Libertarians Comment on the Matrix
The World's Smallest Political Meme
Ari Armstrong writes, "Is The Matrix a libertarian film? There are a lot of parallels..."
Very well-written piece. I plan to see the movie tomorrow.
BTW: I like to think of my two-dimensional "map" as a meme, spreading through the world, changing the way people look at politics.
--David Nolan, May 21
(Note: David Nolan is a founder of the Libertarian Party.)
Power and Elitism
Great work, as always, Ari!
I was especially interested in the "Class Victimization" article. It points out, though not directly, the advanced stage of the mental disease afflicting our rulers, and those who would use Big Brother to run everyone else's lives: they all believe their judgment is superior to others'.
They are the superior beings; the rest of us are to be taken care of, like the less-experienced, unsophisticated children (if you don't like "children," substitute, "taxpaying drones") they presume we are.
As always, the solution to the problem of others' abuse of government power, is to limit government's power. The Constitution promotes some good ideas in that respect.
Tim Kern, Winter Haven, FL, May 21, 2003
Is the LP a Blue Pill?
I just read your article on the Libertarian Red Pill, which I think was far too short - while you mentioned that Libertarians might have some bad or un-realistic ideas, you didn't actually examine any. But that may be because, if you even call yourself a Libertarian, you've already taken the Blue Pill.
As The Matrix showed, the big problem with working within the system is that you are still within the system. If you choose to stay in, you obviously think that's worthwhile. That, I think, is the biggest problem with those who identify themselves as Libertarian.
One of the basic memes of Libertarianism, so basic you don't even realize it, is the idea that politics is worth doing. That is, you're gonna get freedom by VOTING for it. But is that really true?
It seems to me that, as long as you're squabbling over who's going to rule and what rules they're going to make, as long as you're still playing that fraudulent bullshit game, you've already lost. Government serves nobody but those who want to govern. If you truly do not wish to govern anyone, playing politics is a waste of your time and a drain on your resources, both mental and physical.
Then again, do Libertarians really want a society where people are free to do as they choose? Do Libertarians really believe in freedom from government? I have my doubts.
There's a rule in society, I am not sure what to call it, but a good description would be, Opposition Needs An Enemy. Basically what it means is, if you're against something, you need that something to continue to exist, so you can continue to be against it.
Sounds stupid, I know. Why would you want to continue to be against something? Wouldn't it be better to vanquish your enemy, so you can go on to other things? Not really. Not if you enjoy the battle, especially not if the battle gets you money and power. Then you want the battle to continue forever. An actual "win" would in fact be a LOSING proposition for you.
SO, any group that exists to "oppose" something actually needs that thing, they depend on it: take away their enemy and you take away their reason for existence. This is the source of the phrase, "The Loyal Opposition" in politics. Sounds like a joke, but it isn't. Truly the opposition is loyal, for they need something to oppose.
Here are a few examples that may surprise you:
IRISH REPUBLICAN ARMY: they need the British Crown in Northern Ireland
WHOA. Did the last one throw you? I sure hope so. The LP is in business - and it is a BUSINESS, i.e. their livelihood, their paychecks depend on it - to oppose government tyranny. What happens if they win completely? As stated above, "victory" would be a most horrible defeat.
So, Ari, are you really a Libertarian? That is, do you actually want and need the Big, Bad, Evil Government to continue, so you can oppose it? Or are you someone who really, truly, sincerely want to live free and doesn't want to hurt anyone else while doing so?
If you're the latter - and most people who call themselves Libertarians are - you need a new name for yourself. How about Anarchist? After all, what most "libertarians" want is actually anarchy, i.e. nobody ruling anybody else. The trouble is, most are uncomfortable with the A-word. That's because the Statists have successfully vilified it. The solution is not to call yourself a Libertarian, but to reclaim "anarchist" as something good, moral and righteous. They *want* us to be afraid to use it, which is really the best endorsement for using it.
But, I dunno. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you're what someone, I think Vin Suprynowicz, called "talk libs" - people who want to keep the debate going and not do anything. Of course it serves them best to have tyranny continue. After all, you did completely fail to list even *ONE* single false Libertarian meme.
Bob Sindeldecker, May 21
Ari Armstrong replies:
I was writing of lower-case libertarianism, a social, cultural, and intellectual movement, not necessarily the political Libertarian Party. As I intimated in the article, libertarians can be members of other parties or of no party at all.
People should decide on a particular strategy that suits them, and go for it. Just as Morpheus and his crew worked from within the Matrix to accomplish their goals, so can libertarians. As David Friedman notes in Machinery of Freedom, the most important goal of the LP is to educate people about alternatives.
Of course the idea of "loyal opposition" is nothing new. But it can be applied almost universally. [It can also be mis-applied, as it is in some cases by Sindeldecker.] For instance, some people are motivated in business to outdo their competition. Does that mean their business activities are not worthwhile? Similarly, people "outside the system" are still opposed to the system. With any sort of confrontation or competition, there is a risk of forgetting the original goal and becoming invested in the competition itself. (The nice thing about free markets is that economic competition aligns nicely with the service of customer's needs.)
You write, "Maybe you're what someone, I think Vin Suprynowicz, called 'talk libs' - people who want to keep the debate going and not do anything. Of course it serves them best to have tyranny continue." Well, I think it's fairly presumptuous of you to make guesses about who I am or what I do, given you don't know me. I would also point out that Vin is a professional "talk lib," in the sense that he makes his living writing about libertarian ideas. Of course we don't want to talk to the exclusion of taking direct action, but communication is the primary way to advance libertarianism.
You also write, "After all, you did completely fail to list even *ONE* single false Libertarian meme." I wrote about the cultish tendencies of the early Ayn Rand movement, and that is one false meme. I also link to another article in which I discuss the "libertarian straddle," yet another false meme. But my point was not to write an essay about all the things that are wrong with libertarianism, but rather with all the things that are right.
It was necessary for me to acknowledge libertarianism, like any meme-plex, can be perverted. As you suggest, it is possible to escape the system without "really" escaping the system. That's what Reloaded is all about. I didn't delve into this topic, because I could not do so without "spoiling" the final movie. But I did write, "At the same time, though, libertarians are very concerned with establishing a just, peaceful society. As Neo discovers in Reloaded, it comes down to choice."
The notion that we escape the system only to find ourselves still within the system, like dreaming about waking up, can apply to any idea or strategy, including your anarchist one. Is anarchy in "loyal opposition" to the state? I think it can be. There can be a very fine line between a healthy theory and a dogma. And none of us can escape the need for self-criticism.
Okay, maybe I need to read that page again. And you're right, you did mention the way early Objectivists seemed to worship Ayn Rand - ironic how they became "second-handers." And yes, you were clearly talking about libertarians with a small-L, though I still think trying to vote for freedom is self-defeating.
BTW I did read the companion piece, about hating those you are supposedly trying to help. Man, is that one ever needed. I wish more people would see the light...