Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Penn Jillette on Libertarianism

(photo credit: NPR)

Libertarian publication reason did a nice interview with Penn Jillette (of the illustrious magic/skeptic duo Penn and Teller) on government, libertarianism and Election 2008. I've always found Penn intelligent and open-minded, regardless of my opinion of the issue he's discussing at the moment, so rediscovering his fervor for individual rights was once again invigorating.

The exciting thing about libertarians is that they can be gun nuts, hippies, Conservatives, communalists, atheists, skeptics or peaceniks, but they're united by a common philosophy. Their shared belief in small government doesn't smooth over their other beliefs or force them into some kind of homogenous mess the way a party affiliation can. In our society libertarians (and their little brothers, constitutionalists) are the real outcasts, shunned by two competing philosophies of government expansion, so it's nice to read somebody who's excited and principled and maybe a little nuts.

Liberty Maven, where I found the interview, has the selection I'd like to reproduce so you can click through to the article if you wish:
reason: But you’d enjoyed the Paul movement (or moment)?

Jillette: I was just thrilled! I love it when people are seeing a point of view that they’ve never seen before. I had people coming to me and explaining RP’s positions in a way that I couldn’t explain them. I loved that! I love listening to somebody talk about liberty so much better than I ever had. I am such a believer in marketplace of ideas. What troubles me most about politics is this feeling that you shouldn’t waste time with anyone but the frontrunners. The fact that we had this little glitch in the system, that people might listen to somebody else who wasn’t at the top of the polls, it just fills me with such incredible joy to think about it. There were people who considered me a nut for not going with one of the two major party candidates who were, all of a sudden, supporting Ron Paul.

The thing is, I don’t think any of libertarian ideas are very far out of actual spirit of our culture. The reason I use the word “nut” positively is that I think a lot of people really do believe in libertarianism, and small government, and they just need to be told that it’s OK. Paul found ways to say talk about it. I don’t think winning or even running a good race was that important. I don’t even think the million-dollar fundraising days were important. What was important was people being able to say in their own words stuff I agree with about individual rights. I think we need somebody that has charisma and clarity to make people think that’s ok. I have always, like the singers and songwriters of country western music, identified with the losers. A lot of people are not like that. A lot of people watch the Olympics to see people pick up medals.

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