Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Changing My Name

I got called a name the other day by a very intelligent, decent human being. I don't take personal offense at it, but it has reminded me that the labels people wear can cause confusion; we can't know what people stand for just by looking at what they call themselves.

In this case, a coworker was expressing frustration at the resistance he was getting to his efforts to promote recycling in the office. After living for almost two decades in a village where we could drink from the streams, I'm appalled to live where the water is polluted. And even Penn and Teller admit that some recycling (notably aluminum cans) is effective, so I wanted to help my coworker's case for a cleaner environment by laying blame for the sheer volume of unnecessary trash our society produces at the door of the perverse incentives that result from government subsidies for trash disposal. I noted that the trash collection system we're subject to is fascist—i.e., government sweetheart deals for private corporations—denounced it, and encouraged my coworker to keep at his efforts.

Well, my coworker lost no time in distancing himself from "Henry's right-wing agenda." To which I replied, "Since when is someone who opposes censorship, corporate welfare, and imperialist war right wing?" (How could I not have included the war on drugs?) His reply was that libertarians are the "most rightwing of social democrats."

So I was treated to a self-confessing anti-establishment left winger distancing himself from my denunciation of "right wing" fascism! Why? Because he didn't like my "implication that government services promote sloth." So he would prefer a fascist system (or perhaps a socialist system, with government employees picking up the trash), the fight against the negative results of which he has found somewhat frustrating, to a free market that eliminates the incentives to produce needless trash.

My point isn't to belittle my coworker, who, as I said, is intelligent and trying hard to do what is right. Rather, I'm noting that I wear a label that people don't understand. Eric Peters has addressed the issue of left, right, and libertarian quite well, but I wonder if it isn't time for people like me to find a new label. has come up with "anarcho-capitalist," a term coined by Murray Rothbard, but both anarchism and capitalism are so misunderstood that combining them can only compound the problem. My coworker could be forgiven for thinking our fascist trash system is capitalist, given that so many "capitalists" have no trouble receiving corporate welfare. And the original anarchists, those of the Bakunin stripe, did not believe in private property. So as much as I like what Rockwell and friends mean by it, I don't find the term helpful.

I've come up with the term neighborist, but I don't expect it to go anywhere. It certainly describes the view Rothbardians—I suspect that Rothbard, as was Martin Luther, would be appalled to have his name attached to a movement—hold: all people are equal, bodies and property are not to be violated, and no one has the right to do to others anything those others cannot do in return. It follows that we don't acknowledge the legitimacy of the state, the fiction that gives some people privileges that others don't have. We don't divide our fellow human beings into "fellow citizens" and "aliens"; all are our neighbors (some better than others), and we get what we need and want from them through voluntary exchange, whether it be money, friendship, sex, or potato chips.

If you're asking, "What's wrong with just calling yourself a Christian?" go to the head of the class. This blog isn't about libertarianism or any other ism; it's about obeying Jesus and extending his reign over at least part of a world that is becoming more hellish by the day.

Unfortunately, if you ask most people today what a Christian is, few will answer that a Christian believes that God made all people, that people have rebelled against God, that God somehow became a man in a backwoods village and died to pay for the sins of those rebels, and that he now sends his people to invite their neighbors to leave their living deaths and come to eternal life. I suspect that most believe that we stand for racism, corporate welfare, and imperialist war. Oh, and we hate booze almost as much as we hate sex.

I have heard that a deserter was once brought to Alexander the Great (Thug). Upon learning that the deserter's name was also Alexander, the thug snapped, "Either change your behavior or change your name."

I can't find any good names change mine to.

No comments:

Post a Comment