February 26, 2006

A Hopefully Temporary Obituary

Because I plan to refer to it in several upcoming pieces, I've reposted an essay I wrote in August 2003. It analyzes in some detail a "neoconservative manifesto" authored by Irving Kristol and published that month: In Service of the New Fascism.

I want to highlight here part of what I added in an introductory note:
When I wrote this article and several related ones almost three years ago, I still thought it might be possible to reach those alleged "libertarians" who support Bush to one degree or another, and who are defenders of his foreign policy in particular. I considered it unlikely that they would alter their views, but I thought it worthwhile at least to try. In the time that has elapsed, I've given up any hope on that score. Nowadays, if these people criticize Bush's foreign policy at all, it is only to say that Bush is not brutal enough, and that he should wage war still more widely. I do not know whether it is ignorance or intellectual dishonesty that makes these "libertarians" cling to the now conclusively discredited Wilsonian delusion of world transformation by means of military force. Whatever factors may be involved in an individual case, it has been indisputably clear for some time that no amount of contrary evidence will cause these people to change their minds.

At one time, libertarianism represented a serious and vital intellectual tradition, one that included thinkers and writers of great significance such as Hayek and von Mises. The faux "libertarians" of today, who are especially and annoyingly numerous among bloggers, have rendered genuine libertarianism unrecognizable. For the moment, libertarianism's reputation has been almost entirely destroyed and deservedly so, if one considers only its loudest contemporary advocates. These phony libertarians have no understanding at all of the principles they claim to be defending, and genuine liberty can find no place in their world view.

Since they have repeatedly demonstrated their unswerving refusal to change their minds even in the face of incontrovertible and overwhelming evidence, they might at least reconsider the manner in which they describe themselves. I would suggest "cheap propagandists" or "fourth-rate hacks" as much more accurate with regard to their approach and methodology. Such terms still fail to capture the depth of their betrayal, but they would be vastly preferable. And at least unsuspecting readers would be warned about the degree of attention that ought to be paid to such people -- which is to say, precisely none at all.
I consider it unnecessary to name names. I think most readers know the bloggers and other writers to whom I refer.

Some might consider these judgments too harsh. I will note only that most of these "libertarians" have been agitating for a war against Iran for some time. Such a military attack could all too easily be the beginning of a genuine world war, one that could witness devastation on an incomprehensibly horrifying scale. Given the stakes involved, I think my conclusion is, if anything, far too kind.

I tend to make that error more often than I should. I'll work on it.