Is Penn Jillette Still a Libertarian?
“A lot of the illusions that I held dear—rugged individualism, individual freedoms—are coming back to bite us in the ass,” Penn Jillette told Big Think in July 2020, the first summer of the COVID pandemic. “Libertarianism has been so distorted that I don’t know if I have to pull my name out of that ring. It’s been adopted by people who don’t seem to hold the responsibility side of it and don’t seem to hold the compassion side of it.”
For decades, Penn—the larger, louder half of the performing duo Penn & Teller—has been among the best-known spokesmen for libertarian ideas and attitudes in politics and culture. But he says that the 2016 election of Donald Trump—whom he knows well and loathes from his days on The Celebrity Apprentice—and the COVID pandemic have forced him to rethink whether he wants to continue to be publicly associated with the broader libertarian movement.
“I can see arguments for not wearing seatbelts and I can see arguments for not wearing motorcycle helmets,” he told Big Think two years ago. “But I cannot see any argument for driving drunk and that is what not wearing a mask is. It’s not risking yourself, it’s risking the people around you.”
For many Americans, though, trillions in wasted spending, contradictory guidance from public health officials, arbitrary school and business shutdowns, and policies like closing beaches and outdoor dining have made them more skeptical of government power and expertis
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