The Islands of the Blessed are sort of like Hawaii, but more. And a whole lot less crowded. The uplands resemble the south of France.
Which is to say that they’re really quite nice, in all.
How nice are they? They are so nice that Karl Marx, Murray Rothbard, and John Rawls have patched up their mutual differences. In the afterlife, they often meet to enjoy a bottle or three of wine, a game of chess — all were fans — and an occasional philosophical conversation about the goings-on of the distinctly less fortunate mortal realm.
“Here’s your man Will Wilkinson,” said Karl. “Wow, where will he turn up next?”
There was a pause, as Murray stopped pondering his bad bishop and John looked up from doubled rooks.
“I’m sorry,” said Murray. “Were you talking to me?”
Karl raised an eyebrow. “Who else? I mean, look at this.” And he read, with a triumphant sneer:
I’m not interested in identifying myself a libertarian. Ideological labels are mutable, but at any given time they publicly connote a certain syndrome of convictions. What “libertarian” tends to mean to most people, including most people who self-identify as libertarian, is flatly at odds with some of what I believe.
“I thought we’d been through this already,” said John. “It’s bad form to squabble over disciples in the afterlife. The Big Guy Himself told us so. ‘Every age is immediate… to Me,’ that was one of the very first points in the orientation course. Wasn’t it?”
Karl shrugged. His orientation had been… more difficult than most. “You’ve got to admit,” he said, “this Wilkinson fellow is an interesting case. I even skipped the best part, where he calls capitalism ‘contingent.’ Hah-ha!”
“In a sense, capitalism is contingent,” said Murray. “It’s contingent on the decisions of the power elite. Those who want to be left alone and practice capitalism have to pick and choose their strategies. That includes their labels and their associations, and there are always a wide range of them competing for attention.”
“Don’t even get me started about your associations,” said John.
“I would never, never have called myself a modern liberal, for one thing,” said Murray. “But Will’s struggling with some very difficult problems, and any fool can see that he’s picking the more anti-war of the two major factions. Credit where it’s due. Even if it is only by a smidgen.”
“No, no, no,” said John. “The problems he’s struggling with aren’t even all that tough. Mostly it’s just about branding. He’s trying to sell himself as an appealing product, and he’s finally, at long, long last figured out that a prettier label might help. Which, Murray, I note that your disciples are still terrible at.”
“It’s called ‘heightening the contradictions,'” said Murray, “and I learned it from the master.” He offered a pawn sacrifice and continued. “The point is not to sell your ideas. It’s to make people pissed off. Force them to defend the indefensible. And then a funny thing happens — they either stop doing it, or they look ridiculous. Either way, we win.”
“No, you don’t,” said John. “For one very simple reason: Nobody likes it when you call them ‘sheeple.’ That’s just one tic among many that your libertarians are altogether too fond of. Outlandish, provocative claptrap just makes a fringe movement look even fringier. I’m even tempted to say it’s the whole reason you never won mass appeal.”
“I’ll stop calling them sheeple when their masters stop using dogs to keep them in line,” said Murray. “Of all the practices of the modern state, I would think this to be the one that would tell ordinary folk where things really stand. Somehow it doesn’t.”
“The word ‘revolting’ seems to have been coined for occasions just like these,” said Karl.
“And the correct answer is what — utopia?” said John. “I’ll take guard dogs over utopian fantasies any day. Not that I enjoy the alternatives, but the latter so often lead to the former. And worse.” He accepted the pawn.
“Oh please,” said Murray. “No one ever got anywhere in political philosophy without an inspiring vision. That’s not an a priori truth, of course, but it’s a pretty solid empirical observation.”
“You give yourself too little credit,” said Karl. “I still believe in my stateless utopia, though of course I’d dissent from using the word. No one is ever a utopian except as a term of abuse.”
“Your anarchism is where you keep your wishful thinking,” said John. “Just like all the rest.”
“An observation I’d also make about you,” said Murray.
“I am not an anarchist,” said John.
“The hell you aren’t,” said Murray. “Your anarchy is behind the veil of ignorance, where there is no government, and your wishful thinking is the part where the intelligent, politically minded people all get together… and agree! Something I’ve never once seen them do in real life.”
“There’s a good explanation for that,” said Karl.
“I’m sure there is,” said Murray. “But for now the game is drawn. Perpetual check.”
“Why so it is,” said Karl.