Eli Dourado

The lonely radicals

Freddie de Boer, in a widely read post, laments that there isn’t much of a far-left blogosphere. I’ll take the premise for granted; Freddie lists a lot of people, some of whom I’ve heard of, few of whom I’ve read, who are not left-wing enough. Have lefty bloggers sold out to gain respectability, or is this phenomenon an indicator of the advance of libertarian ideas?

Maybe some of both, but I think it’s also the case that true political radicals are just more reluctant to talk about politics than moderates are.

I speak from my own experience as a radical. As my regular readers know, I’m a PhD student in the most libertarian department of the most libertarian discipline there is. I don’t know everyone in the libertarian movement, but I’d be willing to bet that there is no more than one degree of separation between me and any prominent libertarian. I’m not the most libertarian person I know, but unless you are similarly situated, I am probably the most libertarian person you know.

I’ve been a libertarian for a long time, but I started out as a moderate one. One thing I’ve noticed is that as I got more radical, I became less interested in having fully honest political conversations with people with mainstream political views. In part this may reflect poorly on me personally; perhaps I am too elitist or impatient to engage people with strongly-held mainstream views. In part this may reflect poorly on mainstream types, who often display way more smugness and confidence than intelligence in political discourse.

My radicalism influences how I blog. I write an occasional policy post, but typically a) I don’t offer my first-best solution to the problem, or b) I am way more interested in discussing the economics than the politics. I have no more interest in writing 30 posts about ObamaCare than I do in reading 30 posts about ObamaCare. And truthfully, no offense to the authors involved, there are many forms of punishment I would prefer to being forced to read any of the center-left policy-wonk blogs that Freddie laments.

We often think of people with extreme views as more passionate about them than people with moderate views. But we make a mistake when we assume that this passion translates into an eagerness to discuss. People who study radicalization of, say, terrorists note that as the subject becomes more radical in ideology, his evangelical zeal diminishes. Radicals turn inward.

I suspect, therefore, that the truly thoughtful far-left bloggers out there are probably not blogging about politics or policy. They’re blogging about other interests and slipping in occasional political tidbits. It is perhaps apropos that all we need for a thriving far-left political blogosphere is changes in human nature.