Monday, February 25, 2013

Midnight in Paris and 21st Century Libertarians

This evening I spent a wonderful time celebrating a happy occasion.  I had a fancy dinner with several friends and enjoyed their good company.  After parting with them, I stopped at a shoppette for a fountain drink and chanced upon a DVD for sale of a film I love, Midnight in Paris, which I just finished watching.  What a wonderful flick!  (In response to those snobby film buffs I say yes, you’re right that every Woody Allen movie is the same movie, and it’s a great movie, so shut the hell up already.)

Apart from making me feel charmed and all kinds of warm and fuzzy, as many nostalgic movies do, Midnight in Paris threw some great insights my way.  The main character is Gil Bender, a hopeless romantic engaged to a cosmopolitan and very materialistic woman.  While his fiancé lives very much in the now, Gil would prefer nothing but to stroll down every boulevard and admire every café in Paris, which they’re currently visiting.  Gil leaves his fiancé and her parents and friends one night and stumbles into a wrinkle in time which takes him back to the 1920s, the very time he constantly dreams of.

Gil gets the golden opportunity to party and spend quality time with his idols: Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and many more.  Along the way Gil meets the hauntingly beautiful Adrianna who is a dreamer and a romantic like he is.  The difference is that Gil is absolutely in love with the Paris of the 1920s while Adrianna wishes to go to the 1890s, as she’s just as discontented with life in her time as Gil is with 2010.  Gil and Adrianna fall in love but are soon faced with a choice to make; one wants to run away to the ‘20s while the other wishes to run away to the nineteenth century.

Gil realizes that Adrianna’s naïve idealism toward an earlier time is just as infantile and cowardly as his own adoration of her time period.  He realizes that the era in which he lives isn’t unsatisfactory, but that life itself can be unsatisfactory quite often and running away won’t fill the emptiness he feels.  Instead, one must make the best of what he’s been given and learn to appreciate the beauty around him.

That conclusion is exactly how I feel about the liberty movement today!  (Thank you, Woody Allen, for inspiring me.)

2012 was a bitterly difficult year for libertarians—Republicans, Capital Ls, and independents alike—and the future looks bleak for us as we slog through the anti-liberty mud and feces that is American politics in 2013.  We’re incredibly disappointed over how crookedly the deck was stacked against Ron Paul.  We’re disappointed that many of our liberty candidates were annihilated in the various elections throughout the year.  The elation that came with our victory over SOPA and PIPA was short-lived as many of the freedom-killing elements in the censorship bills were quietly inserted into other bills long since passed into law.  We watched in horror as the troop presence in Afghanistan was extended from 2014 to 2024 and the drones continue to wreak devastating collateral damage in Pakistan and Yemen.

Many libertarians are fed up with the federal government.  Many libertarians are done with politics altogether.  I’ve spoken with several folks and read about many who have decided to pack up and move to Brazil where there are more entrepreneurial opportunities and the “donations” as a workaround for government permits are affordable.  Many others will stock up on guns and ammo, grow their own food, and run sustainable homesteads.  Others still are leaving politics altogether, seeing it merely as a waste of time because of the extent to which the system is corrupted.  They quietly invest in gold as a backup for the welfare of their families as they passively wait for the worst to happen.

There are moments when we wish we could go back in time and live in eras where we know the outcome of history.  We want to enjoy the economic prosperity of the 1950s.  We want to vote for Barry Goldwater for President.  We want to be able to attend Ludwig von Mises’ exclusive lectures in New YorkWe’d love the opportunity to witness Murray Rothbard arguing with Nathaniel Branden in Ayn Rand’s smoke-filled apartment.  I’d treat Henry Hazlitt to dinner in a heartbeat just to hear him tell stories of what a pompous ass John Maynard Keynes is.  I’d give my right arm (pun intended) for a taste of the Old Right in Frank Chodorov, enjoying his take on the growing inclination of his era’s popular culture towards socialism.  I might even get my hopes up that Chodorov would introduce me to his mentor Albert Jay Nock over drinks and shooting pool.

If I was a truly greedy bastard, I’d have Professor Mises sign two first edition copies of his Theory of Money and Credit.  I’d then pull a Back to the Future and pay the Western Union to deliver the now-antique books to me in 2013.  My scheme would culminate in donating one to the Mises Institute, thereby gaining me many thanks and accolades, and I’d sell the other one for an outrageously exorbitant price.

All of these things would be simply wonderful, to say the least.  However, there will be no traveling back in time for any of us twenty-first century libertarians.  While we do have the option to run away to Brazil or run away through nonparticipation in the political process, there’s no way in hell I’d do either.  Mises ran from Austria only because the Nazis were going to murder him and his wife without question.  Freedom may be getting chipped away at here in twenty-first century America but the government isn’t killing us all yet.

There are still some liberties guaranteed to us by the Constitution that our self-appointed overlords in the Executive and Legislative branches can’t do away with just yet.  Furthermore, unlike the nations occupied by the Third Reich, many a conservative and libertarian in today’s America practice the Second Amendment and they’re prepared to fight as liberty’s last possible line of defense.  Personally, I’d like to prevent a civil war through constant and unyielding participation in the political process, preferring to fight with votes in the ballot box rather than rifles and bombs in the Sierras.

Vienna under the Third Reich
There are many unfavorable things about our time, but such is the way of all times.  Our heroes from the early-to-mid twentieth century had to deal with deep economic depressions, two world wars, the horrors of Nazism, and the growing evil empire of Soviet socialism.  The founders of the Austrian school in the nineteenth century found their careers made incredibly difficult by the state-controlled educational systems of Bismarck’s Germany and Habsburg Austria, neither of which tolerated any deviation in universities from official pro-regime doctrine.  Frederic Bastiat in the 1840s was still dealing with the far-reaching fallout from the Jacobins’ bloody revolution.

We face nothing like those crises.  The liberty movement in America is growing by the day.  Republicans of the libertarian faction are taking over more GOP committees at the local and state levels.  The Libertarian Party still wins the occasional city council seat.  More people speak favorably of Ron Paul and his ideas, and will be more inclined to vote for the conservative-libertarian Rand Paul in 2016.

Sure, times are hard right now, from the wars abroad to the yet stagnant economy at home.  Still, there are many wonderful things about the time in which we live.  We had the unparalleled privilege to campaign for Ron Paul, for which history will remember us fondly.  We have the opportunity to be lectured by and personally eat and drink with Tom Woods, Robert Murphy, Hans-Herman Hoppe, and other Austrian school celebritarians at Mises Institute conferences.  We get to meet other likeminded young people at ISFLC and the YAL National Convention, at which I’ve seen some of the smartest and most beautiful women alive (and it pleases me to know they’re libertarian and share my political passions).

Jeffrey Tucker writes with childlike wonder at the technological miracles and the unprecedented rise in living standards brought about through the free market by private sector ingenuity.  Better yet, through the Laissez Faire Book Club we’ll always be the first ones to have access to Tucker’s libertarian writings, as well as exclusive books by other libertarian authors.  All across America, two strangers who find out the other is libertarian become instant friends.

At the present time we’re faced with the great tasks of taking over the Republican Party, seizing the reigns of the State, and rolling back the size of government while restoring Constitutional liberties and a free market.  We can run away to 1920s Paris or we can make the best of the cards we’re dealt and have the courage to face our problems and undertake the tasks ahead of us.  Paris is just as beautiful in the rain today as it was in the 20s.  So is Washington D.C.  I could travel the world and visit every monument but I’ll always love my home town more.

History will look well on us when we accomplish our great tasks.  We might even have future generations approach us in our old age and say “Wow!  It’s really you!  I only wish I could have lived in your time and been a part of the Ron Paul Revolution!”  To them my response would be “You little cretin!  Do you not see the abundance of individual liberty and economic prosperity surrounding you?  Heaven forbid you should enjoy and fully appreciate what we worked so damn hard to bring you! Get out of my face!”  Well, I might not be quite as harsh…

I love Midnight in Paris.  It reminds me that, while the hard times distract us, there are wonderful things all around us that we take for granted.  Life is beautiful.

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Midnight in Paris poster is the property of Sony Pictures Classics, was obtained from Wikipedia, and is used in a scaled down, low-resolution format for the express purpose of promoting the Sony Pictures Classics film. The image is used according to fair use law.  Ron Paul banner was obtained from Ron Paul Forums and is the property of the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign which no longer exists. Vienna image courtesy of the Vienna City website and assumed to be in the public domain as it was published on a government website. Midnight in Paris trailer is the property of Sony Pictures Classics and used via Standard YouTube License.  If you're still reading this, you'd be better off reading both volumes of The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government; it'd be slightly less tedious.


  1. I adore this article in so many ways. Well written and extremely insightful.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed the article. Nice work.