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Marxism of the Right (A paleoconservative pot pontificates on libertarian kettles)
The American Conservative ^ | March 14, 2005 | Robert Locke

Posted on 03/07/2005 1:08:36 PM PST by quidnunc

Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism, the idea that individual freedom should be the sole rule of ethics and government. Libertarianism offers its believers a clear conscience to do things society presently restrains, like make more money, have more sex, or take more drugs. It promises a consistent formula for ethics, a rigorous framework for policy analysis, a foundation in American history, and the application of capitalist efficiencies to the whole of society. But while it contains substantial grains of truth, as a whole it is a seductive mistake.

There are many varieties of libertarianism, from natural-law libertarianism (the least crazy) to anarcho-capitalism (the most), and some varieties avoid some of the criticisms below. But many are still subject to most of them, and some of the more successful varieties — I recently heard a respected pundit insist that classical liberalism is libertarianism — enter a gray area where it is not really clear that they are libertarians at all. But because 95 percent of the libertarianism one encounters at cocktail parties, on editorial pages, and on Capitol Hill is a kind of commonplace “street” libertarianism, I decline to allow libertarians the sophistical trick of using a vulgar libertarianism to agitate for what they want by defending a refined version of their doctrine when challenged philosophically. We’ve seen Marxists pull that before.

This is no surprise, as libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.


TOPICS: Editorial; Extended News; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: libertarians
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To: orangelobster
Robert Locke is the Bea Arthur of the Right.

Except that Robert Locke is hopefully considerably better looking than ol' Maude.

61 posted on 03/09/2005 5:40:35 PM PST by Clemenza (Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms: The Other Holy Trinity)
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To: libertarianben
"Libertarians have the vision of every sovereign individual living their own life as they please, as long as they let others live their lives as they please."

"This libertarian vision or principle has an enabling rule: don't assault people physically or steal their property."

And this is wrong?

Not to me.

62 posted on 03/09/2005 5:41:48 PM PST by secretagent
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To: Nataku X

thanks! You made my evening.

63 posted on 03/09/2005 6:00:36 PM PST by traviskicks (
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To: jackbob
I would say however, at this time, that we Libertarians have a lot to teach liberal democrats (but the Constitution is not one of the items, for them either).

I like to keep reminding them of the threat of violence that backs up all legislation. The pacifists I know hate that.

64 posted on 03/09/2005 6:06:26 PM PST by secretagent
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To: Jibaholic
Why don't we wait until liberalism has been officially swept into the dustbins of history

If your definition of liberalism includes those who support and promote:
-- a large (and continually growing) central government.
-- more socialistic programs.
-- little or no respect for the Constitution.

Better save room in your garbage can for the current crop of republicans in DC.

65 posted on 03/09/2005 6:15:47 PM PST by NMC EXP (Choose one: [a] party [b] principle.)
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To: jackbob

ok. well I think i have the various anarchists types now under my belt. I think many of them, I'm thinking of the anti-authority anti-globalist type protestors today, are confused themselves as to exactly what they are for or against and why.

"Early in his life he called for weakening the state, later in life he favored its strengthening, as the best means to move forward."

Have never heard this before. Can you elaborate?

"For example, the number one strategy in use with in the LP today is to hide the LP principles so as to better reach out to conservatives."

IHMO they are doing almost the opposite. (although I guess it depends on perspective) Polling MUST show that there is a huge demand for much more limited government then the Bloated Republicans are for, but with a strong military and foreign policy. Yet their Presidential Candidate was against the Iraq war and danced around conspiratorial 9/11 theories and blamed American for meddling in the Middle East etc.. Sounded almost like Michael Moore... And why do they keep bringing up this kookiness about a silver/gold standard? That has no place in politics and is junk economics anyway - so in that case I can at least commend them for sticking to principle, as some really seem to believe a silver/gold standard etc... is that right thing.

If they had a charismatic standard bearer, someone to really unite the party, and a sensible, comprehensive blueprint of what they believe and how they can achieve it, I think over time (20 years) they could actually become the majority party in America (if the Republicans don't steal their popular ideas first). I think the admittedly diverse factions in the lib party should 'settle' around a few core principles which they could build a foundation on and ignore some of the other minor more controversial issues.

66 posted on 03/09/2005 7:02:18 PM PST by traviskicks (
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To: quidnunc
It was tough to get through even the paragraphs you posted, quidnunc. This guy Locke has things so twisted I'd wager The American Conservative will be bombarded with irate letters.

Fortunately, TAC presents a variety of views, and in the same issue can be found one of the best defenses of individualism and freedom and libertarianism I've had the pleasure of reading in that magazine (online this time, since I unfortunately let my charter subscription lapse).

Dan McCarthy's In Defense of Freedom makes an excellent counterpoint to Locke's confused and disjointed screed.

67 posted on 03/09/2005 8:23:56 PM PST by logician2u
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To: traviskicks
Its easy for me to agree with you that many of the anarchists types are confused as to what they are for and against. However I do not agree that this is especially true among the "anti-authority anti-globalist type protesters today." One must keep in mind that these protesters do not have common set of beliefs. They are made up from a wide range of beliefs and organizations. Hell, even Pat Buchanan claimed to have put on a (I think either a penguin or duck, I don't remember) costume and joined in with anarchists and leftists at an anti-nafta protest back when he was running for president. At any rate, maintaining unity among the various anarchists as well as leftists, often results in an appearance that they do not know what they want, as there alway is an incentive to avoid trying to settle differences during such protests. The result of this is each protestor attempts to present their own view as the majority view, with out mention or regard for the view that a previous protestor presented, leaving the whole chaotic mess looking like they are all confused as to what they want.

In as far a the two Marxes, I see no reason to strain my memory on it, as it was not actually necessary to the point that making the government weaker or stronger, in advancing a political philosophy is a matter of strategy and not philosophy.

In as far as Libertarian principles go, opposition to the Iraq war, claims of a 9/11 conspiracy, want for a return to a silver/gold standard, are positions that can be independly argued without mention of principle. There are far more conservatives holding these views than libertarians. The old conservative movement may not be as vocal as it once was, but they are still around, and by far out number libertarians. Free Republic has banned more of them than it has libertarians. At any rate, a close look at the so called libertarian arguments relating to any of these issues will show most all of the arguments being made are with explanations that do not include libertarian principles.

I more than agree that the LP needs a "sensible, comprehensive blueprint of what they believe and how they can achieve it." But not just one. The LP needs several competing blueprints. I do not agree however that the "diverse factions in the" LP "should 'settle' around a few core principles which they could build a foundation on and ignore some of the other minor more controversial issues." First off the LP already has a core principle on which a foundation has already been built. Controversial issues are the fuel that generates the internal competition necessary for a movement to dynamically grow.

In as far as a "charismatic standard bearer" goes, the LP should never put its trust in people. As a self described party of principle, ideas and information is where the party should put its trust. Personality politics is always dangerous to both peace and liberty.

Finally, the notion of becoming a majority party in America is equally dangerous to both the Libertarian Party, as well as the nation as a whole. For the LP, at this time in its current stage of development, such thoughts are completely out of touch with political reality. Attempts to advance such notions will result in the LP increasingly compromising its principles as it enlarges itself with losers and complainers from the other parties. Such people bring with them a want for revenge against their prior party affiliations, while having little or no concern for the principles on which the party of principles was built. Besides, the LP has always been about education and bringing about a libertarian society. For the Libertarian, it does not matter if its done by Republicans or Democrats. Its Libertarianism we want. Not a big powerful party for the sake of a party. If the LP in the future becomes the vehicle of change at the election polls, fine. But this should never be our primary goal.

Additionally, thoughts of becoming a major party has started to materialize the LP as a spoiler party. Worse, it has manipulated us on to the line, as a Democratic Party cavalry unit specializing in rear area operations behind the the Republican Party defense lines. If this continues, the Democratic Party is going to increasingly win elections, and when they don't the winning republicans will be more and more like them. That will make the LP a danger to the entire nation, with out it ever reaching 15% popularity.

68 posted on 03/10/2005 3:14:42 AM PST by jackbob
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To: logician2u
I agree, "Dan McCarthy's In Defense of Freedom makes an excellent counterpoint to Locke's confused and disjointed screed." I found it a pleasure to read, and for the most part quite accurate. I did however find a few areas of minor disagreement, that could lead to significant unintended implications, when attempting to assess libertarian strategy.

His description of the differences between "moderate" and "radical" libertarians, actually describes the differences between "utilitarian" and "natural-rights" libertarians. Both of which have their own moderate and radical camps. Though utilitarian radicals are harder to identify. Ludwig von Misses, for one, can be described as a utilitarian radical, as he has said that if socialism could be legitimately argued to be able to do what it proposes to do, then he would be a socialist. This is a kind of position that could be held by both moderate and radical utilitarians in the libertarian movement. On the other hand, Natural-rights libertarians, including moderate ones, could never except such notion.

Another small area of disagreement I have with him is his giving credit to libertarians for that which conservatives have long been doing. There is much I say libertarians should get credit for, but only where that credit is due. His ignoring the accomplishments of the conservatives, apparently seeing the neocons as being the only conservatives, seems to prevent him from seeing the other conservatives and their many accomplishments.

Finally, it should be noted that he fails to define what a libertarian is. Not doing so makes it easy to toss around terms like moderate and radical, as well as to credit as libertarians those who are not libertarian.

Over all I must say that I was quite surprised seeing such a high quality article on libertarianism published by conservative magazine. Unlike the junk presented by Robert Locke, this article was extremely accurate and well worth the read.

69 posted on 03/10/2005 3:27:29 AM PST by jackbob
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To: secretagent
I like to keep reminding them of the threat of violence that backs up all legislation. The pacifists I know hate that.

You give a perfect illustration of out lefting the left. I must add, this works not just only with pacifists, but also most democrats and damn near all leftists. They thrive on posturing themselves as being liberal and for peaceful cooperative relations in human affairs. Reminding them that the violence being perpetrated on their neighbors at home only conditions the people to behave violently abroad has quite an effect. Any time a non-republican, nonconservative hits them with such ideas in an honest sincere manner, it really pulls the rug out from under them.

The same can be done more directly in economics, by pointing to the libertarian advocacy of "freeing up the economy" as opposed to the "trickle" of "freeing down" the economy as the Reaganomics conservatives offer. A concrete examples of out lefting the left can quite easily be made by using the fact that libertarians are opposed to all zoning and occupational licensing laws. Of course their are many more examples that can be given.

70 posted on 03/10/2005 3:59:16 AM PST by jackbob
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To: jackbob

That's what I meant.

71 posted on 03/10/2005 1:47:15 PM PST by libertarianben (Looking for sanity and his hard to find cousin common sense)
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To: logician2u

Great article.

Can I steal it and post it?

72 posted on 03/10/2005 2:09:17 PM PST by libertarianben (Looking for sanity and his hard to find cousin common sense)
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To: libertarianben
No one can prove a negative. If you have proof that will stand up to scrutiny that the founding father's were libertarians, I'll change my position. It will not be the first time, and won't be the last time, that I have been wrong. I just have not seen any proof of it as yet. If you got it, bring it on.
73 posted on 03/10/2005 2:18:11 PM PST by jackbob
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To: jackbob
Then why is it every libertarian talks about the constitution? The LP presidential candidate was a constitutional scholar.
74 posted on 03/10/2005 2:28:01 PM PST by libertarianben (Looking for sanity and his hard to find cousin common sense)
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To: libertarianben
Now you are changing the subject. You of course have no way to even come close to knowing what every libertarian talks about. I do not doubt you that the ones you have heard all talked about the constitution. Where as very few of the ones I've heard, ever talked about the constitution. As far as the LP presidential candidate being a constitutional scholar goes, the one before him was an author. So what?

Neither of them are the standard definers for the LP. This is because the LP is a Party of Principle, that lays its foundation in an idea and not human being. Read your Statement of Principles for defining what a Libertarian is.

75 posted on 03/10/2005 2:49:24 PM PST by jackbob
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To: jackbob

My brain is starting to hurt.

76 posted on 03/10/2005 2:53:47 PM PST by libertarianben (Looking for sanity and his hard to find cousin common sense)
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To: free_european

Yes, Marx boasted that he took the absolute idealism of
Hegel's "world spirit" and "set it right side up", that
is,into the dialectic of history based on materialism.
This dialectic was, as you indicate, designated to be an
inexorable "law of history". The supreme irony is that
despite the fallacy of this whole system -- Marx did have
certain insights, one of which was that capitalism was a
"progressive" force historically, though its time was

77 posted on 03/10/2005 3:05:44 PM PST by T.L.Sink (stopew)
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To: quidnunc

Libertarians would self destruct on their own if they got their way. The whole ideology is a joke.

78 posted on 03/10/2005 3:09:54 PM PST by John Lenin (Common sense is very uncommon nowadays)
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To: quidnunc

The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life.

No, but it's the one hardest to hold onto.
It's the one without which the others are valueless.
It's the one Governments, ideologies and religions most endanger.

No, I'm not a libertarian of any stripe.
I'm a Goldwater Republican and a pragmatist, and I know that you can't turn your back on any large organization, no matter what it claims, or even believes, it's intentions are.


79 posted on 03/10/2005 6:33:01 PM PST by Servant of the 9 (Trust Me)
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To: Reactionary
Reactionary wrote:

The fact that Libertarians have yet to address the question of ordered liberty or the importance of ends shows, I think, how unserious it is as a political "philosophy."


Republican Liberty Caucus Position Statement

Please show us exactly where there is a failure to address "the question of ordered liberty" in the "political philosophy" of the RLC position.

I doubt you can.
80 posted on 03/10/2005 7:01:07 PM PST by P_A_I
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