Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Libertarian elitism

It's quite timely that Tomorrowland [yes, when will I stop talking about it?] has a plot which has prompted discussion about its quasi libertarian/Randian aspects, given the jailing of Ross Ulbricht for founding (and running) Silk Road as his libertarian dream.

Jason Soon has been tweeting (without comment) some libertarian articles expressing sympathy for Ulbricht.  This one from (I take it) libertarian cheer leader Kathryn Steele is completely and utterly over the top:
Make no mistake, in a society that slaps pedophiles and rapists on the wrist, Ross Ulbricht is sentenced to die behind bars because he dared to question the authority of the state.
Ghandi questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution. Rosa Parks and MLK questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution. Thomas Jefferson questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution, George Washington questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution.
What she doesn't mention is the issue of whether Ulbricht was putting contracts out to kill people threatening his business model.  (Maybe it was being done as pretensies, seems to be the libertarian response - like putting out fake contracts is a legitimate way of conducting business.)  But hey, what does that all matter, as long as Ulbricht was doing something that let people thumb their noses at the law of the land (several lands, actually) and libertarians could once again feel the righteousness of condemning a "war on drugs" that they have become utterly obsessed with as their favourite boogey man.     

I have previously posted about an article in AEON that explained why Silk Road, and enterprises like it, are doomed to become dangerously criminal.   It's worth reading again, as is this detailed report of the history of Ulbricht and the evidence that came out at trial:  it shows that Steele swooning over the alleged brilliance of her hero is just crap.  For one thing, the simple way he was caught indicates he was not the sharpest libertarian criminal mind in the drawer.   Ulbricht's defence that he was not the ring leader after setting it up is shown pretty convincingly to be improbable and (of course) self serving.   The work of the police in getting the laptop he was operating on was real crime movie stuff.

In any event, this case, and the libertarian support noticeable in Reason for direct human genetic modification, does demonstrate that the intellectual elitism of Ayn Rand's view of the world (you know, killing off moochers on a train)  is still a real issue within libertarianism.   National and international drug laws are for the little people, apparently.    Help facilitate their breach because you philosophically oppose criminalising drug trade on libertarian principles, and you're supposed to be a hero.

Yeah, no.

The judge's reasoning as to why this had to be hit with the harshest possible punishment was quite compelling:
Silk Road’s birth and presence asserted that its…creator was better than the laws of this country. This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.

And as for libertarian views on direct editing of the human genome - I'll come back to that later.

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