Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Can the Twain Meet?

Thanks to Mickey Craig for calling attention to this article, which, while interesting, proves nothing. That there can be no such thing as a person who is simultaneously an economic conservative and a social liberal is demonstrably false. There are thousands of such people, and they call themselves libertarians, or classical liberals, or something of that sort.

More importantly, the author here is making a very bold claim, but basing it on the narrowest of samples--the current makeup of the United States Senate. It does not even extend its analysis to the House, where the author would at least have to deal with Ron Paul (R-Texas), a former Libertarian Party candidate for president.

The real question, it seems to me, is not whether or not "libertarians" can exist, but rather why there are none in the Senate. My hypothesis is that it has a great deal to do with the amount of fundraising that must be done to be elected at a statewide level. The pressure groups that keep Republicans and Democrats alike in office have little interest in supporting true mavericks. A consistent liberal, or a consistent conservative, would seem to be a far safer bet.

I’m certainly willing to have this hypothesis shot down, but the argument that a survey of the Senate establishes that one cannot be economically conservative and socially liberal is unconvincing.

Discussions - 2 Comments

One cannot long be both an economic conservative and a social liberal because the policies of social liberalism encourage social (and familial) breakdown that is then adressed by massive government spending on prisons, child care, health care and campaigns to stamp out the unfavorable behavior social liberalism allows. Libertarians have no answers to family formation and continuity nor to addiction and other subverters of free will. The reason there are no libertarians in the Senate has nothing to do with fundraising. It has to do with the fact that states can’t be gerrymandered so that a politician selling such a contradictory pastiche of policies is able to find a critical mass of likeminded folks. Everybody says their a social liberal until they have to live next to the (legal) brothel or crackhouse.

Social Liberalism and Classical Liberalism are mutually exclusive. True Lbertarianism, while sharing some virtues of Classical Liberalism, if followed to its logical conclusions leads to anarachy rather than a government to "secure these rights", which is "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". The reality true Libertarians have more in common with Marx than his Classical Liberal contemporary, Lord Acton.

Perhaps mutually agreed upon definitions might further the discussion and be the appropriate place to begin.

"ANARCHISM: The belief that it is possible for there to be an orderly social order in the absence of any government. While various schools of anarchism exist, all share the common view that a society can peacefully exist without any state structures. Key thinkers include Karl Marx*, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon*, Pytor Alekseyevich Kropotkin*, and Murray Rothbard*.

"AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS: Austrian economics is a school of economic thought founded with the publication of Carl Menger’s Principles of Economics in 1871. Austrian economists believe that economics is a science of timeless and universally true propositions regarding how human beings fulfill their needs and wants through social cooperation given scarce resources. The Austrian school has several identifiable tenets including methodological individualism (see Individualism), economic value subjectivism, and strong opposition to government intervention in the market. It is often thought to be the economic "ideology" of conservative and classical liberal thinkers (see Classical Liberalism). One reason for this identification is because of its individualistic and anti-statist features. Another is due to the central role it attributes to private property in the market system. Key thinkers who followed Menger include Ludwig von Mises*, Eugen Boehm-Bawerk*, Friedrich Hayek*, Murray Rothbard*, and Israel Kirzner.

"CAPITALISM: Capitalism can be described as a free-market system of economics. Economic liberty is the cornerstone of the free-market system. Economic liberty entails freedom from unnecessary government intervention in the market place, legal protection of private property, and the freedom to buy and sell almost anything at any time.

"Free-market thought has its origin in several sources including the work of the French physiocrats, the late Scholastics, and the British classical economists, notably Adam Smith. Classical economics (see Classical Economic Theory) later developed into various schools of economic thought. Three prominent schools include the Austrian school, the Chicago school, and the Virginia school (sometimes called the Public Choice school). The single defining characteristic unifying all three schools is a tireless defense of human liberty, particularly, economic liberty. Forceful admonitions against direct government involvement into the economy unites every free-market economist regardless of background and theoretical viewpoint. Free-market economists agree that, while the intentions of government may be honorable, intervention disrupts market processes by curtailing liberty and spontaneous development. Key thinkers include Adam Smith*, Ludwig von Mises*, Friedrich Hayek*, Milton Friedman, Wilhelm Roepke*, James Buchanan, Gary Becker, and Michael Novak.

"CLASSICAL ECONOMIC THEORY: Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations, best represents the school of classical economic theory. Classical economists were occupied mostly with the production of capital. These economists determined prices for goods not by consumer demand, as we do today, but by how much an item cost to produce (natural price theory). Because the science of economics began about the same time as modern natural science, the classical economists frequently employed scientific and philosophical ideas in their writing. Key thinkers include Adam Smith*, David Ricardo*, and John Stuart Mill*.

"CLASSICAL LIBERALISM: A term used to describe a political philosophy commonly held in nineteenth-century England and France but now undergoing a renaissance in the United States. Classical liberals advocate free markets, a vibrant array of nongovernmental institutions (such as civic groups, schools, churches, etc.), and minimal tax-financed government services. Classical liberals firmly believe that both persons and property should be protected from physical harm. They also emphasize the strict enforcement of contracts. Classical liberals, following Lord Acton, consider liberty to be the highest political value but not to the point of becoming a worldview. Examples of classical liberal thinkers include Frederic Bastiat*, Lord Acton*, Alexis de Tocqueville*, John Locke*, John Stuart Mill*, and Friedrich Hayek*.

"CONSERVATISM: Although the term conservative can mean many different and often contradictory things depending on the context, it is generally a description of an outlook or disposition that is traditional. The word "traditional" may simply refer to a political or social attitude, or to a more or less well-defined set of political policies designed to preserve traditions (moral, political, cultural) inherited from the past. It is important to note that conservatives’ defense of the traditional does not simply stem from the fact that it is old, but that it is somehow true. Conservatives support this claim by appealing either to the moral values of Christianity or to natural law (see Natural Law). Conservatives resist change. They stress the limits of human reason, and regard human nature to be tainted by sin. Today’s usage is often associated with such terms and concepts as family values, the political right, and the Republican party. Key thinkers include Edmund Burke*, Russell Kirk*, Richard Weaver*, and Leo Strauss*.

"ECONOMIC PERSONALISM: (see Personalism) Economic personalism is a new body of scholarship that attempts to integrate the principles contained in Christian social thought with the accomplishments of contemporary economic science. Economic personalists seek to produce an economy that is truly humane one worthy of human dignity. Such an economic arrangement would have to not only respect human freedom, individual choice, human creativity, and the right to market initiative, but would also have to generate wealth.

"INDIVIDUALISM: The term "individualism" has a great variety of meanings in social and political philosophy. There are at least three types that can be distinguished: (1) ontological individualism, (2) methodological individualism, and (3) moral or political individualism. Ontological individualism is the doctrine that social reality consists, ultimately, only of persons who choose and act. Collectives, such as a social class, state, or a group, cannot act so they are not considered to have a reality independent of the actions of persons. Methodological individualists hold that the only genuinely scientific propositions in social science are those that can be reduced to the actions, dispositions, and decisions of individuals. Political or moral individualism is the theory that individuals should be left, as far as possible, to determine their own futures in economic and moral matters. Key thinkers include Ludwig von Mises*, Friedrich Hayek*, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, John Locke*, and Herbert Spencer*.

"LIBERTARIANISM: A term used to describe a political philosophy closely related to classical liberalism (see Classical Liberalism), yet evolving from different philosophical roots. While there are festering controversies among libertarians, all writers share a common commitment to the efficiency and freedom-enhancing nature of the market, private property, the rule of law, and the sovereignty of the individual. Libertarians evaluate political systems on the basis of how well they respect human liberty. Liberty, for libertarians, means that a person is free to the extent that his choices and actions are not impeded by laws and institutions. Libertarians strongly object to the legal regulation of immoral practices such as abortion, sale of pornography, and drug use. They consider any voluntary, uncoerced exchange between individuals to be acceptable. Key thinkers include Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, Rose Wilder Lane*, Ayn Rand*, and Murray Rothbard*.

"LIMITED GOVERNMENT: The idea that government is not all-competent. Government is one social institution among others having its own distinct sphere of responsibility and authority. The tendency of government is to assert regulatory authority beyond its proper bounds. Limited government was an essential idea undergirding the founding of the American republic. The framers of the Constitution, who had experienced first-hand the tyranny (see Tyranny) of the British monarchy, reckoned that it was imprudent to endow one branch of government with supreme power. They reasoned that unless authority was distributed equally among different branches of government, fallen human nature would eventually cause leaders to become tyrants. As Lord Acton wrote nearly a century later, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Key thinkers include John Jay*, James Madison*, Alexander Hamilton*, Thomas Jefferson*, and John Adams*.

"MODERN LIBERALISM: A term used to describe a political philosophy with progressive cultural and political viewpoints. Modern liberals are not always hostile to the free market, but they do think that if left to itself the random nature of the market will produce poverty and inequality. They argue that state action is necessary in all areas where human welfare is at risk, including direct government assistance, pensions, unemployment insurance, and health care. Liberals actively lobby for social change through political and legislative means. Their motivation for proposing radical reforms usually stem from a perceived violation of justice, fairness, or a sense of social equality. Today’s usage is often associated with such terms and concepts as legal activism, government regulation of the economy, and the redistribution of wealth. Key thinkers include John Kenneth Galbraith, Upton Sinclair*, John Rawls, Reinhold Niebuhr*, and Walter Rauschenbusch*.

"MONARCHY: Literally government by a monarch or sovereign, such as a king or emperor, who has supreme power over a realm. Key contemporary advocates include Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

"MORALITY: Morality is any intellectual system which tries to explain right and wrong. Strictly speaking, morality deals only with the realm of human actions and intentions. The key to understanding any moral system is to identify what determines or acts as the standard of right and wrong. For Christians, it is the Scripture and natural law (see Natural Law). For relativists, it is either societal trends or individual preferences.

"Religious liberals, such as Lord Acton, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Frederic Bastiat, consider a virtuous citizenry to be an essential component of a free society. Typically, however, secular liberals regard morality (and religion) as an exclusively private and personal matter. It is up to each individual to decide upon his own moral code. According to secular modern liberals, the government may only insist that individuals refrain from violence and theft, and honor all freely entered contracts. From the classical liberal perspective, the objective, rational, and cross-cultural moral norms of Christianity provide the basic understanding of virtue.

"NATURAL LAW: A philosophy that understands morality (see Morality) to be universal, objective, and derivative from human nature. Reasoned reflection upon human nature yields rules or laws of conduct for moral behavior. Natural law undergirds man-made positive law because it is rooted in the nature of humankind. The natural law tradition is a theistic system. It precludes any contradiction between revelation and reason because God, who authored the Ten Commandments, also designed human nature. Formative influences were Aristotle*, Cicero*, St. Thomas Aquinas*, Franciscus Suarez*, Hugo Grotius*, Henry Veatch, and John Finnis.

"NEO-CLASSICAL ECONOMIC THEORY: Neo-classical refers to a modern school of economic thought that has sought to sever classical economic theory (see Classical Economic Theory) from the philosophy of natural law (see Natural Law) and to restate it in terms of strait mathematics. Distinct features of neo-classical theory are the concepts of methodological individualism (see Individualism) and the subjective theory of value. Key thinkers include Thorstein Veblenx*.

"PERSONALISM: (see Economic Personalism) Personalist philosophy analyzes the meaning and nature of personal existence. Yet it acknowledges the mysterious character of human existence. This recognition, however, does not eliminate the possibility of investigating the mystery, but it does affirm that no theory or set of insights can ever fully explain human life. The human person is an infinitely complex subject.

"A distinct feature of personalist philosophy is that human dignity and the intrinsic value of persons are revealed in human experience. Personalist philosophers maintain that experience ought to be the starting point for the philosophical analysis of the person. Reflection upon experiences accents the unique aspects of being human, namely, consciousness and freedom. Personalist philosophers view persons as active beings with awareness of their environment, not unmoved, abstract, or rational entities. Key thinkers include Emil Brunner*, Pope John Paul II, Emmanuel Mounier*, Martin Buber*, Max Scheler*, and Gabriel Marcel*.

"SPHERE SOVEREIGNTY: A principle of Reformed Christian social ethics, usually associated with the thought of Dutch Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper*, that identifies a number of God- ordained creational spheres, which include the family, the state, culture, and the church. These spheres each have their own organizing and ruling ordinances, and each maintains a measure of authority relative to the others. Just social and political structures, therefore, should be ordered so that the authority of each sphere is preserved (see Limited Government and Subsidiarity, The Principle of).

"STATE, THE: An extremely confusing and complicated term throughout the history of political philosophy. The role and significance of the state in social and political life is the single most important issue dividing liberals (see Modern Liberalism) and conservatives. Liberals employ the coercive power of the state to correct, what they regard, as the inequitable distribution of goods and services caused by the market. Conservatives think of the state as an organism that serves to maintain the unity and integrity of society. However, if the state extends its reach too far into the activities of individuals it will threaten the well-being of the social fabric. Contemporary writers generally provide a definition of the state that describes those features which distinguish it from other social institutions. They distinguish between the state and law. All societies have rules of some kind that regulate behavior, but the agency (state) used to enforce the rules varies between societies. The modern state is distinguished by the public nature of its rules, its centralized authority, its fixed geographical boundary, and its use of coercive power.

"STATISM: Generally, a program or viewpoint that looks to the state for resolution of social and moral problems, rather than to individual effort. Specifically, a condition where the nongovernmental institutions of a society develop an overextended and unhealthy reliance upon political structures for the solution of problems. Statism stands in direct violation of the principle of subsidiarity (see Subsidiarity, The Principle of) and sphere sovereignty (see Sphere Sovereignty). Statists believe that the resolution to social problems should be obtained through legislative measures.

"SUBSIDIARITY, THE PRINCIPLE OF: A principle from Catholic Social Teaching but with correspondences to American federalism (see Limited Government) and the Dutch Calvinist concept of sphere sovereignty (see Sphere Sovereignty)which views society as comprised of various networks of natural mediating institutions (such as family, neighborhoods, churches, voluntary organizations, the free press, among others). Each of these institutions has natural functions, responsibilities, and obligations. For example, families raise children, churches provide moral and spiritual guidance, and so on.

"Subsidiarity teaches that the higher or more complex social structures (such as government) should not interfere unnecessarily in the affairs of the lower social structures (such as the family). Unnecessary interference from the higher structures robs the lower structures of their natural functions. Over time this interference can cause the breakdown of the mediating institutions in a society. If breakdown occurs politics will replace private association as the infrastructure of society.

"Subsidiarity does allow for the interference of higher institutions in the affairs of lower ones in situations of crisis, emergency, or when they are not capable of being self-sufficient. However, when such interference occurs it should be specifically focused, limited, temporary, and seek to reestablish the institution’s self-sufficiency.

"TOTALITARIANISM: This is the view that any institutional separation between the state and nongovernmental organizations (such as churches, private hospitals, civic groups, charities, etc.) must be eliminated. Totalitarians insist that all the major institutions of society should be directed by the state (see Statism). Key political movements include Italian Fascism, Nazism, and Communism.

"TYRANNY: A form of government where a single ruler is vested with absolute power. The defective version of monarchy (see Monarchy, Statism, and Totalitarianism). Any absolute and oppresive power. Infamous tyrants include Mao Tse-Tung*, Adolf Hitler*, and Joseph Stalin*."

All definitions are from: "Dictionary of Key Terms for a Free and Virtuous Society"

As for the sad shape of the U.S. Senate, any hope that a true Classical Liberal, in the mold of say Tom Jefferson, for instance, might get a place in the "World’s Greatest Deliberative Body", ended when the Constitution of the United States of America was amended to permit "direct election" of Senators. Popular politicians are not known for their calls on the electorate to "repent".

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