Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sex And The Libertarian Male

It seems there has been a debate recently in LibertarianLand regarding the male/female ratio of the libertarian population. One participant was Sweet Young Thing Julie Borowski, as mentioned in the comments to an earlier post (thanks, anon!), an ambitious young libertarian who has supped delicately at the Koch teat for some time, finally ending up at the Koch-supported Freedomworks.

(As we all know, Freedomworks is a grassroots-activism-for-hire company, providing a populist veneer to plutocrat activities. Since Ms. Borowski is a university graduate (with honors!), she presumably understands the nature of her job but her enthusiasm for the specialness of her political group sees to carry her past this little road bump in her idealism's path.)

Borowski told her viewers that few women are libertarians because women are passive and submissive. Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz responded at Bleeding Heart Libertarians (no, I've never head of it either), taking Borowski to task for her sexist attack on other libertarian women. Obviously Borowski is accustomed to working at the shallow end of the intellectual and moral pool (after all, P. Suderman, boy rat-f*cker, used to work at Freedomworks). She did not realize that demeaning women, a time-honored conservative path to wealth and power, does not work as well with libertarian women, who consider themselves above conservative sexual mores.

But Megan McArdle, whose never misses a chance to extol her own virtues and rhapsodize about her domestic bliss, immediately made the controversy All About Megan.

The Problem With Libertarian Women is Not Libertarian Men

They're great relationship material

A few days ago, Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz penned a thoughtful essay on why there are so few women libertarians. This has triggered some natural chaffing, most recently from my colleague, David Frum:
"[Maybe the best answer to why women reject libertarianism is that so many women feel they already spend enough time with toddlers."]  
Mr Frum is treading well-worn ground here. Six months ago Ann Friedman somehow persuaded New York Magazine to publish a piece titled "Paul Ryan is Your Annoying Libertarian Ex-Boyfriend" which checked off every trope. Libertarian guys are totally selfish, because--Ayn Rand! And sexist! And they don't use birth control! 
. . . er, what? Friedman appears to have taken her notions about libertarians from a Very Special Episode of Sex in the City rather than, from, say, observing actual libertarians. And this particular stereotype doesn't make any sense: if libertarian men really were as selfish as she suggests, wouldn't they be maniacal about protecting themselves from unwanted, time-and-money-sucking children?

McArdle's low reading comprehension level often leads her astray, the poor little addle-headed thing. This is what Friedman actually said:
In the dating world, an infatuation with Ayn Rand is a red flag. You might not see it right away: Your date is probably conventionally attractive, decidedly wealthy, and doesn’t really talk politics. But then you get back to his apartment, set your bag down on his glass-topped coffee table, give his bookshelf the once-over — and find it lined with Ayn Rand....  
[T]hat dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged tells you everything you need to know. He sees himself as an objective iconoclast. He's unapologetically selfish, because it's only rational, he says. Sure, he grew up with money but he worked to get where he is today. He’s all about individual responsibility but he just isn’t, metaphorically, into wearing protection.  
This is the part where you collect your shoes and bag and GTFO.
Not that we blame McArdle for her confusion. True, Friedman didn't just use a condom metaphor, she actually pointed out she was using sexual protection as a metaphor by writing the word "metaphorically," but Megan McArdle is on a mission. Like Miss Borowski, McArdle wants to be cool and if she can't be cool by actually doing cool things, she'll be cool by telling everyone at great length and with fervent enthusiasm that she is really, really cool, and of course so is the male of her species.

This touches on something I said in the comments of my previous post:

They are libertarians because they want to be cool. That is, they want to be free of authoritarian control. They rant about the same thing as social conservatives because they are reflexively anti-liberal but unlike conservatives they see no reason why they should publicly conform to tribal boundaries.

They think they are leaders because they flaunt tribal rules but making up a fictional political class to legitimize your tribal transgressions is hopelessly authoritarian. They want to make their own rules, follow their own moral code, create their own art, gain power and influence through their own political action but they can't.

The rules, morals, art (propaganda), power and influence on their side is controlled by the wealthy, for the wealthy's very own benefit. This is why the followers chose that side to begin with; it was the side of the rich and powerful and they hoped to benefit from their proximity to all that money, safety, acceptance, admiration.

But being a follower means that their art, politics, entertainment, and religion must be tailored to help the leaders, not the followers. They have broken free of the followers' rules but they will never be able to break away from their leaders' rules, unless they were to abjure their position in the group.

They don't understand--they never understood--that they don't make the rules, they just enforce them.

So Julie Borowski wants libertarians to hurry up and gain power over the dominant liberal culture by creating libertarian culture, which will somehow immediately become popular. More Dennis Millers and Judd Aaptows and Atlas Shrugged!

But "art" is the creation of a connection from the artist to the viewer. The artist attempts to express his own emotional/intellectual life through his work and the viewer interprets the work through his own emotional/intellectual prism. Art tells us who we were, who we are, who we can be. Propaganda tells us who or what we must be, for the benefit of the propagandist. And it will never be cool.
The right longs to be cool because they long to feel special, to both belong to a group and be admired by everyone out of the group. Being cool is the only way they can think of to distinguish themselves from the rest of the conservative followers and defeat their hip liberal enemies. As McArdle says, it's not like they are really trying to govern anyway.

So perhaps it's useful to offer the perspective of someone who's observed the species in its native habitat. Unlike Friedman (and I presume, Frum), I have dated a bunch of libertarian guys . . . and a bunch of liberal guys . . . and a few social conservatives for good measure. And I'm here to report that libertarians make terrific relationship material.
To be sure, I am the first to admit that libertarians are . . . quirky. Asperger's is definitely overrepresented in the community, and with it, various nerdy obsessions. Spend a bunch of time around libertarian guys and you're apt to learn a lot about music, and comic books, and action movies, and computer programming . . . a lot. He could lend you a book, if you want. And he'd be really happy to sit down and spend four or five hours explaining college football statistics to you. Do you want that alphabetically, or north to south?
 I am reminded of something else Friedman said in her post:
As GQ’s Marin Cogan points out, Romney has a tendency to mansplain — informing listeners, in great detail, about mundane things with which they are already familiar.
Libertarian men, McArdle tells us, are not just intelligent; they are also good people.

What libertarian guys are not, in my experience, is selfish cads. Full disclosure: I am biased. Some of my best friends are libertarian men, and I even married one. Nonetheless, I'd like to issue a memo to pundits: the personal is not political.  
"The personal is not political."  Those are pretty strange words coming from a woman. Political decisions affect our personal lives every day in fundamental ways. Political decisions gave us the ability to control our own lives legally and physically. Perhaps McArdle is thinking that people make political decisions for ideological reasons, which fits her previous statements. She says she does not understand why people disagree vehemently about politics. Why do they get angry or refuse to come to agreement or make unpleasant accusations of heartlessness and moral degeneracy? It's not personal, after all! From an article on the phrase:
[Carol Hanisch's] essay "The Personal Is Political" said that coming to a personal realization of how "grim" the situation was for women was as important as doing political "action" such as protests. Hanisch noted that "political" refers to any power relationships, not just those of government or elected officials.

But McArdle is an authoritarian and does not want to change the current power structure, which pays her a lot of money to churn out propaganda. Therefore she denies that the personal is political to serve her personal needs.

Even if we accept the absurd notion that it is the blackest sort of selfishness to oppose taxing away someone else's money in order to give it to a third party, that belief wouldn't tell you anything about their personal behavior. Some of the greatest humanitarians in history have been some of the worst husbands, friends, and fathers.
Yes it would, because only a selfish rat would want to enjoy all the benefits of modern, expensive society without paying for them, or attempt to ensure that only the wealthy benefit from taxes.  Selfish people are also selfish to their loved ones.

My personal empirical research indicates that in fact, libertarians make great boyfriends and husbands (though my sample size on the latter is pretty small). The ones I've dated have actually been super considerate, and very concerned with pulling their own weight, though I couldn't say whether this is random chance, or the natural outgrowth of a value system that emphasizes voluntary, mutually beneficial cooperation. I will say that it is unusually easy to divide chores with someone who favors simple, rules-based systems for cooperation.
Bullshit. Libertarianism is "the natural outgrowth of a value system that emphasizes voluntary, mutually beneficial cooperation" only in her dreams. Perhaps she meant "voluntary, personally beneficial exploitation" instead but mis-typed. One can only imagine how tedious it is to constantly have to negotiate terms with a libertarian partner who must be convinced that he is not being taken advantage of by a moocher spouse.

On a personal level, it seems that there is no power conflict in her marriage, which is a wonder under the circumstances. McArdle is almost ten years older than P. Suderman, is better and more prestigiously educated, almost certainly makes more money, has a more-prominent social and professional profile, and enjoys a very high degree of confidence in her own abilities. It is impossible for a perfect balance of power to exist in a marriage without constant and conscious effort on the part of both partners.

But that is libertarians for you, a mighty and egalitarian folk who, despite their beliefs that some people are simply better than others and all those better people just happen to be rich, are only too willing to pull their own weight. For instance, when P. Suderman was creating fake grassroots websites to fool the rubes into supporting bank bailouts he was merely being self-sufficient. By supporting the rich he was actually supporting himself, and who could argue with such rugged individualism?
Libertarians are also surprisingly good at romantic surprises. They are usually what Adam Smith called a "Man of System": they love sitting around by the hour, constructing elaborate systems for solving every problem. Which means that they do a smash-up job of planning that extra special, over-the-top anniversary or birthday extravaganza. Virtually all of the best gifts I've ever gotten have come from libertarian guys.
And we all know how important getting gifts is to Megan McArdle.
Of course, I have also dated lovely liberals and considerate conservatives. In fact, while I've had generally great experiences with libertarian men, I can't say I detect much of a correlation between political views and personal qualities: the worst louse I ever dated was a bleeding-heart liberal, as were some of the nicest, most upstanding fellows. Choosing a mate by political label is like choosing food by the picture on the box.
So while McArdle has just written a post saying that libertarian men are great because they abide by  libertarian ideology in their personal lives, ideology really doesn't matter after all.
So no, the lack of libertarian ladies is not due to the inadequacy of libertarian guys. I have some theories as to what might be behind it . . . but I'm afraid that at the moment, I have to go make a non-ideological dinner for myself and my husband.
Evidently P. Suderman lost the negotiation over who would do the cooking.

We eagerly await McArdle's article on why so few women are libertarian when libertarian men are such swell and egalitarian guys.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Libertarian men, McArdle tells us, are not just intelligent; they are also good people.


Both Sides Do It said...

There are enough interlocking themes in this post to write a book. Lord knows you've got enough documentation.

You should at least announce you're writing one, give it a terrible title, take a long vacation, and never speak of it again.

Susan of Texas said...

I have noticed that people who are very concerned about pulling your own weight usually overemphasize their own contribution and underemphasize everyone else's.

You should at least announce you're writing one, give it a terrible title, take a long vacation, and never speak of it again.

I think I already did that. (Actually, I finished the outline and will start the first draft soon.)

NattyB said...

Please don't ever stop criticizing Megan McAardle.

She is the worst. You are one of the best at pointing out her specialness.

zuzu said...

Asperger's is definitely overrepresented in the community

Many people who claim Asperger's are really just trying to justify asshole behavior. Asperger's doesn't make you an asshole, or selfish, or a libertarian if you weren't already one.

On the dating tip, I specify in my online dating profile that I will laugh in your face if you tell me you're a libertarian. I won't date Republicans, either, but I don't find them quite so risible.

Batocchio said...

Bullshit is right. The entire premise of glibertarianism is to make the personal the political, to assert their personal privilege over society, to assert a veto power over the decisions of a representative government or to assert that their personal privilege and selfishness is a inviolable, fundamental right. Only a fucking adolescent would seriously argue that taxation is theft or slavery. It is very rare to meet a libertarian who is not a straight white male, typically middle class or higher in economic background. They have benefitted greatly from the Commons, but discount this and exaggerate the role of their own merit in contributing their standing.

Also, what zuzu said about Asperger's and libertarianism.

Also, too:"

bulbul said...

My personal empirical research
So that's how they refer to 'anecdotes from my life' over at the Beast?

atat said...

" Friedman appears to have taken her notions about libertarians from a Very Special Episode of Sex in the City."

Having never seen the show, my question comes from ignorance, but wha? Was there a special libertarian episode of Sex in the City? Or is this one of her typically muddled jabs at someone whom she probably fears is viewed as a younger, hipper, more Sex-in-the-City-ish version of herself?

Susan of Texas said...

It makes no sense at all. She just put the Very Special Episode trope next to the Pop Culture Controversy trope and hit publish.

Ken Houghton said...

I'm taking "Very Special" to be equivalent to "takes the short bus."

Those who believe that interpretation is Mean to Libertarians are referred here (though I admit not being able to figure out who the third person is).

"We eagerly await McArdle's article on why so few women are libertarian when libertarian men are such swell and egalitarian guys."

I expect to see that slightly after Part II of Why Elizabeth Warren Is Worse at Research than Megan Is.

Anonymous said...

"A gift from my Amazon wish list! How thoughtful!"

Anonymous said...

"My personal empirical research..."

Ms. Megan's being lazy. Again.

Susan of Texas said...

Everybody has a talent, they say.

fish said...

I think every one of her articles could end with the sentence: "Wait, what was my point again?"

Anonymous said...

(after all, P. Suderman, boy rat-f*cker, used to work at Freedomworks).

Wait, are you saying McMegan is a rat?



Susan of Texas said...

I would never say that!