Libertarian types are all over the blogosphere, but you never actually meet any in real life, of course. So claim many people who have felt the need to inform me that the blog to which I occasionally contribute does not conform to mainstream thinking. I am not sure whether these people expect me to weep softly, wail loudly, or recoil in shock and horror when they share this revelation with me, but if they do, no doubt they walk away from our exchanges disappointed.
To me, the fact that individualists are thick on the ground in the blogosphere is no bad thing. I am not totally surprised that people whose views are not represented in mainstream media would take to their own media in droves, be it to connect to those like them or to communicate their ideas and beliefs to those who may not be familiar with such thinking. Usually, such blog-based conversations involve both of those objectives. For example, I would not liken Samizdata to a recruitment drive, but neither is it mere preaching to the choir. At the same time, Samizdata is not a love-in for those who share the same metacontext. When I read people writing about “what Samizdatistas believe,” I have to laugh: Some of the most fierce, raucous debates I have ever witnessed have taken part between Samizdatistas.
But a conversation I had this week got me thinking – and no, I am sure it is not an original thought – that the reason individualists may seem so hard to detect in day to day life is because many of them have decided to assign politics and related discussions to the circular file of their lives. To them, the system is broken and they do not wish to spend their lives talking about how it got that way, figuring out how to put it back together, or contemplating how much worse things are going to get. Beyond jaded, they just do not get involved in any way. These people may never have heard the terms individualist or libertarian, but they may well qualify for either of those classifications. And because they do not go around wearing any party’s badge on their lapel, or touting any party line that comes down the pike, it is easy to imagine that they do not exist.
And imagining as much is probably quite comforting to those who strictly adhere to party politics. As long as they are certain that their thinking is in line with some large consensus of public sentiment, then they have some hope and some delusion of accuracy and relevance to hold on to. Forced to choose between that and shunning political matters altogether, how much of a dilemma would any of us actually face?