An Interesting Discussion

Political IdeologiesImage via WikipediaI posted a little blurb yesterday about Libertarianism and why I rejected that political ideology several years ago after exploring it and even voting for a Libertarian presidential candidate.

Since then a conversation has developed with a new visitor to my blog who is a Libertarian (although I'm still puzzling out exactly what type of the many) and has been defending its tenets in the comments.

As I've been reading some criticisms of this political philosophy over the past few hours, I ran across an article by Robert Locke originally published in The American Conservative.

The article lays out why Libertarianism as a political philosophy is deeply flawed and error ridden. Yes, I know it will be hard to read to anything written in that publication but much like a bitter dose of cough syrup this will do you good. (Please ignore the usual moralistic arguments of the Right about regulating who can have sex, when and how.)

The article is interesting because Libertarians are actually among the most right wing and take pride in calling themselves the "true Conservatives."

Anyway, here's an excerpt from the article by Robert Locke title Marxism of the Right:

Libertarian naïveté extends to politics. They often confuse the absence of government impingement upon freedom with freedom as such. But without a sufficiently strong state, individual freedom falls prey to other more powerful individuals. A weak state and a freedom-respecting state are not the same thing, as shown by many a chaotic Third-World tyranny.

And is society really wrong to protect people against the negative consequences of some of their free choices? While it is obviously fair to let people enjoy the benefits of their wise choices and suffer the costs of their stupid ones, decent societies set limits on both these outcomes. People are allowed to become millionaires, but they are taxed. They are allowed to go broke, but they are not then forced to starve. They are deprived of the most extreme benefits of freedom in order to spare us the most extreme costs. The libertopian alternative would be perhaps a more glittering society, but also a crueler one.

This contempt for self-restraint is emblematic of a deeper problem: libertarianism has a lot to say about freedom but little about learning to handle it. Freedom without judgment is dangerous at best, useless at worst. Yet libertarianism is philosophically incapable of evolving a theory of how to use freedom well because of its root dogma that all free choices are equal, which it cannot abandon except at the cost of admitting that there are other goods than freedom. Conservatives should know better.

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