also, one of the classic arguments for freedom as a good in itself is that it promotes human flourishing. Not just because it is the absence of tyranny, or because the economy might supposedly work better, or because it provides space for creativity, eccentricity, and innovation, or even that it is abstractly inspiring as an ideal, but because living as a free moral actor requires you to be a better person. You might at this point think of some of the horrible gargoyles authoritarian societies seem to produce, and nod sagely. But it’s up to you. As the existence of this post suggests, we’ve got some real pieces of work too.

Anarchists agree, and take this much more seriously, to the extent of considering anarchy as in part an inner project of self-improvement and self-discipline. You are expected to live as if you were already part of an anarchic society. After all, even if abolishing the state is a somewhat remote objective and even creating a commune is a big project, you can at least expand the zone of sanity by not being such a twat. You might even be an example to others.

But as far as I can tell, political libertarianism seems to set out to do the exact opposite, to demonstrate that a libertarian society would be an opportunity to indulge the worst features of one’s character, and indeed to exercise and strengthen them. Also, do any of them imagine there might be anything about themselves that could be improved?

6 Comments on "A glimpse of the libertarian utopia"

  1. Yes, and at its most ridiculous libertarianism seems to be a parody of Adam Smith’s ‘hidden hand’- if everyone acts like a complete arsehole then it will be for the benefit of all.


  2. Just because some deluded fool (I’ve met him and I’m being kind here) calls himself a Libertarian it doesn’t make him so.


  3. “Just because some deluded fool (I’ve met him and I’m being kind here) calls himself a Libertarian it doesn’t make him so.”

    Maybe, but Libertarians need to address the issues that this event has illustrated. Anarchists can be difficult people as well, but they seem to realise that, even without the State, groups of people will have to cooperate to achieve anything. And if they want society to be built on the basis of baby-sitting circles and allotment societies then people require some basic tact to remind people to do their share of the work.


  4. What is it that (some) Americans say? “An armed society is a polite society”? Have yet to see any evidence of this being true, though…


  5. I was going to wheel out the old “so why can’t I hear any moderate libertarians criticising him?” Will-You-Condemn-A-Thon joke, but it appears someone already has. Apparently without irony.


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