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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Libertarianism: The Dream of Politics without People

Everything goes back to High School, especially if you couldn't wait to get out of high school, hoping the greater world was less obsessed with who's cool. The Libertarian movement in American politics seems, over time, to have become a gathering place for the type of people who love the idea of being politically active, but never found a way to master the most important part of politics... people.

I think this is behind the Rand cults that are still with us. Neurotic kids, mostly boys, who never really found a way to click with a group of social peers finds promise in a utopian ideal where reason, logic and book learning win the day, and then clings to that ideal ever more when he gets out into the world and finds that it’s still dominated by what he perceives are the backslapping guys and mean girls he detested in adolescence for having an ease with persuasion he never had.

In real life an Architect’s main job is selling a project and building up an emotional demand for some ‘vision’ he, mostly he’s, will come up with. The Howard Roarks of this world lacked the social skills to rise up to a destiny they felt was owed to them, and were shunted to the back room drafting tables while the Tony Robbin’s like ‘starchitects’ schmooze the big money clients and get all the glory of the personality cult.

Similarly, the ardent libertarians cling to their principles when they realize that politics is dominated by connected insiders and socially adept social climbers like Bill Clinton. Managing any large group of people is about persuasion and persuasion is all about people, not ideas. Casual personal relationships and shared belief in some abstract ideal.

The rub is these social skills aren’t evenly distributed through the population. The truth is, the kids who were popular in high school are popular thirty-years later. The kids who excelled at bamboozling the adults in their sphere of some non-existent virtue, grow into adults who can bamboozle their peers into following them into following them in all kinds of directions. The awkward kids who couldn’t figure out the secret code to seduction find identity in Utopian movements and the Libertarian movement is Utopian in nature.

Here I take a pause and describe what Utopian really means. Forget the discussions you had in AP English when you read Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ and focus on the real matter. Utopias are idealized worlds that posit that promise that everything will work perfectly and that you, yes you the awkward kid with an overbite will be perfectly set up to be at the top of social hierarchy come the revolution. Not just the social hierarchy, but the hierarchy of sexual desirability. If you’re Tom Brady, Donald Trump, Idris Elba or even Bill Clinton in his prime, you’re already living in a Utopia that has put you at the top of the heap based on those talents. If you’re not, the world looks more and more like a dystopia the further down the social ladder you perceive yourself to be, and the more your fail to receive sexual validation.

Back to the Libertarian party connection. Realizing the nitty gritty of politics has more to do with personal savvy, finding loyal associates and spending lots of time on seemingly pointless social niceties, than studiously studied ideals has to be supremely frustrating. A realization that you’ll always be on the outside, nose pressed to the glass, looking in at the smiling people you both envy and despise. Joe Biden probably can’t name all the articles in the bill of rights and George W. Bush probably couldn’t name more than five Supreme Court cases that had a profound impact on American jurisprudence, but they were both very savvy at spotting talent and seducing that talent into devoting their loyalty to the big man. Richard Daley was an uncharismatic machine pol who’s talent for running a political machine, an engineered network of people, was far more important than knowing how supreme court precedent influenced city government.

Sticking to highly abstract political ideals (the gold standard, the second amendment), and topics of great visibility but little real import (legalize weed), the Libertarian party follower can ignore the fact that policy is made by electing people who get other people into positions of influence. It’s not the candidate and the ideals, he or she claims to promote, but the team of people who come in his wake. One reason that I was sanguine about Mitt Romney in 2012 had little to do with misgivings about the man himself, but misgivings about the fact that he came with a team of Neocons as part of the package deal.

What it’s really about is stating that you think that you’re above the process, that you’re better than the regular rubes who play the regular game because you need to reassure yourself that it’s actually true. Because the truth is, you’re right. If the political world was restricted to highly literate bookworms from the right-side of the bell curve who enjoy polite debate concerning the proper tax rates over a doobie, their libertarian paradise would actually work for a while. Unfortunately, they have to deal with a sea of people who couldn’t care less about those ideals, and the left side of the bell curve who get the same vote that they do. What’s worse is that many of these folks have more friends, more money and more sex than the striving idealist.

Growing out of high school is about accepting that you were in a really emotional time of your life. The kids you thought hated you, probably didn’t really care about you in the grand scheme of things. The kids you envied are probably friendlier and more accepting in adulthood than they were when we were all still kids. Growing out of high school is about accepting that behind every movement are normal people who accept the compromises working with other people.

Growing out of the libertarian movement is about realizing that you're not above the fray where the rubes pick sides in a two party system, you're just too proud to admit to lowering yourself to it.

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