Is It All About the Lindens?
Every so often in the modern era somebody crops up with a loopy, poorly-considered manifesto about how this
technological development or that
cyber-whatsit proves the case for libertarianism. Twelve years ago it was the "Californian ideology"
of Wired and Mondo 2000 and other bright and ignorant young tech geeks; lately Newt Gingrich has been carrying the standard
for those unable to grasp the relationship between technology, public investment, and the real world.Now comes Michael Gerson
, who writes that Second Life
is "a large-scale experiment in libertarianism." Gerson, a social conservative, is not out to argue that the experiment is a success, but it got me thinking.
You may or may not be into SL. I had fun, for about a week, running around with my avatar ("Cosmo Mills," which I thought was a decent name for a character in a manufactured universe) looking at all the neat stuff and pretending to have a soul patch and a jacket made of shag carpeting. That was about as far as it went for me, but I can understand why people like it, especially when they get involved in what is, undeniably, a working economy of the game. But Gerson seems to buy the claims that it's somehow relevant to actual
Instead of showing the guiding hand of an author, this universe is created by the choices of its participants, or "residents." They can build, buy, trade and talk in a world entirely without rules or laws; a pure market where choice and consumption are the highest values.
Now, Gerson is actually using SL to criticize
libertarianism, arguing that the game reveals the bankruptcy of a world without "moral rules" or "social obligations" or negative consequences to bad choices (thus resulting in too much random sex and consumerism). (Ramesh Ponnuru points out a flaw
in Gerson's logic.)
At any rate, I've seen this claim before, from SL enthusiasts: that the game is somehow one big exercise in libertarianism, a "pure market" as Gerson calls it. Do people really believe that a "pure market" consists of a world in which there is no need for food or shelter or medicine, no scarcity at all beyond an economy of status items?
Labels: libertarians, Michael Gerson, Second Life