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Connected Ideas: Libertarianism, Rand Paul, Racism, Rome, and EVE Online Jun. 1st, 2010 @ 10:54 am
So, Rachel Maddow asked Rand Paul about his view on the Civil Rights Act and his belief that it should not have desegregated private businesses such as restaurants by law.

An aside: Rachel Maddow is, in some respects, a vastly better woman than I, because in interviews such as this, I would very quickly reach the point of saying: "That's not what I asked you. I asked you [question]. Can you answer that question, please?" "Uh-huh. And [question]?" *interrupts* "Yes or no. [QUESTION]?" Which would probably make me come off as kind of a jerk.

I won't go into the ramifications of how wrong he is. I'm pretty sure anyone reading this is likely to be aware of the ways in which racism is perpetuated by allowing its open propagation.

I just finished reading a book called The Day of the Barbarians, by Alessandro Barbero. It's an account of the circumstances surrounding a battle in the late fourth century, which was both the culmination of a barbarian uprising and a turning point in the history of the Roman Empire. (I recommend the book, by the way - I might make a separate post on it at some point.)

The Roman Empire, at that point, prided itself somewhat on its integration of many, many ethnic groups into the Empire. By the fourth century religious tensions were causing more trouble than racial ones, as far as I can tell - Catholics vs Arian Christians (which is a whole 'nother post in itself), and the pagans were still around - but there was still some genuine and serious racism around. If you were tall and blonde, you were inferior, because tall and blonde meant barbarian. Real people were short and dark. (This was, after all, an empire with its roots in the Mediterranean.)

This isn't my expert area of history, by the way, and the book I just read was focussed on conflicts between the Roman Empire and the Goths, so I'm not sure where Africans stood in the racist hierarchy of the Empire; I suspect that may somewhat have varied by region. In Egypt, for example, it was probably a lot higher where many black people would have been traders or immigrants than in Constantinople, where most of them would have been slaves. People didn't seem to travel that much, but slaves went *everywhere*.

Possibly this was safer than keeping them local, mind you. The barbarian uprising the book is about received no small amount of assistance from the fact that *everyone* in the region, pretty much, had Gothic slaves. As a source of both manpower and intel, this was invaluable.

On the subject of slavery, if only because I sometimes struggle to remember that no, really, slavery is recent, I recommend the excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates's recent post: Sacrifice. No, seriously, read it.

Anyway, the thing is, there were a lot of ostentatious speeches and so on touting the wonder of immigration, of how Romanised the barbarians became, and how they strengthened the Empire as soldiers and as farmers and workers. Racism was in some ways a threat to the success of the state and they deliberately worked against it.

Nothing changes. And yet, progress does happen. I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, the issue of libertarianism is involved in all this.

Libertarianism is bad. I've written three chapters of a novel I really should finish at some point partly on that topic, but if you really want to see why libertarianism is bad, you should look into EVE Online.

EVE Online is internet spaceships, but it's more than that. It's essentially the universe libertarians want - it's the free market, unrestrained capitalism, and personal liberty unrestrained.

And you know what?

It's a fun game, but the universe itself is a dystopian hell where money is power, life is cheap, ordinary people don't matter (player characters are not ordinary people, but they ruin - or take - the lives of many of them), and might makes right. Got a problem with someone else? The only way to settle it is often violence, and there's always collateral damage. One of the Empire factions, the Amarr, is pro-slavery, whereas another, the Minmatar, is founded by former slaves. They're at war. Player characters on both sides fight over slavery, too... and the collateral damage is significant there too.

I saw an argument erupt at the Intergalactic Summit after ships from Ushra'Khan, an alliance of mostly-Minmatar player pilots who are vehemently anti-slavery (motto: "We come for our people.") destroyed a ship which turned out to be carrying a cargo of slaves, for example.

I think one of the things I love about EVE is that it's basically an ongoing counter-argument to libertarianism.

(Full disclosure: My character in EVE Online has a not-insignificant number of slaves - and other people, actually - in her hangar at a space station. This is because I've occasionally found them, one way or another, while running missions and so on. I couldn't bring myself to let them die in space, so I took them back to the station, where - and I swear to you this is true - I made sure they also had large quantities of food, water, soft drinks, consumer electronics, and any other trade good I could find that I thought would improve their lives. If CCP ever put in place - as some players frequently ask - a mechanic whereby slaves can be freed, I am so doing that.)
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