Libertarianism and nerdism

A buddy of mine just sent me a link to a post called "Not all nerds are libertarians, but almost all libertarians are nerds." I'd say that this is true among self-identified libertarians. My leanings have led to numerous conversations with apolitical types who would best fit under the 'libertarian' heading but who just aren't interested in it. These types are not nerdier than average.

Add to it that there are a lot of libertarians, like me for instance, that have nerdy interests (and, frankly, if you're reading this, you're probably guilty as well), but aren't exactly nerds. Some of the archetypcal libertarians (e.g. Rothbard), on the other hand, were nerds extraordinaires.

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I don't think I'm a nerd

If by "nerd" one means:

* doing well in school
* having a tendency to analyze things and model the world

then I am a nerd. But I don't think that's a very good definition. It ignores the social tendencies of nerds. These tendencies are off-putting to me, and thus, I can't embrace nerdom or geekery.

Bill Gates is a nerd; Peter Thiel isn't.

It's a roundabout argument

It's a roundabout argument that libertarianism is incorrect, but it achieves that result without directly challenging libertarianism on the merits. Instead, we get things like:

"More specifically I have to wonder if they are socially retarded."

Insofar as there is a specific political position taken that opposes libertarianism, it is that people (apart from nerds) need the state to save them from vice. For example:

"If we accept the theory that religion exists to keep humanity’s excesses in check, and we accept that government exists for the same reason, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that nerds disproportionately oppose both for the same reasons. The inability of these folks to drown themselves in sin that leads them to find religion pointless or silly would also lead many of them to think the same of government restrictions on sex, drug usage, and other vices."

Certain key claims are being made here but not defended.

1) The function of religion is to protect people from vice such as drug use and promiscuity.

2) The function of government is also to protect people from vice.

3) Without government and religion, people would "drown themselves" in vice.

These are not defended, or rather, they are "defended" by calling anyone who doubts them "socially retarded".

Not exactly the height of political philosophy. One obvious problem is that the argument makes a peripheral issue into a central one. I mean, really, vice? The communist revolution wasn't about vice. The American revolution wasn't about vice. The Civil War wasn't about vice. The French Revolution wasn't about vice. The election of Obama wasn't about vice. But in the mind of that writer, vice (promiscuity and drugs) is a central political issue. Really? Give me an effin break.

Another problem is that libertarians are perfectly well aware that vice can be a problem. They simply don't see making it illegal and sending the police after offenders as being the solution. Whether or not the drug war is failing and/or is doing more harm than good isn't a question that is answered depending on whether the person answering it is a "nerd". Whether someone takes the "libertarian" or "anti-libertarian" position depends in part on morality, in part on the empirical evidence. Meanwhile, a lot of people who do not otherwise identify as libertarians take the "libertarian" position on the drug war. Anyone can see what's happening, nerd and non-nerd alike, and plenty of non-nerds think the drug war is a failure that should be stopped.

Another problem is that the libertarian position is a moral claim, not a psychological claim. It's not that, I can handle drugs and so I don't need the government keeping drugs away from me. It's, the government has no right. And that idea - that the nanny state is a bad idea - is hardly an idea limited to nerds. That's another problem.

Another problem is, who sends the police after promiscuous people anyway? If that's a "vice" that needs to be controlled, government isn't exactly performing its (supposed) function, now, is it? What is the writer talking about, then? A theocratic fantasy of his? And if we're talking about whether government belongs in the bedroom or not, the "libertarian" position (that government does not belong in the bedroom) is not exactly an unpopular position. Does the writer seriously think that there are that many nerds in America?

Here here! I could blather

Here here!

I could blather on about all the vice I enjoy, how I integrate easily into the blackmarket (with the cool kids, as Bardamu contextualized it) and especially how I am very far from being socially retarded. I wont, because the very argument he had presented was fallacious on the whole.

The extent of the discourse was anecdotal correlation. No real data, no empirical causation, nothing.

On the bright side, the

On the bright side, the occasional need that non-libertarians seem to feel to explain away libertarianism as the product of a defective character shows that they do, in fact, feel a need to dismiss it. As if they felt their own ideas... threatened by it.

The extent of the discourse

The extent of the discourse was anecdotal correlation. No real data, no empirical causation, nothing.

That is quite possibly the nerdiest response ever to an accusation of nerdery. :P

Hoisted by my own petard!

I probably shouldn't admit that I am posting this while Star Trek is running in the background...

Hoisted on your own Picard?

Nerd humor or libertarian humor: you decide.

Why cant it be both? I see

Why cant it be both? I see no reason for mutual exclusivity. Pic related.

I laughed pretty damned hard when I saw that expression on the face of the undertaker.


Yeah, I'm confused. I was expecting the jocks to do all that intellectual lifting.


They have exquisite muscle memory.

I've long thought that

I've long thought that libertarianism correlated pretty strongly with nerdishness- I just don't think that's a bad thing. People who criticize libertarianism on that basis are revealing far more about themselves than about libertarians.

I'd like to second John

I'd like to second John Markley's comments.

J. Neil Schulman on why libertarianism is anti-nerd

Just happened across this on the topic:

I grew up reading science-fiction. So when — also around age 18 — I first met other science-fiction readers, I met many others who, like me, led with our brains. If feelings were even spoken of, they were channeled into trivia.

It’s no accident that emotion-challenged scientists, robots, and aliens are staples of science-fiction. Science-fiction writers knew who their fans were and appealed to us with psychological mirrors.

After I peeled away at layer after layer of politics and ideology, I found an emotional core that explained to me not only why I was attracted to libertarianism, but why this particular ideology — as hostile as its advocates were to using feelings as the means of choosing pursuits — is the one that at its core is devoted to protecting human loves and human dreams.

Paradoxically, the ultra-cerebral philosophy I’ve spent a lot of my life talking about is the one that’s best suited for those who lead with their hearts and care about others’ feelings.

Nerdism could be a label

Nerdism could be a label imposed on almost any other person who professes to a specific philosophical/political stand of any kind because I would think, to call yourself something (specific with a fancy name and all) would make you the kind of person who'd research about your personal beliefs and philosophize about it, no?

Anyway, i loved Constant_'s post.