Bryan Caplan  

Ego & Hubris

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I don't know what's more amazing:

1. That there's an autobiographical graphic novel, Ego & Hubris, about former Cato intern Michael Malice.

2. That self-described "strident leftist" Harvey Pekar collaborated with Malice on the project.  (Malice wrote most of the script, Pekar adapted it and gets authorial credit, but I say it's still an autobiography).

3. That I stumbled across this book at random in the Fenwick Library stacks just weeks after briefly meeting Malice at the Cato interns' reunion.

Overall, it's a great read; after all, why else would Pekar promote a serial Ayn Rand-quoter?  Like Pekar, Malice fills his life with petty conflicts with teachers, parents, relatives, co-workers, and bosses.  Unlike Pekar, though, Malice gets along very well with his own kind.  A key turning point in his life:
When we [the Bucknell College Republicans] were on the Mall in D.C. I left the group and started walking around.  D.C. is a very tiny place.  Like an oasis in a desert, I came on Cato, and like an oasis there were palm trees growing in the lobby.
Malice rushes to get an internship, and isn't disappointed:
It was possibly the best experience of my life.  All the interns were very, very smart and all were radical, so we got into really deep discussions all the time.  And since we were all so-called extremists, no topics were off limits for debate and no speaker was dismissed as a nut.
The book is packed with cringe-worthy stories of Malice's avoidable conflicts with the world.  As a proponent of libertarian friendliness, I don't approve; but at the same time, it wouldn't be friendly to condemn him.  His approach is a little harsh for my taste, but it's more civilized than it looks.  As he explains in this interview:
I consider myself an anarchist and an elitist. Meaning I do not recognize official social hierarchies, but I am aware that such hierarchies naturally and inevitably exist. So I try to defer to my betters and to expect respect from my inferiors. But you should always be polite to people, because it's very hard to judge which they are at first.
In any case, Malice's success with this book and other projects suggests that libertarian curmudgeons might have more mainstream appeal than you'd think.  I sure hope so.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Ray writes:

A comic book about a self-centered sociopath. Will I find that in the retired CEO biography section at Borders?

david writes:

From your description of the book, an author named "malice" seems to be an unfortunate coincidence.

A few thoughts:

a) Being a libertarian normally involves a rejection of the status quo and the received wisdom. It requires a fair bit of self-confidence and independence of mind. In many people's minds, humility is associated with at least a degree of deference or submission. It may be difficult for libertarians generally to qualify under this definition.

b) Libertarianism advocates true humility in the sense of recognizing the limits of one's own knowledge, respect for others' individual liberty and sovereignty, restraint in government, etc. Non-libertarians seem to be notably lacking in humility when it comes to wanting to run other people's lives or gaining access to their property.

c) I'm not an Objectivist but I have been reading some Rand-related stuff and picked up "Unrugged Individualism" by David Kelley. He distinguishes between benevolence and the dreaded altruism. In effect, he makes the case that benevolence (including friendliness, courtesy, sensitivity, tolerance, etc.) is very much a libertarian virtue.

david writes:

A friendly libertarian?:

http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2010/06/aptly-named-insana-disses-ron-paul.html

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