Dé hAoine, Bealtaine 21, 2010

Lot's of Chatter about the Possible Racism of Rand Paul


and libertarians in general. There's speculation that the relatively new philosophy* of property being 'sovereign', (ie: the be all and end all of human liberty, to the point that having the legal prerogative to kill and die for one's property is considered far more important than freedom of conscience or the franchise.) is largely inspired by a desire to go back to the days when business owners could keep darkies away from the lunch counter or the workplace. There's probably a little something to this. There have in fact been a long line of American thinkers (most famously Rand Paul's namesake) that have put themselves through logical torture for the sake of producing an anti-egalitarian theory of freedom, and this is a game that has roots in old Dixie, where the emphasis on property over equality was very easily understood.

(* No, the Founding Fathers were not modern libertarians, read up on the Whiskey rebellion.)

But I don't think that racism is the overriding factor in libertarianism's rise (such as it is) as Amanda Marcotte makes it out to be in the post cited above. Rather I think libertarianism provides cover for several flavors of unfounded self-regard. It is after all the stated philosophy of choice for the Art Bell crowd. Just about every crank, conspiracy theorist, and denialist endowed with secret knowledge and leading some imaginary resistance considers himself to be a libertarian.

Until the recent Latin influx, rural Nebraskans simply didn't have anyone to be actively racist towards, in spite of the generic xenophobia that inevitably develops among people who spend their whole lives interacting with a couple hundred others, and they mostly in the same walks of life. Still there's a healthy amount of libertarian politics out there, born out of reaction not against the civil rights movement but quite clearly against the environmental movement. The griping against big government on our backs is never ending, the screaming demands to allow unrestrained genocide against the Prairie Dog are unceasing.

Mostly though I think it's an aristocratic mindset. These are places where owning large amounts of dirt still conveys great social status. The libertarianism may be delusional, but it is honestly felt. There's a desire to believe that there is a mystical power to property ownership, a refusal to accept that property is a social construct, an idea that it would somehow be mine even without the legal force that society provides, in the same way that God's green Earth is his just because, and that I should be free to cover my land in choleric sewage in the same way that God is free to reign fire upon us.

There's certainly a great deal of peevishness and entitlement involved here, to be sure. "No farmers no food" and all that, the moral rage that ranchers have for vegetarians that Reebok salesmen are less likely to feel for sandal-wearers, and that's exactly what I'm getting at.

There is clearly a deep human desire to be cosmically important, divinely special. Racism and property fetishism are only two means of fulfilling this desire. And since this desire is so obviously in conflict with modern democracy, and since Americans are from the cradle heavily socialized to value "freedom", the truck stop weirdos of the world (more numerous than you think) have created the uniquely American creature of libertarianism to cure the dissonance. And since the internet now allows them to keep the Howard Roark treatment amongst themselves we really have nothing to fear from them beyond poorly considered votes.

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