Give Me Liberty

by Adam Alcorn

Category: Uncategorized

Libertarians, and Trump

Libertarians have been cheating on their principles out of pure licentiousness and debauchery. It feels good to cheer for the orange maniac smashing through the barriers that have long held reasonable discourse at bay. There is however, a problem here. Donald Trump has broken these barriers and replaced them with what appears to be the perfect argument in favor of rebuilding them. I use the terms licentiousness and debauchery deliberately. There is no philosophical underpinning to a libertarian’s support of The Donald, but on a personal level it feels great. It is selfishly motivated self-satisfaction using Donald as an instrument of schadenfreude.

trumpic

Despite the harshness of the reality of a libertarian Trump supporter, I must say I cannot completely defeat my own cravings to indulge in the debauchery that comes with supporting Trump. Supporting Trump gives one a kind of freedom that is rarely felt in the realm of politics. It provides an instrument that appears to be able to effect change like never before. Supporting Trump makes one feel powerful in a world that the two party monopoly and the corrupt media renders us powerless. This is something that libertarians have never felt.

Libertarians lose. We have been losing since we settled on a name for ourselves. Just look at the size of government and how much it has grown. This breeds a feeling of desperation and inevitability. We are going to get swallowed up and erased by Leviathan and no one will even hear us scream. Well… Donald Trump is screaming. Many see his campaign as a way to refuse to go quietly without a fight. We may not win, but dammit we will leave a mark. For these reasons I understand the libertarians that are supporting Trump. The problem is that it is Donald f’in Trump who has an attention span of a gnat and an ego larger than the country he thinks he can run “so good”. Donald Trump might just leave a mark that leaves you dead. Sure, Hillary Clinton may as well, but I won’t support her as a libertarian either and I don’t think anyone is. To the libertarian Trump supporters, I say go right ahead. Go ahead with your support of Trump, but understand, and make others understand that you do not support Trump as a libertarian, but for other, likely personal reasons. You can support Trump as a populist, a nationalist, an outsider, or even a fascist. Just leave the libertarianism out of it, because Trump certainly hasn’t brought any into consideration. Yes, there are a few Trump policies that line up with libertarian beliefs, but when policy positions are not based on principle, they will change. Not to mention the fact that Trump changes his opinions faster than Podesta loses his phones.

The consumer of entertainment in me wants a Trump presidency for the sheer spectacle of it. As that suggests however, the opinion of a spectator is not always what is best for a participant. Why couldn’t some other country nearby elect Trump as president? Or did they already do that with Duterte? If so, the dice rolled a loser. If you are a Trump supporter, you are advocating a poker game in which, in my opinion, the deck is stacked against you. If you succeed in getting Trump elected, you better hope he plays his cards right, and judging by the campaign I can’t imagine feeling very confident about that.

Is it possible that this is the libertarian Trump supporter’s first taste of “power”? Perhaps the libido dominandi that we as libertarians so often preach against, has sneaked its way in? The lust for power is real, and everyone is vulnerable to it. The Trump campaign has provided frustrated libertarians the opportunity to feel powerful in the political realm for the first time in their life.

Ron Paul

It is a shame that people weren’t frustrated enough to “throw caution to the wind” in 2008 or 2012 and elect Ron Paul. That’s a roll of the dice I’d be comfortable with, and so would my principles.

 

Adam Alcorn

@AdamBlacksburg

aalcorn@vt.edu

To Accept the Mainstream Narrative of Wars Past is to Threaten Future Stability

A glimpse at War and Films by Adam Alcorn

Historians and observers alike tend to seek out a clear and rational narrative to a sequence of events in history. This is not unique to war but is highlighted by the societal necessity for justification of such a violent phenomenon.  Through film, literature, the press, and in more recent times the internet, people have always been subject to a seemingly unquestionable narrative in regards to war and just what side of history the Nation is going to fall. Americans in the aftermath of 9/11 were in a state of fervor for war. This is not an unusual or entirely unjustified response to such tragic events. The unfortunate side effect of such fervor for war is an enhanced desire among people to seek a simple narrative to complex sequence of events. The narrative presented to the Americans over a several year period following 9/11 has been proven false, but it went unquestioned by the press. In the meantime, Americans started two extended wars followed by nation building campaigns in the Middle East. Wars and other social phenomena are usually complex sequences of events that cannot be explained by a single narrative and to accept a single narrative as the historical truth is dangerous in ways that Americans are begrudgingly learning today in the hills and valleys of Afghanistan and Iraq. This is also true when remembering wars through film.

The First World War has been long remembered as an unnecessary diplomatic crisis and a waste of so many lives.  In the decades following the war this narrative was presented in many ways. La Grande Illusion (1937) was a French film directed by Jean Renoir that expressed the folly of Nationalism and the ability of humanity to come together and avoid fruitless and violent conflict. In La Grande Illusion, Renoir expresses this sentiment by providing with his cast a veritable cross section of Western European society. The rich Jewish immigrant is portrayed as Lieutenant Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), a member of the aristocracy is represented in Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and an army officer of humble beginnings is Lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin). These men all represented different classes with different struggles, real struggles. The interesting twist in La Grande Illusion is that not only do these men coexist peacefully inside a German prison camp, but they get along with their German captors as well. German Captain von Rauffenstein (Eric von Stroheim) even cries alongside de Boldieu after he shoots him. This expressed the spirit that is so often associated with the First World War. La Grande Illusion was another part of the single, unquestioned narrative of the time. A narrative suggesting that humanity had evolved beyond petty Nationalistic disputes and that the futility of war was understood by everyone proved to be dangerous however. When viewed in the context of the coming Second World War, the lines between unhealthy Nationalistic fury and Patriotism begin to blur. As film critic Stanley Kauffmann said of La Grande Illusion “Today its pacifist intent, as such, seems somewhat less salient (though no less moving) because so many more human beings know how futile war is and know too, that no film can abolish it”1. The moral lessons supposedly solved via the enlightened narrative presented in this film suddenly became irrelevant as the world faced the potentiality of a Nazi empire.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) was directed by Stephen Spielberg and depicted another commonly unquestioned narrative for the events of World War II.  It was a gruesome expose on the brutality of war, in many ways an anti-war film. However, as Bodnar said in reviewing the film “Ironically, while the Spielberg film reveals the brutality of war, it preserves the World War II image of American soldiers as inherently averse to bloodshed and cruelty. The war was savage; the average American GI who fought it was not.2”. Not only does this support Kauffmann’s theory regarding the futility of anti-war film, but it also sheds light upon the true power of a single, unquestionable historical narrative, accepted as truth. People are willing to believe unbelievable things when presented with it repeatedly, and without access to the truth. The “good war” reputation of World War II has played no small role in the development of the United States of America serving as policeman of the world.

It is entirely possible that the unfortunate gambles taken before World War II with the policies we call appeasement were in part a result of the narrative proclaiming World War I as the war to end all wars and that we had evolved beyond frivolous Nationalistic disputes. There is no doubt that the unquestioned narrative of American involvement in World War II that portrays the U.S. as saviors of the civilized world resulted in the policies of “American Exceptionalism” that laced the news media before and throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This cultural tendency towards accepting a single narrative as truth results in ignorance of our past that can often lead to a dangerous future.

  1. Stanley Kauffmann, “Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion,” Horizon 14, Nr. 3 (1972): 49. Scholar.
  2. John Bodnar, “Saving Private Ryan and Postwar Memory in America,” The American Historical Review 106 (2001): 805-817. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2692325

– Adam Alcorn, @AdamBlacksburg,

The Libertarian Receptions of The Donald – The Populist Short-Circuit

Donald-Trump-hair

         Libertarians and Conservatives are expressing various and perplexing reactions to the rise of the Donald. Here I attempt to explain my understanding of the Rise of the Donald. In no means am I suggesting that this is the “correct” understanding, but I feel that it explains the fascination in a more palatable manner.

Murray N. Rothbard, in his book Betrayal of the American Right, makes an argument regarding the perception of Joseph McCarthy and his anti-communist tirades. Here, Rothbard puts forward his understanding of the McCarthy “movement” in the heart of anti-communist fervor of the Cold War era.

Rothbard

Dr. Murray N. Rothbard

The Populist Short-Circuit

“…a reason for my for my own fascination with the McCarthy phenomenon: his populism. … For the ‘50s was an era when …(corporate liberalism)…had triumphed and seemed to be permanently in the saddle. Having now gained the seats of power, the liberals had given up their radical veneer of the ‘30s and were now settling down to the cozy enjoyment of their power and perquisites. It was a comfortable alliance of Wall Street, Big Business, Big Government, Big Unions, and liberal Ivy League intellectuals; it seemed to me that while in the long run of this unholy alliance could be overthrown by educating a new generation of intellectuals, that in the short-run the only hope to dislodge this new ruling elite was a populist short-circuit.

“In sum, that there was a vital need to appeal directly to the massed, emotionally, even demagogically, over the heads of the establishment: of the Ivy League, the mass media, the liberal intellectuals, or the Republican-Democrat political party structure. This appeal could be done – especially in that period of no organized opposition whatever – only by a charismatic leader, a leader who could make a direct appeal to the masses and thereby undercut the ruling and opinion molding elite; in sum, by a populist short-circuit. It seemed to me that this was what McCarthywas trying to do; and that was largely this appeal, the open-ended sense that there was no audacity of which McCarthy was not capable, that frightened the liberals, who from their opposite side of the fence, also saw that the only danger to their rule was in just such a whipping up of populist emotions.

“My own quip at the time, which roughly summed up this position, was that in contrast to the liberals, who of approved of McCarthy’s “ends” (ousters of Communists from offices and jobs) but disapproved of his radical and demagogic means, I myself approved of his means, (radical assault on the nations power structure) but not necessarily his ends.”

If you replace McCarthy with Trump, and replace communism with immigrants and warmongering, the circumstances are nearly identical. Like Rothbard, I wholeheartedly support Trumps’ full-scale attack on the political establishment, (his means), and I wholeheartedly reject his proposed policies, (his ends).

The political acumen of Murray Rothbard lives on in this dreadful campaign, and I hope other liberty lovers can begin to differentiate Trump’s means and his ends. I will support his means, and wholeheartedly oppose his policies, if by the wildest chance in hell he actually gains the presidency.

Adam Alcorn
@AdamBlacksburg
aalcorn@vt.edu

The Rothbard quoted sections are cited below:

1. Rothbard, Murray N., and Thomas E. Woods. “National Review and the Triumph of the New Right.” The Betrayal of the American Right. Auburn (Ala.): Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2007. 154-55. Print.

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