Given the True Death of Nathaniel Branden earlier this month, and how American libertarianism originated as a kind of Baby Boomer phenomenon in the 1960's and 1970's which elevated Branden into one of its preceptors, I wonder how this political subculture will look in the coming years as its Boomer adherents continue to die off, along with their enthusiasm for fringe writers and intellectuals like Branden, Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, etc. I doubt that these writers will have much name recognition in 50 years, or that they will receive acknowledgement for having insights into the human condition that we can't live without.

We've seen this happen to trendy intellectuals before, where one generation's heavy thinker becomes the next generation's obscure crank your grandfather might have told you about. Like the philosopher Hegel in the 19th Century, for example; or the Polish aristocrat Alfred Korzybski, who invented the General Semantics idea which made a huge impression on science fiction writers in the middle of the 20th Century; or Buckminster Fuller, for yet another example.

Of course, this can work both ways, where someone stumbles upon an important insight that few others recognized at the time, only for the appreciation to come long after his death. This has happened to the Reverend Bayes.

I get the impression that transhumanist intellectuals have a short shelf-life as well, unless something really breaks loose and we start to see transhuman weirdness in our daily lives. Otherwise, we'll enter into the era of "FM who?" "Robert Anton who?" "R.U. who?" and some other people I could name.

fringe writers and intellectuals like ... Ayn Rand

This passage from Wikipedia makes me doubt your description of Ayn Rand as a "fringe writer":

In 1991, a survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club asked club members what the most influential book in the respondent's life was. Rand's Atlas Shrugged was the second most popular choice, after the Bible. Rand's books continue to be widely sold and read, with over 29 million copies sold as of 2013 (with about 10% of that total purchased for free distribution to schools by the Ayn Rand Institute).

8Salemicus5yYou've chosen a strange grouping to represent American libertarianism. When I think of American libertarian intellectuals of the 1960s and 1970s, the first name that springs to my mind is Milton Friedman. Predictions are hard, especially about the future, but I doubt that the names and works of the likes of Friedman, Buchanan, Coase, Becker, Fama and Lucas (and, yes, Rand) are going to be forgotten or fall into disrepute any time soon. They have given birth to entire schools of thought (e.g. 'Chicago School' economics, Law & Economics movement) and institutions (e.g. GMU). There also appears to be no shortage of current libertarian intellectuals, and there appear to be more libertarian or libertarian-influenced politicians than ever, at least in the Anglosphere. You appear to give no reasons for your predictions of decline for libertarianism or transhumanism. That is unfortunate.

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

by Gondolinian 1 min read15th Dec 2014309 comments


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