Blogs > Liberty and Power > NY REVIEW OF BOOKS Deplores Growing Libertarian Sentiment

May 26, 2010 9:10 pm


NY REVIEW OF BOOKS Deplores Growing Libertarian Sentiment



The May 27 issue of The New York Review of Books contains an article entitled"Tea Party Jacobins" by Mark Lilla. The article denounces the"radical individualism" that it identifies as motivating a growing populism on the right and left. Here are some sample quotations:

"A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets. Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob."

"Now an angry group of Americans wants to be freer still--free from government agencies that protect their health, wealth, and well-being; free from problems and policies too difficult to understand; free from parties and coalitions; free from experts who think they know better than they do; free from politicians who don't talk or look like they do (and Barack Obama certainly doesn't). They want to say what they have to say without fear of contradiction, and then hear someone on television tell them they're right. They don't want the rule of the people, though that's what they say. They want to be people without rules--and, who knows, they may succeed."

The analysis, if not the evaluation, is in many respects similar to that put forward years ago by Jeff Riggenbach in In Praise of Decadence. And David Henderson comments on the article over at EconLog.


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Mark Brady - 5/28/2010

Please ignore my previous comment. I meant to comment on Sheldon Richman's post.

That's not to say, of course, that your post about Mark Lilla's essay wasn't worthwhile!


Michael Brown - 5/27/2010

Well, it doesn't seem you can comment on the NYRB. So here are my comments:

"Now an angry group of Americans wants to be freer still--free from government agencies that protect their health, wealth, and well-being;"

Not quite. We are adults. We don't need government agencies to protect our health, wealth and well-being. We are able to do this for ourselves. And this assumes that these agences are really able to do this.

"free from problems and policies too difficult to understand;"

Not quite. Too often the problems are CAUSED by these policies, inacted by people who DON'T understand the problems. I understand the problems quite well, thank you, and don't care for the causes or the so-called solutions.

"free from parties and coalitions;"

Sounds great. sign me up.

"free from experts who think they know better than they do;"

Yeah. How is that so bad?? Am sick of self-appointed elites and experts trying to lecture me, when its clear they don't know jack-sh*t about the problem.

"free from politicians who don't talk or look like they do (and Barack Obama certainly doesn't)."

Please don't try to place the race card. The problem that many of us have with Obama has ZILCH to do with how he looks, but on his actions and beliefs. And that's true of any politician.

"They want to say what they have to say without fear of contradiction, and then hear someone on television tell them they're right."

Gee, the "liberals" and progressives have enjoyed this for years if not decades. Why can't it be our turn???

"They don't want the rule of the people, though that's what they say."

We want to rule of law, not the rule of men. We don't want mob rule and we don't want dictators.

"They want to be people without rules"

Really??? So the Tea Partiers are anarchists??? News to me.



Mark Brady - 5/27/2010

Nice job! I shall be passing this essay around.