Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Libertarian Conservative Divide

Eric Scheie at Classical Values runs an excellent blog. He comments on the fact that he has been labeled a "conservative" despite the fact that he has disagrees vigorously with social conservatism and considers himself a "libertarian."

I remarked that

What I find most off-putting when I read a lot of Libertarians is their disdain of Christianity or traditional morality. They seem to find a need to put lots of distance between themselves and the 70+% of the American people that go to church and believe in God. Libertarians want cafeteria style morality: small government, low spending, low taxing, free to flout convention but no social constraints even of an informal nature like social ostracism.

Libertarians also don’t want to be viewed as associated with the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals that disapprove of gay marriage, pre-or-outside of marriage sex. I mean, what’s the problem with Governor Sanford and his series of affairs? Who are we to judge? Right? Bring back Elliott Spitzer and let’s re-think the outworn opposition to polygamy.

The one thing that history and experience has taught thoughtful people – as opposed to ideologues – is that in the absence of social constraints, we will have legal constraints. And absent either social or legal constraints, we have social disintegration with its attendant pathologies. For references see the out-of-wedlock birth rate in the “African American” community. Thanks, Libertarians.

That prompted this reply from Sean Kissell

"Libertarians want cafeteria style morality: small government, low spending, low taxing, free to flout convention but no social constraints even of an informal nature like social ostracism."

Uh, you're mixing up libertarian and libertine, hardly an uncommon error but no less bad for that. Who are these libertarian thinkers who argue against social convention and community mores, even if not enforced by law? I don't think I've ever encountered one, and I make something of a hobby of counting ways my fellow libertarians drive me bonkers. The arguments you tend to encounter are actually that laws (against drug use, for example) aren't necessary precisely because social convention and self-interest are strong enough to keep most people in line. I'm not saying I buy those arguments in every case, but they're not against using ostracism to enforce rules.

To which I remarked:

Sean Kinsell,

Yes, of course it’s easy to conflate Libertarians and Libertines, because in many cases they appear to be one and the same. Some of their single issue dedication to being able to use hallucinogenic drugs is an example of some of that orientation. I’m sure you have noticed.

I am on the fence on that issue as all Conservatives should be because Conservatives are – by definition – cautious about changing the rules for fear of unintended consequences. Who would have guessed that the “War on poverty” would appear to have as its primary result, not a reduction in poverty, but an increase in unwed mothers and a subset of young men (and women) whose lives are truncated by drugs, violence and functional illiteracy?

But it’s not what I had in mind. Our host is an excellent example of Libertarian thought, agreed? Yet he explicitly disavows the definition he quotes of “family values.” What is the part that he disagrees with? The nuclear family? Christianity? Displaying the Ten Commandments? Opposition to abortion? Pornography? I could go on. So our host does not share “traditional values.” Which is fine as far as it goes. But in his support of publicly available pornography, his issues with the nuclear family, Christianity, and all the other issues that he and I may disagree on, he never once says that he would support my right to pray during a commencement ceremony, to exhibit a crèche in the public square, in sum, to do any of the things that people in 1950 thought was perfectly right and proper even though we were not ruled by a theocracy.

If I am going to take Libertarians seriously, not just as enablers of libertinism, I expect a respect for the rights that have been taken from people who are more properly considered conservatives. People who believed in the First Amendment. The people who wrote: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” knew that they were preventing a “Church of America” similar to the “Church of England.” Little did they suspect that “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” meant that you could keep your prayers in church, thank you, but keep them out of our faces in schools, playgrounds and public places … we’re Libertarians.

In fact, what I find is the “good Libertarians” totally silent on the issues that matter to Conservatives – especially Conservative Christians – even though we are talking about freedoms that Libertarians say they espouse. Meanwhile raging atheist Libertarians use forums to call Christians theocrats no better than Jihadists only looking for excuse to put non-Christians into concentration camps. In fact, I am reminded that Moslems are frequently accused of not speaking out against violent Jihad.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Can Libertarians and Conservatives co-exist in harmony? It seems to me that the best person bridging this divide today is the self professed libertarian Glenn Reynolds, who runs “Instapundit.’ I find no snark about Conservatism there. Thanks, Glenn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is much we could agree on - libertarians and conservatives. But, it is my experience that libertarians hate Christians. They hate the moral certainity of Chistians on human life isses. They reject Western based cultural norms and standards of behavior in relation to others and society as a whole. Huamism is the far left's cultural replacement for America's Western based culture.

Western culture gave birth to both the constitution and the culture of self regulation that permitted individual freedom. Humanism is the culture that was born of communism. Morality and social rules are what the ruling party say they are to serve their power from moment to moment.

Hence we have "libertarian" banksters now shaking down the Treasury to socialize their losses. It was immoral - dishonorable for them to enter into the irresponsible loans they took on but humanism has no dishonor. If it feels good, do it! And when it fails, run to Uncle Sam to bail your sorry butt out! There is no honor among the self serving.