26 June 2015

Libertarianism Redux

I'm in the midst of a move so this post will be a bit more lighthearted than most.

H/T to Jordan Ballor who posted a link to a wonderful piece by Russell Kirk,  Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians. You can read the whole thing for yourself--it's only eight pages--here.

I've previously posted about the the foibles of libertarianism and why I'm not one. Sadly, I lack the rhetorical skills of Russell Kirk so I'll let him speak for himself.

While I'm not sure about the accuracy of this observation, I couldn't let it pass:
With respect to libertarian eccentricity, the dream of an absolute private freedom is one of those visions that issue from between the gates of ivory; and the disorder that they would thrust upon society is already displayed in the moral disorder of their private affairs. [Omitting delightful but scurrilous assertion about the sexual orientation of libertarians.] In politics as in private life, they demand what nature cannot afford.
More to the point: Why are out-and-out libertarians forever in want of political success?
The libertarians are rejected because they are metaphysically mad. Lunacy repels, and political lunacy especially. I do not mean they are dangerous: nay, they are repellant merely. They do not endanger our country and our civilization, because they are few, and seem likely to become fewer. [Not much of a prophet was Kirk.] ... There exists no peril that American public policies will be affected in any substantial degree by libertarian arguments; or that a candidate of the tiny Libertarian Party ever will be elected to any public office of significance: the good old causes of Bimetallism, Single Tax, or Prohibition enjoy a more hopeful prospect of success in the closing years of this [twentieth] century than do the programs of libertarianism.
A couple of thoughts. First, the metaphysical madness of libertarianism is matched by its anthropological vacuity. Without an credible account of human nature, there is no particular reason to valorize liberty. Natural rights without natural law are little more than exhortations.

Second, and somewhat more dispassionately than Kirk I hope, few living libertarians fit the ideal type sketched in his article. Most politically engaged libertarians like Randy Barnett are virtue ethicists of a sort. So too George Mason professor Todd Zywicki. The foundational resources for the virtues in a consistent libertarian system may seem few but I am thankful that libertarians, like the rest of us, are only inconsistently consistent.

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