Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Libertarians’ heroes all-too-human

Libertarians’ heroes all-too-human

My Clovis News Journal column for July 19, 2013.

Just like anyone else, most libertarians have heroes, both real and fictional, who inspire them through traits we share, or wish we shared.

Libertarians' heroes are also all-too-human. They are flawed and don't always manage to do the right thing- the libertarian thing. Very few people can always avoid initiating force. Most people will sometimes violate private property rights. Yet, there is something that can be learned from just about anyone.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds from the science fiction television series "Firefly", and its movie sequel "Serenity", is a particular favorite of mine. Yet he does throw the first punch on occasion, and he is an admitted thief. At least he usually seems to avoid stealing privately owned property. He keeps his word, rights the wrongs he is made aware of committing, and stands up for those who need help. Right and wrong matter more to him than legal or illegal.

The character "V" from "V for Vendetta" is an even more flawed hero- if he is a hero. He brings down a tyrannical regime, but admits he is a "monster". While he targeted for revenge mainly those (or the minions they sent) who were guilty of war crimes against their own subjects, he also kidnapped and caged an innocent person against her will "for her own good". She eventually makes peace with him over this, but it was still wrong for him to do so.

Han Solo from the "Star Wars" movies is possibly the most libertarian character in that series. He is called a smuggler by The Empire, which is just another name for a free market supplier. Unless you count the "Han shot first" revision in one of the latest re-releases, he always fought in defense.  (I have been corrected- "Han shot first" was the original, and the revision changed that.  But Greedo was holding Han at gun-point, so it was still self defense.  Greedo had it coming ...) 

Paladin from "Have Gun, Will Travel" was generally on the side of human rights, and only a time or two worked for the local protection racket. He usually sought the libertarian solution rather than the more expedient, and expected, coercive short cut. And he was chivalrous.

The real life heroes to many libertarians could include Clint Eastwood, Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, or Robert A. Heinlein. Each has good and bad points, while being mostly libertarian. One danger with real people is that they tend to be less predictable than fictional characters (thus not as easily pigeonholed), and more likely to disappoint if you place their pedestal too high.

Fortunately, you aren't trapped by what others do. Try to mimic the good, learn from the failures, don't idolize, and always think for yourself.

And please don't forget.



  1. Okay, I'll play.
    Greedo was acting as a collection agency for Jabba the Hut. With that in mind, the fact that Han did owe the money, and who was known to go about armed, and had the means, ability, and motive to flee, Greedo was within his rights to hold him at gunpoint. It's like a guy who trespasses in order to repo a unpaid item. The transgression is done to enforce a contract which presumably was agreed to beforehand. That would be the standard Nozickian argumentation from classical libs.
    Not a serious argument but that's how property rights fetishists explain it all.

  2. Ah, but what did the contract between Han and Jabba specify would be done in case of pursuit/boarding by imperial ships? Did it allow for dumping cargo?

  3. Do the "official" Imperial courts on Tatooine recognize the provisions of contracts that involve breaking Imperial laws? ;D

  4. Would Jabba or Han use the "official" Imperial courts?