Battlepanda: Oh, libertarians...


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oh, libertarians...

Can't live with 'em, don't know where to find blog fodder without 'em.

You see, Republicans might be the natural opposition to most lefties, but I find their philosophy so completely alien and bizarre that I have a hard time responding to their points of view. Frankly, there is a part of me that is simply incredulous that people actually think that way. It's not that I don't want to engage more with Republicans, it's just that often the areas of disagreement are so vast I have no idea how to start communicating with them.

So, when I get bored with talking with other lefties, or when I'm in a quarrelsome mood, I usually turn to libertarians. I usually share enough common ground with them to make for an argument that is lively, yet not so contentious as to be totally pointless.

But after reading a particularly obnoxious Will Wilkinson post, I think I'm just about done with libertarians for the time being.
I agree that you can't be especially free to do lots of different kinds of things if you don't have any resources. Which is why you want to try to get resources by working for a living, etc. And which is why the state and its apologists ought not to engender learned helplessness by making the urban poor into wards. It is flatly false that people in New Orleans without cars, bank balances, and credit cards "weren't free to evacuate" in a "meaningful sense." The infirm were definitely stuck. But if you just picked up and started walking, you'd have been out of the flood zone in just a couple hours, even with kids in tow. If you had a bike, you could have made it to Baton Rouge in a day. That's a perfectly meaningful sense of free to evacuate. (Did you know that this great nation was settled by lots of poor people who more or less WALKED across the continent?) The fact that so few poor people did this is in no small part due to the fact that they got psychologically tangled in the safety net meant to keep them from falling too far, but which, in reality, keeps many from going anywhere. And that's neither freedom nor security.

Yeah. Forget about the lack of cars. Poor people were stuck in New Orleans because they're so used to being coddled by big gubmint they forgot how to use their feet. Oh, and when I asked Will in his comments why it was that middle-classed English tourists trapped in New Orleans, similarly carless but presumably untouched by the learned helplessness Will blithely assigns to New Orleans' urban poor also failed to walk out of there, he didn't bother to respond, instead he pronounced "It's breathtaking to deny that fully developed human beings have the capacity to walk five miles." No. What's really breathtaking is having the gall of taking the 20/20 hindsight of knowing exactly where the storm hit and exactly how far you had to go to be out of the flood zone and making value judgements on people who did not have that perfect information and who probably did not relish the prospect of being caught on foot without shelter in a hurricane if they misjudged its path.