Posted by Peter Lawler
Deneen provides realistic therapy to a woman close to succumbing to the libertarian temptation.
Yes, absolutely, he hit the nail on the head when he said Both are species of optimistic liberalism in which the means are disputed, but the ends are not. In a nutshell, that's why I resist the libertarian takeover of conservativism -- the libertarians don't seem to understand that "the market" is just another magic incantation similar to "the state" -- nothing will solve all our problems. Humans must try and fail, try and fail, and finally they find something that is liveable -- not perfect, but liveable.
Thank you, Edmund Burke.
I think the libertarianism depicted in the article by Ms. Lancaster is more practical than theoretical or radical; i.e., common-sense concern for liberty. And the authoritarian direction to which Deneen's categorical reply leans seems to me rather impractical, especially given the assertions of authority in the last several years.
Rather than a metaphysically true but practically irrelevant critique, why not address the political particulars in Lancaster's account?
For example, what would Deneen (or other anti-libertarians) say about the massive violations, waste, and incompetence in the various, indefinite "wars" that national policymakers have launched for several decades now -- not only against "terror" but also "fear," "poverty," "drugs"? Have these been rightful, just examples of force and restraint?
While these policies, and the state structures built around them, have certainly decreased our individual liberty, have they enhanced our self-government, in the Tocquevillian sense? Practically speaking, could they even be controlled by the "eternal vigilance" of citizens that Madison-Publius considered the final rampart? Think of all the insulated bureaucracies involved in these "wars" - from HUD to HHS to the DEA, DHS, and FEMA.
It seems that -- much more than affirming any market/society utopia -- Lancaster is critical about the wisdom and justice of this far-flung, impersonal national-state government (and those that pull the levers). And in this sense she is correct to call herself a conservative.
Lancaster's remarks were banal, simply the usual Democratic party attacks on the Bush administration with a libertarian gloss. I got the impression Deneen was not taking her all that seriously either.
The side which is out of power will always be more suspicious of government.
Lancaster is critical about the wisdom and justice of this far-flung, impersonal national-state government (and those that pull the levers).
That might be an interesting critique, if she made it. But what she actually says ("What changed in the past five years is that the institutions of restraint and oversight collapsed", "The key to the collapse of our institutions was Sept. 11, 2001, ", "I still am enough of a liberal to believe in the good that governments can do") makes it clear that libertarianism is simply a handy club to hit Bush with. Have our institutions really collapsed? Would a genuine libertarian really think it to be a bad thing if they did? Don't hold your breath waiting for her to object to the way the Federal government uses the Commerce clause and due process clause.
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