We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A conservative discourses at length about something he knows nothing about

Jonah Goldberg over on National Review Online writes in Freedom Kills, one of the least informed articles about libertarianism I have read in a long time. Frankly I have read better from the ghastly Noam Chomsky, which is just about the biggest insult I have written in a very long time. The sheer depth of his complete and utter lack of understanding of what underpins libertarianism is summed up thus in two paragraphs:

In this sense, cultural libertarians are less bigoted than their liberal cousins. The libertarians think all ideologies – so long as there’s no governmental component – are equal.

Huh? So let me get this straight. People who are profoundly influenced by Ayn Rand or Karl Popper or Murray Rothbard or Hans-Hermann Hoppe et al, think all ideologies are the same? Has this guy ever actually met a libertarian in real life? What breathtaking ignorance of the subject about which he opines. If anything, libertarians only think all non-libertarian ideologies are the same in so far as they reject them as just so much morally subjective crap. Libertarians are the very antithesis of what he calls ‘liberals’ in that respect, hardly what he sneeringly calls “cousins”.

But of course, the flip side of this is that cultural libertarianism is essentially a form of arrogant nihilism. There are no universal truths or even group truths (i.e., the authority of tradition, patriotism, etc.) � only personal ones. According to cultural libertarianism, we should all start believing in absolutely nothing, until we find whichever creed or ideology fits us best. We can pick from across the vast menu of human diversity – from all religions and cultures, real and imagined � until we find one that fits our own personal preferences.

Now due to the fact libertarianism comes in many hyphenated forms, it is risky to generalize about ‘what all libertarians think’, but overwhelmingly they operate on the basis of objective epistemology (look it up, Jonah), typically of the Randian or Popperian type. As a consequence they strongly advocate objective morality as the only basis for legitimacy, rather than subjective prejudice-based state centred coercion of the sort Goldberg seems to think holds American culture together. If you hold that morality can only be valid on the basis of objective knowledge, how can we also be “believing in absolutely nothing , until we find whichever creed or ideology fits us best”? Almost everything he ascribes to libertarianism is in fact its antithesis.

At one point Goldberg says about himself “if I were smarter and more patient […]”, well Jonah, there is little chance any libertarian reading your incoherent rant would have thought otherwise on either point. Try actually reading Ethics of Liberty first (gawd knows there is enough about Rothbard to criticise, just not the on the grounds Goldberg does).

Addendum: Will Wilkinson on the enigmatically named The Fly Bottle also has no less that two excellent skewerings of the ignorant Mr. Goldberg’s dismal offering.


Thanks (sort of) to Hannah Biel for pointing me at the Goldberg article. I have been grinding my teeth as a result for the last few hours.

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