I've Seen the Light – Goodbye!

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Recently,
a private e-mail
list
that I participate in has been discussing the British intellectual
vagabond John
Gray
. Now, I had heard of Gray, but really didn’t know too much
about him. Since he seemed to generate a lot of talk (something
that has always been a major goal of mine, as well), I decided I’d
better look into the man further.

As
I began to study Gray, something remarkable happened to me – a
personal transformation, of sorts. You see, Gray is notable for
having once been a libertarian but later having converted to the
“soft-socialist” philosophy of communitarianism. As I read his ideas,
it suddenly dawned on me that the critics were right
– my libertarianism was just a rhetorical projection of control-oriented,
non-communitarian, arrested-adolescent urges! The time had come
for my own hejira into the warm, welcoming arms of the communitarian…
well, community.

I
plunged into Gray’s many other works. He is best known as the author
of the best-selling Libertarians Are from Mars, Communitarians
Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Book Sales and Getting
What You Want in Your Relationships with the Oligarchy. Searching
for “John Gray” on Amazon.com, I found that he has been an incredibly
prolific author, his other works including A
Pocketbook of Hair and Scalp Disorders: An Illustrated Guide

(those pictures will keep you up at night!), Children
are from Heaven
, Beyond
the New Right
, Kazakhstan:
A Review of Farm Restructuring
, and Interprocess
Communications in UNIX: The Nooks and Crannies
. Clearly,
this is a well-rounded man, not at all like you obsessive libertarians.

From
what I have been able to determine about Gray’s transformation,
at some point he saw that book sales were booming in the communitarian
genre. As a libertarian, he knew that the market was always right,
so, to be true to libertarianism, he had to repudiate libertarianism.
If you’re having trouble following this, it’s only because you are
so blinded by rationalistic hubris that you can’t see the more traditional
values that Gray is supporting – values like “go where the dough
is,” and “I’m sick of selling a measly 500 copies of my works through
Laissez Faire Books.”

Gray’s
critique of the unhampered market economy is brilliant and convincing.
In area after area, Gray has been able to illustrate how markets
have destroyed communities and traditional ways of life,  and
how threatening your neighbors with government violence can help
rebuild these fractured bonds.

For
instance, the market economy has been breaking down traditional
families by doing things like selling them toothpaste and floor
polish. But the government, through the clever stratagem of challenging
the traditional family by massively subsidizing illegitimacy, has
forced traditional families to rally together.

Without
strong government to uphold local standards, communities have also
had a heck of a time enforcing traditional values like keeping out
unwanted minorities, and keeping them in their place if they do
slip into town. Greedy, profit-driven real estate agents are likely
to sell to just about anyone who has the money. And private employers
are hardly more scrupulous, hiring whomever can do the job with
no regard to whether they are the “right sort of person.”

In
the inner city, it took strenuous government efforts to replace
those nasty, chaotic neighborhoods, filled with small apartment
buildings and corner groceries, that the market had created, with
the more traditional, community-oriented public housing projects
we find in the inner city today. One only has to look at the large
community gatherings on the streets outside these edifices, at the
friendly way those gathered call over each passing car and offer
them a little token of their visit to the neighborhood, and at the
way even the women, even if they are walking down the street alone,
are willing to befriend any stranger who rides by, to see how uniquely
government action is able to create a brotherhood of men.

Turning
to the international scene, the picture is little different. Through
the influence of market-oriented policies, many third world countries’
traditional way of life – poverty, famine, rule by a corrupt elite,
and frequent military juntas – were rapidly being destroyed. However,
the blessings brought by government agencies, such as the IMF, have
managed to put these institutions back in place.

A
short trip through the world of John Gray should be enough to turn
any libertarian’s head around. When I saw how much his Amazon.com
rankings had improved after his conversion, it sure did it for me.

Anyway,
I just want to say good luck to all of my libertarian former friends,
and thank Lew Rockwell for this last chance to say farewell. Look
for me on the cover of The New York Times Review of Books
– I’ll be waving to you, you high-principled losers!

August
25, 2000

Gene
Callahan is a regular contributor to mises.org.

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