A Punter on Politics
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe made news in September when he wrote a strongly worded polemic in favor of gay marriage and free speech on the popular sports blog Deadspin. (Sample quote: "I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life.…They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.") Reason 24/7 Associate Editor Scott Shackford spoke with Kluwe in December about his reluctant libertarianism, his newfound political fame, and the virtue of empathy.
Q: In an interview with OC Weekly you were reluctant to label your politics. You said you're libertarian but also said that doesn't quite sum it up. What makes you libertarian?
A: It's the belief that I would like to be free to live my own life. There's the Golden Rule to treat other people the way you would want to be treated. That will solve a lot of the world's problems.… I've never been a big fan of labels. Some things I lean more liberal, and some things I lean more conservative. But it's all about not taking the rights away from somebody else.
Q: Some of your comments touch on anarchistic attitudes. Have you explored the various philosophical underpinnings of anarchism?
A: In an ideal society you don't need a government because everybody knows how to treat somebody else. Unfortunately, we aren't going to reach that place for some time. The world I imagine is from the Culture series by Iain M. Banks [a quasi-utopian science fiction series about a post-Singularity society]. Once you reach a post-scarcity economy, you have people realize what people want to do with their life doesn't affect me. You don't need a government to tell you what to do.
Q: You recently read Atlas Shrugged. What did you think?
A: Not a huge fan. I like some of [Ayn] Rand's ideas. I think the core aspect she's missing is empathy. Without empathy you don't have stable society. What do you do when the real world intrudes? What do you do when there are earthquakes or disasters? If you don't have a concern for the people around you, eventually society is going to collapse. I think that's one of Rand's flaws. She doesn't consider empathy to be a worthwhile trait.
Q: It's interesting that you see empathy as an important trait for libertarian philosophy.
A: If you don't care for anybody else, you're a sociopath. It's about finding what that level of safety net is without living off other people. If you truly want to live your life for yourself, then you wouldn't want to take somebody's labor, because you wouldn't want somebody to do that to you. Empathy isn't just about taking care of other people. It's also recognizing what your actions do to other people.
Q: Are you willing to say who you voted for in the presidential election?
A: [Libertarian Party candidate] Gary Johnson. I don't like any of the choices because our government is fundamentally flawed and won't change anytime soon. Our Founding Fathers relied on an educated voter system. Our laws are now being written for corporations and organizations, not for people.
Q: When athletes, celebrities, or rock stars speak out on political issues, they get a lot of attention, but they also get a lot of backlash. Are there particular obligations or hazards that come with being outspoken about politics?
A: I think that goes back to the label thing. It shouldn't matter what your job is. What should matter is who you are as a human being. Your job has no bearing on who you are.
Q: But in your case, you have more of a megaphone for your voice because of your job.
A: The way I approach life is that everyone should have an equal voice. That I have a larger voice shows what our society values. Society values entertainment over education.