Channeling Michelle Malkin's groundbreaking discovery of emo, Michael Gerson discovers Second Life. And–surprise!–it turns out that this "Second Life" confirms Gersons moral and political philosophies:
But Second Life is more consequential than its moral failures. It is, in fact, a large-scale experiment in libertarianism. Its residents can do and be anything they wish. There are no binding forms of community, no responsibilities that aren't freely chosen and no lasting consequences of human actions. In Second Life, there is no human nature at all, just human choices.
And what do people choose? Well, there is some good live music, philanthropic fundraising, even a few virtual churches and synagogues. But the main result is the breakdown of inhibition. Second Life, as you'd expect, is highly sexualized in ways that have little to do with respect or romance. There are frequent outbreaks of terrorism, committed by online anarchists who interrupt events, assassinate speakers (who quickly reboot from the dead) and vandalize buildings. There are strip malls everywhere, pushing a relentless consumerism. And there seems to be an inordinate number of vampires, generally not a sign of community health.
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—the triumph of amusement and distraction over meaning and purpose.
So we're to see Second Life as a perfect proxy for behavior in the real word, absent government action and the particular brand of social sanction Gerson favors. Um, why? Obviously, the costs of playing some kind of sex crazy, drug addled furry in a virtual world are going to be significantly lower than actually being a promiscuous murderous heroin user, even in a world where government ignores vice and Michael Gerson is not around to tell you exactly how meaningless your life has become. The amount of harm you do to other people by, say, vandalizing their property or shooting them in cold blood, is inordinately less in a virtual world, which just might figure into players' moral calculus.
Does Gerson actually think that only social opprobrium and government coercion stand between us and the actualization of our escapist fantasies? Are kids playing cowboys and indians actually expressing a desire to kill one another? To paraphrase our fearless leader: In a world without housing inspectors, would houses have roofs?
Via Will Wilkinson.