Walter White from Breaking Bad famously said – “I was alive”. What essentially drove him to create that Drug Empire was entrepreneurship, that excitement of feeling alive — not family, social responsibility etc. Being alive seems to be a lot about being in touch with reality, sort of being plugged in. That constant awareness to gauge the situation and to adapt plans accordingly. In a way, being alive is also a lot about being human. What separates us from animals, at least most of us, is that ability to not just instinctively react, but instead use real cognition.
Being alive is also quintessential Americana; no other civilization has encoded this into their Constitution. That framework to avoid being shaped by the collective, but instead through individual volition, essential English liberties upgraded to American Federalism. Being part of a collective feels comforting. Whether its politics, sports or music, we tend to seek out that tribal identity. It’s probably our hunter gatherer instincts, constantly pushing us to belong. In that sense, American institutions are sort of intended to compensate those primitive instincts. I think it’s Hayek who once said — ‘man got civilized in spite of his best efforts’?
Riding is also a lot about being alive, and probably more about staying alive too. For starters you are always in touch with the environment. There are no seat belts or air bags separating rider from reality. You got to be aware, of the guy in his truck and the mom in her van, busy sifting through their critical Facebook posts. You need to simply adapt your path to steer clear of them, or any other potential threats, social media driven or otherwise. But the flip side is, when you are riding, all the other travails melt away. So plugged in to that sublime present, there are no cognitive resources to think about that uncertain future, or that disappointing past. In that sense, you are alive, but probably in a totally different context I guess.
“Key to his argument is that in a democratic liberal society, there’s no overarching single scale of values. Society cannot achieve a single hierarchy of ends we all agree on. In fact, the great strength of democratic liberal societies is a multiplicity of values that are respected among diverse and often divergent, even distant, individuals”
I used to have this bumper sticker on my Jeep — ‘If we are on a road to serfdom, hope it’s bumpy and bureaucrats are driving lowriders’
You will find them here, for instance Hayek’s copy of Wealth of Nations went for almost 200k, it was estimated in the 4k to 6k range.
“Desktop ephemera and personal effects” were estimated at 200-300 British pounds, went for 87,500 British pounds. Crazy! Many of the items went for 10x or 20x their original estimates.
From Marginal Revolution
The original uploader was DickClarkMises at English Wikipedia. [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
For some reason people gasp when I mention the dominant Libertarian themes in Transformers 4 : Age of Extinction. Buried beneath inane comedy and not so sleek Budweiser advertisements are some stunning Hayekian/Misesian ideas. Contrasting to the first three Transformers movies, Age of Extrinction refuses to glamorize military. Instead of Marines fighting evil aliens in Middle-East, we have CIA black ops oppressing a Texan inventor. From Cade Yeager (played by Mark Wahlberg) emphasizing to the black cloaked agents to get off his property, to ignorant bureaucrat Harold Attinger (played by Kelsey Grammer) destabilizing planet with his foreign policy, Michael Bay’s U-Turn on politics is evident.
Govt propping up bad guys in an alien war, or private firms profiting from war, or having an elected US President become subservient to career bureaucrats – this movie cuts close to reality. How a private weapons manufacturer, Joshua Joyce (played by Stanley Tucci), changes his mind when confronted with reality. But, a bureaucrat constantly refusing to confront his own folly is worth noting. Hollywood illustrating how private sector can get corrupted by govt incentives is not so common. Not to mention, Kelsey Grammer comforting the US President by claiming the all-powerful alien bounty hunter as his “asset”, a genuine black comedy moment!
An individualistic inventor honestly trying to stabilize the world, while govt busy-bodies propping up chaos, sounds like the movie appeals to all our civilized human instincts. Café intellectuals might disagree, but Hollywood is among the best Western institutions, they spread liberal ideas across the globe. Niall Fergurson’s interesting work ‘The West and the Rest’ quite aptly quotes the French philosopher Régis Debray — “more power in blue jeans and rock and roll than the entire Red Army”.
Bjoern Kommerell [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons