Though I would quite often describe myself as a bit of a libertarian (not as much so as Chez or Marc, probably), I have to admit that I have read, roughly, none of the texts of the supposed great thinkers of the field. No Freedman, Smith, Popper or Jefferson has passed through these eyeballs and into the soft grey goo I call my brain.
Shocking, I know. But then, the core value of libertarianism is basically a belief in individual freedom; this is not something that requires a book to teach. Sure, there are always queries about where the balance should be struck between where your individual rights end and mine begin, but that’s what Samizdata is for…
Anyway. I thought that I should probably do something about this lack of reading. But I didn’t particularly want to go headlong into some dry, academic text. So I figured that I should probably go for something a little more… me.
Hence the recent perusal of some of Mr Patrick Jake O’Rourke. With book titles such as Parliament of Whores and Peace Kills: America’s Fun New Imperialism, where could you go wrong?
So, I’ve just finished Parliament of Whores. And by God, it’s good. Sure, it’s old (1991), but that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. In fact, it’s one of the most quotable books I’ve read in a loooooong time. Hell, it even has the best chapter title in the world, ever: Our Government: What the fuck do they do all day and why does it cost so Goddamned much money?.
So, I’ve started doing some reading. And you may all come to curse me for it; my copy of Parliament of Whores is a second hand one, and was muchly highlighted when I got it. I’ve added plenty of dogears and pencil marks of my own. So the quotes may come thick and fast from this one.
I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.
God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle-aged male, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men strictly accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well-being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on literally everything n the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God’s heavenly country club.
Santa Claus is another matter. He’s cute. He’s nonthreatening. He’s always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without thought of a quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he’s famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.
Of course, this was written long before the Republicans got control of Congress, let alone lost control of it. But the central thesis, I think, is still apparent.