This TED talk makes the audience (and the speaker) laugh at times. They are so conditioned to the statist view of humanity as evil, that its manifold examples of voluntary cooperation seen naive to them. As I listened to "social theorist" Jonathan Zittrain's interesting speech, the thought that came to me was this; he is describing the world as it was before the state took command and control.
He mocks the people who "police" Wikipedia (always 45 minutes from destruction by spambots without their unpaid work). If there was a really big Star Trek convention, he sneers, "...who would be minding the store?" But those diligent nerds are doing what their ancestors did in meatspace, before Sir Robert Peel gave us our professional law enforcers. The hue and cry roused by a simple cry of "Stop, thief" was the only policing until then.
Libertarians are so often portrayed as cruel and heartless, but nothing could be more wrong. We believe in people. We trust them. The statists of right and left do not. They see humans as fundamentally evil; to be controlled at all costs. We see evidence everywhere (despite the odious exceptions on whom they focus) of humanity's essential goodness. This talk gives many examples and the laughter of the people in the audience only reveals how much the modern state has corrupted them.
That's why today's piece by Alan Travis in the Guardian about Margaret Thatcher's 1979 papers, released to the public this week, is so wrong-headed. Anxious to traduce her for the "There is no such thing as society" sound-bite (so often taken out of context) he quotes disapprovingly the following lines from a draft speech;
Morality is personal. There is no such thing as collective conscience, collective kindness, collective gentleness, collective freedom. To talk of social justice, social responsibility, a new world order, may be easy and make us feel good, but it does not absolve each of us from personal responsibility.
That such words could ever be regarded as controversial is evidence of how far the statists have led us from the paths of virtue. As anyone who has lived in a municipal block of flats knows, when "the collective" is responsible, nobody is and the tragedy of the commons ensues.
Be of good cheer though. Jonathan's Zittrain's speech illustrates that the deeply human instinct to take personal responsibility for our fellow men is still there. Government just needs to get out of its way.