Virtual Second Life = Libertarianism Is a Failure ??

Get this: Because people behave badly or irratically in a virtual internet world, Second Life, libertarianism in the real world would be a hopeless flop. The logic is astounding, no? It’s what Michael Gerson at the Council on Foreign Relations opines today in a Washington Post op-ed.

Libertarians hold to a theory of “spontaneous order”—that society should be the product of uncoordinated human choices instead of human design. Well, Second Life has plenty of spontaneity, and not much genuine order. This experiment suggests that a world that is only a market is not a utopia. It more closely resembles a seedy, derelict carnival…

Gerson seems not to realize that Second Life and other virtual communities are fantasy worlds—the consequences of fantasy life are not, in many or most respects, real. To be sure, there are aspects of the fantasy that resemble life in the real world—people can shop for things (virtual consumer goods) and interact with one another’s avatars (who are, as Gerson points out, often enough furry animal-people and vampires). And the real people driving the avatars no doubt have real feelings and interests attached to their virtual creations. But guess what? A person can EXIT Second Life. Just “walk out.” With no consequences. So your avatar quits his job and goes on a terrorist rampage? So what? Just because a person directs his avatar to do these things does not suggest that this is the way the real person will behave—or have incentives to behave—in the real world. The real world imposes actual consequences for behaving badly. Gerson seems to overlook that critical point.

So, Gerson concluding that a culture based on freedom can’t work in the real life because it “fails” in some respects on Second Life is as absurd as…showing up to your real-world day job as a furry fox-person.