Who, precisely, is busting out all over? People who call themselves ‘socialist libertarians’ are busting out all over, that’s who.
The latest addition to this roll-call of the ragged is a certain Mr.Paul Anderson who, I am advised, was previously a columnist for the left-wing newspaper ‘Tribune’. Mr.Anderson has started a blog. Good for him. His blog is called ‘Gauche’ which is fine insofar as his Francophonic pretensions are entirely a matter for him.
My annoyance, however, is with the subtitle of his blog which reads:
Democratic Socialism with a Libertarian Punch
May I humbly suggest a clearer alternative to that meaningless bit of cant? How about:
Vegetarian cooking with just a hint of roast beef
That is what he might as well be saying. In fact, that is what he is saying and, one supposes, with a straight face to boot. Mr.Anderson has clearly not yet been advised that he can either be a socialist OR he can be a libertarian but he cannot possibly be both. Nor can he plausibly pass himself off as representing some sort of squishy compromise position between the two. If Mr.Anderson wants to know exactly why, then I can do no better than to recommend this comprehensive exposition on the subject by Perry de Havilland.
I have no intention of apologising for the tetchiness of my tone but, you see, this is something of a ‘hot button issue’ for people like me. We at Samizdata will be tarred, feathered, damned and consigned to purgatory before we sit back and allow the word ‘libertarian’ to be hijacked in the manner that the word ‘liberal’ was once hijacked and then handed over, gift-wrapped, to people who have since proved themselves to be anything and everything but liberal. Were it not for the fact that I perceive a silver lining in this cloud, I would be a great deal angrier than I am now. For a silver lining there most certainly is.
First off, it is clear that, due to the tireless work of such wonderful organisations as the Libertarian Alliance and (with a temporary suspension of modesty) we here at the Samizdata, the word ‘libertarian’ has become worthy of attempted theft. After all, I have not yet come across any persons of the left going around calling themselves ‘socialist wahabbist’. No, they are trying to nab it because they think it has good and positive connotations. That, of itself, is a micro-triumph.
Secondly, and more deeply, it is a trend which speaks volumes about the extent to which the confidence these people once had in their own ideas has been dramatically corroded. Perhaps the more intelligent people of the left (yes, they do exist) have reached a point in their lives and their thinking where they can no longer stand full-square behind the ideas that energised them in their youth. If indeed they are grabbing for the word ‘libertarian’ as a means of papering over the cracks that have started to appear in their own heads, then I do sort of understand it, if not condone it.
Given the years of effort they have put into their causes, I can see why it is so hard to make that emotionally fraught leap from one camp to the other, leaving behind all their friends and writing off maybe a half-a-lifetime of dedication and commitment. Hence the gradual terminology-creep from ‘socialist’ to ‘social democrat’ to ‘centrist’ to ‘liberal’ and, now, ‘libertarian’. That way they can still maintain the pretence, at least to themselves, that they remain firm members of their own gang, while increasingly seduced by the siren songs of our gang. By trying to shoulder their way under the cover of the libertarian umbrella they can postpone the day when they finally have to stop kidding themselves that socialism is anything but a crock of sh*t.
Now I must confess I did not spare the time to read through Mr.Anderson’s blog. I daresay he has a lot of interesting and exciting things to say. But if he wants to go on saying them with anything resembling credibility then he is going to have to stop trying to straddle precariously on that fence of his own shabby construction. Either he is going to fall off or people like us are going to push him off.
Of course, it could be that Mr.Anderson is just such a person as I have described above. In that case, he may like to know that there is way that he can spare himself the pain and humiliation of trying to be something he is not. He could always look down the road to that bright, sunlit oasis to which he is inexorably being led by on his ideological journey and decide instead to jump straight in to the inviting waters without wasting any more time. If Mr.Anderson decides to do that, then he should know that the waters are warm and he will find friends here who will welcome him.
[My thanks to Harry Steele for the link to Mr.Anderson’s blog.]