Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I took the test

The Libertarian Purity test, that is. Scored a 73, the same as National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, and slightly higher than not only the estimable Charles Murray, but also my friends John Hood and Steve Hayward, who were contributing editors to Reason when I worked there. (John's still on the masthead ... for now.) I wouldn't abolish the public schools ... or Social Security or Medicare (though I would let anybody who wanted to opt out of the entitlements do so as long as they surrendered any future claims on the programs). Guess I'm a right-wing statist.

That's only one reason quizzes like this are worthless. They allow for no sense of nuance, and in this particular case, they're badly skewed. You get 5 points for advocating the abolition of all taxes, but only 1 for saying taxes in general are too high. Nuts.

The quiz also reminds me of an essay written for Reason about 30 years ago by the incomparable Edith Efron called "Secular Fundamentalists." I'm pretty sure it's not available online, which is unfortunate. Edith speaks of the disproportionate number of people (college students, mainly, though I can see Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons also fitting this profile) who have done little more than read a couple of articles by Rand and Rothbard, call themselves libertarians, are cocksure of how all the world's problems can be solved -- and are all-too-willing to burn the heretics who dare deviate from "the text." (SNL identified the type in the sketch that had William Shatner attend a Star Trek convention: "Get a life!") Edith suggested that people would do well to accumulate a little life experience before they attempt to save the world. Sound advice for all.

Addendum: Virginia Postrel and local reader Kody Kearns were kind enough to provide a Web link to the Efron essay. It's here.