Daily Bread for 8.23.22: A Sketch on Libertarianism

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of 82. Sunrise is 6:10 AM and sunset 7:43 PM for 13h 32m 43s of daytime.  The moon is a waning crescent with 12.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

 Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 4:30 PM.   

 On this day in 1944, Allied forces liberate Marseille.

So, in fulfillment of a promise from yesterday, and in reply to a commenter who asked recently about books and references on libertarianism: a sketch. 

Libertarians are those who believe that liberty is the critical political value: that from personal freedom for all will come a productive, diverse, and fair society. Liberty is not the only political value, but we think it’s decisive of a good society. Rather than the compulsion of the state (through mandates, taxes and tariffs, restrictions on association, and brute force) we seek a world of free and voluntary interactions (in the marketplace and in private life) of moral equals.

Here you are: individual liberty, free markets, limited & open government, and peace (though free trade with friendly nations). 

We are the inheritors and defenders of an old tradition, stretching back so many centuries, long before the term libertarian was coined (it’s a relatively recent invention). 

Voluntary transactions and associations are the natural, and often spontaneous, result of human sociability. Most people are sociable and friendly, and if it were otherwise society would have remained small and primitive. We believe people can organize well and best when they left to their own choices. The foundation of a productive (and so prosperous) society is private activity, not state action. Better still, free, voluntary interactions are fair in a way that state compulsion is not. 

Consent. As we believe in voluntary, mutual  interactions, we believe necessarily in consent in romance and relationships. Forced sexual encounters (including encounters with those who are by law too young to consent) are wrong and should be punished at law. Nonconsensual romance isn’t romance — it’s criminal assault.

Defense of Self and Others. While there are a few pacifist libertarians (there’s a Quaker Libertarian group), almost all libertarians believe in a right to defend themselves, others, and the country.  

We believe this right includes a right to bear arms, but candidly the worship of guns as a part of a new trinity is simply odd and (from the religious vantage) heretical. Have these people never read a Hebrew or Christian Bible? God, Guns, Trump is simply perverse on religious or secular grounds. 

Diversity. We, the advocates of individual liberty, are necessarily the champions of diversity: among adults there should be unfettered speech, association, romance, attire, and peaceful, consensual activities. 

The most productive and dynamic part of a society is civil society. 

That Bleeding-Heart Thing. So, some libertarians are concerned simply with the obvious problem of a bloated and overreaching of government, and their libertarianism is wholly political. For others of us, thinking of society, we are drawn to make our way in the world with an animating concern about individual well-being. Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism is the union of free-market principles and a commitment to social justice. We see and know that free markets uplift from poverty and advance prosperity better than any alternative political or economic arrangement.

And yet, and yet, we have a true concern for all people, including those who are still struggling and we seek the material advancement of all. So Bleeding-Heart Libertarians propound a fusion of free-market economics and social-justice principles. See John Tomasi, Free Market Fairness

That’s why we think about poverty, write about poverty, and complain about failure to consider poverty. We see that those in need matter as much as those of us who have done well. (A bleeding-heart libertarian would reject, and hold in contempt, the boosterism or toxic positivity that promotes only the positive while ignoring suffering.) 

 For a free society to remain free, citizens must recognize that all are moral equals: there can be no supposed superiority or inferiority by race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation. A society that does not recognize this fundamental moral equality among its members will not remain free: a falsely supposed superiority of some will lead to the oppression of others, and a herrenvolk state. 

(Consider Charles Murray, who is falsely labeled a libertarian. His recent work, Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America expounds one lie: that Blacks are inferior in significant ways. After attempting to establish as much, Murray then absurdly contends that we should all just move on with our lives. No and no again: Blacks are not inferior, and pretending that one can declare that they are without destroying their liberty is absurd. Those committed to liberty can see Murray for what he is: a soft-spoken, well-mannered, inveterate racist. There is no imagining of Dante too terrible for Murray and his ilk.) 

The LP. There’s libertarianism, and then there’s the Libertarian Party (LP). The LP has long ceased to be a means to expand liberty. Much of it is now dominated by MAGA men who have taken the name of a famous libertarian and styled themselves a caucus within that party (the ‘Von Mises’ caucus).  They’re bigots who think that free speech of any kind is an expression of libertarianism (as though one could somehow  advance the liberty of all while speaking as a racist, etc.). The free speech of the Klansman is speech, and should be free, but it is not speech in advocacy of ordered liberty

The LP once tried to find normal candidates, and was successful for a while, but those days are long past. This libertarian blogger has not been a member of the LP for many years, and will never be again.

The serious among us are Never Trump, and part of a grand coalition to preserve liberal democracy. (Liberal democracy — where liberal means preservation of individual rights within a majority-deciding democracy.) 

The Think Tanks. A few quick words — 

CATO: America’s premier, and most traditional, libertarian organization. Professional, buttoned-down, serious. There’s no institution one could find more state-of-the-art-Washington-D.C. than this. You’d want CATO to do your estate planning, and you’d catch him looking down during the consultation to see if your shoes were properly shined. 

The Reason Foundation and Reason magazine: Libertarian, but often undisciplined, too obliging of conservative donors, and its Hit & Run blog is sometimes closer to Hit-or-Miss. You might want a weekend in Manhattan with Reason, as she’d know all the best places and prove a scintillating, if sometimes unbelievable, conversation partner. If you took the mushrooms she offered you, you’d awaken the next morning with no memory of how you found yourself in a SoHo loft with a French bulldog named Jean-Claude. 

FEE (Foundation for Economic Education): Old, and struggling for relevance. Trying to get hip, but hard to be hip when about you the word hip mostly conjures notions of an orthopedic procedure.  

Niskanen Center: They were libertarian, until they weren’t, and they’re so ill-defined now they’re who knows what. 

A Million Conservative Sites: There are perhaps a million, billion, trillion (I’m not sure), conservative sites that talk about liberty (without personal responsibility), rights (without limit), hurt feelings (you can’t say that about me!), or rave about culture war issues (sexual orientation, transgendered people, immigrants).

How is it that all these supposedly big, bad conservative men of pure stock can’t control themselves?  On a trip earlier this year, I saw a wife and her children look on with embarrassment while a husband and father had a fit at an airport gate, about the mask mandate imposed at the time. There he was, having a tantrum, while they looked on, mortified. The mandate was an imposition, unlike the sensible and easy use of vaccines, but a hysterical display at the gate, to the evident shame of his own family, was a self-inflicted loss greater than the imposed mandate. (No woman should have to take a screeching gibbon to bed.)

Men like this aren’t libertarians simply because they once saw the word liberty on an alt-right website. Ordered liberty requires a recognition of others’ well-being. 

Here libertarians find themselves with a challenge similar to the conservative David French’s challenge: to reclaim the first principles of a tradition.  

 Yacht sinks off Italy’s Calabrian coast after crew and passengers rescued

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No Screeching Gibbons Allowed
6 months ago

Having reached the midpoint of an already startlingly long week, the gibbon simile was a well needed and appreciated chuckle.