Skip to comments.Marxism of the Right (A paleoconservative pot pontificates on libertarian kettles)
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. Weve 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.
Except that Robert Locke is hopefully considerably better looking than ol' Maude.
"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.
thanks! You made my evening.
I like to keep reminding them of the threat of violence that backs up all legislation. The pacifists I know hate that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That's what I meant.
Can I steal it and post it?
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.
My brain is starting to hurt.
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
Libertarians would self destruct on their own if they got their way. The whole ideology is a joke.
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.