Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stephenson interviewed by Reason magazine

While I'm on the topic of Neal Stephenson I might as well link to an interview that Reason magazine conducted (primary via email) with Stephenson in late fall of 2005. It is interesting to hear Stephenson's work discussed in the context of Libertarianism.

The interview includes a fantastic quote about how terrorism encourages statism and government (inadvertently) fosters Libertarianism:
Speaking as an observer who has many friends with libertarian instincts, I would point out that terrorism is a much more formidable opponent of political liberty than government. Government acts almost as a recruiting station for libertarians. Anyone who pays taxes or has to fill out government paperwork develops libertarian impulses almost as a knee-jerk reaction. But terrorism acts as a recruiting station for statists. So it looks to me as though we are headed for a triangular system in which libertarians and statists and terrorists interact with each other in a way that I'm afraid might turn out to be quite stable.
It is frightening to me how right he is. The first thing that really changed after the September 11th attacks was that it became "patriotic" to stand up and say, "safety is more important than liberty". The most bitter irony of all is that this attitude ultimately leads to the kind of totalitarian hegemony that our constitution was designed to avoid. By granting our government more control of our lives in exchange for the illusion of greater safety we are subverting the very principles that our nation was founded on.

Unfortunately the harder the terrorists fight against us the natural reaction for many is to just work that much harder to entrench the existing power structure under the auspices of "national security". Make no mistake, regardless of who is in office in 2009, if another tragedy on the scale of the 9/11 attacks were to occur on American soil the statists would push for legislation that makes the Patriot Act look tame by comparison. An unfortunate truism about liberty is that it is one of those diffuse qualities that is much easier to identify in its absence than when you are enjoying its benefits.

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