The Libertarian Cher to Teller’s Bono should STFU
Penn Jillette, the loud, annoying, ponytailed half of the magic act Penn & Teller, is a true American Hero. He’s both incredibly ignorant and damn proud of it.
Check out this incomprehensible pile of garbage Jillette wrote for CNN called “I don’t know, so I’m an atheist libertarian.” It starts off reasonable enough. The main lesson is that his late friend, the great theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, was comfortable with the limitations of his own comprehension:
“I don’t know” is not an apology. There’s no shame. It’s a simple statement of fact. When Richard Feynman didn’t know, he often worked harder than anyone else to find out, but while he didn’t know, he said, “I don’t know.”
The man may have taken his tea with both milk and lemon, but that’s some sound epistemology right there. Not knowing things is perhaps the hallmark of human experience. However, Jillette uses his ignorance to justify further ignorance. And he doesn’t seem particularly worried about putting in the “hard work” (Googling) to alleviate his dumbshititude.
The article is a response to what he perceived as the unfair treatment he received on “Piers Morgan Tonight”. No, Piers didn’t hack his voicemail. Morgan had the temerity to ask Jillette to postulate an alternative theory to God The Creator (you know, science):
He started with “How did you get here?” and I started talking about my road to showbiz and atheism and he interrupted and said he meant how the universe was created. I said, “I don’t know.”
He said, “God,” an answer that meant Piers didn’t know either, but he had a word for it that was supposed to make me feel left out of his enlightened club.
Sure, ultimately no one knows how the universe was created — or if it was created. Although, he did a horrendous job of demystifying the process by not talking about evolution as a substrate neutral algorithm (to rip off Dan Dennett), I don’t know is an OK answer there.
While scientists know a lot about the universe, relative to religious lunatics, it’s the same religious lunatics who purport to know with absolute certainty that the universe was created in 1982 by God’s massive queef. Or something along those limes.
Morgan then asked him to explain how libertarianism provides an alternative to civilized, socialist government policies meant to help the poor:
Then he asked me what we could do to help poor people. I said I donated money, food, medical care, and services and he said, “No,” he meant, what could society do to solve the problem of poor people. Again, I was stumped.
He said the government had to do it, which I interpreted as another way of saying he didn’t know, but he thought that made me look mean … even though I do care and do try to help.
I hate Piers Morgan’s smarmy ass as much as the next dude, but how is claiming that government should act as a benevolent social equalizer the same as “I don’t know”? It’s not. Here’s where Jillette goes from playfully disingenuous to purely deluded:
It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
What the fuck? First of all, voting – ostensibly in the form of electing a representative whose ideology demands – to have the government help the poor is compassion! Especially if you’re Warren Buffet. And what’s this about guns now?
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.
What now? Suddenly this is a lesson in Ayn Rand-level ethics. Jillette displays a stunning lack of understanding regarding human nature, the function of government, and very essence of morality.
Government, at its best, is a method by which people can act in concert. That is all. Simply calling something “government” doesn’t render the thing an automatic boogeyman. Americans –wealthy Americans are clearly not compassionate enough to to compensate for their ever decreasing tax rates. Aside from our expensive and pointless wars, why the fuck do you think our infrastructure is crumbling? And while you get no “moral credit” for forcing others to do what you think is right, you get an A fucking + for forcing someone to do what is right. It’s the very definition of morality.
The lesson here is that you should never let Penn Jillette watch your children for the evening. If a burgling pedophile broke into your home, Penn Jillette would not stop him from stealing your laptop and buggering your kid. He might think theft and pedophilia are wrong, but he’s a liberatarian!
And what is this about guns?
People try to argue that government isn’t really force. You believe that? Try not paying your taxes…. When they come to get you for not paying your taxes, try not going to court. Guns will be drawn. Government is force — literally, not figuratively.
So what this is all about is that Jillette doesn’t want to pay his fair share of taxes. He’s a cheap asshole. And he doesn’t have the decency — or more likely knowledge — to fully quote General George Washington:
Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
Can government do shitty things? Oh yeah. Can it build damns, wind farms, roads, etc. by taxing the wealthy and give people jobs in the process — in turn giving the newly-employed money to buy more junk from the rich? Of course. Sorry to go off on a rant here, but these sort of “free market” worshiping, Ayn Rand atheists give all atheists a bad name.
The reason most people self-indentify as atheist is because they’ve evaluated the profound lack of evidence for a supernatural deity and they’ve reach the safe conclusion that there is no God. We’re supposed to value reason and empirical evidence. And Jillette is considered — I have no fucking clue why — something of an atheist champion. Well, until you “work hard” to clear up your ignorance problem, we don’t fucking want you! I don’t, anyway. In my opinion, you should shut the fuck up before Burns Strider at the American Values Network makes you into the anti-libertarian poster-boy by conflating your economic ignorance with your reasonable atheism, like he did with Ayn Rand.
On the off chance you’re reading this (or having Teller read it for you), I’ve done some of the hard work for you: I Googled “Scandinavia”. You’ll appreciate that Scandinavian countries are the least religious societies on earth. They don’t go in for bullshit, as you might say. The same holds true for their economic systems. Their wealthiest citizens pay 50% and even 60% of their income in taxes. This money is used for social programs. It’s the reason they’ve done so well during the global recession. Better than Europe. Way better than the U.S. (where the 400 richest people have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million combined). It’s also why they consistently rank among the happiest countries with the highest standard of living. Read something, you asshole!
While I’m at it, I have one more of Jillette’s idiocies to share (sorry):
I’m scared to death of being in debt. I was a street juggler and carny trash — I couldn’t get my debt limit raised, I couldn’t even get a debt limit — my only choice was to live within my means. That’s all I understand from my experience, and that’s not much.
God damn it! I presume by “debt limit” he’s alluding to the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is not a debt limit. It’s a moronic cap set on repaying debt already incurred. But I wouldn’t expect Jillette to know this. He doesn’t know much. And that’s why he’s a libertarian.
And I don’t know why he’s an atheist. But it’s OK not to know.
POST-POST THOUGHTS: Maybe Penn Jillette is a charity machine — a moral exemplar by which all people should live. Maybe he teaches blind children how to saw scantly clad women in half. But most wealthy people are not so generous, and if it takes pointing guns at the rich (that is to say fairly taxing them) to achieve social justice, I say, lock-n-load!