Tag Archives | No Borders

Free-Market Radical Leftism: Czech It Out

[cross-posted at POT]

The next best thing to giving a libertarian talk in Prague is giving a libertarian talk to Prague. Although if Aristotle is right about the locus of causal action being in the recipient rather than the agent, perhaps this counts as a talk in Prague after all.


Zalem’s Lot

I just got back from seeing Alita: Battle Angel, which I quite enjoyed, particularly for a) its beautifully realised cyberpunk cityscape, and b) the mo-cap performance of the lead.

The movie bills itself as being based simply on the original manga (Battle Angel Alita a.k.a. Battle Angel a.k.a. Gunnm) (which I haven’t read), but from what I understand it’s based at least as much on the 1993 anime adaptation (which I have seen – and so can you, below):

MILD SPOILERS BELOW:

The character of Chiren, for example, who has a very important role (though not precisely the same role) in both the anime and the live-action movie, is, I understand, completely absent from the original manga. Indeed, the movie follows the storyline of the anime extremely closely. The only major respects in which the movie’s plot deviates from that of the anime are the Motorball competition, the exploration of Alita/Gally’s past, and the introduction of Nova (all of which are, I gather, elements drawn from the manga). Even the repeated line about “an insignificant girl” is a nod to the anime’s closing theme song (which in other respects has little to do with the story – as is often the way with theme songs in anime).

One major improvement, for me, that the movie makes over the anime is in Alita/Gally herself. The frequently infantilised portrayal of heroines in anime, with their exaggeratedly squeaky voices and little-girl faces, tends to get on my nerves. The movie version avoids this (despite keeping the artificially gigantic eyes typical for anime heroines, which some viewers found off-putting, but which I thought worked fine here, as the character is a cyborg after all). Rosa Salazar’s strong, grounded performance, combined with masterful mo-cap and CGI work, carries the film.

Western film adaptations of manga and/or anime have sometimes been criticised for casting non-Asian actors to play originally Asian characters (as with 2017’s Ghost in the Shell). But that doesn’t seem to be as much of a worry here, as the main characters in the Battle Angel anime were not clearly Asian, and many were clearly non-Asian, particularly Ido, Chiren, and Vector. (It’s less clear whether or not Alita/Gally and Hugo/Yugo were intended to be seen as Asian in the anime.) Moreover, the original manga apparently depicts the action as taking place in a future North America (and not, e.g., Japan). (Still, you’d think at least a few more of the live-action film’s supporting cast would be Asians, yet offhand I recall only one or two. There are Asians in North America, y’know.)

As a feminist heroine the film’s Alita is a bit of a mix. Her defiance of male authority, even the well-meaning but somewhat suffocating authority of her father-figure Ido, is inspiring, but her willingness to sacrifice everything (including her literal heart) for the sake of her obviously less-than-worthy boyfriend Hugo is a bit disappointing. Still, love doth occasionally make idiots of us all.

The film’s treatment of class, which follows the anime (and, I presume, the manga), is a familiar one in science fiction: the privileged elite live in a floating city (with a strict closed-borders policy) high above the masses, who are relegated to a crappy and perilous existence below (recall, e.g., 2013’s Elysium) – though this theme is undercut a bit by how vibrant and exciting Alita finds the ground-bound city to be.

The most surprising feature of the movie for me was how short the closing credits were. Usually, for a movie this effects-heavy the credits go on forever, but these credits seemed to be over in a flash.

Admittedly, Alita: Battle Angel doesn’t really explore any issues that haven’t been explored onscreen a hundred times before; but it’s fun and visually striking. I hope it does well enough to merit a sequel, since as things stand the movie pretty clearly ends in mid-story.


Left-Libertarians at Libertopia

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

Next month (3-6 May) in San Diego I’ll be speaking at the Libertopia conference, which is back after several years’ hiatus. Here’s my topic and abstract:

Hoppean Libertarianism as Right-Wing Tribalism: A Critique
Roderick T. Long

One of the main conduits by which many libertarians in recent years have been drawn into the orbit of the Alt-Right is the work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I argue that Hoppe’s views on such matters as racial difference, immigration, monarchism, and the desirability of culturally homogeneous communities are systematically mistaken, as well as incompatible with a libertarian understanding of human action.

My Molinari Institute / Center for a Stateless Society / Alliance of the Libertarian Left / Bleeding Heart Libertarians colleague Gary Chartier will also be speaking; here’s his topic and abstract:

How to Think About the Constitution
Gary Chartier

Libertarians often defend particular theories of constitutional interpretation. But, at least for those who are skeptical about standard defenses of state authority, there’s a prior question: are we obligated to follow the Constitution? If we’re not, I suggest, then there’s no right answer to questions about the right way to read the Constitution. Instead, we should make constitutional arguments likely to advance liberty.

Other speakers include David Friedman, Scott Horton, Jeff Tucker, Spencer MacCallum, and many more. Check it out!


Self Reasons and Self Right

Ian McKellen doing a terrific performance of a speech in defense of the rights of refugees, probably written by Shakespeare:


Tribaltarian Nation

Insightful quote from Adam Bates:

Q: What is it about the libertarian movement that attracts as you say, “rape apologists, Islamophobes, and nativists?”

A: I think there are two largely distinct strains of belief that lead people to anarchism/libertarianism. One is a fundamental commitment to the liberation of others, and the other is a fundamental and exclusive commitment to the liberation of oneself or one’s tribe.

Both of those sets of people are going to be anti-government, both of them are going to be largely non-interventionist, both of them are going to feel like they support liberty (albeit one definition is universal and the other is tribal), and I think libertarianism has obvious appeal beyond the alternatives.

But with the rise of the social justice movement and increasing global connectivity, we’re seeing that distinction grow starker by the minute. The “tribaltarians” aren’t going to support immigration, they’re not going to support race or culture mixing, they’re not going to support trade, they’re not going to accept any arguments about collective crimes against groups of people that aren’t them, they’re going to recoil at any and every effort to erase the philosophical and moral buffers between “them” and “us.”

So I get it. I get how they got here. But if there ever was a reason for these two groups of people to caucus together, it has now evaporated entirely.

I’m also reminded of Rand’s analysis of tribalism [link goes to an MS Word document]. (The fact that Rand herself was frequently guilty of tribalism doesn’t make her analysis any less useful.)


Merchants of Venice; or, the Liberty of Strangers

Last night I dreamed that I was living back in Ithaca (or somewhere very much like Ithaca), and that I was organising an APEE panel with Walter Block on the subject of Venetian libertarianism.

In the real world, I haven’t lived in Ithaca for nearly three decades; and while I am currently organising an APEE panel, I’m not doing it with Walter and it’s not on Venetian libertarianism.

But when I woke up, the reference to Venetian libertarianism reminded me of this passage from William Thomas, a Renaissance-era Welsh traveller who described his visit to Venice in a 1549 memoir:

All men, specially strangers, have so much liberty there that though they speak very ill by the Venetians, so they attempt nothing in effect against their state, no man shall control them for it. … Further, he that dwelleth in Venice may reckon himself exempt from subjection. For no man there marketh another’s doings, or that meddleth with another man’s living. If thou be a papist, there shalt thou want no kind of superstition to feed upon. If thou be a gospeler, no man shall ask why thou comest not to church. If thou be a Jew, a Turk, or believest in the devil (so thou spread not thine opinions abroad), thou art free from all controlment. For eating of flesh in thine own house, what day soever it be, it maketh no matter. And generally of all other things, so thou offend no man privately, no man shall offend thee, which undoubtedly is one principal cause that draweth so many strangers thither.
(William Thomas, The History of Italy (1549), ed. George B. Parks (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1963), p. 83.)

Of course, the requirement to “spread not thine opinions abroad” (at least in matters of religion) suggests that this freedom had its limits – though I’m not sure whether Thomas intends this restriction to apply to all three of the non-Christian religions he references, or only to devil worship. Still, Thomas’s description of Venice is reminiscent of Voltaire’s and Addison’s descriptions of the London stock exchange; all three passages illustrate commercial society’s capacity to promote cosmopolitanism and toleration.


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