As part of my exploration of libertarianism, I’ve been trying to read as many different libertarian blogs as I can find, just to nose around and try to get a feel, not only for the philosophy of libertarianism, but how it’s lived on the ground.
As I was saying yesterday to Chris Wage, the libertarians I know in real life tend to share certain traits–a tendency towards pompousness, a shoot-first swagger, a distrust of authority, and a tendency to treat people who disagree with them as if they’re a little stupid. But, they have the brains and the intellectual curiosity to back it up. And, if you can get beyond that, you’re never going to meet guys more fun to have some drinks with.
But I’ve been looking around at other male libertarian blogs and what I’ve found is something very peculiar. There’s the familiar pompousness, and the assholy-ness, and the patronization of the stupid, but it’s unsettlingly different.
A lot of libertarian men seem to describe themselves as alpha males. Vox Day is the first one I’ve seen articulate what he thinks being an alpha male means. I’m going to quote it at length, because this passage also settled for me the world of difference between a jackass like Mr. Day and a jackass like, say, our dear Sarcastro.
The essence of Alpha is a projected aura of dominance. This dominance can be material, physical, intellectual, spiritual or even emotional, and yet mere wealth, size, intelligence, saintliness or rage are not alone sufficient to provide it, regardless of the amount possessed by the individual. This dominance is usually strong enough to be sensed by others, even when it is not being openly displayed.
Others defer to the Alpha because of this dominance whether he seeks it or not. Even when they don’t really want the Alpha’s opinion, they will seek his approval and it will bother them when they don’t receive it. (Note, seeking approval under the guise of asking for advice can be extremely annoying. Don’t do it.)
In an earlier post, he gives this advice to women:
By the way, another reason that women might do well to give greater consideration to Beta or Gamma males is that those men are much more tolerant of women attempting to control them. Lone wolves and Alphas will sooner kill a woman than submit to one, and the more a woman attempts to exert control over them, the worse their behavior will become. Some men are natural jerks, for others, it is learned behavior. [emphasis mine, obviously]
I think you can see already that Mr. Day perceives himself as an Alpha male, when he’s not busy being a lone wolf.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since I read it and I’ve been thinking about the Professor’s insistence that understanding power only as the ability to harm those of us who are weaker than us, instead of understanding it also as the ability to keep those of us who are weaker safe, is a fundamental misunderstanding of power.
I consider the three libertarians I know to be powerful men. That’s why–even though their politics are so misguided and their insistence on carrying firearms without letting me shoot them* is annoying–I like them. They seem to have found a way to be in the world that suits them. And never, ever have I heard one of them say, in some off-handed fashion, “I’d sooner kill a woman than submit to her.” I’ve never felt, even when I was being my most contrary (and I love being contrary as much as I love cantakerous men), that I was in any danger of stepping over some line that would cause them to hurt me.
Frankly, it never even occurred to me. Possibly because they inherently understand that power–maybe what we might call “the ability to make a place safe”–is both about protecting from outside danger and sharing one’s strength with the people inside.
It’s got to be a pretty fucked up understanding of power that brags about turning on the people it’s supposed to benefit.
It makes me think that there are libertarian men who just kind of are powerful, cantakerous, assholes by nature, but who, at heart, are good men. And then there are men who feel powerless in the face of whatever it is they fear and who set out to adopt the posture** of “powerful, cantakerous asshole.” They’re just pretending to be what they wish they were naturally.
*The guns, not the libertarians.
**There’s a way this reminds me of my post about that kick-ass Michael Bertrand essay, but I can’t figure out how to work it in.