Posted by Joseph Knippenberg
I worried about it. Catos David Boaz is happy its here. Over at the Corner, Jonah Goldberg, Ramesh Ponnuru, and John Podhoretz weigh in.
Yea, I agree with Ramesh and John...the "libertarian center" is one part selective reading of polls and two parts wishful thinking. The real voting public is more conservative than that...how many States passed laws against same-sex marriage?
I think the libertarian center is a good discription of my generation, as far as it goes. On the other hand I agree with Goldbergs hammering of any attempt to make the center or "consensus" seem morally/intellectually superior to the fringes. In a certain sense Libertarianism in the culture is a defense of the fringes... This is exemplified in the Green Day song with the refrain: "I want to be a minority, down with the moral majority..."
Now isnt it all rather silly if the majority is always claiming to be the minority? I think so...But the question is: who is the majority? In some sense I think we no longer have a majority. We are all minority now...and therefore we all all more libertarian.
In answer to the proper labeling of Dr. Knippenburgs comment on evangelical christians recapturing the inner city...to the extent the project is "contercultural" it is libertarian. When it comes to culture...libertarians are always at war with the dominant culture...because libertarianism is commited to allowing individuals to live the best life possible by fighting any and all forces of entropy.
The existence of a large group of libertarians (say 15-20%) owes not to carefull readings of Mises, Rand, Hayek, Locke or classical economics... nor could it be said that they are necessarily libertarian in any conventional sense. This diverse group of people simply hold to the premise that they are not simply victims of the culture. Christians who hold that abstinence based sex education can work, are in essence arguing that even young individuals are capable of reason and self-restraint. Essentially Libertarianism has only one foundational idea, and that is: Individual Autonomy or the possibility of choice and reason existing simultaneously. As more and more groups(cultures) see themselves as minorities on various issues, to the extent that they take an optimistic view of things they incline Libertarian, to the extent that they do not: they play the cultural victim card. Any culture that does not primarily play the victim card...must of necessity view their own ideas as rational and believe that in respecting individual autonomy or the possibility of free will they leave open fields of action for persuading and ganning conversion from opposing cultures. It is incredibly wrong headed to say that libertarians are necessarily pro-choice or pro-gay marriage...because the means of inflating the numbers of libertarians simply took into account the number of people who take an optimistic view of man and the moral capability of the individual despite the culture.
"On the one hand, there is a very deep attachment to traditional, middle-American values like patriotism, law and order, the work ethic, and family life; on the other hand, there are very heavily counter-culture-influenced attitudes on race, sex, on authority in general, and on the kind of fervent, almost absolutist embrace of relativism, of which tolerance is the key and cardinal virtue. There is a kind of aversion to preachiness or absolutist truth claims of any kind."
What is the contradiction in upholding middle american values and also believing that those who blame McDonalds for americans being fat are off base?
I answer, none. Ditto with those who blame cigarette companies for the high rate of cancer. This does not mean that we dont believe that eating nothing but McDonalds or smoking 2 packs a day wont make you fat or give you cancer. The facts are in McDonalds and RJ Reynolds create products that kill. We just believe that in america you can choose how you want to die, we would rather place the blame on individuals who smoke or eat McDonalds, and we tolerate individuals who do so, because we are commited to considering it a choice and not a victimization.
At the same time we dont deny the facts...if a fat person is fat that is the result of his own choice...but that doesnt mean he cant be charged twice if he occupies two seats on an airline...nor do we tolerate the choice to smoke if and when it affects the health of others, we arent looking to create opportunities for the preachers of victimhood but rather to eradicate or as best we can bellitle their claim to reason, and make them seem absurd.
There is no contradiction in positing a libertarian center provided what we mean by that is a very general defense of individual autonomy and the capability free will, especially considering that these ideas seem foundational for any discussion of responsibility to remain coherent. Like conservatives held together by the existance of liberals...this group of libertarians if they could be called that is held together by a resistance to victimhood, a resistance to the culture of victimhood most often perpetuated by the left...but also preached from the right in many instances.
Who does the libertarian center really threaten? The old(as a group, but really all those who are dependent and comfortable with their own victimhood)
With old people living longer and longer and having in some cases squandered the good will of offspring, this group is positioned to become the largest group"society/culture"(whathaveyou) in america and obviously they will think that the rest of "society/culture" in general owes them, in point of fact they will have lived through the most drastic changes in culture and thus will feel that the breakdown in the good ol values has done the most to threaten their existance. In fact americans getting older and facing the consequences of previous spending and social decisions is the easiest way to explain compassionate conservatism... So I dont expect compassionate conservatism to go away...
So compassionate conservatism is my example of victimhood preached from the right. Of course not all old people will be unprepared or a burden, and many will reject this victimhood as insulting and rightly so. They have built strong families and having stored away both physical and spiritual wealth...they will be fine. But this is not what demographics tell us will be the case for the majority of this group.
Dr. Lewis- I didnt know you listened to Green Day?
More to the point, however, interesting analysis of conservatism, libertarianism, and America in general. I wonder, though, what effects the aging of America will have upon our political system. That is, the elderly (in general) vote with conservative ideals, but support vast big government programs like Medicare and Social Security. While it is nothing new to want less government involvement unless it benefits oneself, I still find it intriguing.
Allan, "intriguing"? It is appalling and a great blot on the greatest generation. That generation has the entitlement mentality, entirely. Us "boomers" seem to be split on the issue, but if we incline ourselves to selfishness over principle, we could strangle the following generations economic prospects. Our children will have no choice but to pursue libertarian principles of governance, in self-defense. Hooray for them if it brings them back to concepts of natural law and self-government, which ideals seem lost to compassionate conservatives and most incumbent Republican politicians.
Kate- Yes, intriguing. It is something which deserves more thought and contemplation. Upon first blush I agree it is also appaling, but I meant what I said.
As far as that generation goes, however, they would seem to have a legitimate claim to such entitlements. That is, they were the ones who bought into such measures and repeatedly voted in such ways to allow them to grow and increase. Futhermore, they have the "we have served, now give us our due" mindset, right or wrong. What I should like to see is the more recent generations reverse the trend of approval for big government and its entitlements while respecting the choices of the past. I for one do not want to be seen pulling the plug on the elderly, but I dont mind the notion of forcing the next generations to become more responsible.
I am not Dr. Lewis... nor to be honest have I ever taken a course at Ashland University taught by him. Nor have I ever taken a class with Dr. Moser. I minored in History thanks only to Dr. Moore. But anyone could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, since I probably share a lot more in common philosophically with Dr. Lewis than with Dr. Moore(Marine turned prof turned schoolmaster). Dr. Lewis is an objectivist...and would no doubt puke at the idea of libertarianism which he sees as a corruption of objectivism ultimately founded upon a subjectivist view of epistemology/Reason(a mixture of food and poison?) Of course to my way of thinking Hayek and Mises are clearly subjectivist...and such discussions are long and lose integrating power...in any case I stand by the expanded view of Libertarianism and its many different philosophical roots...in the end the only way to link them is to talk of a central tennet (irrespective for the time being at how one arrived at it...or how ideas are dissemenated into the culture). That central tennet be it a position on individual autonomy, free will, or the grounds of responsibility and rights bleed together because propositions necessary to defend one position are posited in the other.
The last post was a response of sorts to Allan Carey, this next one is a response to Allan.
What Allan asks is contradictory, no one will stand for it...and it is likely among other things to lead to the sort of "rebel libertarianism" most disliked by conservatives and Objectivists alike and most highlighted by bands like Greenday. There is no way to reverse the trend of approval for big government that also respects the choices of the past. Also implicit in your post is the suggestion that rights and entitlements are open to vote...A and B get together and decide to give the property of C to D. Granting this supposition tosses out any vestiges of the libertarian feutus as regards conceptions of liberty, rights and responsibility. Once everyone is habituated to the "system" and as we live longer and longer...and as medical costs countinue to grow...dont expect for one second that when my generation reaches 64 (in 40 some years) that we wont also speak in mass of our "birthright"...we served in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the border, in the airports, in Iran? Now give us our due...you cant pull the plug...
In some sense I fear that due to the entitlement nature of society a "libertarian center" is constrained not by ideas alone but by age...in some sense this makes sense because the old of necessity realise a interdependence in human affairs...their rights can no longer be tied entirely to their responsibilities/faculties.
John Lewis- I do apologize for the confusion. I did not expect Dr. Lewis to listen to Green Day, it would have been much out of character for him. As for my earlier post, I agree that such a standpoint in unlikely, but not contradictory. I suppose I should be more clear about what I meant. I would, for example, support the creation of private retirement accounts open to a measure of risk and change for those soon to enter the social security system while still providing for taxes to support the vestiges of the old system. One might say a gradual moving away from dependency. I also do not deny todays troops a claim to what they deserve, but those affected directly by the effort for the war in Iraq in no way compare to those with the Second World War. That was on an entirely different scale, but point well taken.
I agree Allen...almost any soilder today who would equate his experiences in Iraq with those of World War II would be commiting a moral travesty...on the other hand there are probably a very small handfull who could do so. I certainly could not. My point isnt that it might not be possible to argue for a gradual move away from dependency...but that making such a point for gradual shift will subdue of necessity the conceptual basis for such a shift and thus make it less likely. It is like argueing against abortion... you can go a gradual route and slowly outlaw various types...but in order to do this you must first convince enough opponents of your motives to keep abortion legal but simply rare...
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