The Libertarian Wing of the Conservative coalition has started to peel off from the Limbaugh-Beck-Fox News-Tea Party wing. Here’s Julian Sanchez(Cato Institute) last week. Sanchez accused the Red meat wing of “epistemic closure”. Here’s how Sanchez now defines what he meant.
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter.
We don’t get any teabaggers on this site, but we get our fair share of libertarians like Julian Sanchez. The teabaggers totally suffer from epistemic closure, but the libertarians are different. I continue to believe that there is some coalition to be formed between classic Lockean liberals (I count myself as one) and the more enlightened libertarians. We both are against the Wars in Asia. We both believe in liberty. We both trust technology to continue to make media distribution cheaper and more democratic. Where we have trouble on this site is the battle over the role of government as regulator. Liberals say the people need some protection from the power of corporations, and so the government must provide balance against fraud, monopoly, and political favor-buying. Libertarians say the marketplace will police these corporations that try to game the system. They cite the fact that Enron collapsed before Ken Lay could be brought to court.
But it is so obvious to me that without an FDA, FAA, FCC, FTC, and EPA , the people would have no control over corporate power. There would be more lead toys, more polluted water, more air crashes, more poisoned drugs. If we can win the Libertarians over on that one, then there is a new coalition to be formed.