Libertarian Folly: Why Everybody is a Social-issues Voter

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke   8/9/14
There is this notion, one we hear more and more, that the Republican Party has to shed the social issues to seize the future. “Social issues are not the business of government!” says thoroughly modern millennial. It’s a seductive cry, one repeated this past Tuesday in an article about how some young libertarians dubbed the “Liberty Kids” are taking over the moribund Los Angeles GOP. Oh, wouldn’t the political landscape be simple if we could just boil things down to fiscal responsibility? But life is seldom simple.

If you would claim to be purely fiscal, or assert that “social issues” should never be government’s domain, I’d ask a simple question: would you have no problem with a movement to legalize pedophilia?

Some responses here won’t go beyond eye-rolling and scoffing. Others will verbalize their incredulity and say that such a movement would never be taken seriously. This is not an answer but a dodge. First, the way to determine if one’s principles are sound is by seeing if they can be consistently applied. For instance, if someone claims he never judges others, it’s legitimate to ask whether he remains uncritical even of Nazis and KKK members; that puts the lie to his self-image. And any thinking person lives an examined life and tries to hone his principles.

Second, there is no never-land in reality. People in the ’50s would have said that homosexuality will “never” be accepted in the US. And Bill O’Reilly said as recently as 15 or 16 years ago that faux marriage (I don’t use the term “gay marriage”) would “never” be accepted in America. Sometimes “never” lasts only a decade or two.

Third, my question is no longer just theoretical. As I predicted years ago and wrote about here, there now is a movement afoot — one that has received “unbiased” mainstream-media news coverage — to legitimize pedophilia. Moreover, it has co-opted the language of the homosexual lobby, with doctors suggesting that pedophiles are “born that way” and have a “deep-rooted predisposition that does not change,”  a film reviewer characterizing pedophilia as “the love that dare not speak its name” and activists saying that lust for children is “normative” and those acting on it are unjustly “demonized.” Why, one Los Angeles Times article quoted a featured pedophile as saying, “These people felt they could snuff out the desire, or shame me into denying it existed. But it’s as intrinsic as the next person’s heterosexuality.” My, where have we heard that before?

So, modern millie, as we venture further down the rabbit hole, know that one day you may be among “these people,” these intolerant folks who just can’t understand why “social issues” should be kept out of politics and government out of the bedroom.

I should also point out that a movement advancing bestiality has also reared its head, using much of the same language as the homosexual and pedophiliac lobbies.

Of course, I’m sure that many libertarians have no problem with legalized bestiality; hey, my goat, my choice, right? And there may even be a rare few who would shrug off pedophilia, saying that, well, if a child agrees, who am I to get in the way of a consensual relationship? But these issues, as revolting and emotionally charged as they are, are just examples. There are a multitude of others, and this becomes clear if we delve a bit more deeply.

After all, what are “social issues”? What are we actually talking about? We’re speaking of moral issues, which, again, thoroughly modern millie would say should be kept out of politics. But this is impossible. For the truth is that every just law is an imposition of morality or a corollary thereof — every one.

Eyes may be rolling again, but let’s analyze it logically. By definition a law is a removal of a freedom, stating that there is something we must or must not do. Now, stripping freedom away is no small matter. Why would we do it? Unless we’re sociopathic, like Aleister Crowley believe “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” and are willing to impose our will simply because it feels right, there could be only one reason: we see the need to enforce an element of a conception of right and wrong. We prohibit an act because we believe it’s wrong or mandate something because we believe it’s a moral imperative. This is indisputable. After all, would you forcibly prevent someone from doing something that wasn’t wrong? Would you force someone to do something that wasn’t a moral imperative? That would be truly outrageous — genuine tyranny.

There are laws where this is obvious and unquestioned, such as the prohibition against murder. But the same holds true even when the connection to morality isn’t so obvious, such as with speed laws: they’re justified by the idea that it is wrong to endanger others.

Then there is legislation such as ObamaCare. The wind beneath its wings was the idea that it was wrong to leave people without medical care; this case was consistently made, and, were it not for this belief, the bill could never have gotten off the ground. Or consider the contraception mandate and the supposed “war on women”: the issue would have been moot if we believed there was nothing wrong with waging a war on women.

Some will now protest, saying that there is nothing moral about ObamaCare and the contraception mandate. I agree, but this just proves my point. Note that my initial assertion was not that every law is the imposition of morality — it was that every just law is so. Some legislation is based on a mistaken conception of right and wrong, in which case it is merely the imposition of values, which are not good by definition (Mother Teresa had values, but so did Hitler). It is only when the law has a basis in morality, in Moral Truth, which is objective, that it can be just. Hence the inextricable link between law and morality. For a law that isn’t the imposition of morality is one of two other things: the legislation of nonsense or, worse still, the imposition of immorality.

So this is the fatal flaw behind the attack on social conservatives. It would be one thing if the only case made were that their conception of morality was flawed; instead, as with those who sloppily bemoan all “judgment,” they’re attacked with a flawed argument, the notion that their voices should be ignored because they would “impose morality.” But what we call “social conservatives” aren’t distinguished by concern for social issues; the only difference between them and you, modern millie, is that they care about the social issues that society, often tendentiously, currently defines as social issues and which we happen to be fighting about at the moment. This is seldom realized because most people are creatures of the moment. But rest assured that, one day, the moment and “never” will meet. And then you very well may look in the mirror and recognize that most unfashionable of things: a social-issues voter.

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24 Responses to Libertarian Folly: Why Everybody is a Social-issues Voter

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Legalizing drugs is a social issue. Wanting abortion to be legal is a social issue. Believing that there is no difference between Israel and Iran or Hamas (or that the latter two might even be better) is a social issue (an international one, at that).

    Being in favor of our southern border being flooded by illegal aliens is a social issue. Promoting the use of pot so that the flower of our youth can be wasted is a social issue. Believing that anyone who objects to the various libertarian loony beliefs is automatically a “statist” is a social issue. Believing that there is no larger moral concern for maintaining a good and free society than trading in a market is a social issue.

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      all positive law is a type of cutting or a delineation serving as a frontier to separate right from law. Therefore all law is patterned on assumptions rooted in nothing but conceptions of the moral/political, and are concerned in how we ought to live.

  2. Glenn Fairman says:

    The compartmentalization of feral minds more attuned with video game drama has left us with vain assumptions that the moral can be deftly dissected from the political; and therein optimally, human positive law should be content to graze in one cordoned off region of the soul and society while leaving the rest the province of explorations into the playground of being.

    As an undergraduate, I called down the ancient spirit of the sophists and attempted a philosophic defense of bestiality using the idea of consent. The idea that consenting adults can literally get away with anything has slowly given way to the idea that minors should not be bound by “ageist” preconceptions of what is proper or moral. The corrosive abrasiveness of ill-conceived philosophy and unfettered reason can always etch away any objections to our naked passions, given enough time and pressure. If humans are self-creating entities whose only internal moral command is to experience and transmute novel modes of being, with the only addendum being that no one’s autonomy should be violated, why should any provincial firewall serve to keep us from our destiny’s desire, particularly if will is the measure of our humanity? And moreover, why should the violation of another’s autonomy not be just another barrier keeping us from our full sum of happiness?

    So if a child finds that he rather enjoys being the center of sexual attention from a 50 ear old man or a sheep does not protest to being penetrated (consent may be widely interpreted as passively submitting to the will of another), then by what right, in a universe judged only by shifting will and desire, should any barriers be placed before us? In a normative universe, eventually all is not only permitted, but expected —since the desire to be as gods is strong within us — even unto the demolition of the world.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      If humans are self-creating entities whose only internal moral command is to experience and transmute novel modes of being, with the only addendum being that no one’s autonomy should be violated, why should any little firewall serve to keep us from our destiny’s desire, particularly if will is the measure of our humanity?

      Exactly. That’s just what I was thinking. 😉 What libertarians seem to want is to have their vices normalized. They are neo-hippies for all practical purposes. “Thou shalt not” has no meaning other than as an unjust infringement upon self-actualization.

      And I find their mantra of “liberty” and “adhere to the Constitution” to be shallow. When “liberty” means no constraints whatsoever, one is actually an advocate for anarchy. I can’t say that I understand the underpinnings of the original hippie movement. But the pursuit of “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll” is probably the point of intersection.

      Since interacting more and more with yuze guys, as well as a natural transformation that is occurring, I find I can’t even listen to my old music. I find little pleasure in it. I am that old-style “square” that the beatniks used to make fun of. I’m not hip. I don’t adorn my body with the fleeting (and stupid) fashion of tattoos. Nor do I adorn my brain with the stupid (and hopefully fleeting) fashion of libertarianism. Having gained some perspective on the rot that is eating away at our culture, it becomes more and more difficult to enjoy the offshoots of that corrupt and brain-dead culture.

      I used to like listening to The Smiths, for instance. But their childish and mindless counter-culturalism no longer appeals to me. The same with R.E.M (although with that group, in the early going you couldn’t possibly understand what they were singing anyway so it was truly the music doing the talking — but Stipe and company, since disbanded, were libtard punks of the lowest intellectual order).

      So, yes, I’m square and damn proud of it. I think Oprah is a boob, Jon Stewart is a fool who ought to change his name back and reclaim his authentic Jewish roots, and Geraldo Rivera is the very flower of modern journalism — that is, he’s an embarrassment to the very profession of fact-finding and reporting. And 60% of the rest of the culture is a wasteland of narcissism and just really stupid and shallow ideas.

      The one thing that Islamists have right is that Western Culture is decadent. What we disagree on (no small thing) is the solution. Replacing the lunacy of “gay pride” parades with Roman-style daily public beheadings of homosexuals and other apostates is not a step up. Both sides are radical loons, although one is (for now) less violent than the other.

      And definitely regarding bestiality, the sheep is getting the worse end of this deal, especially if a libertarian is on the other end. The intellectual question for libertarians is if the sheep was coerced. If not, than anything goes. But in the market-uber-alles that they perceive as the one and only guiding moral influence, I’m sure giving the sheep a few lumps of sugar to distract it would be considered automatic quid pro quo.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    It is called growing up and cultivating a conscience, Brad. As Morpheus said to Neo upon emerging from his machine master’s elaborate fantasy prison, “Welcome to the real world.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I have a good friend (another good friend I’ve never met) who says of me in a good-natured way that I like to “Afflict the comfortable instead of comfort the afflicted.” I admit this. It’s lunacy to admit one’s shortcomings publicly. But I do have a hard time doing a lot of hand-holding of people who are not just wrong but dangerously, wantonly, and destructively wrong.

      I want to bring libertarians over the the conservative side of the aisle, the same regarding Establishment Republicans. Conservatism don’t have all the answers, but they have a very good three-legged stool: God, family, and the Constitution. Nowhere in or around the stool is a utopia. There is no expectation of anything but an ongoing (hopefully character-building) struggle. When shit happens, it’s not necessarily somebody else’s fault. Get an education. Work hard. Make yourself useful to your fellow man. Be honest. The rest will take care of itself.

      But I don’t think libertarians are honest about their ideology. That is my experience. And that bothers me. Many “Progressives” (the second-tier, low information kind) are indeed honest about their ideology. It’s a very naive ideology. They believe the answer to society’s problems are blind tolerance, “diversity,” multiculturalism, moral relativism (aka “non-judgmentalism”), and government as nanny protector and moral arbiter. And as I’ve said before, in a world where there are no enemies, foreign or domestic, where you can print as much money as you want with no harm to the economy or people, and men always act like angels, then it’s a very nice vision in some ways.

      But every facet of libertarianism seems as if it is meant to deceive in some small way. They talk of limited government but then want legalize all drugs and open the border to illegal aliens. How does this in any way produce a smaller government? And on an on. Take any assertion of libertarianism and it is bound to be either a cover for something else or an unrealized and ill-considered idea.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        One way to think of libertarians is that, like liberals, they only look at immediate effects and ignore unintended consequences. Thus, legalizing marijuana and homosexuality and opening the border involve direct reductions in government control. The idea that they might have long-term effects in the other direction is alien to them.

        As for afflicting the comfortable, that’s what journalist claim to do. The difference is, they only do so if the comfortable happen to oppose their political agenda.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    As I pointed out in my response to this elsewhere, the idea that pedophilia could be a serious issue is in fact obvious. NAMBLA celebrates pedophilia/hebephilia (at least between males), and Nancy Pelosi marches in their parades. In time — I suspect no more than a decade — this will become a liberal Cause, at which point anyone who continues to oppose it will be attacked as a bigot and hater. (But they still won’t forgive pedophile priests and Scoutmasters, of course. Politics always transcends principle for liberals.)


    Let’s hope Selwyn’s article grants us a brief respite from the “If you guys would just shut up about social issues, we could win the next election on pure fiscal conservatism” crowd that keeps hissing at us over on NRO. Probably not, though – unless they read it. They sometimes express their viewpoint, absurdly, as “You can’t legislate morality,” which is so self-evidently untrue as to be unworthy of refutation, although Selwyn does refute it here.

    Of course, although anything that is illegal should be immoral, not everything that is immoral should be illegal, and there is some room for disagreement on such issues, say, as at what point does one’s strictly personal conduct begin to endanger others and thus become subject to the police power. In some cases, careful reasoning is required to explore the point at which one’s actions begin to infringe upon the rights of another – a fit subject for some follow-up articles.

    I would also point out that while Selwyn is careful to include both negative laws (prohibitions) and positive laws (mandatory actions), in a free society almost all laws will be of the former character – prohibitions forbidding some act which violates the rights of others. Very few laws should require an individual to take positive actions, and such laws should always be viewed with suspicion, as for example the Obamacare individual and business mandates and requirement that we fund abortions in violation of our individual consciences.

    And speaking of Obamacare, Selwyn’s use of it as an example is illuminating: it was passed based on an incorrect moral theory, and we should not count on being able to repeal it without disputing that theory. Too many Republicans are banking on being able to repeal it simply because it isn’t working; this approach may or may not succeed, but in the long run the Left’s program must be opposed on moral grounds. Even if Obamacare is repealed, the pressure for some other form of socialized medicine will resume immediately until we fight it at the root.

    Finally, the “inextricable link between law and morality” is exactly what the Libertarian attempts to break, with disastrous results. (He does of course attempt to smuggle in one moral judgment, the non-initiation of force principle, as some sort of axiom, but this does not and cannot work).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That’s an important point about the difference between prohibitions and requirements. Orwell noted in 1984 that requiring people to do something was an advancement in restricting freedom compared to merely forbidding them to do something. He saw this as having been an invention of the 20th century totalitarians, though there were certainly past precedents. No doubt the Fascists, Nazis, and Communists did a lot more of it, and for reasons other than national defense.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      but in the long run the Left’s program must be opposed on moral grounds

      I couldn’t agree more, Nik. And if Selwyn posted here from time to time, I think he’d agree as well. As Mark Steyn says about socialism, it’s not bad simply because we can’t afford it. It’s bad because of what it does to us.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    And, by the way, it must be pointed out that parsing everything in terms of economics is a social issue. You are defining the very heart of a society – how we should relate to one another. And if you define it as such, it matters…socially and every which way.

    Imagine marrying a woman and you both agreed beforehand that the marriage was to based entirely upon finances. This is a social issue in regards to the family. You’ve defined how the family is to relate to each other, and there are consequences (good and bad) with such a relationship.

    You can try to side-step this issue dishonestly as libertarians tend to do by saying we do away with “social issues” and we all become mere economic players, with society formed with this in mind. But this is still a social arrangement and has social implications.

    This is why I say that libertarians are fundamentally dishonest, if only with themselves.

    Selwyn is right, and his headline says it all.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Society is a compact wherein we all agree to operate under certain limitations — no limitations (anarchy) being self-evidently a situation to be avoided.

    Libertarianism is the wanton and naïve belief that limitations themselves are the prime fault of man.

    Classical liberal society is founded upon the idea that such limitations will be at a minimum and based upon solid principles.

    Conservatism is the lens through which “minimum limitations” and “solid principles” are understood.

  8. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Conservatism is the lens through which “minimum limitations” and “solid principles” are understood.

    Nice turn of phrase and good observations.

    Today’s Libertarianism uses a kaleidoscope for its lens.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s more libertarian folly: Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator blog asks Why Does Rand Paul Keep Playing the Race Card?

    This is consistent with my formula for libertarians wherein they say two sensible things followed by one really kooky thing. Here is Rand’s kooky thing regarding the Ferguson, Missouri issue:

    Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

    Such a statement disqualifies him from the Republican Party. Well, it should, anyway. Goldstein writes:

    This isn’t the first time Paul has played the race card. Last May, Paul said Republicans were “going crazy” over voter ID laws. After my blog post on this, Senator Paul’s office replied to my critique and I offered a rejoinder. I argued that it would be more appropriate for Paul to fight the demagoguery over voter ID laws by the likes of Vice-President Biden rather than feeding into it. Unfortunately, it seems he is doing more of the same here.

    While I certainly think the Republican Party should do its best to attract black voters, I don’t think Rand Paul’s impersonation of Eric Holder is going to help the GOP’s cause.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I have been disappointed by Paul’s racial pandering, such as his defense of Thad Cochran’s appeals to black Democrats in Mississippi (though, to be fair, he hasn’t been forced to confront the issue of just what those appeals were). He is correct that the GOP needs to work a lot harder in its outreach to minorities (the lack of which no doubt contributes to Democrat margins among them).\

      As for Ferguson, there are a lot of issues, and the best way to describe this is a giant clusterfuck. It appears that Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson were minor thieves, which may have affected their reaction when officer Wilson told them to get out of the road. (He was unaware that they were probably thieves, though he may have realized this at some point during the incident.) It’s hard to see what could justify the final several shots fired at an unarmed, fleeing man — we have several eyewitnesses, and the suspicious absence of a dashcam (I just read Mark Steyn’s article, which put a heavy stress on that concern). There was also evidently a heavy-handed police reaction — but there was also rioting, which needed such a reaction. Getting the right balance can be difficult. A much lighter touch proved very handy Thursday night and Friday — but then led to disaster early this morning, as more rioting broke out. Ferguson bids fair to become a mini-Detroit as a result.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I thought for sure that Mr. Kung, in particular, would get a kick out of this article that deconstructs some Libertarian thinking: Why Johnny Is Only “Personally Opposed” to Abortion

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      This article shows how easy it is to expose these charlatans. I have been using this method for years, i.e. since I became interested in politics.

      Of course, honest logic has little place in the lives of many libertarians and virtually all of the left.

      By the way, question 2 is where a tricky libertarian will sometimes waffle and give himself a “plausible” out.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Really, I thought it was quite astonishing to find someone not blowing smoke up the ass of Libertarians. They are so often thought of as conservatives with just a different emphasis.

        And let’s give our Timothy his due and have a “To be fair” moment: Many conservatives are “anti-abortion” but are not for the prohibition of abortion.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I agree with you that it is astonishing to find someone who doesn’t try to blow smoke up the ass of Libertarians.

          All that we write about at ST is “the wisdom of the ages”, but most “conservatives” have been too cowardly to openly espouse such beliefs.

          Perhaps it takes a bull-in-the-china-shop type such as Trump to give people the bravery to stand up and be counted. It’s time to stop being a closet conservative.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My favorite approach (as I mentioned in response) if I encountered such a person would be to point out that I’m pro-choice on discrimination against homosexuals. Abortion is the only issue on which liberals take such a stance, and it was already something of a joke by the 1984 election.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        LOL. They must look at you funny for a while until their heads begin to smoke like one of those computers that Captain Kirk destroys with a logic bomb.

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