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Of Buffy, Barnett, and Bellicosity

Okay, so I’m not exactly sure how much I can add to Jonathan’s discussion of Barnett and libertarian just war doctrine. But give me a Buffy reference, and I’m all over it like Vitter and...yeah, okay, that’s too easy. Still, the point is that I’m gonna own those 10 points.

For those of you not paying attention (bastards!), the assignment was to find three links between Jonathan’s post and the Buffy episode from which the post takes its name (Once more, with feeling!). Part of me wants to insert a big honkin’ recap of the entire episode right here, but as this isn’t The ‘Verse (and since I don’t have permission to post there anyway), I’ll try to control said impulses. Instead, here in all their glory are three links between Buffy’s musical extravaganza and Jonathan’s post.

1. So tell me what you really think.

So this is really more of a meta-connection. But. Sweet’s make-everyone-sing-and-dance spell (an odd spell to have in one’s arsenal, btw. Seems more like the sort of power one would find among the Mystery Men. But I digress.) The point is that all the singing leads to some soul-searching, and the soul-searching leads to some…tensions…among the Scoobies. Basically, people who seem to all be on the same side turn out really to have these deep underlying differences. And while under normal conditions those differences are masked by more pressing battles against various assorted vampires and demons, Sweet manages to bring some of those underlying tensions up to the surface.

Similarly, Ron Paul’s libertarian take on Iraq has re-exposed differences within the libertarian camp, As Barnett explains, there are nonetheless deep libertarian divisions over legitimate uses of American military might. Those differences are typically papered over by libertarian struggles against vampires and demons…er, Democrats and Republicans. Or, more specifically, by general libertarian disgust with the state of the nation-building process in Iraq – and, of course, by more immediate libertarian concerns like the massive expansion of federal entitlements and the usual economic issues that tend to unite the many disparate schools of libertarianism.

2. Sunnydale sure ain’t heaven.

Barnett quite rightly points out that one of the main libertarian reservations about the war in Iraq was “the risk of harmful, unintended consequences.” You know, things like, say, getting all our troops bogged down in the desert, inadvertently creating more terrorists than we caught, precipitating civil war, giving Iran an even larger voice in the Middle East, that sort of thing. Aren’t we lucky that all those fears proved empty? Seriously, though, fear of unintended consequences forms a big part of the libertarian worldview. Even well-intentioned actors often fuck things up pretty royally, and all those public choice folks have pretty well taught us that very few governments are really all that well-intentioned in the first place.

So what does this have to do with Buffy? Well, it turns out that the Scoobies are not much better when it comes to unintended consequences. You see, Buffy’s friends believed her to be stuck in hell. Yes, the literal one. If you have to ask... So they decided to resurrect her. Unfortunately, Buffy wasn’t actually in hell. Okay, I guess that’s not actually unfortunate. What is unfortunate is that Buffy’s friends pulled her out of heaven. Now I’ve not actually been to heaven, but I’d be willing to bet a fairly large sum that it beats the crap out of Sunnydale. And Buffy certainly thought so, at least. So, despite their really good intentions, Buffy’s friends ended up making her worse off.

3. Ass-kicking vigilantes.

This one isn’t so much related to the specific episode. For that matter, it’s a point that applies pretty much equally well to any Joss Whedon project. Well, okay, maybe not Toy Story. But the rest of ‘em. When Barnett says of Ron Paul that “like all libertarians, even Mr. Paul believes in the fundamental, individual right of self-defense, which is why libertarians like him overwhelmingly support the right to keep and bear arms,” he could be speaking equally well of Buffy or Giles (or Mal or Jayne or Angel). Indeed, in Whedon’s world, it is up to the resourceful individual – and her trusted companions – to save the day. Hiding behind the might of the state is never an option. In fact, the state is just as often a hindrance (if not an outright enemy) as a help.