Skip to comments.What is wrong with Libertarianism.
Posted on 08/01/2002 3:27:45 PM PDT by Tomalak
Thought for the day
If you believe in a truly libertarian society, your only way to success is in working to build a society based upon traditional morality, shame and chastity. Contradictory? Actually, no. Given a little examination, it turns out to be rather obvious; almost self-evidently true. If you want to live in a country where every man supports himself rather than looking to the taxpayer, where crime is rare and so massive police powers, ID cards and DNA databases are superfluous, you will not do so on the back of the destructive policies of social liberalism.
Libertarians traditionally do not look to history for the sort of society they wish to build. But I sense that the famous passage with which AJP Taylor begins his English History 1914-1945 comes closest to the libertarian ideal: a place where the normal, sensible Englishman comes into contact with the state only through the post office and policeman. The United States that existed before FDR's massive extensions in state power is similarly the model of the sort of America that libertarians across the pond seek to build. What all successful societies in history with small states have had in common is a strictly moral populace. Victorian Britain could survive without a large state precisely because pious ideas of shame, duty and self-reliance ensured that people would look to themselves for what they needed, rather than the state, and because crime was low enough that the state did not need to seek all the powers it could summon to fight back.
One mistake far too many libertarians make is to associate traditional morality with big government, and hostility to freedom. The opposite is true. The more influence morality has over a man's conduct, the less need there is for the state to control it. Crime can be reduced by many police, many laws, tougher sentences and more guns. But most of all, to have a low crime society without an overbearing state, you need to fashion the sort of country whose people are inclined not to commit crime in the first place. Roger Scruton made this point as brilliantly as ever in his call to "Bring Back Stigma":
"The law combats crime not by eliminating criminal schemes but by increasing the risk attached to them; stigma combats crime by creating people who have no criminal schemes in the first place. The steady replacement of stigma by law, therefore, is a key cause of the constant increase in the number and severity of crimes."
To see morality as inimical to liberty, as a threat to libertarian ambitions, is the most statist thing one can do. It is to leave the state as the only thing to pick up the pieces when society fails to function.
It is no mere joke to say that at present libertarians are those who like the liberal society but hate paying for it. Take a recent column on paedophilia in America's leading Libertarian Magazine, Reason, entitled "Sins of the Fathers". Throughout the article, the message is clear: molesting kids is wrong, but 'merely' wanting to rape them is not. The article is a rebuke aimed at all those with a moral problem with lusting after children.
"The issue is not sexual attraction; it is sexual action...
Bibliophilia means the excessive love of books. It does not mean stealing books from libraries. Pedophilia means the excessive (sexual) love of children. It does not mean having sex with them, although that is what people generally have in mind when they use the term. Because children cannot legally consent to anything, an adult using a child as a sexual object is engaging in a wrongful act. Such an act is wrongful because it entails the use of physical coercion, the threat of such coercion, or (what comes to the same thing in a relationship between an adult and a child) the abuse of the adults status as a trusted authority.
Saying that a priest who takes sexual advantage of a child entrusted to his care "suffers from pedophilia" implies that there is something wrong with his sexual functioning, just as saying that he suffers from pernicious anemia implies that there something wrong with the functioning of his hematopoietic system. If that were the issue, it would be his problem, not ours."
I believe that the dominance such people seem to have over libertarianism is a source of much of its undeserved failure. Such arguments only make libertarians sound nasty, extreme, and frankly strange. They may explain their defence of paedophilia on the grounds of a philosophical tradition of 140 years standing, but most ordinary people do not see it that way: what they see is a political movement apparently sympathetic to a pervert. Similarly, attacking the welfare state on grounds of economic efficiency is productive before some, but to the majority, it just looks like greed: not wanting to help those in need. Unless one explains morally the evils of trapping people on welfare so that each time they make an economic advance there is a corresponding benefit cut, and of creating a state which appears to remove every citizen's private duty to others, how can one show that they are wrong to put this thinking down to greed?
So morality surely reduces the need for a large state. But does accepting the importance of morality in society mean a greater role for the state in other areas? I do not believe so. Let us look at the actual aims of social conservatives like Melanie Phillips, Peter Hitchens, Ann Widdecombe, Charles Moore, John Redwood, Roger Scruton and Theodore Dalrymple. How many can you name in mainstream journalism or politics who actually want to change the law to make homosexuality illegal, for example? I do not know of any. Again, we see the reality - the social "authoritarians" are not really authoritarian. They do not want new laws to stop immorality and crime: they want free people to choose to be good themselves. They want a country where virtue is praised and vice condemned.
Ultimately, the enemy of libertarians is state control, not self-control. Morality in ordinary life removes the need for the sort of huge state that politicians have built for us since the 1930s. The more people choose to be good of their own accord, the more convincingly one can question the need for an over-mighty government to keep them in line. But until libertarians give up their crusade against any idea of decent behaviour, I do not see them succeeding.
You're assuming the state will coerce people to do "good" things. States that acquire the power to control every detail of their subjects lives rarely use the power wisely.
Cromwell's England, the Taliban, the USSR, and Saudi Arabia spring to mind as examples.
BOTH Libertarians will continue to argue that point while they BOTH loose elections.
Those who will not be ruled by God
will be ruled by tyrants.
The article is either obtuse or deliberately dishonest.
Given that they deliberately took Dr. Szasz's remarks on the nature of mental "illness" out of context to smear libertarians makes me think it is the later.
FYI, Szasz was arguing that the offending priests should have been charged with crimes rather than placed in treatments centers as they were not suffering from "illness" but were criminals.
Szasz's article is here :
So you think a large, powerful state full of evil people will be just hunky dory?
I reject the dillema.
Now there's wisdom.
I don't see how the article quoted the Libertarian out of context. He was implying that paedophilia is not an issue, only raping kids is. In fact, wanting to rape kids is immoral, and it is an issue, as the Thought for the day noted.
'You can have an immoral people, or you can have a small state, but you can't have both.'
The article was not advocating a big state and bad people: it wanted a small state and good people. Can't you see that?
The basic moral principle that needs to be inclucated is found in the Notebooks of Lazarus Long:
The correct way to punctuate a sentence that starts: "Of course it is none of my business but--" is to place a period after the word "but."
This is not a mistake made by libertarians, but rather a fraud perpetrated by authoritarians who wish to elevate their personal preferences to the stature of moral law. To take obvious historical examples, prohibiting the sale of pictures of nekked wimmen and requiring stores to close on Sunday on spurious "moral" grounds degrades the term "morality", and thus makes it more difficult to invoke the concept legitimately.
Those who do wish to advocate real moral objections to (for example) businesses tied to organized crime then find themselves with the burden of cleaning the clintonized semantic swamp gunk off the term.
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