What I Really Think about Libertarianism

 

My libertarian friends may be surprised to hear this, but my respect for libertarianism has grown quite a lot since my introduction to Ricochet two years ago. Admittedly, my estimation at the time was pretty low. I had lots of libertarian undergraduates, and I also encountered a handful of professors and grad students with broadly libertarian views, so I was well familiar with that “I’m-conservative-but-not-a-moral-nag” snobbery. That bothered me only a little bit. My real reasons for dismissing libertarians were twofold.

First, libertarianism struck me as reactionary in broad sense. It presents itself as a universally applicable theory about the relationship between the individual to the state, but on that score, I found Ayn Rand far less insightful than Thomas Aquinas, Plato or Aristotle. Her influence, I saw, related to more idiosyncratic conditions of her time: the rise of the administrative state. That was, I supposed, a real problem in our time, but in historical terms it was still contingent; not every society has these same problems. As a political theory, then, it seemed to me that libertarianism drew unjustifiably broad principles on the basis of historically distinctive challenges.

Second, libertarianism seemed morally lazy to me. You can see this especially clearly when you watch undergraduates learning ethics. We spend a lot of time working through the ins and outs of an Aristotelian-type virtue ethics. That means we’re discussing lots of detailed questions about what the good life involves and what it takes for human beings to be excellent. Some of the students get into it. Others become irritated by all the nitty-gritty details and also by the general sense that a virtue-based ethics reaches into every nook and cranny of their lives. It has things to say about their dietary and sexual habits, what they read, what they watch on television, and what they do with their friends. Of course we’re only talking about ethics here and not politics; nobody’s suggesting that we hire virtue police to ensure that everyone behaves well. But even on that score, some people yearn to escape from all the complication, and to find some area of life where the only ethical mandate is, “do whatever you want just as long as you’re not bothering anybody.”

Then we get to modern moral philosophy, and you can watch the relief spreading over their faces. We knew it didn’t have to be that complicated! Being good can’t possibly require us to wrangle with all those messy details! This is the appeal of utilitarianism, for example. If you want to know what to do, just add up the relevant pleasures and pains associated with the various alternatives, and see what makes people happier. There’s no need for all this complicated stuff about virtues and human nature and detailed analyses of the common good. And on an individual level, the fact that an activity makes you happy is a good enough reason to do it, provided of course that it doesn’t make someone else sad.

Libertarianism is not explicitly an ethical theory, but for many it has a similar sort of appeal. It dispenses with troubling moral and political questions by pushing them all under the convenient heading of “not the state’s business.” Undergraduates love this. It gives them that air-clearing feeling that they’re craving after wandering through the intricacies of Aristotelian moral theory. It feels to them like that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and friends come out of the woods and look out over shining fields of poppies. Free at last!

Like the poppies, though, this shining simplicity is deceptive. One way to realize this is by reflecting on the complexity of the concept of “freedom”. From what do we need to be free? For what do we want to be free? When humans live together in society, one person’s exercise of freedom can obviously impinge on another’s in a wide variety of ways. My neighbor blasts his music at top volume, and I can’t sleep. Another family up the street starts feeding the squirrels and before I know it my porch pumpkins have fallen victim to the little monsters as well. Advertisers want to put up pornographic billboards, but then I’ll have to drive by them every time I grocery shop. My state legalizes pot, and now I don’t like going to the local park because I don’t want my kids running through clouds of sweet-smelling smoke.

Now, I said that my respect for libertarians has increased. That’s true. Some of them have arguments far more sophisticated I had encountered before, and some are extremely interested in promoting the good through private means. They persuaded me to take the problem of administrative bloat far more seriously. Their relentless focus on size-of-state questions has led them to some very astute insights on the nature of the technocratic state, and they make excellent watchdogs (or gadflies?) against the constant temptation to take advantage of administrative bloat. But in the end, I think my two original criticisms still stand. They’re enormously clever about suggesting ways for us to accomplish communal projects without the help of the state. That can be quite useful in its way. But they’re still elevating a theory of government beyond its contextual importance. And they still provide a large haven for the morally lazy at precisely the time when we need to be morally energetic.

Advances in science and technology have massively increased the state’s power to rule us in every minute detail of our lives. It’s also increased our ability to hector and impede one another. Advances in technology allow us to spy on one another every minute, to redistribute wealth on a massive scale without sending a tax collector door to door, and to manipulate life (plant, animal, human) on a very fundamental level. We’re wrestling now with new and sometimes terrifying questions about justice and obligation and what kind of society we want to build. Libertarianism seems like something of a haven in this storm, because its prescriptions seem so fundamental and principled, and because it doesn’t demand consensus on most of these challenging questions. It seems like a good out.

But ultimately, that’s just a dodge. Small-state principles can’t save us from working through these issues. Suppose we could achieve political victory on a “morality-free” limited-government platform, legalizing drugs and prostitution and abandoning any efforts to recognize traditional marriage or protect the unborn. None of that would deconstruct the technocratic state. Meanwhile, social breakdown would continue apace, and eventually (probably rather soon) people would cry out for government to step up its efforts to save them from themselves. We’d end up with more statism than ever. But actually, I’m not even very worried about that, because I don’t think such a platform has any chance of winning the country back in any case. If we want to win America back, we have to show real insight into the problems they’re actually facing right now. Americans think that the GOP has failed to understand or “care about” them, and to some extent they’re right. We haven’t given them any good answers to the deep social and spiritual problems that have arisen in our modernist, technocratic, democratic state.

We need to return to core principles, but not Ayn Rand’s. She doesn’t have the insights we need at this juncture. Plato and Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas all reflected on a much more sophisticated level on the relationship between humans and their neighbors and their communities and the state. That is the level of complex, careful analysis that we need to diagnose and respond to these intense challenges. And insofar as I’m hard on libertarians, it’s not because I think they have nothing useful to contribute to this effort. They do have things to contribute. But often I see conservatism’s relentless focus on small-state advocacy as something of an obstacle to the kind of conversations we really need to be having right now. That’s not because I doubt that we need to shrink the state. It’s because I don’t think we can do it without answering the bigger questions about human excellence and human community, family, life, and the complex relationship between political freedom and virtue. And regrettably, libertarians frequently use their small-state principles as a kind of excuse to avoid those conversations.

Mike H asked yesterday: what do social conservatives want? I would answer: human excellence, happiness, virtue and a thriving society. Those are my highest goals. And while I do have some interest in the thriving of the state, that’s only about the eighth or ninth question on my list of concerns. 

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  1. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    I haven’t read the whole thing yet (looking forward to it), but I wanted to mention: The reason libertarians often seem simplistic is because what most people are evoking is the zeroth order approximation of what libertarianism will ultimately be. The theory and philosophy is still being worked out and vigorously debated. Like you alluded to, Ayn Rand objectiveism is ultimately wrong. People who try to deduce everything from the “harm principle”  and/or “absolute property rights” are doing it wrong. Even though it might get you 90% of the way there, there are some real exceptions.

    My point is, libertarians have a long way to go before the correct theory is worked out, so it’s not surprising you have objections. I have plenty of issues myself with popular libertarianism. And finally, it’s not “do whatever you want just as long as you’re not bothering anybody,” it’s closer to “as long as you’re not bothering anybody, it is likely impermissible for me to forcibly stop you.” There is no inherent approval of any action.

    • #1
  2. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand let the fireworks begin!

    But seriously, Mike, I’m curious about what you think libertarianism will ultimately be.  Just some broad outlines.

    • #2
  3. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Yes! What defines libertarianism as such. And where you think it’s going. I do sometimes wonder whether we might be getting to the point where the term doesn’t mean anything anymore and we should look for new classifications.

    • #3
  4. user_645127 Lincoln
    user_645127
    @jam

    Beautifully stated, Rachel.

    • #4
  5. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Dang it. The final question should say “while I do have some interest in the SIZE of the state…”  It doesn’t make much sense as written. I’d fix it but I know from experience that messes up the posting order. This is what happens when you finish a post while your kids are begging for their promised zoo trip.

    • #5
  6. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Rachel Lu: One way to realize this is by reflecting on the complexity of the concept of “freedom”.

    So-Cons are more than willing to commit ritual seppuku over religious freedom on issues like SSM or abortion.  But as soon as the issues stray out of their narrowly defined philosophical swim lane it’s, “Eh, freedom is ‘complex’.”

    I’m not saying that freedom is not complex, I simply note that many So-Cons invoke this attribute “conveniently.”

    And why further flail the Ayn Rand dead horse without making any mention of other libertarian theorists (Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, etc…)?

    Edit:  OK, the pic is of Rothbard, but still….

    • #6
  7. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    “…I found Ayn Rand far less insightful than Thomas Aquinas, Plato or Aristotle”

    And well you should.  I’ve never read Ayn Rand, and don’t understand why you’d bring her up in an article about Libertarianism.

    • #7
  8. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Rachel, unfortunately you’ve once again demonstrated that you don’t understand the first thing about libertarianism.  AKA, liberalism, AKA, classical liberalism.  A movement that started and had its fundamental principles set long before Rand was born.

    Here’s Ayn Rand on Libertarianism:
     
    “All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they’re anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet they want to combine capitalism and anarchism. That is worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. The anarchist is the scum of the intellectual world of the left, which has given them up. So the right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the Libertarian movement.”

    Of course she didn’t understand it either.  But as you can see, she certainly wasn’t one. 

    I determined never to bother to read her after hearing a discussion about her views from Bill Buckley.

    Perhaps you can start here: Liberalism

    Libertarians had to pick a new name after the Socialists hijacked the old one… Which, in that Wikipedia article, is where the term “social liberalism” is introduced.  That’s as much an misrepresentation as the phrase “social justice”.  They include neither liberty nor justice.

    • #8
  9. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Rachel,

    Only under the influence of Obama have we seen this rapid descent into moral oblivion.  It isn’t the Libertarians that drive this but Socialist amoralists.  Why they could justify cannibalism if the state controlled it and dispensed out the “meat” in an egalitarian manner.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #9
  10. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Tuck, thoughts on this entry from the SEP? First sentence:

    In the most general sense, libertarianism is a political philosophy that affirms the rights of individuals to liberty, to acquire, keep, and exchange their holdings, and considers the protection of individual rights the primary role for the state.

    Also, liberalism has its own entry. Are libertarians perhaps as confused about their own philosophy as the rest of us are?

    • #10
  11. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu:

    Yes! What defines libertarianism as such. And where you think it’s going. I do sometimes wonder whether we might be getting to the point where the term doesn’t mean anything anymore and we should look for new classifications.

    I believe intuition, observation, and “common sense morality” leads humans to discover objective moral truth. Generally accepted morality has been improving over time, which is evident as more people eventually understand things like slavery and unequal rights for men and women are morally wrong. We will continue to improve our morality in time and even current common sense morality, when applied consistently, leads to libertarian conclusions.

    But yes, there are several schools of thought claiming to be “proper” libertarianism. When the ones who think they have it are faced with the exceptions, it’s interesting to watch them twist themselves to apply their axiom. Suddenly a single axiom turns into a whole plethora of work-arounds that are not as intellectually satisfying.

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have confidence in the direction we are moving leading to correct morality, and ultimately, an ever more libertarian world.

    • #11
  12. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    The King Prawn: First sentence

     Rest of the paragraph:

    “This entry is on libertarianism in the narrower sense of the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things. For excellent discussion of the liberty tradition more generally (including classical liberalism), see Gaus and Mack (2004), Barnett (2004), and Brennan (2012).”

    One should probably get acquainted with classical liberalism first.

    “This entry will focus on libertarianism as a basic natural rights doctrine, in the spirit of Locke (1690) and Nozick (1974).”

    I’m not familiar with the author, but when the review of Libertarian thought skips from 1690 to 1974, they might be leaving out a few important bits. ;)

    • #12
  13. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Tuck: I’m not familiar with the author…

    OK, the author’s a socialist…

    “Libertarianism faces, however, the serious objection that it gives too much protection from interference and not enough attention to the immediate consequences of their principles (e.g., whether people’s basic needs are met, their lives go better, or equality is promoted).”
     

    • #13
  14. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Rachel Lu: Second, libertarianism seemed morally lazy to me. You can see this especially clearly when you watch undergraduates learning ethics….
    Libertarianism is not explicitly an ethical theory, but for many it has a similar sort of appeal. It dispenses with troubling moral and political questions by pushing them all under the convenient heading of “not the state’s business.”

     To me, this is the problem with Libertarianism (although I still call myself one *).  To say the state should not interfere is insufficient.  You still need some guiding principle on how people should act, and libertarians aggressively refrains from offering one.

    A libertarian state simply cannot work without some broader extra-governmental check on people’s actions.  I firmly believe that government should be not the primary moral arbiter in a society, but a libertarian democratic government will not work unless there is some general consistency in people’s behaviors.   Without that, you wind up where we are now, with unproductive voting themselves a slice of the productive class’s labors.  

    * To be precise, after listening to Richard Epstein, I call myself a classical liberal not a libertarian, but, like Richard Epstein, I accept that laymen conflate the two.

    • #14
  15. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    The King Prawn: Also, liberalism has its own entry. Are libertarians perhaps as confused about their own philosophy as the rest of us are?

    Libertarianism was known as Liberalism in much of the world, and still is.  In America, the term was taken over by Progressives (aka Socialists) after folks like Wilson made Progressive somewhat unpopular.  Liberal was a well-regarded term, so the Progressives, always dishonest, appropriated it.

    When Hayek revived classical liberalism, the people who found it appealing realized they needed a new word, as liberal in practice in America meant socialist.

    See here: Classical Liberal.

    • #15
  16. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Asquared: A libertarian state simply cannot work without some broader extra-governmental check on people’s actions.

     Yes, the Founding Fathers referred to this as “virtue”.  They thought it essential.

    Libertarianism is a political philosophy: a scheme on how to order a government to best promote the general welfare.  It’s not a religion, and not a moral philosophy.  Most classical liberals already had one, which they called Christianity.

    • #16
  17. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Rachel Lu: First, libertarianism struck me as reactionary in broad sense. It presents itself as a universally applicable theory about the relationship between the individual to the state, but on that score, I found Ayn Rand far less insightful than…

     As a former Objectivist, I think Rand is better classified as an Ethical Egoist than a libertarian.  I acknowledge that a venn diagram of her beliefs and libertarian beliefs would show significant overlap, but what drives Rand’s beliefs is a view about how man should act (in his own self-interest) not a view of what the state should restrain (as libertarianism would argue).

    I’m an acknowledged psychological egoist, but I stop short of being an ethical egoist. Further, precisely because I’m a psychological egoist, I’ve grown more conservative over the years because I believe that the institutions that both the left and the libertarians want to destroy store massive accumulated wisdom and deliver great value to individuals over their entire lives (not just their libertine youth when everything more than 10 years old looks hopelessly ancient).

    • #17
  18. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Tuck: Yes, the Founding Fathers referred to this as “virtue”.  They thought it essential.

    Would you agree that virtue is essential?

     Do you think we are a virtuous society / culture today? 

    • #18
  19. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Tuck: I’ve never read Ayn Rand, and don’t understand why you’d bring her up in an article about Libertarianism.

    Weren’t the founders of the Libertarian Party heavily influenced by Rand?  Plus, though the Zero-Aggression Principle is downstream from the prior fundamentals of her view of things — objective metaphysics, rational epistemology, and ethics of enlightened self-interest — she made a big deal of it, and was one of the few that made it widely known.

    • #19
  20. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Asquared: Would you agree that virtue is essential? Do you think we are a virtuous society / culture today?

     Sadly, yes, I think virtue is essential to a republic.  No, we’re not in a virtuous culture today.  We’ve suffered exactly the fate that the classical liberals predicted.

    • #20
  21. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Owen Findy: Weren’t the founders of the Libertarian Party heavily influenced by Rand?

    I have no idea.  I’ve never been a member of the Libertarian Party; PoliSci 101 teaches that third parties in a system like ours are a bad idea.  Just ask Al Gore about the Green Party.  Voting Libertarian is a fine way to get Democrats elected.

    Rand’s philosophy is probably a sub-set of libertarianism, and she certainly introduced a lot of people to a non-progressive way of thinking through her books.

    But calling her a founder or even a major influence on libertarianism is just historically wrong.

    • #21
  22. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Owen Findy: was one of the few that made it widely known

     After Epicurus, Jesus, Locke, Jefferson, and a few others

    • #22
  23. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    I don’t come to this as a “pro-libertarian” at all, but I find your analysis to be very flawed.

    You’re deliberately confounding the moral/social, political and economic into one thing…and then pretending that “libertarianism” is “simplistic” in addressing these. 

    Second, you’re ignoring the fact that there is no such thing as a single “libertarian” ideology on any of these issues. You talk of Ayn Rand, who is by no stretch of the imagination a moral, political or economic philosopher. You have a picture of Murray Rothbard who, admittedly, is a bit whackadoodle in the finest Ron Paul traditions, and certainly worthy of criticism.

    But he is by no stretch of the imagination a serious “economist”. 

    But you’re ignoring that there are several philosophies which carry the “libertarian” moniker. Milton Friedman was a “libertarian” and he did reject most of the arguments you put forth here. Richard Epstein is a libertarian, and would not fit in the descriptions you’re giving here

    So, when you say “libertarian”, by your examples, you’re arguing with the philosophy known as “anarcho-capitalism“…not “libertarianism” of the “classical liberal” tradition, which is 180 deg opposite of your description.

    • #23
  24. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    PS: There’s virtually not a single issue on which there isn’t some major moral, political or economic philosophy which is self-described as “libertarian”…which doesn’t disagree on with another major self-described “libertarian” philosophy. 

    So, who are you arguing with here? 

    Similarly, there is no single issue on which there isn’t a major moral, political or economic philosophy which is self-described as “conservative”…you get the idea.

    These are terms which mean very little, unless they are specified. And it seems to me, you’re only addressing the “anarcho-capitalist” philosophy here. 

    Both major branches of American conservatism and “libertarianism” (of the Milton Friedman/Richard Epstein variety) are descendent from…classical liberalism. There’s virtually very little that they disagree on, other than technicalities. 

    Anarcho-capitalism is not derived from classical liberalism. It’s derived from 19th century utopian ideas. 

    So…

    • #24
  25. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    It always seemed to me that Rand’s argument was for the superiority of capitalism over communism.  She was not so much a libertarian.

    • #25
  26. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    It’s interesting to me how much time libertarians spend sparring about what libertarianism really is. Now, I’m in no way looking to shut down discussion of the intellectual roots of the theory, and I happily admit that I’m no expert and willing to learn more. But in a way what interests me most now is the cultural impact. I care about libertarianism insofar as it’s a major component of what conservatism has become. That matters more to me ultimately than sifting out the “one true form” of libertarianism, although again, far be it from me to discourage people from referencing historical thinkers as a means to explaining present political currents. 

     I didn’t get to this in the OP, but I do really admire libertarians for the sophistication of their reasoning (some of them) about markets, and their recognition of the way market-like forces move well beyond the material. They understand too how our efforts to save things we value often end in a hideously costly attempt to prop up things that aren’t working. Sometimes it’s good to let flexible markets “kill” ineffective things and replace them with more effective things. Libertarians have greatly enhanced my appreciation for these truths, and also for the ways in which these perverse-conservation failings (often perpetuated by mainstream conservatives) have fed the modern technocratic state. 

    But in the end, I don’t think markets fix as many problems as Milton Friedman seemed to suppose. He was very ingenious in his arguments about how they could. But ultimately, I think we sometimes need more. I know libertarians aren’t all brute egoists (though some are) or sin-mongers (though some are) but my bigger concern is that their admiration for markets can lull them into shirking more direct moral reasoning that needs to be done. And that’s particularly unfortunate now, living in an age when some very gripping moral questions are before us.

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  27. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Rachel Lu: But in the end, I don’t think markets fix as many problems as Milton Friedman seemed to suppose. He was very ingenious in his arguments about how they could. But ultimately, I think we sometimes need more. I know libertarians aren’t all brute egotists (though some are) or sin-mongers (though some are) but my bigger concern is that their admiration for markets can lull them into shirking more direct moral reasoning that needs to be done. And that’s particularly unfortunate now, living in an age when some very gripping moral questions are before us.

     Which goes back to my very first sentence: you’re deliberately confounding the moral/social, political and economic into one. 

    …and then saying “markets can’t solve everything!” No one, outside of the anarcho-capitalists, has ever argued that they can. 

    As an example, please be more specific of which particular issue Milton Friedman thought that “markets” could solely solve, but which you think they can’t?

    And what is the alternative to “markets” that you have in mind? What are the assumptions behind this “alternative”? What are its features that allow it to address the shortcomings of “markets”?

    • #27
  28. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    PS: You’re entering into a field here that is both extremely wide and extremely deep. Virtually the entire field of economics, and much of sociology, is dedicated to addressing precisely the sort of questions you’re raising. 

    From my knowledge, I can’t think of any serious economic philosophy, political philosophy, sociological philosophy that:

    1) Hasn’t already addressed to a somewhat satisfactory level these questions
    2) That hasn’t addressed them in very different ways you’re describing
    3) And which doesn’t make some rather clear distinctions between the moral/social, political and economic…in terms of institutions at least, if not in underlying assumptions. 

    So, please be…specific…in what you’re arguing with here, because other than the ramblings of a 1950s rather bad novelist (Ayn Rand), and the ramblings of a totally irrelevant and unacomplished “economist” (Rothbard)…you’re not describing any serious policy prescriptions that exist in any serious policy realm. 

    Now, if you’re talking simply about the “followers” of Ayn Rand etc., fine. But you have to consider that most are young teenage-20s people, who are in general, utopian in nature no matter the ideology.

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  29. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    I think you demand of libertarianism what it is by nature incapable of producing.  It does not speak to deep spiritual principles.  It is like complaining that the Laffer Curve is insufficient since it doesn’t speak to heliocentrism.  A libertarian society can exist in an atheist society like Hong Kong or a more religious one like Singapore.  

    The guiding first principle is that the free interaction of people free of state interference, coercion, and subsidization is a freer and more prosperous society. 

    In other words, it is unconcerned with the minutiae that the proto-Fascist Plato was.

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  30. Nathaniel Wright Member
    Nathaniel Wright
    @NathanielWright

    Rachel, 

    I agree that there are libertarians of the morally lazy sort who rely on the “harm principle” in a manner that is strictly individual in nature — there are also those who extend the sphere of potential harm. 

    I wonder though if you don’t allow that there could be modern libertarians – meaning those who love liberty – who are adherents to the philosophy of Augustine, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, and Cicero. One need not be a moral stoic like Cato the Younger when one can apply the more moderate and thoughtful philosophy you desire us to pursue. It seems to me that many Social Conservatives are so strict in their desire to advance virtue and mores that they believe that the State or coercion are the best ways to attain that virtue. Wouldn’t you agree that persuasion and philosophy are the best ways to attain virtue?

    As an aside, I believe that Young Americans for Freedom is engaging in a wonderful libertarian and morally edifying endeavor with their Choose Charity project.

    • #30
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