Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Dumbest ... Quiz ... Ever!

This Libertarian Purity Test that's been making the rounds has got to be one of the most loaded quizzes I've come across in years. I only managed to score a measly 48 on the damn thing, but I have to say that it beggars the imagination that anyone could possibly score much higher than I did without being a raving lunatic. Abolish all taxes? All government is inherently evil? Abolish the state? These sorts of ideas are every bit as delusional as any nonsense ever spouted by Karl Marx about the "withering away" of the state. Libertarianism as I understand it is equivalent to the classical liberalism of the 19th century, not anarchism, or "anarcho-capitalism" as some like to call it.

I like to think I'm a pretty hardcore libertarian sort, but I'm only willing to go as far with any political philosophy as experience and my reason can take me; what that means in practice is that whenever I hear people talking about the state as an "unnecessary evil" or the defense budget being slashed 75%, alarm bells start ringing in my head about that person's degree of contact with reality. That the state can and ought to be severely pruned back is reasonable enough, but there really are arenas in which private action fails and the state's intervention can be for the better. For instance, I see no problem with completely decriminalizing marijuana, but anybody who thinks antibiotics ought to be handed out like sweeties is living in some fantasy world where drug resistance is never a problem, rather than the one I inhabit in which it is. It's all well and good to talk about "privatizing" the law, but what happens when we have two courts, each of which refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the other? What resort would the poor have to the protection of the law in a world in which the government provided no policing functions? All that aside, a lot of the questions in Part II and Part III of this quiz only seem sensible if one has absolutely no knowledge of economic theory or history whatsoever - freezing the monetary base indeed!

Looking over the questions in this quiz, I'd really have to question the sanity and intellectual abilities of anyone able to score more than 90 points on the thing; having read a great deal of his work, I'm pretty certain that even Milton Friedman himself, though pictured on the quiz page, wouldn't manage to hit that barrier. The day when libertarianism becomes identified with utopian isolationism is the day I'll cease to answer to that label. I believe in practical politics of the Burkean, gradualist variety, not in retreating into a world of daydreams about ideological heaven on earth.