Is Zoltan Istvan a Libertarian?
Like many libertarians, I was initially excited when Zoltan Istvan announced his candidacy for Governor of California.
Istvan is the founder of the Transhumanist Party and author of “The Transhumanist Wager,” which is considered a manifesto on transhumanist philosophy. The basic premise of transhumanism is that the next step in human evolution will be to improve our bodies and expand our lifespan with radical technology, eventually leading towards immortality. While he still needs to obtain the nomination, having someone announce their intents this early gave me hope that maybe the party would have a shot at making an impact in the California mid-terms.
As I learned about his transhumanist ideas, I became increasingly hopeful that his views on radical science and medical technology would be able to appeal to the far-left base of California and introduce a wider range of people to libertarianism. However, after doing some research I’m not so sure Istvan is the best candidate to represent the Libertarian party.
On the surface, the former presidential candidate seems to align with the libertarian views of bodily autonomy (transhumanists call it morphological freedom) and the non-aggression principle, he even called himself a left-libertarian on the Rubin Report.
He believes people should be able to use technology to make modifications to their body as they please, if it doesn’t harm anyone else. For example, Istvan has a chip implanted in his hand which allows him to open doors in his home and will send texts to a person’s phone.
Also within his conversation with Dave Rubin, he discussed regulating industries for artificial intelligence multiple times. He went so far to say “I don’t believe we should develop artificial intelligence that’s unregulated” and “part of the reason AI remains an unregulated industry is because no one knows how to regulate it.”
During his 2016 run for the presidency, part of his platform was to, “Create national and global safeguards and programs that protect people against abusive technology and other possible planetary perils we might face as we transition into the transhumanist era.”
This type of language reminds one of the paternalism and “protect one from themselves” legislation typical of today’s Democrats and Republicans.
Finally, one of the party’s proposals is to adopt a Transhumanist Bill of Rights that would advocate for “legal and government support of longer lifespans, better health and higher standards of living via science and technology.”
While it’s not clear what government support would entail, state-funded creation of life-expanding technologies would pale in comparison to what the market could create.
Article I of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights claims that every citizen has a right to technology that reduces suffering, improves upon the body and can give one an infinite life-span, which reminds one of the current leftist agenda claiming healthcare is a basic human right.
The best way to ensure that everyone can have access to the technology that would accomplish Istvan’s Transhumanist vision, would be to allow private companies to produce these technologies and compete with other firms and bring prices down. As we’ve seen with universal healthcare, entitling a service to every citizen lowers quality, and increases prices.
While his intentions are noble, requiring access to this kind of technology would decrease the number of people who could obtain it and aggress on a business owner’s right to sell their product.
This is one of many problematic parts of his presidential bid; others included free public education, mandatory college education and preschool, and a sort of affirmative action to create an equal representation of former careers in politicians.
To give the potential candidate some credit, he does oppose the War on Drugs and wants to shrink the size of government through technology.
Istvan seems to be a situational libertarian. While he may appeal to more Californians with his views on science and seeming acceptance of some forms of regulation, he would not be the person the party would need to explain libertarian philosophies and represent us to the masses.
* Luke Henderson is a composer, economics enthusiast, and educator in St. Louis, MO. He is a budding libertarian and joined the party in 2016.
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