Friday, January 07, 2005

More Libertarian Stuff

Before we go any further, I needed to clarify something that Sandefur just wrote on his wesbite.
As to the conservative lie—and really, that is what it is—that libertarians don’t think about society or morals and just want to have sex with dogs and so forth, it is simply designed to make people believe that good folks aren’t libertarians. But the fact is that libertarians care just as much about their families and friends and loved ones, care just as much about their neighborhoods and their children’s future, care just as much about living a good, moral life, as any conservative.
That is a terrible straw man, and a complete misrepresentation of what I have written. I do not doubt that libertarians care for their fellow human beings, nor do I believe that they actually want to have sex with dogs. The libertarian philosophy, however, permits those who do not have such grounded views to do as they wish without consequence. Or, more to the point, their philosophy does not ground others in a more ordered sense of community.

As to some of the other objections, they are bountiful and too plentiful to cover all of them, but a few quick hits. Sandefur thinks that my rejection of the Jeffersonian philosophy is a rejection of the Founders. Nothing could be further from the truth. My contention is that Jefferson is himself outside the mainstream of early American thought. Obviously Sandefur, Jaffa and others profoundly disagree, and we are unlikely to come to any common ground on this. That Jefferson is a Rousseauean (or Rousseauian, however you want to put it) thinker is I believe accurate, but unless you want me to post my entire dissertation on the web right now, it is impossible to say anything in greater detail than that we will have to agree to disagree.

One other thing. Sandefur thinks I have contradicated myself when he writes here that
Having demonstrated his complete ignorance of Thomas Jefferson’s views—except for his accurate statement that conservatism rejects those views—and having slandered Jefferson as a devotee of Rousseau, he makes a fascinating conclusion: “[T]he state, according to Babbit, should have a higher self, ‘appropriately embodied in institutions, that should set bounds to its ordinary self as expressed by the popular will at any particular moment….’” Why, how interesting. After criticizing Jefferson (baselessly) for being “Rousseauistic,” Paul endorses the concept of the General Will!

One of us is misreading this statement by Babbit because I take this to mean that the state's higher self must limit the popular will. Certainly in the context of what else Babbit wrote on the subject that interpretation makes the most sense to me. I may be guilty of using a Babbit quote out of its proper context, and for that I apologize. But believe me when I say that neither Babbit nor I endorse the general will.

There's so much more here, but I will let the reader decide. Sandefur has many fair objections, and again I may be guilty of not being as clear and concise as I desired. The Goldberg column that I posted may have put things more succinctly. And in some ways we are almost arguing about different concepts. My last post was more about Jefferson generally than about libertarianism specifically. Certainly the libertarian arguments about the dangers of governmental coercion are attractive and have much merit. My problem is somewhat more philosophical, in that I do not think that libertarians are sufficiently concerned with the consequence of their ideology and how it does not properly maintain order.

At any rate, read all that has been written and come to your own conclusions.


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