Sunday, 11 November 2012

Classicist 1, Angry Libertarian 0

Here's more anecdotal evidence supporting China Mieville's thesis that 'Libertarianism is not a ruling-class theory'. Here, in his own words, is how an outraged libertarian does shopping:
When I'm at the Wal-mart or grocery story I typically pay with my debit card. On the pad it comes up, "EBT, Debit, Credit, Cash." I make it a point to say loudly to the check-out clerk, "EBT, what is that for?" She inevitably says, "it's government assistance." I respond, "Oh, you mean welfare? Great. I work for a living. I'm paying for my food with my own hard-earned dollars. And other people get their food for free." And I look around with disgust, making sure others in line have heard me.

I am going to step this up. I am going to do far more of this in my life. It's going to be my personal crusade. I hope other libertarians and conservatives will eventually join me.
Enjoy the complete rant here (via here and here). As historian Mary Beard pointed out recently, some people have always wanted to define poverty as a moral failing:
But his [Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus'] view of the behaviour of the underclass is the kind of fantasy that the rich have had about the poor ever since.

My guess is that Ammianus had never actually set foot in an ordinary Roman bar and had never thought about the sheer illogicality of what he was claiming - if these guys really were desperately poor, how on earth could they afford to drink all night?

... The 19th Century notoriously had its "deserving" and "undeserving poor". Our own equivalent of the "deserving poor" is "hard-working families".

Politicians of all parties are forever parroting this pious phrase on television or radio. It's almost as if they've been told to never say the simple word "families" without its knee-jerk accompanying adjective.

Maybe I'm peculiarly counter-suggestible. But whenever I hear them at it, I feel a great well of support coming over me for the feckless and lazy, or - for heaven's sake - for the singletons who don't have families. Are you any less worthy of our political time and care just because you haven't got kids?

... But - OK, at the risk of sounding a bit pious myself - there's also a niggling question of human progress. It would be nice to think that we had actually "come on a bit" since the time of Ammianus more than 1,500 years ago.
Read the rest of her point of view here. You can see how it would be in the self-interest of aristocrats, tycoons and other folk who've done very nicely, thank you, from an unequal society to tell stories about how being rich and powerful is a just reward for simply being better than ordinary folk (whether the alleged proximate cause is good breeding, being favoured by the gods, the great chain of being, piety, the protestant work ethic, better genes, or hard-headed economics, depends on whatever post hoc rationalisiation is in fashion at the time).

Angry libertarians, like the furious individual I started with, aren't actually members of the elite. They shop in Wal-Mart, for crying out loud. Instead of swaying thought leaders and politicians by their entrepreneurial example and the rational power of their arguments, they're reduced to raving in impotent fury at baffled check-out staff when things don't go their way. These folk aren't the One Percent - not even close. Although they like to think of themselves as a breed apart, they're much like the rest of us - largely at the mercy of economic forces beyond their control, insecure, struggling through as best they can.

The difference is the people they identify with - not with their peers, but with the rich and powerful, with their convenient version of events in which there's nothing questionable or contingent about the amazing good fortune they enjoy, because inequality is the inevitable result of their own virtues and the vices of the common people. Libertarians seem to be merely a byproduct of the overclass doing what they do - dividing and ruling. They are the elite's expendable Fifth Column among the rest of us.

Before Obama got re-elected I was a bit 'lesser of two evils, meh', but it's been joyous to see how his victory seems to have triggered mental breakdown-force waves of cognitive dissonance in the Fifth Column of Tea Partiers, birthers, talk radio and Fox News fans and the rest of the elite's useful idiots. This apparent collapse in their morale has to be good news for the demonised victims of their pent-up rage. It's bad enough listening to tedious moralising from members of the overclass, but an organised campaign of abuse from people who are a whisker away from being in the same boat is something the down on their luck could do without.

Speaking of Fifth Columns, if you fancy doing a bit of shopping yourself, one of my own personal favourite Internet loons, Steve Kellmeyer (he of the blog that actually calls itself The Fifth Column), is having a fire sale:
Given events, I have decided to put CultureWarNotes dot com up for sale. Anyone interested in purchasing that domain, please contact me at stevekellmeyer at gmail dot com.
If you want to try before you buy, why not give Notes on the Culture Wars a visit, while stocks last? More wingnuts than a DIY superstore, more paranoid than a Black Sabbath tribute band, (at least under its current, deranged, management). It's nice to think, as Mary Beard put it, that we might actually "come on a bit" from this stuff, now the Fifth Columnists have had a bit of the stuffing knocked out of them.