Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to appreciate a Paranoid Libertarian

A paranoid libertarian may not be the highest exemplar of virtue or the most self-enlightened archetype found in civilization.  He or she does, however, abstain from the madness which afflicts peoples, a madness lately known as nationalism.  In that way, a paranoid libertarian is superior to the agreeable or acquiescent authoritarian.

Lately, distinguished law professor Cass Sunstein denounced paranoid libertarians and their five mortal political shortcomings.

[Paranoid libertarianism] can be found on the political right, in familiar objections to gun control, progressive taxation, environmental protection and health-care reform. It can also be found on the left, in familiar objections to religious displays at public institutions and to efforts to reduce the risk of terrorism. Whether on the right or the left, paranoid libertarianism (which should of course be distinguished from libertarianism as such) is marked by five defining characteristics: 
(1) A wildly exaggerated sense of risks;
(2) A presumption of bad faith on the part of government officials;
(3) A sense of past, present or future victimization;
(4) An indifference to trade-offs; and
(5) Passionate enthusiasm for slippery-slope arguments.

Nowhere did Cass Sunstein provide a substantive defense for the hyper-vigilance of the National Security Agency’s bulk surveillance of the entire American population.  Nor did Cass Sunstein examine the twisted procedure whereby the Executive Branch re-interpreted the wording of the Patriot Act.  Sunstein did not address how Congress created a special FISA star court to bypass Article III review by the Supreme Court and allow the special court to rubber-stamp the National Security Agency’s privacy violations.  Sunstein failed to mention how the Supreme Court refused to even review the National Security Agency’s spying because it was too secret to merit its attention.  Instead, he launched a tired tirade against the enemy within, paranoid libertarians. 

Nietzsche once wrote that while in persons madness is the exception, in nations or peoples madness becomes the rule.  The paranoid libertarian remains paranoid to escape this collective madness.  It requires extraordinary strength of mind and self-examination, and it looks like a sickness, paranoia, to the masses caught up in the hysteria of the status quo.

Hermann Hesse was a paranoid libertarian.  He foresaw the coming madness of Nazi Germany and fled the country.  Franz Kafka expressed the alienation of the paranoid libertarian well, and showed us how the state's oppression reduces us to cockroaches.  George Orwell was a freedom fighter for the Communists in Spain before he became disillusioned and wrote 1984.  He, too, became a paranoid libertarian, and aimed his criticisms squarely at Communism and a future West overtaken by Mass Surveillance.

Paranoid libertarians distrust slogans and talking points.  One such slogan is "support our troops," which Noam Chomsky has described as pure propaganda which has no meaning.  Paranoid libertarians refrain from military hero worship and piety towards the troops and their sacrifice, because they know that danger and imperialist exploitation lurks beyond it.

Paranoid libertarians sometimes say awful and unpopular things. 

Paranoid libertarians say things which make us feel bad.  They tell us we need to not censor disagreeable speech.  They tell us brave Americans are doing bad things abroad.  They tell us that the loyal inspectors at the airport do not make us safer, and say that they laugh at our naked x-ray bodies.  Paranoid libertarians are unreasonable.

But paranoid libertarians have very rarely committed war crimes, have not managed to topple foreign regimes, nor have they probably ever enslaved entire peoples.  Paranoid libertarians have not often engaged in idle triumphalism as they tortured the indigenous.  Paranoid libertarians do not usually slaughter wedding parties.  Paranoid libertarians do not try to restorebanana republics to their rightful rotation in the hegemon’s axis.  Paranoid libertarians tend not to blackmail civil rights leaders.  Paranoid libertarians usually do not slur mass protests or put them down violently.

The secret to happiness or to higher living may yet elude most paranoid libertarians.  They may have eccentric habits or inarticulate expressions of viewpoint.  Still, paranoid libertarians recognize the great danger and incredible violence of the state.  And their paranoia, as such, is a hard-fought struggle against the madness of the agreeable, the acquiescent, and the outright authoritarian. 

You should not feel superior to the paranoid libertarians as long as you still scribe excuses and elegies for those of great power.  And belittling them is an exercise consisting almost always of either obsequiousness or ambition.