Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WHY I AM NOT A LIBERTARIAN, PART 4,229. Normally I don't respond well to baiting (I tend to throw my food dish and plead for dignity) but this National Post column (by our old friend Katherine Mangu-Ward!) that Adam Serwer dished me must be dug:
At first glance, any comparison between the gentle beeping of a Brooklyn mom dialing 311 on her iPhone and the roar of the Taliban pickup truck seems absurd. But it remains true that both want the same thing -- a targeted ban on ice cream.
The article actually compares an Afghan Taliban interdiction against ladies eating ice cream with an anti-Mr. Softee drive in Park Slope.

The Taliban (as reported by that great libertarian journalist Eve Ensler) disapproved of girls who dared eat ice cream. The Brooklyn moms complained of the incessant jingle of ice cream trucks in their neighborhood.

The Taliban killed and/or whipped the girls. The moms called 311. Don't you see the similarities? Mangu-Ward sure does.
This is why the Taliban and the Brooklyn moms can come to the same conclusion about ice cream bans. While they disagree on the parts of the self that need to be checked or limited -- and the Brooklyn moms prefer democracy to determine those limits -- they agree that state intervention to limit highly personal choices will make people better, and even freer.
In addition to the Taliban, the Park Slope mothers are also like "Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx and John Rawls," and Mangu-Ward is like Isaiah Berlin.
Those who lobby for and approve of such restrictions don't see the ever-growing list of banned behaviours as an infringement of liberty. Instead, they are a convenient and practical solution to the problem of what Berlin called "the divided self."
Now, I have myself twitted the anti-ice-cream-truck nannies of Brooklyn for the Voice -- not as neo-Taliban, but as dorks. I did not go the full Mangu-Ward distance there, nor in my other Nanny State items at Runnin' Scared, partly because I have a sense of humor, and partly because I recognize that neighborhood associations are within their rights to agitate against what they consider public nuisances and, in their formalized state, even use legal power to deny a liquor license to a restaurant, limit the number of street fairs on their blocks, etc.

Being an arty-farty and an anti-social, I generally prefer fewer rather than more restrictions on both art and commerce. And I think in the Bloomberg era the City's gotten way too protectionist. But I also live on planet Earth. I do not think every attempt to use legal means to alter the public space is automatically the equivalent of a Taliban death threat, for the same reason I do not think Big Gummint is being unfair to poor little BP: because I am neither a libertarian nor a fucking nut.

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