Monday, January 03, 2005


The libertarian blog Liberty and Power is at the moment in the throes of debating (generally sympathetically) an article by Lew Rockwell which calls for libertarians to cosy up to the Left because American conservatives have become "Fascist". In a way Rockwell is correct. ALL modern Western governments have more in common with Mussolini's Fascist state than they do with (say) Lord Salisbury's British government of around 100 years ago. Governments in all the Anglosphere countries are far more intrusive and dominant today than they once were. And the dictatorial "political correctness" movement seems mainly to emanate from government-funded institutions too, particularly the judiciary and the universities. So there is every reason for libertarians to be dissatisfied with that. Lots of conservatives are dissatisfied with it too.

But the amusing thing is that the libertarians on L&P and elsewhere seem to think that have found a way of doing something about it. Rockwell and his ilk think that the Left would notice if the libertarians were to "ally" themselves more with the Left. But why should the Left care? They already have Chomsky and Michael Moore to feed them all the catnip they want. Why would they take more than passing notice of a handful of irascible libertarians? The sad truth about libertarianism is that NOBODY WANTS IT. It is not an accident that the U.S. Libertarian party gets only about 1% in national elections. Human beings are tribal and tribes always have some sort of government. And handing over responsibility for lots of things to somebody else is NOT stupid. It is in fact just one aspect of that great human trick of division of labour. Division of labour means that you specialize in just one thing and somebody else has to do all the rest. Only some lower animals do everything for themselves. So people don't WANT to make all their own decisions. They want somebody else to look after everything outside their own sphere of activity -- and an elected government is readily handed all those unwanted responsibilities. As a libertarian myself, I wish all that were not true but it is.

So what is a libertarian to do? It depends on your priorities. Libertarians have always opposed conservatives on issues of sexual morality and Leftists on issues of economic regulation so libertarians have always had to make a choice if they wish to do more than spend all their time talking to one-another. As I see it, however, the battle against restrictive sexual morality has been won long ago. Many good Christian people still advocate it but the percentage of the population who still practice (say) pre-marital chastity would have to be tiny. And among young Republicans in particular sexual freedom is simply modern -- not something particularly Rightist or Leftist. So issues of sexual morality ought not to decide anybody's allegiances these days.

Which leaves issues of economic management and foreign policy. Hard-line libertarians like Rockwell are furiously anti-war on ideological grounds -- because they believe that only governments can make war and they are against governments. What individuals by themselves could do about it if the Islamic nutjobs were to get hold of a few nukes and detonate them in America's big cities they do not say. GWB's strategy may not be perfect but knocking over a couple of Islamic regimes that were pillars of support for Islamic terrorism certainly seems better to me than sitting at home and hoping for the best. The Left are advocating that but Leftist interest in reality has always been small. For them too ideology is all that matters. So it seems to me that any libertarians living in the real world would be doing what they can to help the GOP -- and one way of doing that effectively would be to get inside the GOP and nudge it more and more in the direction of the free-market thinking that has long been its greatest strength. The two major political parties that characterize the Anglosphere are always of necessity centrist parties so NOBODY -- not even libertarians -- can hope to have more than marginal influence on actual policy. But GWB's various tariffs on steel, shrimp etc show that there is still plenty of need in the GOP for free-market advocacy. And it is free market prosperity that makes so much else possible.


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