Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Libertarian Meme Pool

My fiancée and I recently attended an appearance of one of the lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees, an enlightening and altogether worthwhile use of an hour on a Sunday. As is usual, it was followed by what was nominally a question-and-answer session that, we noted, turned out to be more of a statement-and-answer session. I had thought that this discourtesy was reserved to the younger generation, but most of the audience had at least 40 years on us and ranted nonetheless. Aside from my dirty looks and question pre-screening, there should be some way to keep people from taking advantage of the captive audience to say something; I came to hear the speaker, not someone off the street who doesn't have more to offer than the average Joe and can't bother to even organize his thoughts!

Radio callers, too, are tending toward this behavior. Case in point: a caller about 38 minutes into Bryan Caplan's recent appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio decided it OK to give a shout-out for Ron Paul and tell the George Mason economist (and, thanks to his book, rockstar-du-jour), that "central planning doesn't work."

Caplan, of course, isn't advocating economic central planning or even an ironic iron-fisted rule by free-marketeers. Maybe Libertarianism Makes You Stupid: pop libertarianism, of the type that has influenced the nonlibertarian Paul, loads its adherents up with clichés, this one being especially popular. Dick Clark recently replied to a message of mine suggesting he and others would be better served by thinking about the question of animal rights than merely declaring, cart before the horse, that because animals are property no moral imperatives apply, with a request to not "think like a central planner", inadvertently putting me in the same camp as Caplan! I'm flattered.

When in doubt, throw out a cliché. Central planning doesn't work! You own yourself! A is A! All rights are property rights! It's sure to make you feel really good, and give those of us whose thought processes don't consist of re-arranging our bumper stickers a headache. Mix it with the use of a Q and A session as a bully pulpit, and it becomes a migraine!

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