Skip to comments.The Conservative - Libertarian Schism: Freedom and Confidence
Posted on 07/31/2002 5:20:31 AM PDT by fporretto
Each abridgement of liberty has been used to justify further ones. Scholars of political systems have noted this repeatedly. The lesson is not lost on those whose agenda is total power. They perpetually strain to wedge the camel's nose into the tent, and not for the nose's sake.
Many a fine person will concede to you that "liberty is all very well in theory," follow that up with "but," and go on from there to tabulate aspects of life that, in his opinion, the voluntary actions of responsible persons interacting in freedom could never cope with. Oftentimes, free men and free markets have coped with his objections in the recent past, whether he knows it or not. You could point this out to him, provide references and footnotes, and still not overcome his resistance, for it does not depend on the specifics he cited.
His reluctance to embrace freedom is frequently based on fear, the power-monger's best friend.
Fantasist Robert Anton Wilson has written: "The State is based on threat." And so it is. After all, the State, no matter how structured, is a parasitic creature. It seizes our wealth and constrains our freedom, gives vague promises of performance in return, and then as often as not fails to deliver. No self-respecting people would tolerate such an institution if it did not regard the alternatives as worse.
The alternatives are seldom discussed in objective, unemotional terms. Sometimes they are worse, by my assessment, but why should you accept my word for it?
Let it be. The typical American, when he opts for State action over freedom, isn't acting on reasoned conviction, but on fear of a negative result. Sometimes the fear, which is frequently backed by a visceral revulsion, is so strong that no amount of counterevidence can dissolve it, including the abject failure of State action.
We've had a number of recent examples of this. To name only two prominent ones:
In either of the above cases, could we but take away the fear factor, there would be essentially no argument remaining.
Fear, like pain, can be useful. When it engenders caution, it can prolong life and preserve health. Conservatives in particular appreciate the value of caution. The conservative mindset is innately opposed to radical, destabilizing change, and history has proved such opposition to be wise.
However, a fear that nothing can dispel is a pure detriment to him who suffers it.
Generally, the antidote to fear is knowledge: logically sound arguments grounded in unshakable postulates and well buttressed by practical experience. Once one knows what brings a particular undesirable condition about, one has a chance of changing or averting it. The great challenge is to overcome fears so intense that they preclude a rational examination of the thing feared.
Where mainstream conservatives and libertarians part company is along the disjunction of their fears. The conservative tends to fear that, without State involvement in various social matters, the country and its norms would suffer unacceptably. Areas where such a fear applies include drug use, abortion, international trade, immigration, cultural matters, sexual behavior, and public deportment. The libertarian tends to fear the consequences of State involvement more greatly. He argues to the conservative that non-coercive ways of curbing the things he dislikes, ways that are free of statist hazards, should be investigated first, before turning to the police.
I call myself a libertarian, but I can't discount conservative fears in all cases -- especially where the libertarian approach to some social ill involves a major change to established ways. Radical transformations of society don't have a rosy history.
Yet conservatives, too, could be more realistic, and could show more confidence in the ideals they strive to defend. As Thomas Sowell has written in discussing the War On Drugs, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it."
The past two decades, starting roughly with Ronald Reagan's ascent to national prominence, have laid the foundations for an enduring coalition between freedom-oriented libertarian thinkers and virtue-and-stability-oriented conservative thinkers. Each side needs to learn greater confidence in the other, if we are to establish the serious exchange of ideas and reservations, free of invective and dismissive rhetoric, as an ongoing process. Such confidence must include sufficient humility to allow for respect for the other side's fears -- for an unshakable confidence in one's own rightness is nearly always misplaced. There is little to learn from those who agree with you, whereas much may be learned from those who disagree.
As far as our "right" to do drugs...well, there are no such rights. In fact, the only rights we really have are a) the right to live, and b) the right to be neither above or below the law.
We don't have a right to prostitutes, drugs, homosexual behavior, etc. The majority of society could pass a law that everyone has to wear a green hat on Fridays or be put in jail; but come Friday, EVERYONE better be wearing a green hat.
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit the Palace Of Reason: http://palaceofreason.com
Lord Acton is dead; Long live Lord Acton...www.acton.org.
No, libertarian loon, it has nothing to do with "fear" and everything to do with resisting the "socialist paradise" that already exists in the dope-tolerant nations of the world.
I knew you'd be dropping by, Kevin. You never miss a chance to slather contempt on libertarians, people who counsel a re-examination of drug prohibition, or anyone else who dares disagree with you.
So I've decided to pull off your cover, seeing that you've made it so easy.
You say your reason for opposing any relaxation of drug prohibition is that it leads to welfare socialism. If it could be demonstrated convincingly that this is not the case, would you maintain your support for drug prohibition?
Take a moment to think it over.
You see, if you answer "yes," you've just revealed to us that you've been insincere about your reasons for advocating drug prohibition. And if you answer "no," you'll have to cope with the historical facts: every welfare state in Europe predates the relatively recent major rise in drug abuse. In almost every case, the luxuriance of those welfare states has been too well established for too long to be a consequence of drug abuse.
Dr. Ron Paul, Republican Congressman from Texas, is of the opinion that drug abuse is more likely to be a result of welfarism than a cause of it. The temporal relations between the two provide his thesis more support than yours.
Have a nice day.
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit The Palace Of Reason: http://palaceofreason.com
"In either of the above cases, could we but take away the fear factor, there would be essentially no argument remaining."
The problem here is that the fears are real. Poverty and privation are real things, just as dope filled societies have also existed (and they are not happy places).
If libertarians want to be taken seriously they need to provide pragmatic solutions and not pie in the sky, utopian wet dreams.
For example, eliminating all social welfare would make far more people self-reliant, it would also certainly recreate the human tragedies described so well by Dickens and other 19th cen. writers. Are we prepared for street urchins in rags and old people cast aside like refuge? Perhaps a return to debtors prison?
Likewise w/ your WOD example. Should we willingly accept the return of opium dens and all of the miseries associated w/ that natural consequence to drug legalization?
Frankly, I find the inevitable consequences of the above sited examples unacceptable in our society.
If that makes me a socialist to some then so be it. But it is the conservatives, and by extension, the GOP that have taken the real fight to the American people. And in the real world idealism is simply not practical.
Reasonable and pragmatic solutions are welcomed. Moronic Randian rants are worthless.
And to those who would say it's the idealists that change the world I would add this qualifier; idealists w/ a plan change the world. I challenge the libertarians to present a practical plan for moving this country in the direction of liberty; short of that they have little to add.
Yeah... heaven knows we don't want to turn back all the progress that Republicans have made in that regard.
Randians love to fetishize the 19th Century version of capitalism as the "ideal". Well, first they ignore the fact that the devout Christianity of 19th century America made much of that liberty possible (when people believe God is watching, they don't need much policing), and they also ignore the completly un-Christian behavior of many industrialists that led to what they hate the most: the welfare state. Pictures of children chained to machines or working in coal mines at age 8 will sour people pretty quick on laissez-faire capitalism.
Libertarians aren't very big on reading history. For conservatives, history and Revealed Truth are the gold standard. Ask yourselves, libertarians: why do unions exist? Do you know how difficult it was to get the union movement off the ground? That it took 75 years, hundreds of thousands of people and was opposed at every turn by rich industrialists who paid Pinkerton detectives to bust heads?
Yet it still happened, big time. In the 1950's, 35% of the workforce was union. Why did it happen? Because over a long period of time, industrialists were arrogant and brutal to a hell of a lot of decent people, they didn't share their wealth with the poor (as the Lord commands), they didn't provide worker protections and safety (again, as the Lord commands to be good to your servants), and were in-your-face arrogant about it to boot.
So, guess what. We got the welfare state. I'm no fan of the welfare state, believe me. But it happened precisely because of the pursuit of an idiotic capitalist "ideal".
There is no "ideal" society, no utopia. Not in a fallen world, with fallen people.
You've got to be kidding me.
You're heading headlong into a brick wall at 90 mph, and the GOP has thrown away the break pedal...
At least the libertarians haven't "contributed" to that.
Sometimes the best you can do is a draw; perhaps you slept through the last presidential election.
The GOP is operating in the real world, trying to get real votes and have real people make real decisions. That's alot more difficult than mouthing empty platitudes that carry no responsibilities or bear no consequences.
I asked for a practical plan and I receive half-baked analogies; SOP.
Finally; a plan!(sarcasm off)
But you're not a libertarian, Fran. You admitted that on the Ann Coulter (also not a libertarian, though she was arrogant enough to try to run for office as one) Fan Club site. On that site, you wrote that you were a "freedom-loving conservative."
And I've got no problem with that. Not many of those around.
"As long as you maintain that posture, you will neither learn anything you don't already know,..."
If this is where you're going to explain to me how the federal War on Some Drugs is actually constitutional, I'm ready to learn. ;-)
"...nor influence the thinking of anyone who doesn't already agree with you."
Sort of like Ann Coulter? :-)
You, too. Hope everything's going well in the "Palace of Reason." (How close is that to the Fortress of Solitude?)
Peace, love, and alfalfa sprouts,
Mark A. Bahner
Visit (but not today, since it's still under construction!) Mark Bahner's Most Excellent Global Warming Website:http://pages.prodigy.net/mark.bahner
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