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Response To Francis Porretto And The Classic Liberal

My posting yesterday, The Righteous Rant Of The Day, in which I made some negative comments about, specifically, those libertarians who joined sides with homosexuals in California to overturn Proposition 8 and, generally, about the flaws of libertarian thinking, have evoked strong [and, in the first instance, scathing] responses from Francis Porretto of Eternity Road and my good Friend In The Ether, Mike Todd of The Classical Liberal.  I have decided to respond to both in a separate posting — hence, why the following exists.

First off, here are their comments in full…

-Francis Porretto

“Unlike true conservatives who are not ideologues, libertarians are subscribers to a theory and system of thinking.”

Which only proves that you know nothing about libertarians. We’re no more uniform in our convictions than “orthodox” conservatives.

You might know just as little about ideology. An ideologue need not have a philosophically unified set of views. He merely has to exalt his views, whatever they are, above the evidence for and against them. Many conservatives are absolutely doctrinaire about how to handle matters that history has proved, quite conclusively, should be approached in a different way.

Try educating yourself a trifle, before you embarrass yourself again — and, incidentally, alienate the best allies “orthodox” conservatives have at this time.

Just a trifle, mind you. I don’t want to ask too much of someone who’s found an agreeable scapegoat.

-Mike Todd of The Classic Liberal:

Bob my friend, Francis is right.

The conservative movement seems to be completing its transfiguration into another version of the left. Partisan politics is one thing, but when you invent definitions of other people with no basis in reality, it’s embarrassing.

It seems the conservative movement advocates nothing anymore. Freedom? Nope. Tear down the Leviathan? Nope. Just hate Democrats, Muslims, and anyone else who gets in the way … and cheerlead the Republican Ruling Class who spreads welfare, warfare, and burns the Constitution.

Libertarians are the genuine torch keeper’s of our Founder’s liberalism. Conservatives are relatively new to the scene, only about 60 years old. It has helped grow the state every bit as much as the Democrats too. Not once has it beat it back. You may say otherwise, but the proof is in the pudding.

I lose faith in the movement more each day. As I peruse the web, I realize I’m not the only one either. Then I stop by a site of someone I respect and consider a friend, and he’s spewing lies about libertarians? And thinks he’s accomplishing something?

And btw on marriage … What right does the state have to get involved in marriage to begin with? Must the state regulate even the realm of God? Conservatives have become the Israelites who demanded a king. God was not pleased.

[the Read More code was originally inserted here]

1) FP wrote:

“Unlike true conservatives who are not ideologues, libertarians are subscribers to a theory and system of thinking.”

Which only proves that you know nothing about libertarians. We’re no more uniform in our convictions than “orthodox” conservatives.

My bona fides: I do know a few things about libertarians considering my brother has been one since the mid-1970’s. From that time until the mid-1980’s he worked on various Libertarian Party campaigns here in the Nor’East, and I helped him on a few [and it was only a few because (1) I had become disenchanted with the political process and (2) I was actively trying to succeed in the music business]. I seriously flirted with libertarianism in the early to mid-1980’s, and not just the Objectivist version.  I maintained subscriptions to Reason and Liberty for many years.

I never claimed that libertarians were uniform in their convictions — that would be a foolish thing to do as all philosophies are multi-flavored. The phrase I used [emphasis mine] ‘John is fed up with those libertarians who seem….’, clearly shows this. There is quite a variety of them. I agree fully with the following written by Russell Kirk:

First, a number of the men and women who accept the label “libertarian!’ are not actually ideological libertarians at all, but simply conservatives under another name. These are people who perceive in the growth of the monolithic state, especially during the past half century, a grim menace to ordered liberty; and of course they are quite right. They wish to emphasize their attachment to personal and civic freedom by employing this 20th century word derived from liberty. With them I have little quarrel – except that by so denominating themselves, they seem to countenance a crowd of political fantastics who “license they mean, when they cry liberty.”

Descendants of Classical Liberals. For if a man believes in an enduring moral order, the Constitution of the United States, established American way of life, and a free economy – why, actually he is a conservative, even if he labors under an imperfect understanding of the general terms of politics. …Libertarians of this description usually are intellectual descendants of the old “classical liberals”; they make common cause with regular conservatives against the menace of democratic despotism and economic collectivism. [BB: Hello, Mike Todd]

Second, the libertarians generally – both the folk of whom I have just approved, and also the ideological libertarians – try to exert some check upon vainglorious foreign policy. They do not believe that the United States should station garrisons throughout the world; no more do I; in some respects, the more moderate among them have the understanding of foreign policy that the elder Robert Taft represented [BB: Hello again, Mr. Todd]. Others among them, however, seem to labor under the illusion that communist ideology can be dissipated by trade agreements – a notion really fatuous. I lack time to labor this point here; I mean to take it up again in my autumn lecture on the neoconservatives, who in foreign policy tend toward an opposite extreme. Let it suffice for the present for me to declare that so far as the libertarians set their faces against a policy of American domination worldwide – why, I am with them. I part with them when they forget that the American government nowadays, in Burke’s phrase of two centuries ago, is “combating an armed doctrine,” not merely a national adversary.

Perils of Centralization. Third, most of the libertarians believe in the humane scale: they vehemently oppose what my old friend Wilhelm Roepke called “the cult of the colossal.” They take up the cause of the self-reliant individual, the voluntary association, the just rewards of personal achievement. They know the perils of political centralization. In an age when many folks are ready – nay, eager – to exchange their independence for “entitlements,” the libertarians exhort us to stand on our own feet, manfully.

The term ‘libertarian’, as we use it in America, is as, Mr. Kirk, says a 20th Century invention [it, however, was originally a way of describing a form of anarchism (see here)].

I am against those who embrace any ideology, including conservatives who misunderstand what being a conservative is — hence my use of the term [emphasis mine] ‘true conservatives’ [more on this in (2) below].

Mr. Porretto: you have allowed yourself to be believe that what some conservatives advocate and do represents what all conservatives believe.  Hmm…it’s as if you believe we conservatives are all ’uniform in our convictions’…interesting.

2) FP wrote:

You might know just as little about ideology. An ideologue need not have a philosophically unified set of views. He merely has to exalt his views, whatever they are, above the evidence for and against them. Many conservatives are absolutely doctrinaire about how to handle matters that history has proved, quite conclusively, should be approached in a different way.

I never said that an ideologue must have a ‘unified set of views’.  In fact, I never spoke to this idea at all.  What I wrote was:

Ideology inevitably leads to taking ideas to their logical conclusions outside of reality because ideas are laboratory experiments.

I abhor ideology.  As Russell Kirk wrote:

…conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.

I am that conservative — I do not subscribe to any -ist or -ism.  Mr. Kirk again:

…The typical conservative in this country believes that there exists an enduring moral order. He knows that order and justice and freedom are the products of a long and often painful social experience, and that they must be protected from abstract radical assaults. He defends custom, habit, tested institutions that have functioned well. He says that the great virtue in politics is prudence: judging any public measure by its long-run consequences. He is attached to a society of diversity and opportunity, and he is suspicious of any ideology that would rule us by a single abstract principle, whether that principle is “equality” or “liberty” or “social justice” or “national greatness.” He recognizes that human nature and society cannot be perfected: politics remains the art of the possible. He adheres to private property and free economic enterprise; he is aware that decent government, repressing violence and fraud, is necessary for the survival of a health economy.

To be an ideologue is to believe in ideas crafted in the laboratory of the brain over ideas forged in real world experience, over time.  An ideologue seeks to graft the abstract onto the concrete, while the true conservative works within the art of the possible.  As Mr. Kirk said: ‘Conservatives do not believe that man and society may be perfected through revolutionary politics – the conviction that lies at the heart of every ideology.’  To be an ideologue is to ultimately desire the tearing down of the existing order and the re-engineering of the society.  As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote:

Ideology — that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors….

Prudence is the guiding rule of the non-ideologue.

Those conservatives who are doctrinaire* are ideologues and betray the philosophy they claim to honor.

What many libertarians think of as ‘practical’ are, in fact, fantastical.  This is the curse of the ideologue: they are so wrapped up in the world they’ve engineered in the laboratory of their brains that they lose empathy with the real world and start to think their abstracts are, in fact, practical.

John Doe was clearly speaking of those kinds of libertarians who advocate the greatest amount of license be given to individuals in society.  These radical ideologues want to grant such wide-ranging liberties without giving a damn about the consequences to the maintaining of the society.  They are near-anarchists — a few short steps away from advocating the abolition of government.  Government is a necessary evil.  As James Madison wrote:

…If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

3) FP continues with:

Try educating yourself a trifle, before you embarrass yourself again — and, incidentally, alienate the best allies “orthodox” conservatives have at this time.

Just what exactly FP do you mean by ‘”orthodox” conservative’?  Is this an attempt to use a word that is associated in a lot of minds with rigid? 

As to allies, sir: since I started my blog in late April of 2008, I have fought to bring about an alliance between these two sections of the Right.  And what did I get for my efforts?  Scorn from some conservatives on one side and the same from some libertarians on the other.  In their scorns, these people refused to listen to my appeals that we must put aside our differences and fight the real threat [the Left] and hurled calumnies at me.  So, I gave up on 10 June on this year:

…I’ve also gotten a few responses from folks on both sides who say that the differences are too great. I understand their concerns. They know the threat the Left poses, but they believe that any fight against them must also involve a fight against forces on the Right that are, as they see it, aiding and abetting the Progressives.

The role of peacemaker does not suit me — I’m not very good at it. I think I function better as an agitator.

I hope I have made no enemies among my many Friends In The Ether.

I have said my piece.

I would ask only that you mark my words.

I will not be bringing up the subject again at TCOTS.

I will fight no more forever.

Fight each other while the Left laughs and gains more power.  I curse those on both sides who act in this way.

4) FP concludes:

Just a trifle, mind you. I don’t want to ask too much of someone who’s found an agreeable scapegoat.

Yup, from all I have written since April of 2008 [all of which is available here and at thecampofthesaints.com], it’s rather obvious that I really enjoy scapegoating all types of libertarians everywhere, at every opportunity….oh, yeah it’s what I live for.  Perhaps you should be the one who does a little research before you embarrass yourself again.

5) Mike writes:

The conservative movement seems to be completing its transfiguration into another version of the left. Partisan politics is one thing, but when you invent definitions of other people with no basis in reality, it’s embarrassing.

It seems the conservative movement advocates nothing anymore. Freedom? Nope. Tear down the Leviathan? Nope. Just hate Democrats, Muslims, and anyone else who gets in the way … and cheerlead the Republican Ruling Class who spreads welfare, warfare, and burns the Constitution.

You paint with an awfully broad brush.  Are the TEA Partiers who identify themselves as conservatives, the majority of the Rightosphere, self-identified conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Jonah Goldberg, Stacy McCain, Michelle Malkin, et. al.,  morphing into Progressives?  The conservative movement includes all of these people.  Who in the Conservative Movement but squishes like Newt Gingrich, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, David Frum, et. al., are cheering on the Republican Establishment?  Haven’t the vast, vast majority of us been calling for the throwing out of the bums within the GOP as well as the Democrats in power? 

6) Mike continues:

Libertarians are the genuine torch keeper’s of our Founder’s liberalism. Conservatives are relatively new to the scene, only about 60 years old. It has helped grow the state every bit as much as the Democrats too. Not once has it beat it back. You may say otherwise, but the proof is in the pudding.

Some conservative Founding Fathers: George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, Paul Revere.  The Right as a whole are the torch bearers of The Founding.  I think you’re speaking of what used to be called the ‘New Right’ that emerged after in the late ’60′s/early ’70′s.  I will grant that a decent number of the New Right were ideologues, but I would also refer you my comments on them in (1) and (2) above.

7) Mike concludes:

And btw on marriage … What right does the state have to get involved in marriage to begin with? Must the state regulate even the realm of God? Conservatives have become the Israelites who demanded a king. God was not pleased.

This is an issue I will be covering in another posting, hopefully, in the hear future, but let me just state this: the promotion of marriage has always been the concern of the state because (1) it promotes civilizing behavior and (2) it supports stability in society.  It is one of The Permanent Things.

____________________________________________________________
* OED: ‘seeking to apply a theory or doctrine in all circumstances without regard to practical considerations; theoretical and impractical’

[Originally published on 07 August 2010 at 0111]

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