Saturday, April 29, 2006

Into the Mind of a Statist

Taking a break from studying, I decided to watch a Star Trek (Voyager) episode entitled Future's End. The crew are taken back in time due to an accident with a vessel (the Aeon) from the 29th century (fyi, this series of Star Trek takes place in the 24th century). The (far) future vessel is also flung back in time. Both ships end up on earth, which the 29th century vessel crash landing the 60s and the 24th century vessel, Voyager, appearing in the 90s.

Star Trek has a general anti-libertarian bias but this two parter easily stands in the top ten. A local discovered the Aeon which he used to create massive advancements in the computer industry, building an extensive corporate empire. The crew realizes that the digital revolution that swept the 20th century was never supposed to have happened.

We find the CEO getting ready to send the Aeon to travel back into the future so he can get more technology to develop in (our) present. When told he doesn't understand the ship enough to safely travel and if he tries, the entire solar system in the 29th century will be destroyed, he proceeds anyway. "Captain, The future you're talking about, that's 900 years from now. I can't be concerned about that right now. I have a company to run."

While attempting to capture the CEO, two Voyager crew members crash land in Arizona where they are taken by redneck locals. They are clearly libertarian, believing the pair are from "the Beast" (the Federal government). The unnamed leader turns to them at one point and says "The are two forces at work in the world. The drive toward collectivity and the drive toward individuality. You are the former and I am the latter." They are painted as racist, arrogant, paranoid, violent and stupid.

From this episode we can peer into the mind of a statist with chilling clarity. They find libertarians crude and violent at best, dangerous and twisted at worst. So wanting to demonstrate the virtues of solidarity over capitalism, the writers transformed one of the greatest free market victories in recent history (the computer revolution) into cheap thugery.

People tend to clump with others like them; it's only natural. But with that internal association comes the danger of trivalizing the other side or misrepresenting what they complain about. There's a tendency to revel in what they dispise as we (libertarians in particular) remember only how our fellows perceive the display and forget how others will misunderstand it. Sometimes this tactic holds important shock value (such as when I call greed potentially ethical) but often it is counterproductive. One of the major neglected areas of libertarianism is remembering what the counter-argument is so one can better understand and relate to others. This is why I find this Voyager episode so painfully valuable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about libertarian history, but I don't think the word was very common in the 90s when this episode was produced. But it does make some very valid points.

First the CEO's uncaring attitude about what will happen 900 years in the future. How many companies plan ahead that far? How many companies even think they'll be around in 100 years? There are companies today that doesn't even plan ahead for 900 HOURS. Do you really think companies care about what happen that far into the future? Look at how they are acting today. Do the companies that make plastic bags really care their products will be used ones then exist for centuries if not millenia? What about bottle caps? Used once then thrown away. The raw materials used to make them effectively lost forever because bottle caps are to small and scattered to gather and recycle. Remember those plastic soda rings around 6-packs? Animals choke and die on them. Why weren't their maker design them so they break apart easily?

How far ahead does a company plan? How much into the future do they care about the negative effects of their actions? If there was a product that would generate a massive short term gain but have an even greater cost 100 years from now, would it be made?

How do you know those two rednecks are libertarians? Sharing a view or opinion or two doesn't make you part of a group. For example Christianity and Buddism both believe murdering is wrong and your positive actions will
be rewarded in the afterlife. Does that mean they are part of the same group? The fact they are painted as racist, arrogant, paranoid, violent and stupid would mean they are NOT libertarian. Are you telling me libertarians would shoot an unarmed man through the chest who is only trying to help his friend?

The TV series Law and Order has been critized for protraying Christianity in a bad light because they have criminals who are Christians and sometimes acting out of Christianity. Does that make their critizisms valid? Or are they saying that being Christian does not make you innocent?