Saturday, 7 July 2018

QotD: "The cultist mentality is universal. It is not unique to libertarians."

"The most important perspective one can acquire on the problem of the cultist mentality is to see its universality. It is not unique to libertarians. The problem, in fact, is epidemic in every cultural and political group in the land. The country is literally overrun by liberal robots, emitting their latest trendy responses; by conservative robots emitting the entrenched prejudices of their grandfathers; and by socialist robots, consumerist robots, [BLM] robots, health food robots, gay robots, ... feminist robots, etc., etc.—all reciting their sacred texts. To the degree that there is sense or sensibility in any of these movements, they are almost obliterated by the ritualistic incantations...
    "If the libertarian cultist is similar, in principle, to all other cultists, he differs strikingly in details. Characteristically, he is young and inexperienced. He gulps down a few books by libertarian writers, and rushes to change this society before he has understood either this society or the books. He tends to restrict himself to a shrunken conceptual repertoire. It generally consists of a one-note opposition to the evil of government intervention, and frequently this is the only aspect of social reality of which he seems to be aware. Monumentally important political, social, cultural and intellectual problems leave the cultist indifferent. He is only concerned with government misdeeds. His 'thinking,' consequently, is eternally out of context, and his value system flattened and hostile...
    "Now, is there a solution for this problem? There is, indeed—and that is why it's so useful to think about cultism-in-general, and not just about the libertarian form thereof. All cultists are gripped by the desire for a simple world which can be explained by a few all-purpose formulas. Thus, the first solution is simply to face the fact that it isn't that kind of world at all. How does one go about such "facing"? By reading...
    "The second solution emerges from the other major trait of all cultists—namely their disconnectedness from social reality. And again, the solution is tailor-made to the symptom: To cure disconnectedness, one must connect. Connect with what? In the case of a libertarian, he must connect with those individuals or groups who are moving in the direction of liberty. In other words, he must look for fellow travellers. If he does, he will discover from his reading that the country is now full of them...
    "The most important message I would give to young libertarians is this: libertarianism isn't an imaginary world; it isn't a bible; it isn't a spiritual state; it isn't a chastity belt. It is a compass."

~ Edith Efron, from her 1977[!] article on 'Secular Fundamentalism


  1. Reasonable statement, but the very fact that the writer alerts Libertarians to cult like entrenched and biblical belief patterns is testament.

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  3. Not only is a cultist mentality "not unique to libertarians", it's also less prevalent than most other political movements in my observation. But it does exist.

    I agree that making an attempt to 'connect' is a key antidote to it - but more important than connecting with those who share your views, is connecting with those who don't necessarily share your views. Otherwise you can still end up in an echo-chamber of self reinforcement disconnected from reality. You need to try and apply your beliefs to real problems that individuals are facing. That's the only way to convince them, and the only way to ensure you stay connected to reality.

    An idea can be right in principle but wrong in its application. Or it can be right in both principle and application, but overstates the role of one particularly variable when a multi-variate analysis is required. The latter in particular is very common with libertarians.

    There's even some value to be gained in connecting with those who are in outright disagreement with your views, at least until they prove themselves to be habitually evasive or dishonest. Opinions are rarely changed in the heat of debate by the other side acknowledging you are right and they are wrong. More often the mechanism for change (assuming the other side is honest, and you present your case well) is that the opposing side thinks about it after the discussion, and shifts their views a little towards yours to accommodate what he's heard. Even if no change is affected in the opposition, there are two other potential benefits. It may shift the views of someone reading the exchange. Or more importantly, it allows you to test your opinions - and either modify them, or strengthen your argument for them if some weakness is identified.

  4. "The country is literally overrun by liberal robots, emitting their latest trendy responses; by conservative robots emitting the entrenched prejudices of their grandfathers; and by socialist robots, consumerist robots, [BLM] robots"

    Besides not knowing what "literally" means, Edith was wrong about one thing in particular: Once the technology of online 'bots' was developed these bots were only effective on the far-right.

    The Russians tried 'leftist bots' as well as the far-right variety, but found this ruse didn't work on leftists - only the kind of morons who take Sean Hannity seriously.


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