Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why I Am Not a Libertarian

 

I recently listened to Tom and Sal’s podcast on libertarianism, but didn’t quite get in on the follow-up debate. So I thought I’d offer my critique in a separate post, as a non-libertarian who’s been trying to define libertarianism for years, with a little help from my Ricochet friends.

Here’s my current view on this. Libertarianism is best understood as a school of thought. It’s not the sort of thing for which it would be appropriate to draw up clear-cut identity conditions (as Tom and Sal were endeavoring to do). It has its own tradition, complete with revered thinkers such as Rand, Hayek, and Friedman. It has its own lingo and established relationships to particular disciplines (notably economics). But the difference between a libertarian and, say, a small-government conservative may have more to do with background and influence than with actual content.

In the podcast, Sal compared libertarianism with Christianity, making the point that there can be a broad range of perspectives that still meaningfully fit under one big tent. I see what he’s driving at, but the analogy is problematic, not only because Christianity involves explicit admission rituals (e.g. baptism), but also because Christianity is defined by some rather striking claims that non-Christians are very unlikely to affirm. To claim with any plausibility the title “Christian,” you must believe that a man lived in Palestine two millennia ago — and was God. You must believe that he literally died and came back to life again. And you must believe that there is a holy book that records these events, which was divinely inspired. These are weighty claims. You won’t find many people who declare, “Oh, I believe all of that of course, but I would never consider myself a Christian.” We can quibble about the dirty details, but that’s insider baseball. For most normal purposes, the sheep and goats aren’t so very hard to separate here (particularly in a world where Christianity is becoming more counter-cultural, which is steadily minimizing the incentives to pretend to believe.)

I can’t see that libertarianism has any equivalent claims that would enable us to neatly separate members from non-members. Libertarians want the government to be smaller, and they value individual rights and autonomy. But plenty of people share those views without regarding themselves as libertarians. I don’t believe it’s possible to tailor a definition that is specific enough to exclude all non-libertarians, while including everyone who plausibly claims the title.

This really shouldn’t bother us too much, because we’re constantly using loosely-defined terms in meaningful discourse. “Conservative,” for instance. Or “patriot.” Or “educated citizen.” We deal with somewhat-imprecise terms all the time. Why is it a problem here?

I think it seems like a problem to many people because for many, the appeal of libertarianism lies in its appearance of being highly consistent and principled, without relying on a complex metaphysics to press its claims. Libertarianism is very similar in that respect (for non-accidental reasons) to the branch of ethics known as “utilitarianism.” Like libertarianism, utilitarianism can hang its flag on some beguilingly simple and reasonable-seeming claims. (“Individuals should be permitted to do whatever they like, so long as no one else is harmed.” “The right thing to do is whatever brings the most happiness to the greatest number of people.”) Like utilitarianism, the devil ends up being in the details, and the more we try to work out those details, the more we find ourselves hamstrung between 1) a distinctive philosophy with meaningful content, which most people nevertheless find implausible and unattractive, and 2) a philosophy which is reasonable and probably true, but so flexible as to add virtually nothing to pre-existing theories.

My point isn’t that we need to abandon libertarianism. I have benefitted greatly from my interactions with thoughtful libertarians. I would suggest, though, that we should probably abandon the goal of defining “libertarianism” in some very precise way. At the same time, we may need to give up on the idea that libertarianism can live up to its appeal, on the surface, as a philosophy that ostensibly justifies the demand for small government without needing to rely on metaphysically complex claims about human good.

If libertarianism is more of an intellectual tradition, or school of thought, then identifying with it doesn’t clearly commit you to very much, although it will be suggestive of many things. Because metaphysical minimalism is a noteworthy characteristic of this school of thought, it is probably highly misleading to say (as Tom and Sal both did on the podcast) that their lack of religious faith “has nothing to do with” their libertarianism. There may not be a direct and obvious connection, but there are good reasons why libertarianism and atheism tend to overlap substantially. Libertarians like Mollie Hemingway or Midget Faded Rattlesnake would then be unusual libertarians in noteworthy respects, which in fact I think they are. But that doesn’t mean they’re fakers! They do have some meaningful relationship to the libertarian intellectual tradition. They just bring an unusual set of external commitments to the table, which make them atypical but also interestingly distinctive.

Similar claims, I think, could be made of many other characteristics that Tom and Sal rejected as “not libertarian.” They may not be membership conditions for self-identifying as libertarian, but they’re related, for reasons we could explain.

I have never self-identified as a libertarian. I doubt I ever will, even though I realize that there are self-declared libertarians whose views are quite similar to mine on most of the bellweather questions. Here are my own reasons for not being libertarian:

1) Metaphysical minimalism is, if not per se a membership condition, at least a highly characteristic feature of libertarianism. It seeks to justify small government in a way that avoids weighty claims about human nature, or the nature of the universe broadly speaking. As a Catholic Aristotelian, I dislike metaphysical minimalism. I’m willing ally myself to some of its adherents, but I’m not going to wear their colors.

2) Libertarianism is associated with a set of thinkers; for intellectual types, claiming the label tends to signify that these thinkers were highly influential on your in your formative years. (I suspect that has a lot to do with Mollie’s identification, though I haven’t discussed it with her.) I respect Hayek, Friedman, et al., but they were not my formative influences.

3) I see libertarianism as historically contingent. It arose in response to the overgrowth of the modern state. That’s fine and reasonable up to a point, but my own tradition (Catholic Aristotelianism) has far more historical breadth. So I don’t see much point in claiming the additional label; to me it feels like jumping out of a lake and into a stream.

All of these reasons are, to varying extents, personal and idiosyncratic. Libertarianism is an interesting flavor of conservatism, which I’ve come to appreciate more these past few years, but it won’t ever be a good description of me. Figuring out who it does describe might be more fruitful than trying to generate explicit membership requirements.

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  1. Barkha Herman Member

    I want to point out that Rand hated libertarians and never claimed to be one; and many will argue that she was not a libertarian. And Friedman, even though instrumental in introducing libertarian concepts to many Americans, is not an ideal libertarian at that.

    Also, not all libertarians are for small government. A large portion are for none.

    • #1
    • October 14, 2015, at 9:48 AM PDT
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  2. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu

    Barkha Herman:I want to point out that Rand hated libertarians and never claimed to be one; and many will argue that she was not a libertarian. And Friedman, even though instrumental in introducing libertarian concepts to many Americans, is not an ideal libertarian at that.

    Also, not all libertarians are for small government. A large portion are for none.

    Hence, “resemblance concept”. Rand is in the family whether she likes it or not. Families are like that sometimes.

    • #2
    • October 14, 2015, at 9:55 AM PDT
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  3. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Interesting, and thank you for the response. I’m reading and thinking.

    • #3
    • October 14, 2015, at 9:56 AM PDT
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  4. Barfly Member

    Libertarianism seems to be more of a paradigm than a philosophy or political school. I suggest the defining identifying trait of the libertarian orientation is reliably choosing the course or alternative that maximizes individual liberty. That’s a derived characteristic, not a directly observed one, but I think it captures the distinction and is close to the psychological root.

    Some libertarians might reliably choose courses that maximize their own liberty, perhaps at the expense of others’. These libertarians are also libertines.

    The great tension of society, which both stresses it and holds it together, is the balance of liberty and responsibility. Libertarianism is nothing more than a tight focus on one side of the scale.

    • #4
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:04 AM PDT
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  5. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Rachel Lu: 1) Metaphysical minimalism is, if not per se a membership condition, at least a highly characteristic feature of libertarianism. It seeks to justify small government in a way that avoids weighty claims about human nature, or the nature of the universe broadly speaking. As a Catholic Aristotelian, I dislike metaphysical minimalism. I’m willing ally myself to some of its adherents, but I’m not going to wear their colors.

    I don’t think this is an apt comparison. Sal and I weren’t attempting to offer a holistic explanation of our philosophies, but were addressing a specific aspect of them (in this case, our political philosophy). As such, I’m unmoved that “Catholic Asistotelianism” is a richer, deeper, more comprehensive ideology than what we discussing, because that’s almost a tautology.

    Now, it’s an interesting challenge whether, if pressed, the average libertarian has a thinner metaphysics than the average conservative. You may well be onto something there, though one could argue whether this (to be tedious) is a causation or correlation matter.

    But I don’t think Sal and I failed in this regard any more than an investigation of “Mere Conservatism” would have failed for largely ignoring things outside of political philosophy.

    • #5
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  6. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ms Lu is quite right about Rand. Rand reminds me of Debussy who hated being compared to the Impressionists. Get over it, Claude. Your music is impressionistic and Rand’s a libertarian.

    • #6
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  7. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Rachel Lu: Hence, “resemblance concept”. Rand is in the family whether she likes it or not. Families are like that sometimes.

    To be fair, I’ve always thought Rand was nuts on that point (among others). I gather Sal has somewhat different thoughts on the matter.

    • #7
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:10 AM PDT
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  8. PHenry Member

    1. Libertarian is an ideology first, not a party, and like all ideologies, it has as many definitions as it does believers. Try getting 4 conservatives to agree on the details of what conservatism is…

    2. the glaring difference between the definition of an American conservative and a libertarian is the willingness of conservatives to use the power of government to coerce (or prohibit) citizens to make certain personal choices conservatives consider either moral or ‘good for society’. Libertarians trust government far less than conservatives, so while conservatives marginally agree that smaller government is better, it is a principle they abandon if they see it as for good cause.

    Libertarians, at the core, think that legislation creating victimless crime is too dangerous and will open the door for expansion of power far beyond the ‘good cause’ that started it. A couple examples today are drug, gambling, and prostitution prohibitions. The conservative says ‘those things are too terrible to allow’, and the libertarian says ‘its not the governments place to make those kinds of judgements, that belongs to the individual’. The conservative says that lack of prohibition is tantamount to endorsing the activity, libertarians don’t look to government to endorse or prohibit individuals activites.

    3. Conservatives and libertarians are aligned today by their mutual aversion to the third ideology prevelant in American politics, American liberalism (totalitarian socialism). If liberals dissapeared tomorrow, Libertarians and Conservatives would have much less common ground, and their differences would be more pronounced.

    • #8
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:11 AM PDT
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  9. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu

    If it helps, Tom, I’m not much into “mere” anything. “Mere Christianity” is my least favorite of Lewis’ books.

    There are occasions when it’s useful to define identity conditions, but often that’s just a fool’s errand (and maybe even a way of avoiding more important questions… for instance, in Lewis’ case… why he was not a Catholic.)

    • #9
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:15 AM PDT
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  10. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu

    Maybe I should add to the above: what’s the purpose of the exercise of distilling “mere libertarianism”? Most of us know the most obvious defining characteristics (I think?); a more precise definition may not (if I’m right) be possible. If that’s true, the questions I pose may really be the more interesting ones. What’s the deal with libertarianism? Why do people identify with it, or not? What does it add to the conservative conversation? What would be its characteristic blind spots, for which other conservatives may need to compensate? Etc.

    • #10
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:48 AM PDT
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  11. Tuck Inactive

    Rachel Lu: I see libertarianism as historically contingent. It arose in response to the overgrowth of the modern state.

    Welcome back.

    I see you’re still not up to speed on the topic.

    Unless by Modern State you mean State, period, as the direct lineage of the ideas behind what’s today called Libertarianism and what used to be called Classical Liberalism and then Whiggism can’t really be considered “Modern”.

    “Medieval parliaments periodically tried to confine the Crown to governing through regular law, but the most effective response was the seventeenth-century development of English constitutional law, which concluded that the government could rule only through the law of the land and the courts, not through administrative edicts. Although the United States Constitution pursued this conclusion even more vigorously, administrative power reemerged in the Progressive and New Deal Eras. Since then, Professor Hamburger argues, administrative law has returned American government and society to precisely the sort of consolidated or absolute power that the U.S. Constitution — and constitutions in general — were designed to prevent.”

    The interview’s worth a listen.

    • #11
    • October 14, 2015, at 10:57 AM PDT
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  12. PHenry Member

    Rachel Lu: What’s the deal with libertarianism? Why do people identify with it, or not?

    For me, it is completely about government power. All power corrupts. The more power you give to any entity, the more corrupt it will become. With that in mind, do you really want to entrust government with power over ANY personal choices?

    Limit the government to the bare minimum powers necessary to protect the people from force and fraud. Allowing any more power than that is tempting fate and ignoring human nature and history.

    That is the ‘moral of the story’ in the constitution and bill of rights, is it not?

    • #12
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:03 AM PDT
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  13. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Rachel Lu: Maybe I should add to the above: what’s the purpose of the exercise of distilling “mere libertarianism”? Most of us know the most obvious defining characteristics (I think?); a more precise definition may not (if I’m right) be possible.

    Well, we were inspired to do the podcast by all the times someone has described (explicitly or implicitly) libertarianism in a way that most self-identified libertarians rejected. Hence, we opened with the common-but-incorrect definition of libertarianism as being “fiscally conservative, socially liberal.” We could just as easily used the “someone who wants low taxes and to smoke pot” axiom.

    There does seem to be a good deal of confusion on the matter — even among libertarians — and we thought that worth exploring and clarifying.

    • #13
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:21 AM PDT
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  14. SParker Member

    Barfly: Some libertarians might reliably choose courses that maximize their own liberty, perhaps at the expense of others’. These libertarians are also libertines.

    A libertarian who enhances his liberty at the expense of another’s liberty is a very illiberal libertarian and a good candidate–if said libertarian is an automaton–to have his head explode if he jumps bad with James T. Kirk. That is, he’s confused. Possibly he’s a libertine, but that’s just a coincidence.

    It’s sort of like Bernie Sanders thinking that what they do in Denmark is socialism or even remotely connected with his own ideas on policy.

    • #14
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:33 AM PDT
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  15. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You use far too many big words for me.

    Here is why I am not a Libertarian, though I have some leanings in that direction.

    Years ago, as a Microsoft admin type of person, I decided to figure out what all this Linux business was about. So I e-mailed a colleague to ask how best to go about that. He pointed me to a website where I could both download Linux, and get instruction on how to install and run it. When I went to that website, it wouldn’t allow me to get any of the stuff. It had detected that I was running a Microsoft web browser, on a Microsoft Windows computer, so basically told me what a creep I was and to buzz off. That was the end of my investigation in to Linux.

    Libertarians are pretty much the same way. The conversation goes like this: “Oh, you call yourself a small-government type, eh? Ok, what about legalizing meth? Oh, you think meth should be illegal? So you are no different than the communists! What a creep! Buzz off!”

    Same as you, I can appreciate the general thought of libertarianism, without identifying as one.

    • #15
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:35 AM PDT
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  16. Barfly Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Well, we were inspired to do the podcast by all the times someone has described (explicitly or implicitly) libertarianism in a way that most self-identified libertarians rejected.

    I’m a big fan of concise closed-form definitions, and not much for podcasts either. Do you reject the definition I offer in #4 above? What would you change or add?

    • #16
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:38 AM PDT
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  17. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Rachel,

    I feel this is spot on. Thanks.

    For me, I feel that there is a strong stand among the libertarians to, in effect, say conservatives just are not all that concerned with liberty. I find that insulting. Reasonable people can have differences on where lines are drawn.

    I know from the past, that you are more libertarian in some areas than I am, and more conservative in others. Gosh.

    • #17
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:42 AM PDT
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  18. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu

    That seems like a laudable goal, but I think it would be better met by an explanation that indicates why (compared to other conservatives) libertarians are more socially liberal and more fiscally conservative… and then perhaps discusses why it’s possible to deviate from that pattern and still be recognizably in the family. I don’t think it’s quite right to say that this is a matter of “correlation, not causation.” The relevant beliefs are more deeply connected than that. Correlation might explain why, for instance, the world’s libertarians are disproportionately white. (I’m sure that says more about the countries and subcultures where the school is influential than it does about the brains of different ethnic groups.) But again, if it’s a school and not a strict belief system, some people might come at it from an unusual background (or with an unusually high level of commitment to other beliefs), and successfully reconcile significant elements of libertarian thought with those other commitments. It might be easier to see how that happens, though, when we aren’t too hung up on membership conditions.

    • #18
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:43 AM PDT
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  19. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin:You use far too many big words for me.

    Here is why I am not a Libertarian, though I have some leanings in that direction.

    Years ago, as a Microsoft admin type of person, I decided to figure out what all this Linux business was about. So I e-mailed a colleague to ask how best to go about that. He pointed me to a website where I could both download Linux, and get instruction on how to install and run it. When I went to that website, it wouldn’t allow me to get any of the stuff. It had detected that I was running a Microsoft web browser, on a Microsoft Windows computer, so basically told me what a creep I was and to buzz off. That was the end of my investigation in to Linux.

    Libertarians are pretty much the same way. The conversation goes like this: “Oh, you call yourself a small-government type, eh? Ok, what about legalizing meth? Oh, you think meth should be illegal? So you are no different than the communists! What a creep! Buzz off!”

    Same as you, I can appreciate the general thought of libertarianism, without identifying as one.

    Ha! No, that happens? Really? Maybe even here at Ricochet?

    • #19
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:46 AM PDT
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  20. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Barfly:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Well, we were inspired to do the podcast by all the times someone has described (explicitly or implicitly) libertarianism in a way that most self-identified libertarians rejected.

    I’m a big fan of concise closed-form definitions, and not much for podcasts either. Do you reject the definition I offer in #4 above? What would you change or add?

    The first paragraph of #4 struck me as pretty good. FWIW, we covered it in the first 95 seconds of the podcast.

    • #20
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:51 AM PDT
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  21. Barfly Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: FWIW, we covered it in the first 95 seconds of the podcast.

    Ohh-kayy, I’ll listen to that much.

    • #21
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:54 AM PDT
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  22. PHenry Member

    Rachel Lu: libertarians are more socially liberal and more fiscally conservative

    That can be said in a different way… Conservatives believe in smaller government fiscally and bigger, more powerful government socially. At least as far as it furthers THEIR social engineering desires.

    Meaning that in both social and fiscal matters, Libertarians are for smaller, limited government. Its conservatives who are inconsistent in their social vs fiscal principles.

    • #22
    • October 14, 2015, at 11:59 AM PDT
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  23. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Bryan G. Stephens: For me, I feel that there is a strong stand among the libertarians to, in effect, say conservatives just are not all that concerned with liberty. I find that insulting. Reasonable people can have differences on where lines are drawn.

    My sense of the matter is that Ricochet tends to exaggerate the differences in that we’re all really interested to discuss where we disagree, and (relatively) bored by where we’re in complete agreement. The unfair accusations go both ways, of course; statements that libertarians don’t care about tradition, family, community, or morals beyond the harm principle are pretty commonplace.

    • #23
    • October 14, 2015, at 12:03 PM PDT
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  24. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    PHenry:

    Rachel Lu: libertarians are more socially liberal and more fiscally conservative

    That can be said in a different way… Conservatives believe in smaller government fiscally and bigger, more powerful government socially. At least as far as it furthers THEIR social engineering desires.

    [….]

    It can be said in an even more accurate way than that: all people draw lines according to their view of good, justice, utility, and harm.

    Harm principle or NAP included.

    Calling it social engineering is a prejudicial, inadequate, and mostly inaccurate way to describe it; certainly it’s a description that doesn’t invite genuine discussion and exchange.

    • #24
    • October 14, 2015, at 12:06 PM PDT
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  25. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Barfly:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: FWIW, we covered it in the first 95 seconds of the podcast.

    Ohh-kayy, I’ll listen to that much.

    Tom Meyer and Sal Padula: Worth 95 seconds of your time. :)

    • #25
    • October 14, 2015, at 12:16 PM PDT
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  26. PHenry Member

    Ed G.: It can be said in an even more accurate way than that: all people draw lines according to their view of good, justice, utility, and harm.

    Yes, but some people wish to use the power of government to draw those lines for everyone else, and some just draw their own lines, and live by their own view of good, justice, utility, and harm.

    I don’t mean insult by the term social engineering, but please, tell me why that is inaccurate? Isn’t the point of legislation of individual personal choice fairly described as such?

    • #26
    • October 14, 2015, at 12:31 PM PDT
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  27. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Bryan G. Stephens: For me, I feel that there is a strong stand among the libertarians to, in effect, say conservatives just are not all that concerned with liberty. I find that insulting. Reasonable people can have differences on where lines are drawn.

    My sense of the matter is that Ricochet tends to exaggerate the differences in that we’re all really interested to discuss where we disagree, and (relatively) bored by where we’re in complete agreement. The unfair accusations go both ways, of course; statements that libertarians don’t care about tradition, family, community, or morals beyond the harm principle are pretty commonplace.

    Those should not be said either.

    • #27
    • October 14, 2015, at 12:44 PM PDT
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  28. Robert Lux Inactive

    PHenry:

    “In the end it is libertarians who are guilty of social engineering. The earliest defenders of classical liberalism—John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, or whomever you choose—never dreamed that by opposing mercantilism and protectionism they were promoting the elimination of traditional morals legislation. They knew that a free society depends upon a certain moral character and that law plays an important though subsidiary role in securing that character. Classical liberals were not libertarians. They advocated the free market, not the total market.

    It was the utopian socialists of the nineteenth century who were the first advocates of free love, open marriage, and the elimination of traditional morals legislation. Lenin, not Locke, was the first to introduce no-fault divorce to the world. The effects on society were so disastrous that Stalin was forced to shore up marriage by restoring many of the traditional provisions. This has not prevented libertarians from promoting the elimination of legal marriage altogether, despite overwhelming evidence correlating divorce and cohabitation to crime, poverty, failure in school, alcoholism, drug abuse, physical harm, mental and emotional illness, depression, and suicide.

    Progressivism is the American version of European socialism, and today’s progressives understand that central economic planning and radical moral autonomy go hand in hand. In buying into the latter part of the progressive agenda, libertarians unwittingly promote the former. In their legitimate fear of Orwell’s 1984, they ignore the lessons of Huxley’s Brave New World.”

    –“The Libertarian Double-Face

    • #28
    • October 14, 2015, at 12:56 PM PDT
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  29. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    PHenry:

     

    2. the glaring difference between the definition of an American conservative and a libertarian is the willingness of conservatives to use the power of government to coerce (or prohibit) citizens to make certain personal choices conservatives consider either moral or ‘good for society’. Libertarians trust government far less than conservatives, so while conservatives marginally agree that smaller government is better, it is a principle they abandon if they see it as for good cause.

    Libertarians, at the core, think that legislation creating victimless crime is too dangerous and will open the door for expansion of power far beyond the ‘good cause’ that started it. A couple examples today are drug, gambling, and prostitution prohibitions. The conservative says ‘those things are too terrible to allow’, and the libertarian says ‘its not the governments place to make those kinds of judgements, that belongs to the individual’. The conservative says that lack of prohibition is tantamount to endorsing the activity, libertarians don’t look to government to endorse or prohibit individuals activites.

     

    Number 2: Conservatives believe in smaller government but also live in the real world. Government can be much smaller than today but not as impotent and utopian as Libertarians would have it. Communities have norms and the culture that we grow up in have norms. Cultures can absorb and deal with some things very well and can’t deal with other things at all. A culture unable to deal with and contain alcohol should ban it. A society that has successful dealt with alcohol for several thousand years probably should not try to ban it. However that decision needs to be left to the community that is under threat not just to individuals for obvious reasons. See the Opium wars in China.

    Government works best when it is as close to a people and their culture as possible. That is why local control is vital for a nation like the US to work and thrive. With the freedom to move around and join new communities local norms being enforced have a better chance of being beneficial instead of oppressive.

    This is grounded in how all societies have functioned for all time. When you try to centralize this function of culture and community you run into all kinds of problems but these problems are minimized when local communities are given wide latitude to live as they wish. People do not live simply as atomized individuals they live as a part of a community a real Libertarian community would do the same. Conservatives admit that but Libertarians do not.

    • #29
    • October 14, 2015, at 1:05 PM PDT
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  30. PHenry Member

    Robert Lux: In the end it is libertarians who are guilty of social engineering

    Fair enough. If by social engineering you mean ‘letting people make their own choices as long as they don’t steal from, defraud, or physically harm others’.

    • #30
    • October 14, 2015, at 1:28 PM PDT
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