Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Wages Of Libertarianism: Huge Government

Harking back to our posts regarding Patrick Deneen's critique of Classical Liberalism (Libertarianism), Nathanael Blake has an excellent article at The Federalist this morning. Blake points out the seeming paradox that Libertarianism leads to exactly the same results as overt Socialism: Not just Big Government but HUGE Government. The reason for this--as Deneen and others point out--lies in the shared philosophical roots of Liberalism and Socialism. Both derive from the philosophical or ideological agnosticism of modernity which argues that, even if there really is such a thing as Human Nature, it's unknowable to us and, therefore, should not enter into practical moral decisions. We should, as Anthony Kennedy would have it--as channeled by Antonin Scalia--each be free to define for ourselves "the sweet mystery of life":

In the 1992 opinion Kennedy included what the editors of First Things dubbed the “notorious ‘mystery passage’”: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” You’d search in vain to find a more apt description of our secular age. It’s not as though Kennedy invented our culture of expressive individualism. No one would fault him for introducing our “age of authenticity,” to borrow a phrase from philosopher Charles Taylor. 
But Kennedy gave language to this age’s turn to self as ultimate authority. And then he codified that authority at the nation’s highest legal level through his interpretation of the Constitution. Without the “right to define one’s own concept of existence” and “the mystery of human life” we would not still today have the legal right to deny existence to babies in their mothers’ wombs. We would not have the right to deny these helpless children, our very offspring, their own chance to define the mystery of human life. Abortion is the fruit of a culture that cannot live for or even imagine anything meaningful beyond the self. Abortion is the cost we pay to ensure the self will not be encumbered by the consequences of its choices. Abortion is the reason Kennedy’s retirement triggered apocalyptic predictions from the gatekeepers of this self-centered morality. 
Kennedy’s “notorious mystery passage” would re-emerge in another age-defining Court decision. Writing for the 6-3 majority in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas, Kennedy once again returned to what fellow Justice Antonin Scalia denounced as the “famed sweet-mystery-of-life passage” that “ate the rule of law.” 

Scalia was absolutely correct about this. Kennedy's doctrinaire, philosophy-for-idiots, version of Libertarianism "ate the rule of law," trumping all other considerations of legal and political principle.

Americans seem to have an instinctive aversion to philosophy--or so many claim. But philosophy is one of those things that everyone has, even if they deny it--the denial is itself a philosophical position. The default philosophical position for most Americans--of both Right and Left--is a muddled Libertarianism. What that means is that most Americans find it difficult to argue against the likes of Anthony Kennedy and his "sweet mystery of life" view of the Constitution. We feel constrained, willy nilly, to opt for "tolerance", even when tolerance leads to intolerable results.

That is exactly the slippery slope that leads to the seeming paradox that Libertarianism--the supposed ideology of individual liberty--in fact leads to results that are inimical to human dignity and true individual freedom. Here are some excerpts. I of course urge everyone to read the entire article--there is much left out of these excerpts:

In the end, the freedom to abandon family, faith, and community is the freedom to be insecure, insignificant, and alone before the Leviathan of government.

David Marcus, The Federalist’s New York correspondent, recently tweeted that he can’t make up his mind about whether he fears “the socialists or the libertarians more.” ... 
Astute libertarians (or classical liberals, for those who prefer that label) recognize that political liberty has cultural prerequisites. We are born neither free nor rational, but come into this world dependent and lacking in reason. Care and instruction are necessary for us to attain even some freedom and rationality, along with the virtues needed to exercise them well. As wise Americans proclaimed since the founding of our nation, only a virtuous people is capable of sustaining self-government.
The often-tenuous conservative-libertarian alliance has rested upon this truth, with conservatives recognizing the potential for large, unrestrained government to corrode a healthy culture, and libertarians aware that limited government is dependent upon cultural antecedents that promote and protect the virtues required for self-government. Practical libertarianism requires strong families, churches, and communities, which provide stability, a sense of belonging, and the moral instruction that enables self-government. 
Many libertarians appear to have forgotten or never learned this insight, as they now seem eager to condemn cultural conservatism as incompatible with individual autonomy. Such libertarianism is hostile to traditional forms of community, especially the family and church, which it sees as repressive and restrictive. 
For example, libertarian advocacy for legalizing drugs and prostitution seems to arise less from the prudential belief that suppressing these vices causes more harm than good than from a philosophical commitment to maximizing individual autonomy. But hard drugs and prostitution are degrading, and they lessen the human capacity for responsible self-government. In these and many other ways, today’s libertarianism allows and even encourages the destruction of the virtues and associations necessary for successful self-government. 
The paradox of libertarianism is that it depends upon cultural capital it cannot replenish. This is why John Locke’s social contract theory begins with independent adults who reason like well-trained British barristers, even though the state of nature could not produce such individuals. ...
The libertarian challenge is ... to cultivate people capable of sustaining self-government, a task that is complicated by libertarianism’s official indifference to family formation, moral instruction, drug use, and other social factors essential to the development of citizens capable of flourishing in a libertarian regime. 
Thus, libertarianism corrodes family, faith, and community through economic and social pressures. An uprooted, insecure workforce might suit the interests of Wall Street (at least in the short term), but it is poison to a culture that aims to produce people capable of self-government. Economic insecurity depresses family formation and stresses existing families. It destroys communities. The economic effects of libertarianism really are to leave people alone. 
This makes them receptive to big government. The crucial insight of Robert Nisbet’s classic book “The Quest for Community” is that individualism and big government are allies in the destruction of intermediate forms of community and authority. ... 
... In the end, the freedom to abandon family, faith, and community is the freedom to be insecure, insignificant, and alone before the Leviathan of government.


  1. It is utterly crucial for Blake to stress that
    "Astute libertarians... recognize that political liberty has cultural prerequisites. We are BORN NEITHER free nor rational, but come into this world dependent, and lacking in reason. Care and instruction are necessary" to produce virtuous people "capable of sustaining self-government".
    As I understand the Framers, they had no trouble seeing this.

    Whereas, Koch Bros. "libertarian advocacy, for legalizing drugs and prostitution, seems to arise less from the PRUDENTIAL belief that suppressing these vices causes more harm than good, than from a philosophical commitment to maximizing individual autonomy.

    As I understand Burke, the Framers, etc., they saw tradition, not as THE standard for virtue, but as (often quite) INSTRUMENTAL in the determination of virtue.

    I'd hold my nose on prostitution etc. (for libertarians' "prudential" reasons), in exchange for their support, vs. UNFETTERED single motherhood and no-fault divorce (the latter of which has become every bit as much a catastrophe, as was predicted by Allan Bloom).

    It ought to have been obvious, that the power to raise kids is, not a right, but a privilege, to be dispensed judiciously to (only) those judged fit to shoulder such a major responsibility, by LOCAL authorities.
    Those empowered to make such judgements should be those closest to the LOCAL conditions, e.g. civic or religious institutions.

    I'm quite with Nisbet, on it being so tragic, that the Right let Dan Quayle hang out to dry on Murphy Brown, preferring to concentrate on tax cuts, abortion, and prayer in school.
    And, as per Bloom, on the disasters of Womens' and Black Studies.

    1. "the power to raise kids is, not a right, but a privilege, to be dispensed judiciously to (only) those judged fit to shoulder such a major responsibility, by LOCAL authorities."

      What could possibly go wrong with that?

    2. What could possibly go wrong? Not much, provided that the authorities' power was in turn scrutinized by other local authorities (esp. the extended family).
      My aim is for religious etc. institutions to be able to demand that 1) those begetting kids STAY married, at least until the kids grow into self-sustaining adults, and 2) if the parents need to put the kids on the Dole, representatives of those paying the freight (e.g. clergy) have the right to closely supervise the rearing of the kids.

      Contrast the above, with today's menagerie of babyMomma partying it up in a taxpayer-subsidized pad, where she can bring in a different Stud every night (thus giving him a good crack at her kids), with no scrutiny, let alone veto, from those footing the bill.

      But, if you see another way to prevent such disasters, I'll be all ears.

    3. So how have societies managed this in the past without such authoritarian and intrusive and unworkable controls?

    4. I don't see these controls to be, by historical standards, authoritarian and intrusive and unworkable.
      But, if you have time to explain why you use those words here, that would be cool.
      As I understand it, the nuclear family in a bungalow is a quite recent phenomenon.
      Before that, most marriages were effectively arranged by the patriarch (+ matriarch), usually in major consultation with clergy, tribal chieftains, or other local authorities.

      I fear that today's Righties, when they talk about local power, give short shrift to the extended family/ tribe, which so often did so much to help social stability.
      It probably helped, that most folks grew up, in Hoods comprised mostly of folks of similar ethnic/ religious backgrounds.
      But then came along outfits like the Commie Party, and IBM, with their quasi-totalitarian push to put The Organization above everything.

      Plus, absence of today's high-tech, impulsiveness-glorifying audio-visual media, was making families' job rather easier. (Google "two girls, one cup", for a glimpse of today's gargantuan degeneracy.)

    5. Sorry, Mouse…I don’t want to live in that Local Authority world. We have to be judged to be fit parents by Local Authorities? And who are they, and who chooses them? What are the criteria to be Local Authorities?

      Sounds like a bloody nightmare to me.

      Read the Blake piece or read it again. There are other resources that have guided the good people throughout time. The Libertarians, in running hell bent from any kind of authority have ended up with only their so-called autonomy. But is anyone really totally autonomous?

    6. Presumably Soros would fund candidates for the Local Authority.

    7. Bebe, please recall my words above:
      "most marriages were effectively arranged by the patriarch (+ matriarch), usually in major CONSULTation with clergy, tribal chieftains, or other local authorities."
      I don't see anything nightmarish about that.

      Perhaps I should have emphasized the FAMILY patriarch (+ matriarch). I understand it to have involved grandpa, auntie, older siblings, etc., probably heavily coached by local clergy.

      "is anyone really totally autonomous?"
      They damn well better not be, if they will be unleashing their little monsters into the world.
      If they want to indulge themselves in Autonomous Bliss, let them get their Authority High by teaching or coaching kids, w/ in institutions where their conduct is under withering scrutiny.

    8. It quite seems that I'm not really understood here.
      I'm not proposing any new Local Authority, just a re-invigoration of traditional structures, esp. the extended family.

      Back in the day, the word "eloping" referred to conscious striving, to evade the traditional influence of Elders.
      Nowadays, it seems, the vast majority of U.S. marriages are equivalent to eloping.

  2. I'll bet rather major coin, that a disproportionate number of today's Awoken brats came from broken homes.
    But, since Quayle was left to twist, using that last phrase has become so very outre.

    1. "I'll bet rather major coin, that a disproportionate number of today's Awoken brats came from broken homes."

      You might lose that bet.

    2. I'd be quite interested in your view, as to which demographic factor you see as being a better predictor.

    3. Given that the most reliable demographic for liberals is well educated white suburban women, I don't think the rate of broken families would be disproportionate to the rest of the population. In fact, the rate of broken families is quite high among the deplorables.

    4. I suspect, that the spike in the rate of broken families among the deplorables, is rather recent.
      Whereas, so I understand, the rate among "well educated" white suburbanites, and urbanites, has been growing for generations.

      After all, this demographic is the one that has been eating up the idea that they could Have It All.
      It figured, that eventually this rot would seep down into the deplorables.

    5. Mouse, I’m not clear as to what your concept of the Deplorables is… The ones I know - the ones who were the very first to support Donald J. Trump when some thought that was something to be whispered - were the most educated middle-class, upper middle-class and outright wealthy whom I know. Along with a struggling young mother who had been a flaming Liberal, yet switched to Republican and Donald J. Trump in 2016, and actively supported him. So, I don’t see the pigeon-holing of Deplorables as one demographic, just one narrow slot. Rather, I see them as those who were fed up with a bunch of forever politicians, many who had not done anything else in their lives but occupy chairs in government offices across the country and in D.C., and who lived for their perqs and not much else. And were in love with their power to control our lives. Drunk on it.

      The Deplorables cover a far broader range that most believe. Among the ones I know are doctors, a dentist, a manager in a large corporation, a retired school teacher, an owner of an international import/export company. Many of them actually live in California and are working to make a difference here while dodging slings and arrows from other Americans. If Trump is reelected and we dump Gavin Newsom and his cronies, we all win..

  3. Bebe, I can well believe that, in CA, Trump voters may well be much like the ones you describe.
    It was Mark who brought them up, contrasting them with well educated white suburban women, regarding no-fault divorce.
    When Hillary talked about Deplorables, she was taken to be talking about, not well educated white suburban women, but about the sort of Archie Bunker - style (urban or small town) working stiffs, who put in over the top in MI, PA, & WI.
    I'll bet that CA has long been famous for its divorce rate, compared to rust-belt states.

    1. The polling pretty consistently shows that college educated skews Dem, and the better educated divorce less. Fact. I'm not saying they're better people by any means, just offering demographic facts.

      If you don't believe me, believe Baylor U:

      Evangelicals Have Higher-than-average Divorce Rates

    2. Thanx for the link.
      It doesn't refute my larger point, that rust-belt Archie Bunker - type deplorables (White Catholics) divorce less.
      And, I'll still bet, that Awoken Ones are more likely to be kids of suburban "educated" feminist divorcees, than of still-married Bunker types.

    3. Anecdotally, from relatives in Northern VA, the suburban liberals are young married women who think transitioning their kids is cool.

  4. Yeah, N. VA is a gov't cesspool, and, so I hear, it's dragging the whole state into hell.

  5. On broader issues about Conservatism Inc. (allied w/ individual autonomy Libertarianism) vs. it's anti-SJW foes, see some gripping essays, at, , and ("Failure Analysis: Alt-Right").