January 4, 2003
But just as we’re periodically boggled by fellow liberals who seem to think the whole point is to coerce people into virtue, we also have our moments when we want to take a long shower and deny ever having been friendly with any self-described “libertarians” in our entire life.
This attempt to bring the Internet to Laotian villages via wireless networks, low-wattage computers, and hand-crank generators, is one of the Web’s hot stories right now. It’s the brainchild of Bay Area genius Lee Felsenstein, whose organization needs money to get the system in place before the monsoon season. Will people be as generous with him as they were with another Web charity hit, the New York chic chick who raised more than enough Internet donations to pay off her towering Bloomie’s bills? I’ll let you know…Maybe I’m just not smart enough to penetrate the hipster irony here, but as far as I can tell, this nothing more than a crude attempt to yoke two utterly unrelated things—the admirable and well-thought-out Jhai project to deploy cheap and robust computer technology to help some Laotian villages, and the obviously flaky attempt of a young lady in New York to get Internet donors to bail her out of her credit-card debt—in order to somehow suggest a connection between the naivete of people taken in by the latter, and anyone who supports the former. After all, they’re both nothing more than “Web charity hits”.
In other words, generosity is for chumps, no matter what it’s for. Let’s have a good laugh.
That’s why I’m not a libertarian. Because every time I warm to this crowd, I come across something like this. Not just a principled devotion to human freedom, but a gratuitously thuggish antipathy to any kind of decent generosity.
I’m sure I’m all wrong about this. I can practically write the posts I see incoming to my comment section. But right now I just want to enlist in some other, less disgusting species.
UPDATE: Neel Krishnaswami thinks I’ve seriously misread the weblog post in question, and says so in my comment section. I lean toward thinking Neel is right. Neel Krishnaswami, and I am not even the first blogger to say this lately, should consider doing a blog of his own. [02:56 AM]