So, I just put up a quick post on Menzies House that I am sure will infuriate everyone here. Indeed, if John and co don’t call me a fool for writing it I shall be most disappointed! But here it is in full. Also, I am sorry for publishing on MH first and not here – I pledge that my next libertarian-themed post shall come here fist, and I shall use MH to drive traffic to Thoughts on Freedom! 🙂 So here goes!
So! I think the time has come for me to once again alienate everyone who reads this blog, and raise the ire of conservatives and libertarians alike! 🙂
I do this for a very simple reason. Specifically, I do not think most conservatives understand just why achieving their aims through the coercive power of the state is totally counterproductive, and, more pertinently at the moment, I am rather convinced that libertarians in Australia don’t realise the importance of social conservatism to achieve their aims. Which is not only strategically to our detriment, but something that, on the random off chance of a libertarian revolution, will lead to a social catastrophe of epic proportions.
Allow me to explain. Even if we ignore the fringe elements of the now thoroughly-discredited liberaltarian movement (those people who seem to advocate rank hedonism as a necessary lifestyle choice) almost all libertarians have taken a very similar position on social matters: “You run your life how you want to, it is no business of mine as long as the state is not involved.” Which is a nice ideology in theory, but in practice, I worry that it is one that shall degenerate into total and utter failure. Because with the moral vacuum caused by the exodus of government, unless something comes in to take its place, society shall go to hell in a handbasket. In the same way that the years immediately following the collapse of communism in the USSR led to morally repugnant economic practices, I fear the same may happen in social matters if we achieve our aims, but are not careful about how we do so. Indeed, the older I get, the more I find the traditional libertarian position unsatisfactory, and somewhat of a cop-out. To deny the real problems of broken families, of drug abuse, of the consequences of actions – this is naivety at the extreme. Which is why the only possible way libertarianism can succeed in the political sphere is by combining it with social conservatism in the personal/societal one. For if we do not do so, we shall have a world without shame, a world where everything goes. And a world that shall rapidly become a nightmare.
The impetus for this post of mine was Andrew Bolt’s piece today. I quote:
But I’d like to know how she was allowed to so forget herself and her dignity—to forget why it was shameful to get drunk, smoke dope, drive too fast, abuse the helpless or leave our children far behind in our wake.
I can’t believe that she did all this forgetting by herself. Oh no, not at all.
Maybe a generation or three ago, someone like her would at least have had a priest in her ear once a week booming: remember! “Thou shalt not.’’
Now, of course, most priests find the only people who turn up on Sundays are too creaky to need tying down with sermons.
No, these days the young and frisky must get their little homilies from government advertising instead—30-second messages of don’t smoke, don’t be a bloody idiot, don’t gamble, and talk to your children.
Mr. Bolt has a point that I think far too many libertarians ignore. As a society, we need constraints and strictures on people’s behavior. Libertarians rightly believe that these should not come from the State, but most of us pay little attention to the fact that something must fill the void.
Allow me to simply sketch out one example, that of the War on Drugs. The use of the coercive power of the state to forbid people from taking drugs – quite literally at gunpoint – is, in my mind, morally reprehensible. However, no-one in their right mind could argue that a drug-fueled society is one that shall be good for all. Sure, some people can handle drugs in the way there are functioning alcoholics, but for the most part, it is a net societal ill, and the more it can be minimized, the better off we all are. Hence why social pressures are so important. If we, as libertarians, want to get the state out of legislating morality, then we must take care to prop up social structures that take its place.
I have already discussed at length how government regulation is the root cause of most things social conservatives find abhorrent, and how by reducing the size and scope of government most social conservative goals will be realised. But I really want to go further than that. I want to argue that the only way we can achieve a society free from government coercion is by buttressing the social fabric of civil society. Removing the chains of government does not mean every individual should be free to pursue every vice. Rather, it ought mean that civil society should grow up.
As such, libertarians ought not endorse drugs, ought not endorse families out of wedlock, ought not endorse rampant hedonism. Rather, they must do the opposite. They must join forces with their traditional foes – the social conservatives – and recognise that the only way to achieve their policy aims is to ensure our civil society is based on a strong social conservative ethos. Because otherwise, the Sodom and Gomorrah society that shall emerge shall quickly fail and burn.
This isn’t only something that is tactically sound, or something that will ensure greater political gains. Rather, it is the only way we will be able to get a great society to flourish.
(Cross-posted at Menzies House)