A Few Thoughts about Libertarianism

atlas shruggedby Glenn Fairman   1/29/14
By virtue of its very definition, libertarianism has what they refer to in political philosophy as a neutral or attenuated vision of the public Good; or more fully, an understanding that the Right stands prior to the Good. To this mindset, expansive libertarian freedom is the sine qua non of the good and healthy society. The problem arises, however, with the practical implementation of such an abstracted political system. Indeed, any system that is so overwhelmingly predisposed towards individual human liberty is also one that is largely silent on: the common moral-historical threads that comprise an integrated civic culture, the coherency of ethical restraints, and the salutary notion of a transcendent human teleology guiding the public square. If we hold that the action of immersing ourselves in freedom is the highest duty of the actualized self — even higher than honoring the warp and weft of a civilization’s accumulated wisdom, how then can we determine what are the wise web of moral/ political policies that answer the basic prudential questions we as humans must deliberate upon in our positive and negative freedoms? Truly, the libertarian premises of the minimal state are largely silent on the intricate sinews that bind community, for freedom of itself cannot point us to the character of the good life—nor answer the primordial questions as to how then shall men live, or even if there is such a thing as a Good Life to be had.

Morally speaking, it is highly doubtful whether Man can abide the libertarian’s ethical ambiguity and communitarian “thinness” while still retaining that connected moral vision necessary for a people’s long term survival. In contrast, it is best to consider the regime alternatives. Constitutional Conservatives posit a government that is mechanically constrained by its own rules of engagement. Moreover, it leaves ample room for private institutions and religious entities to exercise their largely voluntary prerogatives that rein in those obtuse qualities of human nature — all while cultivating a society’s shared moral-historical character. By the same token, the Progressive’s moral/political edifice places its fate in the hands of a leviathan state to equalize nature’s inequalities, and in turn it works single-mindedly to construct its rendition of the homogenous secular city. And while both of these antithetical incarnations of the political life assign varying weights to liberty and order in the continuum of regimes, or look to the past or to the future for their own pristine El Dorado, each has its integrated endgame in mind as they put their shoulders firmly to the plow. With the libertarian model’s desiccated view of the communal good, certain incongruities arise.

Libertarianism’s relative social neutrality leads us ultimately in the direction of atomism and anarchy, since it generally avoids the axiom that men are either good or fallen by nature. Instead, many libertarians (but not all) hold to the view that men are tabula rasa – mere material that is bound only by the plasticity of their potentialities. Such an understanding stands in stark contrast to what Aristotle views as humanity’s gregarious political nature – an essence that comes into its full flowering within the self-sufficient community of proper balance, since we are in our soulish characters intended to be neither beasts nor gods. We must be careful that when we speak of liberty or freedom, we use it in the classical understanding of politics and the integrated good life. In moral terms, imagine the Libertarian City scoured clean of every ethical commandment other than “Do what thou wilt,” with the only caveat being a minimalist civic morality. No City can survive upon such abstract foundations, unless men are themselves angelic in temperament. Aristotle said that we are zoon politikon—-political animals who are constantly judging, weighing, valuing. If we add to this mixture the Christian metaphysic: that we are fallen beings who are temporally severed from our necessary purposes, then discrete liberty itself is too thin a cord to bind us in unison, and too weak a master to ultimately keep us from each other’s throats.

The libertarian schizophrenia between economic and social issues, as if they were mutually exclusive in their false compartmentalization, is baffling. As such, are men mindfully unaware that the venom of social liberalism on issues such as: abortion, street drug legalization, casual divorce and fatherlessness, gay normalization and marriage, and the filial horrors that arise from the bowels of the deconstructed family produce the very pathologies that have plagued America and have transformed her from a republic of relative virtue to a centralized morally neutral socialist democracy in its most pejorative sense? Indeed, the cancerous seeds that are planted by libertarianism’s sympathetic amalgamation with social liberalism have concealed within their ends the ability to hamstring any economic system by degrading the moral appetites of its citizenry – and this moral cancer is manifest in those who vote.

The conservation of liberty requires the rational and clear-eyed ability to choose that which serves its interests best. That being so, the characters of morally rudderless men bound to the slavishness caused by drug addicted indolence, along with the full catalogue of ethically dissipated lifestyles that are unfit for free beings in healthy society, would soon topple and destroy the limited aims of the libertarian regime. As men succumbed to demagogues who appealed to the degraded appetites that humanity is heir to, the minimalist state would soon mimic the trajectory of our own self- intoxicated Progressive regime: a politics that has even now scorned the self-sustaining virtues of the Judeo-Christian worldview. Therein, a minimalist regime, infected with the liberal contagion of immorality and the loss of self sufficiency, could not long remain free in its qualified sense and would gradually succumb to the venal helplessness that leads to the peoples crying out for the paternalism of the welfare state or The Man on the White Horse. As in all things political, the moral character of the one and the many is the key, and how interesting it is that the Progressive and Libertarian regimes wind up at the same check-mate.

In believing that it is primarily the art of free economic exchange that stands foremost to a civilization’s moral good, libertarians unwittingly succumb to the Marxian analysis by letting a materialist caricature of man creep in through the back door. But in the classical sense, Politics is about far more than wealth and its attainment, since the Virtuous City requires prudent wisdom to balance a sustainable admixture of growth, harmony, and moral education’s all important cultivation of intellectual, civic, and ethical virtue. We would do well to remind ourselves that moral virtue cannot be severed from the political, despite what we are told by the bastard philosophes of Post-Modernity.

In an epoch where a society’s apprehension of even the most banal wisdom can no longer be taken for granted, the enduring truths must be continually hammered upon and restated in terms that even the dullest of intellects can comprehend. Liberty cannot be a sufficient good that stands of its own. It must be tethered to a purpose greater than its own deification and cannot be abstracted from an ethical “Polaris” that leads men towards some idyllic happiness. Unpurposed liberty is an idol that when fully matured, spirals off into chaos. Yet the word liberty rolls off our tongues and enchants our imaginations with a million different fantasies. This is why libertarianism resounds so enticingly to the young and idealistic – but like liberalism, fails so miserably in practice. As we should have expected, the fruits of modernity’s political extremes: radical individualism and collectivism, both stand as way stations on the unmarked boulevard to tyranny. In truth, both misunderstand the iron laws of human nature and both fail to perceive that there is something far greater that animates the consummation of human happiness. Ultimately, true liberty cannot be seized hold of for long in the transitory politics of men, since once one becomes ensnared in the furtive embrace of freedom gone awry, he soon finds that there is no true liberty to be had.
__________________________________________________
Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com. • (3014 views)

Share
Glenn Fairman

About Glenn Fairman

retired

This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to A Few Thoughts about Libertarianism

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Truly, the libertarian premises of the minimal state are largely silent on the intricate sinews that bind community, for freedom of itself cannot point us to the character of the good life—nor answer the primordial questions as to how then shall men live, or even if there is such a thing as a Good Life to be had.

    Morally speaking, it is highly doubtful whether Man can abide the libertarian’s ethical ambiguity and communitarian “thinness” while still retaining that connected moral vision necessary for a people’s long term survival.

    That’s a good point.

    Constitutional Conservatives posit a government that is mechanically constrained by its own rules of engagement.

    One of the problems faced by conservatives in rebutting the libertarian excesses (or, more often, their simplistic notions) is that the people themselves — their intellectual and moral makeup — no longer can, by their developed nature, arbitrate a government that is mechanically constrained by its own rules of engagement.

    Thus there is a superficial sense to the libertarian creed of “tear down this illegal government.” A fair reading of the Constitution backs this up as well. There are many functions of the Federal government that are illegal and should be torn down. But simply tearing down the state offers no more solution to our problem than adding another layer of government. As someone noted in another thread, it’s not so much that Obama is president that is the problem. It’s that we have become the kind of people who would elect him — and reelect him — in the first place.

    Anarchy (and rule of the most unscrupulous) does not appeal to me any more than statism (and the rule of a different set of the most unscrupulous). And that is what you get if one views the current situation in terms of the size and scope of government. But there is something more to this equation than simply the size and scope of government (even if the principle component of this equation, being bent or missing, does lead to this statism).

    For America to work as she was meant to, men must generally be good. They need not be perfect. But there must be some baseline of good. And libertarians, to some extent, are correct that government cannot make us this kind of good. But neither can atomizing society into amoral particles of radical self-interest.

    Yes, we have to tear down the illegal state. But at the same time, we must build ourselves up. It is not enough merely to tear down Leviathan. Nor is any good morality likely to come from the state itself, as we see gathering about us now — to the extent that much of the population is mad as a rabid dog and this population is considered our fellow citizens thanks only to sharing a zip code, but not much else.

    Nor do libertarians or Jonah Goldberg types have the answer by merely kicking the can of the personal moral issues down the road by saying that the “laboratory of federalism” is the way to work things out. Again, there is a grain a truth to this. But this single grain too easily becomes misdirection. Few of these same people are actually for the individual states enforcing some kind of moral structure. But always, in theory, it’s a wonderful thing to kick the can down the road to a sort of disembodied “federalism” as the answer.

    So what does one do in the face of a citizenry that is becoming more dependent, unthoughtful, and vulgar? Granted, shrinking government which is fostering dependency is a good start. Big Government is a corruptive influence unto itself. There is no mistake about this, and simply hacking the state back, in a gleeful libertarian impulse, is something I support.

    But the ideological underpinning of libertarianism leaves little to replace it. We must, as a nation, have some overall idea of ourselves other than just markets. One such overall idea is that we should never lay onto future generations debt, especially one that is simply about showering ourselves with various entitlements. Another idea comes from the Bible: If one would eat, one must work.

    We’re losing these basic conceptions of ourselves. And many, if not most, of these issues have very little to do with liberty, per se. They have more to do with our obligations.

    • “For America to work as she was meant to, men must generally be good. They need not be perfect. But there must be some baseline of good. And libertarians, to some extent, are correct that government cannot make us this kind of good. But neither can atomizing society into amoral particles of radical self-interest.”

      Wow. So well said and so true. What’s wrong with America isn’t our system of government — it’s us. If we are not “good” then laws have to be passed. It is one of the most interesting paradoxes that freedom requires decent behavior toward our fellowman. If we do whatever flips our switch, we will lose our freedom.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    A number of social conservatives (especially Phyllis Schlafly, as I recall) have pointed out that the moral pathologies that libertarians refuse to oppose lead to the expansion of the welfare-nanny state that is theoretically the primary worry of libertarianism. The basis problem with libertarianism is that too often it oozes over into libertinism, in which rejection of moral law by government becomes rejection of moral judgment by churches and private citizens, which is inherently non-libertarian (and a major aspect of modern liberalism).

    As for anarchy, this is so likely to lead to chaos that the two are treated as politically synonymous. And as Jose Maria Gil Robles pointed out in a 1936 speech in the Cortes, no nation can survive in a state of anarchy-as-chaos.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The basis problem with libertarianism is that too often it oozes over into libertinism, in which rejection of moral law by government becomes rejection of moral judgment by churches and private citizens, which is inherently non-libertarian (and a major aspect of modern liberalism).

      That’s a great point, Timothy. We should never forget that society (if it is to be a society) is bound together by shared ideas of who we are and just the general lay of the land. You or I might not agree on every specific law, but we would agree on the need for law (as opposed to the arbitrary rule of men).

      The conservative philosophy is not about the utility of law itself, but its purposes, scope, and underpinnings. But if we reject the idea of law, what are we left with? We are simply left with the mirror image of today’s Leftists. Libertarians tend to entirely distrust government, and trust markets, while it is the opposite for those on the left. In many ways you can see why Mr. Kung calls libertarians “the Bolsheviks of the right.”

      And the idea of making “moral judgments” is a complex subject…a subject itself that gets to the heart of the human element and the irrationalities involved. We live in a culture where the highest morality (such as it is) is “non-judgmentalism.” But at the same time, the people who go around thinking of themselves as non-judgmental are aiding and abetting the most judgmental, intrusive, and morally aggressive element the West has seen since perhaps Martin Luther: the Left.

      How do people keep inside their heads the idea that they are “non-judgmental” while supporting a political movement that thrives on demonizing anyone and everything, and to the finest detail (such as what size of soft drink you can buy)? I don’t know. But what we see is that we are not dealing with ideas and principles, per se, but with identities, conceits, and delusions.

      And I think libertarianism is thoroughly infused with its own identity politics despite the conceit of being a philosophy based on reason and freedom. No society works with an “anything goes” attitude. Some things can’t go. We should be reasonable, non-zealous, and careful about what we prohibit. But the idea that nothing should be prohibited does not make for a working society.

      If we reject the idea of moral law, we reject any possibility of forming ourselves into a good (and thus free) society. I posit (as the Founders did) that no society can be free unless it is at least marginally good. And simply focussing on free markets and legalizing all impulses is an attempt to make an end-run around this point. And I think quite often regarding libertarians we need not look further than quite selfish reasons for this end-run: There are a lot of people doing dicey or immoral things who want the state to legitimize them….even as they say that the state should have no role in legitimizing such things.

      So, to my mind, libertarianism (like Leftism) messes with the brain. Embedded into it are core contradictions. Whether its the Leftist idea of “non-judgmentalism” or the libertarian idea that the state has no say in our personal lives, the idea of morality itself is muddled. At least I’m honest enough to say that I think pot should be illegal because our society cannot long endure if so many people are stoned. But either way this falls, it is a moral statement, something that libertarians are either too muddle-minded to understand or are just too dishonest to note. If you legalize something, this is a moral statement, the same as if you make something illegal. This is the nature of law. The issue regarding law and moral issues isn’t about “if” but “what kind.” And many libertarians don’t seem to be either honest or self-aware enough to engage at this level.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    If you have time, read the comments section today (1/29/14) in American Thinker where this piece was published under the title “Libertarianism and The Common Good.” Over there, works of this vein generally raise a firestorm–and this is generally because libertarians do not understand that philosophically, their first principles are incoherent and at odds with one another. In my opinion, all human systems are doomed to failure, but in many ways the libertarian and the progressive are two sides of the same coin. If one wants to read on Libertarianism taken to its logical conclusion in the “Nightwatchman State,” read the late great Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, the State, and Utopia.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Over there, works of this vein generally raise a firestorm–and this is generally because libertarians do not understand that philosophically, their first principles are incoherent and at odds with one another.

      Yes, I took a peek over there anticipating that very thing. I was not disappointed. 🙂

      Here’s a link to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia over at Amazon.com. It’s available for the Kindle.

      One of the tricks of being a conservative is having a strong ideology without clenching one’s butt cheeks too tight. It’s a delicate balance, never perfectly achieved, but it’s a good goal. It’s called “wisdom.” It’s not wisdom if one just pulls out one aspect of the total picture and you base your ideology on that. For instance, it’s appropriate sometimes to be non-judgmental. But as a reigning philosophy, that idea is the pits.

      The same with tolerance and even liberty and compassion. It’s a very compelling idea to make life simple by keeping our principles equally simple. But what you end up with is a mess.

      I think one of your greatest contributions, Glenn, is when you point out just how narcissistic we have become. I think one reason these simplistic one-dimensional principles have such an appeal is not just because they provide the illusion of completeness (which also flatters our sense of erudition). I think it is also because we seem to be a culture obsessed with our image, particularly the image of being a do-gooder. This has led, as Dennis Prager notes, people being “nice” but not good.

      For instance, it takes wisdom, fortitude, and true compassion to stand up against the too-good-to-be-true “compassion” of liberal fascism. I remember reading about how when AIDS was first spreading in San Francisco that the authorities failed to post warnings on the homosexual bath houses even though they knew this was a prime source of how AIDS was spreading. It was more important to them to be “nice” and “tolerant” even if that meant needless deaths.

      This kind of “nice” nonsense is running amok on our society. I’ve heard from teachers, for example, that black kids are often not disciplined for fear of being accused of being racist. This is what George Bush rightly called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” But the people who engage in this (and I can understand their fear to some extent) choose to be “nice” instead of good. And when some kid, of any color, acts out, it is the truly compassionate thing to punish them so that their behavior may be corrected.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The Departments of Injustice and Miseducation have recently declared that any racial imbalance in serious punishments in schools will be looked at askance. This will lead to more uproar in class (at least by black students, as they come to see themselves as virtually immune to punishment), which will make education more difficult, which is actually what the Left wants anyway.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          More of the poisonous fruits of Cultural Marxism which parses the world not through individual conduct but through groups. And these groups are defined as either victims or oppressors based on distinctions of race, class, or gender.

          Not many can or will follow the various ugly tributaries of the Left (such as “social justice,” multiculturalism, or “diversity”) to this main river of Cultural Marxism. But if they did, and if our education and journalism systems were not corrupted by this same element, people would learn the sad and ugly truth, and a rather simply and straightforward truth it is. Cultural Marxism.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    I appreciate the kind words, Tim.

    And although I know that GW probably used that quote, I think its genesis is in Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965: one of the last of the honest liberals. But I may be wrong.

  5. steve lancaster says:

    It amazes me the virtual you are willing to dump on Libertarians. It seems that since social conservatives are either:
    1. Unable to change to larger conversation to their concept of values
    2. Inept at convincing the general public of the value of your agenda
    You target a group that is at least 75% in agreement with everything you claim to support.

    If only the libertarians did not poison the wells with their talk of individual liberty then BHO would not be president and the progressives would be in retreat. If BHO were not president Mitt Romney would be, and very little would be different. There is little difference between Republican/Conservative light and progressivism. You are in the process of creating a self-filling prophecy in which those who should be your friends become your enemies and our mutual enemy, the progressive state is willing to encourage the distrust.

    We may disagree on many issues however, we are in agreement that the progressive agenda over the last 125 years has eroded the Constitution, damaged families, ruined the most economically free economy the world has ever seen and has reduced individual freedom for millions of people worldwide.

    In effect you have created a circular firing squad, with libertarians in the middle, and seem to take some glory in a pyrrhic victory.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You target a group that is at least 75% in agreement with everything you claim to support.

      First off, I don’t believe libertarians share 75% of our values. Maybe you do. But in my experience, libertarians are just another form of liberal.

      And even if some share 75% of our values, those other 25% can be pretty bizarre. I’m reminded of that comedy bit by Steve Martin. He says that if you ever plan to rob a bank, you need to have a list of demands ready in case you get caught. And one of those demands should be crazy-sounding so that you can cop an insanity plea. His list was:

      1) I want $100,000 in cash
      2) A getaway car
      3) And I want the letter “M” stricken from the alphabet.

      In his shtick he then snickers at the end, “Hahahaha…getaway car,” as if that was the crazy demand.

      But that’s libertarianism, in practice.

      1) I want freedom
      2) Abide by the Constitution
      3) And I want to legalize all drugs, prostitution, and acknowledge Lincoln as worse than Hitler

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        Brad,
        How is it crazy to want freedom?
        How is it crazy to suggest our government adhere to the constitution?

        Can you really contend that the war on drugs has been successful in any form? No libertarian I know has suggested that there should not be some control on drugs, we do suggest that adults have a right to poison themselves in any way they choose and the only obligation society has, is a quick disposal of the body. If you have a suggestion other than current mess, please let’s discuss it!

        If you visit Las Vegas street prostitution is rampant HIV is ever-present with mover 500 reported cases in 2013. Pimps control the business which results in violence to both women and men.

        In nearby Nye county there at least 3 legal brothels. The women and men who work there are checked weekly for disease, not just HIV, no reported cases in 2013.

        Given, that people will utilize prostitutes in any cultural context, which is preferable?

        As for Lincoln, as a Southerner, I have reason to not see him as the “great emanipater” but, Hitler never.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          There is much to agree with here, but the problem with “no libertarian I know” is that most of us DO know a libertarian (or more than one) who takes the “thank you for pot smoking” attitude (to quote a tidbit from libertarian SF writer L. Neil Smith) toward drugs.

          • Steve Lancaster says:

            Tim
            What I do see are progressives who claim to be libertarian but do not have the guts to admit their real philosophy is statist. I hold these people in utter contempt. I prefer an all out admitted statist to someone who just wants to mooch on the work of those who produce.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          How is it crazy to want freedom?
How is it crazy to suggest our government adhere to the constitution?

          Steve, perhaps you missed the gist of my Steve Martin schtick. To want freedom is not crazy, nor is it crazy to want the Federal government to abide by our most sacred societal compact, the Constitution.

          My point is that libertarians tend to have a whole lot of other stuff that is a bit crazy.

          Regarding the war on drugs, it must first be acknowledged the drugs are life-destroyers. For the people, through their government, to outlaw hard drugs is a sane and good act. Period.

          But you do always have those lesser drugs (such as dope) on the periphery. But libertarians show their lack of good sense, and their lack of a sense of proportion, by not acknowledging the fact of the life-destroying nature of drugs. In essence, so they say, if you are against the legislation of whatever is their favorite drug at the moment (and this seems to be their raison d’etre) you are against “liberty.” This is a shallow way to parse that great word.

          Regarding prostitution (or any other human vice), the libertarian says that “See….the real problem is not the act, it’s making the act illegal.” Well, I don’t abide by that nonsense. I think it is right and proper for a society to outlaw truly corrosive human vices. And hard drugs and prostitution rise to that level.

          Given that people will murder, should we just legalize murder? I get so tired of parsing inane libertarian arguments. I’ve always said regarding this stuff that there is no one perfect principle that is going to tell us what to legalize and what to prohibit. Rather, it is a matter of discernment using acquired and traditional wisdom.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I think the problem is the lack of that “one perfect principle”. Libertarianism is an absolutist ideology in that it has no room for pragmatism (pacifism is very similar). As a result, it doesn’t tend to work well in the real world, though the ideas behind it are right more often than not.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Steve,
      There is a good reason Glenn, Tim, Brad, and I are so willing to “dump on” Libertarians, as you put it: they and their political program (I will not dignify it with the word “philosophy”) cannot spearhead a mass movement, cannot save us from the Left, and to the extent they refuse to join forces with Conservatives, only help the Left by electing more Democrats. Your post implies that we are unwilling to join with you; in fact, you are unwilling to join with us!

      I personally made a lengthy plea in which I came close to begging for Libertarian support (Libertarianism Minus Conservatism = Zero – and I apologize for any seeming self-promotion in this discussion when this is Glenn’s show). I also made clear that you would have to follow our lead, and I think this is the sticking point – you and your fellow Libertarians seem to believe that we should follow yours (in other words, jettison our Social Conservatism).

      Briefly, there are two problems with this: (1) Social Conservatism is a necessary part of a successful program to restore political freedom, because the value-neutral “liberty” you espouse has not, can not, and will not inspire a successful mass-movement; and (2) Conservatives are 260 times as strong in numbers as Libertarians (due to a misplaced decimal, in my article I claimed only 26 times). Now it may be that, as you say, we have been “inept at convincing the general public of the value of your agenda,” or it may be that we have been at such a disadvantage since we did not even have control of a political party against the Left which had taken control of most of society’s institutions before our side could get organized, and further burdened by the dead weight of Libertarians and the outright betrayal by Establishment Republicans, that there was no way we could win under the circumstances. But in either case, the fact remains that Conservative values can still conceivably triumph over those of the Left, whereas Libertarian non-values cannot. And when our side is 260 times stronger than your side, it is you who must follow our lead and not we who should be expected to follow yours!

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        Indeed, Mr. N.

        I believe that much of the heat generated in the Conservative-Libertarian debate is the scope of our inquiry. Being trained as a political theorist, I look beyond the hair-trigger issues (although they are of vital importance) and am more concerned with ideologies, the raw human material we are working with, and more fully, the type of human being that the nexus of ideology/philosophy/theology and nature will produce.

        Moreover, I am concerned that the incongruities in libertarian “thinness’ won’t allow us the pragmatic cohesiveness for a people to survive in concrete communal terms. We do not occupy some Randian vault of abstraction where characters make sweeping dialogues about individuals who jut their flinty jaws into the winds of history. In the world of men, people do not survive in the arctic air of abstract liberty. For freedom, though itself a tonic good, is perhaps better paired as an instrumentality towards an end—–freedom to do a thing or freedom from it. It is within the fabric of prescriptive and transcendent morality that freedom comes into focus and takes its virtuous form. And it is here that we can intelligently evaluate whether it serves us for good or ill.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Politically, I think the best hope is for conservatives and libertarians to combine to reduce government as far as we can agree, knowing that at some later point we will part company. Milton Friedman once wished the anarchists luck on the basis that we need to head in their direction, even though few of us want to go all the way in their direction.

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    I take no joy in what I have written. And in fact I have been castigated because of it. But as a philosopher, I analyzed to the best of my abilities the incongruities of the form itself. If I am wrong, then show me and I shall withdraw.

  7. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    It amazes me the virtual you are willing to dump on Libertarians. It seems that since social conservatives are either:
    1. Unable to change to larger conversation to their concept of values
    2. Inept at convincing the general public of the value of your agenda
    You target a group that is at least 75% in agreement with everything you claim to support.

    “You are in the process of creating a self-filling prophecy in which those who should be your friends become your enemies and our mutual enemy, the progressive state is willing to encourage the distrust.”

    Steve,
    If Libertarians are in agreement with at least 75% of what conservatives believe, why is it incumbent upon conservatives to bend to your 25%? Why don’t you modify that 25% to fit the conservative agenda?

    It comes down to what is more important to you. The ability to smoke dope or the fact that the President of the U.S.A. is usurping power daily? You won’t get all conservatives to work with you on dope, but you will get virtually every conservative to agree with you that the President is becoming a tyrant and needs to be stopped.

    As to your remark, ” If BHO were not president Mitt Romney would be, and very little would be different. There is little difference between Republican/Conservative light and progressivism.:

    No one said they liked Romney and the RINO’s, but to say there is little difference between Republican/Conservative light and progressivism is simply too broad a statement. My analogy is that the one is pneumonia and the other is lung cancer. Now I don’t want either but I’ll certainly take pneumonia over lung cancer. At least I have a better chance of recovery with pneumonia.

    We all live in one house, the USA. We do not like the present janitor, but it is not wise to burn the house down simply because you would like to hire a new guy.

    • griffonn says:

      Social conservatives have ideas that are compatible with libertarian ideals and are grounded in truths. It’s just that nobody knows it because they can’t seem to detach their arguments from religious arguments. It is as if they simply don’t get that most people do not share their religious convictions or something.

      The Sexual Revolution is predicated on lies. It was supposed to be harmless, but in truth the entire point of the thing was to “liberate” people – from obligations and responsibilities. Those obligations existed for a reason.

      With freedom comes the responsibility to use that freedom wisely. This is ultimately the issue in a single sentence.

      Take abortion. With the freedom to use your body any way you like comes the obligation to not use that body in ways that harm others – and creating children you don’t intend creates harm: no matter which of the three choices you make (adoption, abortion, or keeping the child), the child is going to experience harm because of the irresponsible way he was brought into the world.

      Or take the entire LGBT thing. They want nothing less than the right to insist that we all believe contradictory things: marriage is not procreative but Heather has two mommies (why does Heather need two mommies if marriage is not procreative?). Gender is a social construct and men can be turned into women with a little snip, but we must uproot institutions to make them androgynous because a man can’t love a woman – why can’t a man love a woman if gender is so societally constructed? “What difference does it make, as long as she’s loving”? Sex is both innate/biological/important and irrelevant, depending on which situation we’re talking about.

      Of course we can all see the harm done by promiscuity. The Pill was supposed to prevent pregnancy, but instead it seems to have just liberated men from being required to actually care if they get a hundred women pregnant.

      It will be the same way with marijuana. The freedom to use it is already being detached from the obligation to behave responsibly.

      And so on.

      The religious argument is the ONLY reason why anyone other than a diehard libertine/marxist supports any of these arguments: either you are in favor of the sexual revolution policy in question, or you’re like those icky religious people. (In fact, there’s a subtext of contagion: if you don’t oppose religious conservatives, it’s only a matter of time until you yourself are going door to door, bothering people at their dinner, shoving Chick Tracts down their throat).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The Sexual Revolution is predicated on lies. It was supposed to be harmless, but in truth the entire point of the thing was to “liberate” people – from obligations and responsibilities. Those obligations existed for a reason.

        Well said, Griffonn. And this:

        Of course we can all see the harm done by promiscuity. The Pill was supposed to prevent pregnancy, but instead it seems to have just liberated men from being required to actually care if they get a hundred women pregnant.

        It will be the same way with marijuana. The freedom to use it is already being detached from the obligation to behave responsibly.

        There’s theory and then there’s reality.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’ve definitely encountered that anti-religious attitude in FOSFAX from at least one libertarian, who was then the editor of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s magazine (who said he always voted for Democrats for that reason). The anarchists in Spain had this same attitude, which apparently sprang from a comment by Bakunin that the word would be free when the last king was strangled in the guts of the last priest (or maybe the other way around). To be fair, in Europe (including both Tsarist Russia and Spain) there was almost always an established church, but the extreme anti-clericalism (which is related to extreme libertinism) persists here in America.

      • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

        “The Sexual Revolution is predicated on lies.” Worth an essay by itself – I have long felt it did enormous harm even apart from the horrendous slaughter of abortion. Too much to get into here though, except to reiterate the point KFZ and I have both made, namely, that Steve should be willing to give up the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll ethos of Libertarianism in order to help us stop the Democratic Left rather than expect us to give up a moral code refined over centuries and embrace the ethical hedonism of Libertarianism.

  8. steve lancaster says:

    If libertarians were more like conservatives we could all sing love songs and the world would be great.

    However, we do have differing views on how to order a society. If you have a better idea about controlling drugs and keeping them from children I would like to hear it. If you have a better way to limit prostitution, I would like to hear it.

    Do not fall back on the failed rubric that we need more laws to make us moral. That argument did not work for John Knox or John Calvin and you can see where it has gotten us.

    The AMA declared that marijuana was a dangerous drug over 60 years ago. The “war on drugs” with its component government extra legal DEA has been in existence for over 40 years. How is that working out for you? Are drugs more or less available today than 60 years ago? Are drugs doing more or less damage to our kids today than 60 years ago? Do Americans live in a drug culture? The ads on television would serve to convince a man from mars we do.

    I do not propose that any drug should necessarily be illegal for adults. As parents we have a duty to keep drugs from our children, but we have no duty to stop adults from killing themselves in whatever manner they find most appropriate. A quick funeral at state expense may be all the state should offer the drug user. Real rehabilitation is a private and professional concern. One that few drug addicts avail themselves of, regardless of cost.

    As for the other bugaboo, prostitution. When your house needs painting do you seek out a professional or just hire someone off the street? When you need your liver tended to, do you go to a plumber? No, I doubt that you do or would. Male or female, as humans we have sexual needs and the services of a professional may be the best solution at the time. In short, it is a contract for personal services that could and should be just as enforceable as any other contract. If the parties have standing to make a legal contract then it is none of the states business other than providing a legal system that is fair and impartial. In this area, legal brothels are a reasonable alternative and even fit a free market niche. Provide a service/product, people want at a price they can afford and make millions.

    • griffonn says:

      Then how do you account for findings (persistent across cultures) that show the majority of prostitutes want to get out?

      Contracts are by definition between equals. The prostitution problem is not a question of whether people can enter into contracts, but whether we can measure duress.

  9. Timothy Lane says:

    Whatever I think of the Libertarian Party, it’s beginning to look like I might be voting for them this year (though the Constitution Party would probably be a better choice if a candidate is available). The GOP Beltway Bandits who have insisted on ignoring the fiscal issues that concern us in order not to distract from the Obamacare disasters have now decided to distract from the Obamacare disasters by promoting some form of legalization of illegal aliens (knowing full well that any such legalization, no matter how probationary or restricted they pretend it will be, will result in their becoming citizens to bolster liberal Democratic support) without first making sure that the sort of controls needed to turn off the spigot of massive immigration (which is devastating American employees, to the benefit of the big donors of the Cheap Labor Lobby) will actually be working. The only reasonable explanations are that vermin like Boehner and Ryan are phenomenally stupid, or that they’re basically in favor of bringing about the Obama Gang agenda slowly instead of rapidly and therefore viciously hostile to the grassroots conservative voters who oppose that agenda. My money’s on the latter, but either way their about as worthless as the Demcoraps themselves.

  10. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “it’s beginning to look like I might be voting for them this year (though the Constitution Party would probably be a better choice if a candidate is available). The GOP Beltway Bandits who have insisted on ignoring the fiscal issues that concern us in order not to distract from the Obamacare disasters have now decided to distract from the Obamacare disasters by promoting some form of legalization of illegal aliens (knowing full well that any such legalization, no matter how probationary or restricted they pretend it will be, will result in their becoming citizens to bolster liberal Democratic support)”

    While I understand your frustration with the GOP Beltway Bandits, I think it would be quicker and stand a better chance of success if you would support candidates who primary Boehner, Cantor and their ilk. Even Lindsey Grahamnesty is facing several primary candidates in S. Carolina.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Voting for the libertarian party is a losing proposition. First off, I’ve come to realize that libertarians are not just the little-brother friends (a sort of offshoot) of conservatism. They are hostile to conservatives.

      A friend of mine took a poll during the run-up to the 2008 election. He had hundreds of responses, although it was technically a non-scientific poll. One of the questions on it was “If Ron Paul is not the nominee, will you vote for the Republican candidate?” Note that this was in regards to an unnamed Republican candidate. The candidate could have been the second coming of Ronald Reagan, for all we knew at that point.

      Of those who identified as libertarian, 90% of the respondents said “no.”

      And in local politics, it is clear that the Paulbots and other libertarians are dead set against conservative candidates. I won’t go into detail on this so as not to betray some of my insiders. But it is clear that, like the Left, libertarians seem to be composed of “true believers” and they do not play well with others.

      In short, it would do conservatives well to understand that although the idea of being a libertarian is in no way technically opposed to conservatism (Reagan had a fully libertarian streak in him), the way libertarianism plays out in real life is a whole other thing.

      • steve lancaster says:

        Ok, we all know people who pretend to be something they are not. I have met many of the same supposed libertarians you have and come to the same conclusion, they are progressives in every manner. I hold them in the utmost contempt just as I suspect many of you do the “Easter” Christians.

        For nearly 50 years I have aligned with conservatives to gain political control, Goldwater, Nixon, Ford ad infinitum and what has it gotten us? Regardless of who is in the white house, who controls congress the result is the same. A seeming unconscious willingness to give up essential freedoms for a free lunch at the pig trough of government largesse.

        So when Obama was elected in 08. I told my friends that I would no longer play the game. I changed my voter registration to independent and in local elections I vote libertarian if the candidate is not just a progressive in disguise. I compromised in 12 with Romney because he was the least worse. I will never do that again. If conservatives can not bring on a candidate who can act like he really believes in individual freedom, equal justice and very limited government than I will not humiliate my self with a flawed compromise.

        If you want me to go along you have got to do much better than, Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. In the absence of a viable candidate I will protest by not supporting the system.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I can understand that. In 1976 I was very reluctant to vote for Ford until I finally realized, late in the campaign season, that I definitely preferred him to Jimmy the Creep. In the end I’ve always voted Republican in presidential elections, but occasionally with great reluctance; in 1992 and 1996, I finally made my decision only when I had to mark the ballot (and this despite the fact that I had been a backer in 1988 of Jack Kemp, with Pete du Pont as my second choice).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Yes, the first thing to do is to vote against the leadership and their supporters in any primary, even if the only alternative is a hapless perennial candidate or even a write-in. But if the only difference between Boehner and Obama is that the former wants the latter to get his way slowly rather than immediately, then what good is he? So if and when they win their primaries, we must be ready to oppose them in the general election. (Note that at present, I’m referring solely to the House leadership.)

  11. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “One problem with voting for libertarians is that they are generally for illegal immigration.”

    This is another example of how Libertarians’ stated policies simply expand the State and increase the welfare rolls, which is the opposite of what they claim they want.

    The more I see of them, the more convinced I become that too many Libertarians are simply Leftists in drag.

    • LibertyMark says:

      “Leftists in drag” – priceless.

      Libertarianism is closely aligned with Leftism in the following way: both Leftism and Libertarians ascribe to a purism that is way beyond the pale. Ever notice how Leftists really believe that the only reason that Leftism does not work is because its detractors prevent it from being fully implemented?

      It’s the same with Libertarians. “Well.” they say, “libertarian principles only work if you practice them more fully, more exactly. If only we had TRUE libertarianism, then you’d see how beautiful it all could be.”

      Sound familiar? Two examples:

      Leftists: If only public schools had more money…
      Libertarians: If only the gubment would get out of the “victimless crimes” business…

      Pick the topic, for them, the problem is not with the ideology, it is with the lack of purity in implementation. This is the essence of the utopian argument.

      • Faba Calculo says:

        “It’s the same with Libertarians. “Well.” they say, “libertarian principles only work if you practice them more fully, more exactly. If only we had TRUE libertarianism, then you’d see how beautiful it all could be.””

        How is this different from conservatism? Point to the US medical system, the most free market and least government-intervened in the world (at least pre-Obama), and you see one that is the most expensive without seeing one that leads to reliably better outcomes. What do the free-market defenders reply? That it wasn’t free market enough. And they’d be right!

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        A very astute observation and analysis, Mark. I think that’s it in a nutshell.

        Thomas Sowell in his book, “A Conflict of Visions,” defines the core divide between today’s right and left as the constrained (or tragic) vision vs. the unconstrained (or utopian) vision. This is consistent with what you are saying.

        In the constrained vision, there is no attempt at perfection. The fumes of the perfect life are set aside for the mere (but honest) pursuit of happiness. In the constrained vision, life is understood as a series of trade-offs. You can’t have everything just because you wish it to be so (the very attitude which is tearing Western Civilization apart). In the constrained vision it is also understood that man has a flawed nature. We are capable of noble purposes, but we must always guard against hubris. There is always that flawed human nature ready to wreck any plans that depend upon perfect images and ideas.

        I think in many ways, as you pointed out, as with the Left, the libertarian vision is infused with the utopian vision. The true complexities of life are bulldozed over in a reach for a simplistic vision. There is little to no acknowledgment of the realities of mankind that constrain our perfect plans. Only by forgetting about human nature, and the accumulated wisdom of the ages, can most of the libertarians schemes seem to make any kind of sense. Much like the Left, libertarianism contains an active denial of reality. This is likely so because they are so in love with their schemes that it is reality, not the schemes, that must be set aside.

        I’ve had my deep conversations with libertarians. I’ve been told things such as that Iran is no threat. It’s Israel that is the real problem. Or they twist themselves into pretzel shapes to try to explain how it is Lincoln who is responsible for Big Government.

        And, at the end of the day, what seems to animate libertarians is simply the legalization of drugs, bound up in a philosophy full of conceit and smugness. If libertarians didn’t speak in bumper-sticker logic and didn’t put such emphasis on legalizing the worst of human vices, I would take them seriously.

        Let’s face it: In order to create a good and free society, there has to be some constraints on human behavior. This is something that libertarians truly do not seem to understand. It’s as if they are in the eternal mindset of children always chafing at the restrictions put on them by adults.

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of the aspects that I think Christian wisdom particularly pertains to is the idea of building your house upon sand instead of something more solid.

    Time has been precious lately. It’s been busy at work and I’m still overcoming an energy-zapping virus. I’m also behind on changing those rotating banner images on the home page. I’ll get around to it eventually.

    But I did take some time to read through a few more comments to Glenn’s article at American Thinker. And it reminded me again why I think much of libertarianism (not in theory, but as practiced today) is like building your house upon sand.

    One of the prominent commenters said:

    What the founders, classical liberals, most modern libertarians, and virtually all economists of the Austrian school realize is that society is self-organizing.

    Order is spontaneous.

    It does not need to be coerced into being by any earthly authority. It is natural.

    I really do not understand the base ignorance of this point of view. Yes, of course, order is spontaneous. But what kind of order, the order of free men living in a good republic or the order of plebs living under the cruel thumb of some dictator?

    Now, I will admit that this idea when applied to the free market is most applicable. We do much better when the market (that is, individual people voting with their dollars) decides what is produced rather than some nitwit government bureaucrat trying to play god. But aside from that, the Founders of this country would have been very much aghast at the idea that a republic such as our would just self-organize. It did not.

    And so it is typical for debates with libertarians to be fruitless because their basic principles are built upon ill-considered sand. There’s also their fetish of “non-coercion” as a guiding principle. This idea can’t even pass the smell test. Coercion is inherent to an organized and free society. It’s not a matter of “if” but of what kind, how much, and for what purpose. One couldn’t use the highway system, for example, unless certain traffic rules were coercively enforced. Again, you have this libertarian house built upon ill-considered sand.

  13. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The truth that must never be spoken…usually. Larry Thornberry has a few thoughts about libertarians in Give Me Liberty or Give Me Republican:

    Though there was no exit polling in the March special congressional election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, those who analyze such things say Libertarian Lucas Overby likely pulled more votes from Democrat Alex Sink than from Republican David Jolly, the winner by two points.

    So what gives? How come the conventional wisdom misses the mark again? In the Libertarian matter it may be that countering the limited government philosophy of Republicans is the anything-goes approach to social issues that Democrats and Libertarians share. Many Democrats find Libertarian views on abortion, gay marriage, and weed simpatico. I’ll see you James Madison and raise you Timothy Leary.

    StubbornThings makes no apologies for being on the leading edge of this issue. For all their conceits about limited government, libertarians are just a different type of liberal. But thank you, Larry, for contributing to the political clarity.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      It would be more accurate to say that many (indeed, too many) libertarians are more libertinist than anything else. Some are genuinely libertarian. Note that some of those libertarians probably would have voted Republican otherwise; it’s just that a greater number would have voted for the Democrat. This seems to be a change that has occurred over the past couple of decades, probably due to the increasingly unchallengeable libertinism of modern liberalism.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Some are genuinely libertarian.

        Which is my point. “Genuinely libertarian” means liberal or libertine. And as Russell Kirk had noted in that article that Mr. Kung wrote, many who call themselves libertarian have little to no idea what the doctrine really entails:

        “But surely, surely I must be misrepresenting the breed? Don’t I know self-proclaimed libertarians who are kindly old gentlemen, God-fearing, patriotic, chaste, well endowed with the good of fortune? Yes, I do know such. They are the people who through misapprehension put up the cash for the fantastics. Such gentlemen call themselves “libertarians” merely because they believe in personal freedom, and do not understand to what extravagances they lend their names by subsidizing doctrinaire “libertarian” causes and publications. If a person describes himself as “libertarian” because he believes in an enduring moral order, the Constitution of the United States, free enterprise, and old American ways of life—why, actually he is a conservative with imperfect understanding of the general terms of politics.

        This same approach worked to fool those old-style liberals (who were still no friends of conservatives or this republic) that the Leftists amongst them believed the same thing that they did. After all, the Leftists also called themselves “liberals.”

        I submit that libertarians are liars and frauds as well a liberals, for if they were forthright about their movement they would run always in the Libertarian Party instead of hijacking the existing apparatus of the Republican Party (as Republican Progressives do as well) and simply using the language of conservatism to fool others and hide who they are.

        If one is for open borders, legalizing all drugs, isolationism (read: “blame America first”), and relativism (which is behind their easy assent to homosexual marriage), then at least be honest enough not to say that you are anything but the kind of anarchic “liberty”-based zealot as animated those in the French Revolution who destroyed their culture in the name of liberty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *