We might as well try: We do what we’re told, told to do

5 08 2012

Libertarianism and anarchism are necessary adjuncts to any theory, but as theories themselves, they are shit.

Now, if I were as clever as Nietzsche, I could leave it at that: the man knew that aphorisms are so much more delightful—for the writer of them, at least—than their elaborations.

But I am duller than the mad German, more (if only fitfully) dutiful in extending my pronunciamentos into argument.

Still, I am in an aphoristic mood, so allow me to miss the dot-and-cross of explanation in favor of elision and leap and speculation: after all, even political theorists have to play.

And so, declaration upon declaration, a piling up standing in for the more consequential lock of link by link:

I had stated previously that no theory of politics which cannot take account of how we humans are deserve the name of theory; I may even have used the term political science fiction.

And, alas, as much affection as I hold for anarchism, it is as fantastical as libertarianism in its approach to human being. If libertarianism can’t think of value beyond liberty, anarchism cannot imagine the irreconcilability of interests. Libertarianism conceives of humans as adults emerging fully formed from the mud, anarchism sees us instinctively in communion. They see the state, the corporation, as the obstacles to our true selves, the heavy gate locking us away from utopia.

In short, libertarianism is too small in its understanding of humans, while anarchism would have us floating above the ground. One thinks too little of humans, the other, too much; neither knows what to do with coercion.

And there’s the rub: there is no human polity without coercion, no human congress at all, so any political theory which is to direct us has to take coercion’s measure, calculate how to deploy and constrain coercion in a manner most congenial to that theory’s purpose.

Neither libertarianism nor anarchism is fitted to such calculations. Libertarianism falls into hysterics at the merest whisper of coercion, imagining itself Mel Gibson’s William Wallace rasping out “Freedom!” as it is gutted by the king’s men, while anarchism, too, imagines that if it gets rid of kings and bosses it gets rid of coercion. They share the delusion that if only individuals or the people were left alone, that if the state and the corporation were to disappear,  power and interest would disappear with them.

Forced to toil in service to real theory, however, these adjuncts serve a real purpose. Libertarianism reminds one of the massive accumulation of coercive power in the state, and how easily that state may justify to itself any use of that power; if one cares at all the liberty and integrity of the individual, it is good to have a counter-valence to the state. Anarchism remembers that these same individuals and the communities in which they live are capable, often more capable, than is the central state in providing, or at least arranging the provisions, for themselves.

To put this more simply, when serving as a minor chord in a major theory, they are forced to reckon with elements they would otherwise dismiss, and by this reckoning they provide a leavening necessary to the continued functioning of that theory. Their resistance creates breathing room that theory in its denseness would not otherwise provide.

Libertarianism and anarchism, then, are honorable resistance fighters, but it is best if they rarely, if ever, defeat what they resist.


All this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter

24 09 2009

Confessions of a cranky old broad:

I never think I’ve slept too much. I’m suspicious of the notion of too much sleep.

However. I used to think there was no such thing as too much coffee, garlic, or salt. I no longer do.

Never ever ever tell me I think too much. Never. Ever. NeverEver.


Because I don’t.

Although I do talk too much.

Anyway, my friend B. came up with an insight that I’ve repeated to others over the years: I drink Tab so I can eat more Snickers bars. Unimpeachable, really.

Never tell me what I think—unless you want me to sever your head. If you want to know, ask.

If you don’t, don’t ask.

Tits forward is a fine substitute for balls forward.

I’m not a badass—but I like that I give off that impression. (Now, why is it again that I don’t date?)

I only do things which are a hassle for two reasons: 1) they’re necessary; or 2) I get paid. This explains why I’m not on Facebook.

This may also explain why I don’t date.

Academic journal publishing is a racket. Your competitors—oh, excuse me, your colleagues—review your work, and then, if the piece is published (sometime in the next year), not only only do you not get paid, you have to pay for reprints.

And no one will read the article anyway—possibly including your reviewers.

I’m using a couple of books in my classes which argue for a moral approach to political problems. How about a political approach to  political problems?

I am a fair-weather Packer fan. If, however, I lived in Wisconsin, I would almost certainly hate them.

Still wouldn’t root for the Vikings, tho’.

Bad taste is good if it’s funny.

You can get away with almost anything if you’re funny.

But woe unto you for offending without eliciting a laugh.

A good protest has humor, music, and an end time.

New York is a pit. I kinda like that. Except in August.

I sometimes wonder if I moved to New York because I figured this would be the place to be when the world ends.

You can die in a dream without dying in real life.

I don’t think chocolate is candy. Especially dark chocolate.

Coffee is the elixir of life.

(Another anecdote, this time from Linda Ellerbee: She made note of reporter Andrea Mitchell’s response to the question of what she did to relax. I drink coffee!)

It’s sweet that people think I became a vegetarian for health reasons. As I like to point out, Doritos are vegetarian.

Another bit of wisdom from B.: Tell people you’re 10 years older than you are. They’ll think you look great for your age.

I will steal words and phrases from other people if I can get away with it. Most new slang is off limits, however, since as an old white woman I most definitely cannot get away with it. (Although I’m still trying to work in mad as an adverb or adjective.)

When people tell me I spoil my cats I think, Duh. Why else have ’em if you can’t spoil them?

I look forward to claiming the title of ‘crone’.

But not just yet.