Rococo ‘Conservatism’ Open Thread: The Ultimate Ross Doubthat Column

As someone who was actually educated by the Church, Doubthat’s “I’m a devout Catholic, but defend libertarianism, because freedom!” makes as much sense to me as would “I’m a strict vegetarian, but I defend cannibalism, because long pig is so delicious!” But this *particular* divertissement should be preserved under a glass vitrine, as an exemplar of how “American Thought Leadership” collapsed at the beginning of the new millenium:

Like most interesting churches, libertarianism is a diverse and fractious faith, and FreedomFest brings together all its different sects: the think-tankers with their regulatory-reform blueprints, the muckraking journalists taking on government abuses, the charter city backers and Burning Man attendees, the Ayn Rand fans wearing dollar signs on their lapels, the eccentric-genius businessmen and pot legalizers — and the converts eager to tell you how everything changed when I got really into gold.

In principle I am not a libertarian: The teenage nerd enters conservatism through either Atlas Shrugged or Lord of the Rings, and between Tolkienists like myself and the Randians a great gulf is often fixed. But even if libertarianism seems an insufficient philosophy of human flourishing, its defense of individuals and markets can be a crucial practical corrective to all manner of liberal and conservative mistakes…

Just a little while ago journalists were talking about a “libertarian moment” in American politics, with Rand Paul as its avatar — an entitlement-cutting, prison-reforming, drug-legalizing, intervention-opposing, drone-strike-filibustering politics that was supposed to build bridges between Republicans and millennials. But then Paul, like other Republicans, was steamrolled by Trumpism in 2016. So what exactly happened to his moment?…

How could that fun guy, Rand Paul, allow himself to fall under the wheels of some trash-talking newbie like Donald Trump? SAD!

To Ross, politics is just another fantasy role-playing game — a gang of enthusiasts sharing the fun of theoretical world-building and weekend bullshit sessions. There are those who make a nice career out of their chosen fantasy… writing the fanfic, making the cosplay accessories, running the LARPs… even graduating into the professional tier, working for Hollywood or a big gaming company… but the Savvy among the crowds never forget that it’s all just performance. They may resent the ‘mundanes’ who don’t understand how *fun* their little societies can be, but they save their real contempt for the losers who actually believe it makes a difference whether Team Red or Team Blue wins an election, like those sad basement-dwellers who obsess over Boba Fett or ST:OS vs ST:NG.

It’s not as though Ross, or the people Ross socializes with, are ever going to be affected by this ‘politics’ stuff; they’ll never have to worry about getting deported, losing their liberty, being jailed or beaten for the color of their skin or their choice of partners (although they can dream up some very vivid fanfic scenarios). Their version of ‘economic anxiety’ is not being able to find a decent-sized apartment in the “right” zip code. The worst punishment they can imagine is being ostracized on Martha’s Vineyard, and there’s plenty of other places to get a good cocktail on a summer weekend. Why must some people suck all the fun out of the game?, Ross asks his fellow NYT opinioneers, as they nod in agreement…

151 replies
  1. 1
    swiftfox says:

    I read Rand and Tolkien multiple times. Must have immunity.

  2. 2
    MattF says:

    I think Doubthat was hired by the NYT because he had something sort-of interesting to say about The Sopranos, about ten years ago. It’s been downhill since then.

  3. 3
    Hunter Gathers says:

    I so want to beat him up and take his lunch money

  4. 4
    efgoldman says:

    Thanks, Anne, for reading this dreck so I don’t have to.

  5. 5
    FlipYrWhig says:

    So what exactly happened to his moment?

    I dunno, Ross, maybe it turned out that libertarianism was all hype and hot air with no actual adherents, like it was for the past four decades that we’ve been hearing it was A Thing.

  6. 6
    opiejeanne says:

    @Hunter Gathers: Me too, That sentence equating Randian philosophy with Tolkien as similar gateways to conservatism is a terrible thing to behold, lacking in both logic and scholarship.

  7. 7
    Gvg says:

    I have never heard of a libertarian connection to Tolkein. Can you explain.

  8. 8
    opiejeanne says:

    Thanks Anne, for your comments on this ridiculous person’s article. I especially like the bit about preserving it under a glass vitrine.

  9. 9
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

  10. 10
    Duane says:

    “Alex, I’ll take what VDE says for 1000.”

  11. 11
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Gvg: He’s trying to say that Tolkien nerds become conservatives (i.e., traditionalists) and Rand nerds become libertarians (i.e., individualists).

  12. 12
    opiejeanne says:

    @Gvg: No one can, nor can they really draw a line between actual Conservatism and Libertarianism, other than that Libertarians are just Republicans who want to smoke pot and not pay taxes, and these days neither is really conservative by the original definition of the word.

  13. 13
    opiejeanne says:

    @FlipYrWhig: is that what he’s saying. I missed it completely, annoyed as I was by the tying of Tolkien to either philosophy.

  14. 14
    B.B.A. says:

    @FlipYrWhig: It’s a couple percent at best. Of them, there are a few dozen “principled” libertarians who think medieval Iceland proves we don’t need any government at all, and the rest are hard-core racists who claim to be the former because they have the only non-racist reason to oppose the Civil Rights Act.

  15. 15
    NobodySpecial says:

    As a long time RPG guy, this comparison gives me a sad, because most players know it’s all performance. These yubyubs are grifters, plain and simple, they just don’t use a robe and cross.

  16. 16
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @opiejeanne: It’s a riff I’ve heard before, though I’m not a Tolkien reader and saw the films without being particularly invested. The riff reads Tolkien as a defender of hierarchy, birthright princes, rural-ness, and old ways. Hence “conservative” in the sense of pre-Thatcher “Tory.” I’ve known enough Tolkien-fan hippies and lefties to know that it’s a flawed presumption, but that’s what Douthat is alluding to in miniature.

  17. 17
    James E Powell says:

    Douthat is such a dickweed. How come he doesn’t get the same treatment here as Sullivan? He really doesn’t impact the discourse anymore – if he ever did – and he seems to occupy his time writing things to irritate normal people.

  18. 18
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @B.B.A.: Like Guster fans (dated reference alert), libertarians are a lot more common on well-heeled college campuses than anywhere else, so the kinds of people who become pundits — who also come from that stratum — are disproportionately familiar with them and therefore commit serious errors of extrapolation.

  19. 19
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @opiejeanne: regular republicans don’t want to pay taxes either

  20. 20
    West of the Rockies says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I see no evidence that Tolkien should be used as some sort of conservative or libertarian manifesto or guidebook.

    Also, I HATE the pop-up ads on this beloved site that have shown up. They get in the way of the text box.

  21. 21
    Mike G says:

    I’d have a fraction of respect for libertarian if they ever stood up for principles in opposition to conservatism when it mattered. But in practice they basically amount to masturbatory freedom-themed fan-fiction for a privileged in-group, defended by authoritarianism for everyone else; and frequent shameless forays into conservatism whenever it politically suits them.

  22. 22
    Kabiddle says:

    Good commentary Anne. I just want to take away his pacifier. Knew there was another reason I dumped NYT yesterday.

  23. 23
    PIGL says:

    @Gvg: He’s trying to cover over the infamous review about orcs. He’s completely full of shit on this matter, as on all else.

  24. 24
    PIGL says:

    @Snarki, child of Loki: Yes….this review stung his tender, pimply ass, so he’s trying to make it all better by lying.

  25. 25
    Kabiddle says:

    @Hunter Gathers: best laugh all day:)

  26. 26
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @opiejeanne:

    There’s a reading of LOTR which takes the stratified and ordered society of wizards, elves, men, dwarves and hobbits as an example of natural law. The opposing side, Melkor, Sauron, Saruman, orcs and the other baddies, represent an overturning and perversion of natural law, i.e. modernity.

    Under this conservatism everybody has their place and knows what it is. Happiness is achieving by conforming to this natural law and accepting the burdens and benefits of your place within it.

    That is the happy ending at the end of LOTR. The true hero of LOTR is the status quo.

    Of course, according to Tolkein that world has been completely obliterated by our time. Yet we are meant to yearn for it.

  27. 27
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Viva BrisVegas: Better detail than I was managing above. Thanks!

    ETA: It’s basically the Edmund Burke sort of conservatism, of which a lot of the large-vocabulary right-wing intellectuals account themselves members.

  28. 28
    oatler. says:

    Weren’t Page and Plant Tolkien freaks?

  29. 29
    HinTN says:

    @Mike G: That sentence is too long to win the internets but by god that’s it!

  30. 30
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @oatler.: I’m in my mid 40s. Everyone I knew who was into Tolkien was either a pothead, a D&D player, or both.

  31. 31
    Ken says:

    @Viva BrisVegas: I’d rank that reading of Tolkein as slightly less plausible than the one that takes “The Wizard of Oz” as an allegory for nineteenth-century monetary policy, but above the one that matches the cast of “Gilligan’s Island” to the seven deadly sins.

    ETA: Figures that there’s a wikipedia page on political interpretations of Oz.

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:

    IIRC, the world that Tolkien was yearning for was the pre-World War I world of his childhood and young adulthood, which is a pretty common yearning. I’m mostly immune to it myself since I had a lot of early childhood losses, but other people seem to have it.

  33. 33
    burnspbesq says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Without Guster, we might not have Dawes or Real Estate, so I’m in a forgiving mood where they are concerned.

  34. 34
    Ken says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    I so want to beat him up and take his lunch money

    I think that might be OK under libertarianism. Since he didn’t hire anyone to protect him, he’s made the rational economic decision that having the money stolen is preferable to the cost of additional security. In fact, not stealing it would be the real crime, since it runs counter to free market principles.

    (I’m not entirely sure this argument works for lunch money. I’ve only seen it applied to pension funds.)

  35. 35
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Ken:

    Since when has conservatism been required to be plausible?

    Personally I think Tolkien was trying to tell a story and did so in the framework of his rather insulated (until WWI) and privileged upbringing.

    I don’t see it as a manifesto, but obviously Douthat has friends that do.

  36. 36
    jake the antisoshul soshulist says:

    @Mike G:
    Libertarians are as authoritarian and hierarchial as any other conservative. They need police to enforce their contracts and keep the serfs in line.
    Tolkien was a pastoral conservative with a idyllic view of feudalism. He would detest modern conservatism.

  37. 37
    Ken says:

    @Mnemosyne: Either Stewart or Colbert did a segment on that once. Clips of various conservative commentators wishing for a return of the “good old days” of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, … and a chart showing that each person’s favorite decade was when they were eight.

  38. 38
    Cacti says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I’m in my mid 40s. Everyone I knew who was into Tolkien was either a pothead, a D&D player, or both.

    Same generation and same experience. I’d also thrown in Drama nerds, but there’s usually a lot of overlap in all of those groups.

  39. 39
    MomSense says:

    I’d like to arrange a very special LARP for Doubthat, and some other exclusive people. Very special.

  40. 40
    Achrachno says:

    @Mnemosyne: Very pre-WWI — like around the Bronze Age maybe?

  41. 41
    Dan B says:

    @Ken: The Island of Deadly (white) Castaways. A suitable rewrite?

  42. 42
    Cacti says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:

    That is the happy ending at the end of LOTR. The true hero of LOTR is the status quo.

    But the status quo wasn’t really preserved. A new totalitarian order under the rule of Sauron was prevented, but the age of magic was over with the destruction of the One Ring.

  43. 43
    jl says:

    @Ken: Some of those superannuated geezers look old enough to wish for the 1620s. Did that bit cover those guys? Rudy and some of Trump’s TV lawyers, for example?

    As for Douthat’s column, his description of the libertarian movement as a collection of goofballs, cranks and crazies, grifters and ruthless corporate hacks was good, IMHO quite accurate, fairly well written for a conservative columnist, and funny. If he’d just ended it right there, it would have been a good column. Too bad he had to fill it out with another 400 words or so of embarrassing drivel.

  44. 44
    Major Major Major Major says:

    I’ll give Douthat one thing, he’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than David Brooks.

  45. 45
    Baud says:

    I thought the libertarians all went into hibernation until we have a Dem president again.

  46. 46
    Splitting Image says:

    @Gvg:

    I have never heard of a libertarian connection to Tolkein. Can you explain.

    The hobbits of the Shire have a well-functioning society with only minimal government authority, much of it ceremonial.

    If you’re able to read the Lord of the Rings and completely miss the point that the hobbits are only able to do this because the men of Minas Tirith are tirelessly protecting the rest of the world from Sauron; and Gandalf, the elves of Rivendell, and the Rangers are keeping a watchful eye on the Shire for their own reasons, you can read the book as a manifesto of libertarianism.

    I think you can make a good case that Tolkien was a conservative, but in the English rather than American tradition, and only in the context of his time. Keep in mind he was about 60 or so when the Lord of the Rings was published and was far more culturally tuned to the late Victorian and Edwardian periods than to the Swinging Sixties.

    On the other hand, Tolkien valued learning and intellectual study as much as anyone who ever lived, and would have had no patience at all for the anti-intellectualism of today’s GOP, including Douthat. Another theme in the Lord of the Rings which you would have to miss completely to claim Tolkien as a modern conservative is the importance of preserving history and knowledge. American conservatives simply have no use for that.

  47. 47
    Patricia Kayden says:

    The Washington Post and NY Times seem to need Conservative writers for some strange reason. I wonder if the Wall Street Journal has any progressive writers.

    The Washington Post Magazine has a cover story on “The Next Generation of Republicans”. I’m sick and tired of the MSM’s fascination with Trump supporters.

  48. 48
    Achrachno says:

    @Mnemosyne: Very pre-WW1, like mixed Bronze, Iron and early Middle Ages?

  49. 49

    @Baud: The libertarian think tank Cato has been been among the good and sane wrt immigration policy. They have been at the forefront countering T’s insidious fiction and made up statistics with hard facts, in particular David Bier and Alex Nowrasteh.

  50. 50
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Achrachno:

    The setting is very much in an Arthurian-type tradition, which is another thing that (IMO) marks it as coming from memories of/nostalgia for a secure childhood where you could run around pretending to be a knight.

    @Ken:

    FWIW, my mother died a couple of months before I turned 8, so I have very little nostalgia for those more innocent times of the late 1970s. And I hated Reagan even as a kid.

  51. 51

    @Mnemosyne: I have never understood the fascination for LOTR. I found it overly long, morally simplistic and boring.

    ETA: I did not read it as a teen but before the first movie came out. The second book is totally unreadable.

  52. 52
    Baud says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Good for them. But libertarians sure are quieter in the media than during Obama.

  53. 53
    NotMax says:

    @Mike G

    Libertarianism is conservatism with a better dessert tray.

  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    I confess, I never managed to get through it, either. I did know some people who got so into it that they taught themselves Elvish using the books.

    I do still have a soft spot for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, which have a lot of the same blind spots since Lewis and Tolkien were professors together at (I think) Oxford and had a writer’s group called the Inklings. Dorothy L. Sayers was an honorary member.

  55. 55
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Today’s winner in the low bar department.

  56. 56

    @Baud: The two I mentioned have been consistently anti-T on immigration. So of course our courtier media never quotes them or interviews them. Instead they give virulent racists like Micheal Anton column inches to write op-eds decrying birthright citizenship.

  57. 57
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I think you have to first read it before you’re 13.

  58. 58

    @Mnemosyne: I did get through it. I was sick and had nothing better to do.

  59. 59
    Millard Filmore says:

    @jake the antisoshul soshulist:

    Libertarians are as authoritarian and hierarchial as any other conservative. They need police to enforce their contracts and keep the serfs in line.

    While hiding behind government backed anonymous LLCs, the corporate veil, and corporate bankruptcy.

  60. 60
    jl says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Parts of CATO and Reason are closest thing to sane honest-brokers in libertarian thought, and they are good on some issues, and they produce decent analysis on some topics from time to time. But I never trust their numbers. I always check their analysis. Seen too much nutso from them over the years. Even in areas where they are, or they appear to be, on the right side. I think there are unavoidable costs when trying to consistently follow a bonkers ideology. You can never tell when they are going to do a sane and responsible job of presenting some numbers, and then suddenly swerve off a cliff due to some libertarian hobby horse, or completely misunderstand the big picture.or context.

  61. 61
  62. 62
    Achrachno says:

    @Ken: ““good old days” of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, ”

    Back when mostly Democrats ran things? They forget that. Of course the racists had a lot more power back then too, and maybe that’s what warms their memories.

  63. 63
    Major Major Major Major says:

    @Baud: that might be on the media. The libertarians I know and the ones I sometimes read are just as noisy—noisier, some.

  64. 64
    Thoughtful David says:

    I never got LOTR as any kind of manifesto of anything. One reason is that there is no society of any sort. No civilians appear anywhere, ever, in any of the books or stories. The only people who exist are warriors of various sorts*, with very minor cameos by innkeepers.
    Because of that I never saw it as anything but an adventure story. There’s no kind of society that’s being held up or denigrated. Society doesn’t exist.

    * I’m including kings and queens and magicians and trees and the like in this category.

  65. 65
    Betsy says:

    This is genius, Anne Laurie.

    Too bad the liver flukes at the New York Times can’t or won’t understand your incisive takedown.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Baud:

    Libertarians have been making the mistake of pointing out that restricting immigration on the basis of religion and/or ethnicity doesn’t fit with libertarian ideals, so they’re being shut out of the MSM. Some of them (like Balko) were also vocal about police violence against Black people being a bad thing, so that didn’t help them much.

  67. 67
    JGabriel says:

    In principle I am not a libertarian: The teenage nerd enters conservatism through either Atlas Shrugged or Lord of the Rings …

    Someone is seriously misreading Tolkien.

  68. 68
    NotMax says:

    @Gin & Tonic

    Had a roommate in college who reread the trilogy annually. One of his goals was to fill in (in only blue ink, mind you) every “o” in the text. Sweet but very naive and repressed dude. Refused to drink – not out of any deep-seated conviction or moral stance, rather because of a deathly fear of vomiting, claiming he had never puked even once in his entire life.

  69. 69
    jl says:

    @Thoughtful David: LOTR is a fantasy book, right? Detailed political interpretation of a fantasy book seems like a silly thing to do, IMHO, and probably says more about someone who attempts it than the book itself. Probably some broad spiritual and social metaphors in it, but that is a different thing.

  70. 70

    Is anyone watching Sacred Games on Netflix? I saw the first episode, this Friday.
    ETA: Saw the original Hindi version but had to turn on the Hindi close captioning because many characters love to mumble. Seems to be a new trend among these so-called prestige TV Dramas.

  71. 71
    Major Major Major Major says:

    @JGabriel: to be fair, misreading Tolkien *is* a common vector for entering conservatism.

  72. 72
    Baud says:

    @Major Major Major Major:
    @Mnemosyne:

    Good to know. I’ll moderate my contempt.

  73. 73
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Cacti:

    But the status quo wasn’t really preserved. A new totalitarian order under the rule of Sauron was prevented, but the age of magic was over with the destruction of the One Ring.

    Magic existed before the Ring and I think after. I had always thought that it was the final departure of the elves and wizards, which was an ongoing process, that caused magic to fade away.

    As to the status quo, the third book is called “The Return of the King”. It’s a return of the world to its rightful order.

    The world that is saved by Frodo is also totalitarian in its own way. Aragorn and his descendants are kings anointed by God. They are benevolent despots.

  74. 74
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Major Major Major Major:
    The Fucking New York Times hired Douthat to replace their previous “conservative” columnist Bill Kristol, who failed his probation. (That probation was allowed to last a year, even though it was obvious from Kristol’s riddled-with-inaccuracies first column that he was unfit for the job.) Douthat is full of pompous shit just like Kristol, but I figure he’s been kept on because he’s irreplaceable — the other possibles are also full of shit and would not be an improvement.

  75. 75
    DissidentFish says:

    @swiftfox: I read Atlas Shrugged at 16 when I was a library page. I don’t remember why but I was fired up about it and shared my enthusiasm with my parents. Their looks of puzzlement and disappointment were something to see. I honestly think they looked more disapproving at that moment than any other time in their lives, except maybe when I crashed a car into a tree after a few drinks… actually the Rand look was probably worse.

    I got over Rand in about a week because I’m not a moron. Mostly.

  76. 76
    JGabriel says:

    Ken:

    Either Stewart or Colbert did a segment on that once. Clips of various conservative commentators wishing for a return of the “good old days” of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, … and a chart showing that each person’s favorite decade was when they were eight.

    Another way in which I’m a weirdo I guess. My favorite decade (so far) was probably the 90’s, when I was 25-35 – the last pre-9/11 decade. Although I did have a lot of fun as a college radio dj in the mid-80’s too.

  77. 77
    Major Major Major Major says:

    @Viva BrisVegas: “The world that is saved by Frodo is also totalitarian in its own way.”

    You misspelled Samwise.

  78. 78

    @Amir Khalid: Wow, never saw you swear before. We are a bad influence.

  79. 79
    NotMax says:

    @Major Major Major Major

    Now that’s a catty comment.

    :)

  80. 80
    jl says:

    @Amir Khalid: There’s not really all that much to fact check in a typical Douthat or Brooks column. So, they don’t get into the kind of trouble that Kristol did. There is a lot equally wrong or misleading, but presented in such vague and general way, or with vague reference to Trumpian ‘everyone’ or ‘some of the best people’ are saying BS, that it can avoid a fact check gotcha.

  81. 81
    MomSense says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Oooh, angry Amir is my favorite.

  82. 82

    @jl: David Brooks is a liar par excellence.

  83. 83
    JGabriel says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    to be fair, misreading Tolkien *is* a common vector for entering conservatism.

    Really? I had no idea …

    Of course, having never entered conservatism, I don’t suppose I would.

  84. 84
    Amir Khalid says:

    @NotMax:
    I hope your friend came to learn that vomiting is sometimes necessary, even for a teetotaler, and is certainly nothing to be afraid of.

  85. 85
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    In principle I am not a libertarian: The teenage nerd enters conservatism through either Atlas Shrugged or Lord of the Rings, and between Tolkienists like myself and the Randians a great gulf is often fixed.

    Beyond Tolkien was a Catholic and had the racial attitudes of a man of his times, what does LORT message of personal sacrifice, empathy and forgiveness for your enemies have to do with modern American conservatism? I dare say I found a lot of inspiration to my liberalism in LORT about doing the morally correct thing even though it’s not easy way and it can hurt.

  86. 86
    Amir Khalid says:

    @schrodingers_cat:
    I use profanity but seldom, to preserve its impact for when I really feel the need.

  87. 87
    JGabriel says:

    @jl:

    Detailed political interpretation of a fantasy book seems like a silly thing to do, IMHO …

    Depends on the book. Orwell’s Animal Farm probably falls into the fantasy category to some extent, yet it’s decidedly intended to be interpreted politically.

    That said, LOTR really does not lend itself to any deep political interpretation. As others have already noted repeatedly in this thread, the whole political/societal subtext, to the extent it has any, is pretty shallow.

  88. 88

    @Amir Khalid: I was like you, alas after the 2016 election, I have started swearing a lot.

  89. 89
    JGabriel says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    Beyond Tolkien was a Catholic and had the racial attitudes of a man of his times, what does LORT message of personal sacrifice, empathy and forgiveness for your enemies have to do with modern American conservatism?

    Zilch. It’s more about personal ethics, perseverance, and so on, than it is about anything political. Mostly, it’s an adventure story.

  90. 90
    BellyCat says:

    @NotMax:
    “Libertarianism is conservatism with a better dessert tray.”

    Libertarianism is dessert for ALL the courses and someone else picks up the check.

    Read both Tolkien and Rand as a youth. Grew up, rejected the Catholic Church, and still managed to become a bitter humanitarian arsehole.

    I’m mostly a lurker (due to child-rearing and lots of required etcetera) but Serious Question regarding the complaint at #20 about all the ads:

    Given the cost to run this unique joint, and the largess of the constituent jackals, would it be objectionable to run a donation thread every now and again to pay the rent and potentially raise enough dosh to rid this shack of these electronic roaches?

  91. 91
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @JGabriel: Animal Farm is an allegory, not a fantasy.

  92. 92
    jl says:

    @JGabriel: OK, but I think that gets into what is a fantasy versus parable versus allegory question. I can see enough detailed parallels between Animal Farm and communism, and totalitarianism in general for it to be an allegory. I don’t remember LOTR (too long and I skimmed a lot of it) to know for sure. I don’t think it is an allegory with a lot of specific parallels to real world events or institutions.

  93. 93
    Brachiator says:

    The Phileas Club is an interesting podcast that brings together people (primarily techies from different countries) to talk about social and other issues. The most recent episode was about libertarianism. The main speaker defending libertarianism tried to make it almost a kind of pacifism. But his argument ultimately fell apart and he was just flat out wrong about history and how society is formed.

    Still, it was worth a listen because the defender of libertarianism was not trying to rationalize greed and selfishness.

    A link here…

    http://frenchspin.com/

  94. 94
    fedupwithhypocrisy says:

    Someone called Tucker Carlson a glibertarian once, and it was so apt, I’ve thought of it as glibertarianism ever since.

  95. 95
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:

    here’s a reading of LOTR which takes the stratified and ordered society of wizards, elves, men, dwarves and hobbits as an example of natural law. The opposing side, Melkor, Sauron, Saruman, orcs and the other baddies, represent an overturning and perversion of natural law, i.e. modernity.

    Except for Tolkien “modernity” was literally a polluted, lifeless hellscape like Mordor. Tolkien was basing that on his own personal experience of industrialization destroying the English countryside and the industrialized mass murder of the Western Front during WWI, not Tolkien was in a tizzy over workers getting forty hour work week.

  96. 96
    Achrachno says:

    At one point there were 89 comments here, but only 33 are left. What happened ?

    Never mind. They came back.

  97. 97
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Zilch. It’s more about personal ethics, perseverance, and so on, than it is about anything political. Mostly, it’s an adventure story.

    This. I read it four times as a teen, and found it inspiring. Read Atlas Shrugged once; I found it to be selfish and without empathy.

  98. 98
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @A Ghost To Most: I honestly cannot tell you the number of times I’ve read LOTR (i just restarted The Hobbit today). I’ve tried Atlas Shrugged a few times and cannot ever get more than 50 pages in.

  99. 99
    VOR says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    …the world that Tolkien was yearning for was the pre-World War I world of his childhood and young adulthood…

    Tolkien served in WWI and was at the Somme. He contracted Trench Fever and spent the rest of the war deemed unfit for general service. Many of his friends were killed in the War. His longing for the pre-War world makes a whole lot of sense.

  100. 100
    BellyCat says:

    @MomSense: “Oooh, angry Amir is my favorite.”

    CO-SIGNED!

    Must be the bad influence of The Girl and all that Rock and Roll they are exploring together.

    (You go, Amir!)

  101. 101
    NotMax says:

    @Achrachno

    there were 89 comments here, but only 33 are left

    That’s what’s results from notching up the Brightness control on your monitor.

    :)

  102. 102
    Amir Khalid says:

    @JGabriel:
    The Harry Potter series is far more about politics than The Lord Of The Rings. Group activism begins with Hermione’s failed attempt in Goblet of Fire, and really comes into its own with the establishment of Dumbledore’s Army in Order Of The Phoenix.

  103. 103
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @JGabriel: Yes, that was impression – LORT is a bout the character’s person journys.

    Then again, I forget, Conservatives and books are magical to Conservatives that take on a lives of their own and have interpretations their writers never intended.

  104. 104
    Amir Khalid says:

    @BellyCat:
    … And Sister, and Lady. :)

  105. 105
    burnspbesq says:

    @MomSense:

    angry Amir is my favorite.

    Liverpool got whacked by Dortmund earlier today. He may stay angry for a few days.

  106. 106
    VOR says:

    @NotMax: A second-run movie theater near my house does an annual showing of all 3 LOTR films every December. They use the extended versions with all the deleted scenes. The whole thing runs about 13 hours. They sell out the theater practically every year. They have costume and trivia contests.

  107. 107
    Brachiator says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Like Guster fans (dated reference alert), libertarians are a lot more common on well-heeled college campuses than anywhere else

    Quite a few libertarian leaning people among techies, especially those who see a free and open Internet and all things open source as proof that you don’t need regulations and anything other than competition to ensure the delivery of high tech goodness.

  108. 108
    Ruckus says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    I so want to beat him up and take his lunch money

    Which is exactly what he’s been scared of since he was 8.

    He can call himself whatever he wants but he’s a conservative asshat. It’s that simple.

  109. 109
    NotMax says:

    @VOR

    “Standing Room Only strictly reserved for those in Ent costume.”

  110. 110
    Ruckus says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    I think that the arrival of maturity takes care of needing to crawl back into the womb. Many people never get to that level. Many-Most? A lot anyway.

  111. 111
    Ruckus says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:
    It is a fairy tale isn’t it?

  112. 112
    BellyCat says:

    @Amir Khalid: “… And Sister, and Lady.”

    So, not just foul-language but polyamory too?

    That rock-n-roll stuff is a heckuva gateway drug!

  113. 113
    Ruckus says:

    @Patricia Kayden:
    One does need to understand one’s enemies if one desires to stop them.

  114. 114
    Brachiator says:

    @A Ghost To Most:

    This. I read it four times as a teen, and found it inspiring.

    I enjoyed the LOTR movies, but could never finish the novels. But then again, I’ve read much of the literature that inspired Tolkien. I could not get into Atlas Shrugged at all. Just unreadable. I thought The Fountainhead worked as a novel, but I didn’t take it seriously as any kind of philosophical work. I do know a few people who were into Rand as teens or young adults, but they all grew out of it.

  115. 115
    Amir Khalid says:

    @burnspbesq:
    That’s actually okay. The players who’d been at the World Cup were still not back on the team after only a day or two of training, and the very promising new guys were not ready yet. Loris Karius dropped another clanger, but Alisson will soon be taking over. I think this season’s Liverpool side is going to be very strong.

  116. 116
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Ken: No *way* do I want to take us back to the 70s!

  117. 117
    p.a. says:

    LOTR is racist as hell: you KNOW Gimli always got latrine digging duty.

  118. 118
    Amir Khalid says:

    @BellyCat:
    The Girl is the butterscotch blonde Tele, Sister is the black Les Paul, and Lady is the white Strat. They’re like my Charlie’s Angels.

  119. 119
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Miss Bianca: I saw that and said “why would I want to go back to 1972?”

  120. 120
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @p.a.: With a unit that small they would do cat holes.

  121. 121
    p.a. says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Elves shit rose petals.

  122. 122
    Ruckus says:

    @Miss Bianca:
    My favorite decade is the one in front of me. Memories are great and I still have them but I don’t want to do it all over again. Being an adult is still better than being a kid. If it’s not you are doing it wrong.

  123. 123
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @p.a.: I’m sure you would know. //

  124. 124
    L85NJGT says:

    The Johnson Weld ticket did very well in 2016.

    He’s talking about cult of personality, old man speaking truth to power stuff, rather than the ideological or electoral. Simple truth is, Rand isn’t Ron, and Wilmer has filched that media market space.

  125. 125
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Ruckus:

    It is a fairy tale isn’t it?

    Yes it is. You did mean Conservatism didn’t you?

  126. 126
    opiejeanne says:

    @PIGL: Oh now, what did he say about orcs?

  127. 127
    Ruckus says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:
    LOL…..
    No I didn’t mean conservatism. I don’t consider that to be a fairy tale but I can see why some might call it that. I don’t because it’s actually, physically deadly for a lot of people, including a lot of people who are conservatives. The only conservatives for whom it might work are the very, very wealthy. Even the very wealthy stand to be hurt badly by conservatism. They think they are immune because of their money but the very, very wealthy can buy and sell them for pocket change. And when they have run out of others to steal from, the very wealthy will be next.

  128. 128
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    not Tolkien was in a tizzy over workers getting forty hour work week.

    I doubt that it occurred to Tolkien to ever give a thought about the forty hour work week, except to pout disapprovingly about unions.

    His nostalgia was over the loss caused by the replacement of rural poverty for the working class with industrial poverty. The new aesthetics apparently upset him.

    By the way, I like LOTR, but I don’t find Tolkien and his class based sensibilities particularly admirable.

  129. 129
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: The Brady Bunch? Mark Spitz? The Osmond Brothers?//

  130. 130
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Miss Bianca: Second grade. Third was okay.

    @Viva BrisVegas:

    I don’t find Tolkien and his class based sensibilities particularly admirable.

    Who said he was and and that they were?

  131. 131
    Obdurodon says:

    I know I’ve seen a quote along lines of “a libertarian is just a conservative who likes weed” but can’t remember who said it. There’s more than a little truth to it. AFAICT libertarianism isn’t about actual liberty for actual people. It’s a rationalization for “finders keepers, losers weepers” where the original “finders” were either feudal kings or modern commons-plunderers and environment-rapers. Its proponents either are or hope to be part of the rentier class, for all their Galtian blather about innovation and industry. It’s a *deeply* conservative faith, just like the old aristocracy except that the sacred bloodlines with which government must not interfere are those of the property instead of its owners.

  132. 132
    opiejeanne says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques: I spotted a discussion online between a small group of people who had read one of Terry Pratchett’s books and decided that he was not a liberal at all, but a libertarian just like them. These were not teens, these were people well into middle age. I didn’t laugh at them where they could see it, but I did laugh, thinking Small Gods would make their tiny heads explode. I’ve I’ve read just about everything he’s written (except for that trilogy he wrote with some other guy, couldn’t get through it because there wasn’t enough Pratchett in it) and I got to talk to him before he left us, and the closest he gets to libertarian is “crotchety older guy who wants people to stop pestering him”.

  133. 133
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Miss Bianca:
    I would never want to go back to a year in which the Osmond Brothers were big. Eeww.

  134. 134
    opiejeanne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: For me it was 1958 and I remembered being aware about then of the Cold War and the fear of Russia. I had a note stashed under my bed that said something about “the Russians have got me!” I don’t remember why I wrote that, but the fear was pretty real.

    I’ve liked each successive decade better than the prior, and I’ve certainly liked both dental and medical advances better. Sure, there were a couple of Years from Hell sprinkled in there but overall each has been better than the previous.

  135. 135
    JWL says:

    Laurie: The late, great Steve Gilliard wrote a post years ago that made essentially the same point, and that your good words here tonight inspired me to recall for the first time in years. That’s offered as high praise. If recollection serves, he wrote it prior to the 2006 mid-terms, but I may be mistaken. The more things change, eh? Still, that noted, this time Americans are taking-a-ride-like-it-or-not that will change our country forever. And, I fully trust, for the better upon the scattering of the republiccan party arcketeers to the four electoral winds.

    The ringleaders of Trump’s treason I submit we hang and/or incarcerate for the rest of their miserable lives (after they are duly convicted, of course). I shall go to my grave mercilessly unsympathetic to the whole rotten lot of them, with no exceptions. Benedict and Peggy Arnold were paragons of patriotism in comparison to the trash we’re currently in the process of taking out.

  136. 136
    NotMax says:

    @Amir Khalid

    a year in which the Osmond Brothers were big

    You maybe prefer them when they were small?

    :)

  137. 137
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Douthat.

    “The teenage nerd enters conservatism through either Atlas Shrugged or Lord of the Rings, and between Tolkienists like myself”

  138. 138
    Amir Khalid says:

    @NotMax:
    No, they’re creepy at any age.

  139. 139
    frosty says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I read LOTR a couple of times in HS (after 13) and did a senior paper on Frodo’s transformation from hobbit to man. Told my teacher he’d have to read a 1,000 page trilogy to understand it. Dunno if he read it but he didn’t flunk me either.

  140. 140
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:
    Making sense is not Ross’ strong suit.

  141. 141
    Lauryn11 says:

    In high school I had to write a book report on “The Fountainhead.” and scanned some related works for research. My dad saw me reading “The Virtue of Selfishness” and said, “You really don’t need to be reading that. It’s full of bad ideas.” I miss my dad.

  142. 142
    frosty says:

    @Amir Khalid: My younger son made it into his 20s without ever vomiting. Too much beer with his buddies ended that streak and I doubt he’ll do it again. Unlike me at his sge. Sigh.

  143. 143
    azlib says:

    @jl:

    Yes, LOTR is fantasy. I used to read it about every ten years or so. I have also read the Simarillion which provides a lot of the backstory of the trilogy. Tolkein was a philologist and you see a lot of it in his writing. The language part of LOTR is quite detailed and consistent. He was also a product of WW I where he served in the army and lost a lot of friends to the war. I suspect that colored his writing.
    The Shire was definitely bucolic England before the industrial revolution. You could say Tolkien was a romantic and that is certainly reflected in his writing.
    I always saw LOTR’s power as a quest and coming of age story with very strong mythic themes. One powerful theme was there is a cost even to the victorious and those who touched evil. All the folks who carried the Ring of Power ended up damaged in one way or the other. I speculate this reflects Tolkien’s personal loss of friends in WW I.
    Tolkien also vehemently rejected the idea that LOTR was an allegory about WW II. He did write a fair bit of it during the war and I suspect living through those perilous times had some affect on his writing.
    As for LOTR being a gateway to conservatism that is a fantasy in Douthat’s mind. The Tolkien revival of the 60s was driven largely by the hippie movement. I remember well the “Frodo lives!” buttons which were quite popular at that time.

  144. 144
    Ian says:

    @jl:

    I can see enough detailed parallels between Animal Farm and communism, and totalitarianism in general for it to be an allegory.

    Read it again. When you do so, replace ‘totalitarianism and communism’ with Great Britain and the United States.

    The book was written for an English speaking audience after all…

  145. 145
    Groucho48 says:

    There is nothing in libertarianism that would have prevented Gandalf or Elrond or Galadriel from using the Ring to destroy Sauron and take his place. In fact, it would pretty much demand that happen.

    I saw The Fountainhead on TV when I was a teenager. I was intrigued because there was a fair amount of philosophical discussion in it, which was rare for a movie. I was also a bit confused because the main character (GARY COOPER!), came across as a jerk, though he was obviously supposed to be the hero. So, I got the book from the library. Can’;t remember if I finished it, but, I definitely thought it was crap and wondered how anyone could think Roark was a heroic character. he was an entitled selfish egoist.

  146. 146
    Atticus Dogsbody says:

    I never would’ve guessed that Colbert, the world’s biggest LoTR nerd, was a libertarian.

  147. 147
    J R in WV says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    You are the wrong age, gender, and culture to appreciate it. For the youth of my era and culture it was our great mythology, while you had the eons old Hindi mythos rightfully in its place.

  148. 148
    bjacques says:

    I went through that Ayn Rand phase in high school and well into college. Exposure to actual libertarians–guys dreaming of L-5 space colonies and sovereign floating condo complexes when they couldn’t organize a pissup in a brewery–cured me of that,. As did belated acquisition of rudimentary social skills. I went from NEVER COMPROMISE!!1! to realizing there are just a few people with whom compromise is useless. and I had been one of them.

    The Ring trilogy and The Silmarillion were entertaining enough but mainly source material for my D&D game characters, like Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stories were for Traveller.

  149. 149
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @opiejeanne: At some point Terry Pratchett literally said he was a libertarian. Unfortunately I can’t find a link to the incident–I think it was at a con panel or something.

    However, I am pretty sure his work reveals him as something other than the US Randian greed-is-good variety.

  150. 150
    J R in WV says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I do still have a soft spot for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, which have a lot of the same blind spots since Lewis and Tolkien were professors together at (I think) Oxford and had a writer’s group called the Inklings. Dorothy L. Sayers was an honorary member.

    Figures that the best writer in the group would be an honourary member on account of her defective gender! What a bunch of English loons!!!

  151. 151
    J R in WV says:

    @BellyCat:

    There’s always that DONATE button, hit it up from time to time, as I do, and maybe then someday, JGC will see that his donations have, like the loaves and fishes, multiplied to fulfill his financial needs!!

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