But, be that as it may, the piece is a critique of some of the more patent absurdities of market libertarian ideology as seen from the perspective of that dwindling reasonable moderate conservative mindset one hears so much about, and on whom moderate liberals apparently keep pinning their rather extravagant hopes for a pendulum swing away from the more egregious Bushite derangements of common assumptions, protocols, decencies and the like in the present day.
Here are a few choice passages, for more of which I recommend one pinch one's pug and follow the link:
The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. Prosperity is connected to freedom, in that it makes us free to consume, but it is not the same thing, in that one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon's wife. A family is in fact one of the least free things imaginable, as the emotional satisfactions of it derive from relations that we are either born into without choice or, once they are chosen, entail obligations that we cannot walk away from with ease or justice. But security, prosperity, and family are in fact the bulk of happiness for most real people and the principal issues that concern governments.
Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it. Therefore freedom, by giving us choice, supposedly embraces all other goods. But... the reduction of all goods to individual choices presupposes that all goods are individual. But some, like national security, clean air, or a healthy culture, are inherently collective. It may be possible to privatize some, but only some, and the efforts can be comically inefficient. Do you really want to trace every pollutant in the air back to the factory that emitted it and sue? ...
While it is obviously fair to let people enjoy the benefits of their wise choices and suffer the costs of their stupid ones, decent societies set limits on both these outcomes. People are allowed to become millionaires, but they are taxed. They are allowed to go broke, but they are not then forced to starve. They are deprived of the most extreme benefits of freedom in order to spare us the most extreme costs. The libertopian alternative would be perhaps a more glittering society, but also a crueler one.
Empirically, most people don't actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don't elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don't choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.
The political corollary of this is that since no electorate will support libertarianism, a libertarian government could never be achieved democratically but would have to be imposed by some kind of authoritarian state, which rather puts the lie to libertarians' claim that under any other philosophy, busybodies who claim to know what's best for other people impose their values on the rest of us....
A major reason for this is that libertarianism has a naïve view of economics that seems to have stopped paying attention to the actual history of capitalism around 1880. There is not the space here to refute simplistic laissez faire, but note for now that the second-richest nation in the world, Japan, has one of the most regulated economies, while nations in which government has essentially lost control over economic life, like Russia, are hardly economic paradises. Legitimate criticism of over-regulation does not entail going to the opposite extreme.
There's quite a bit more, but for that you should probably skip over to the piece itself. It is hard to deny the appeal of a piece that says so gracefully so many of the things I have often said myself here and elsewhere, especially since the word "libertopian" -- a personal fave as loyal readers well know -- is snarkily deployed here and there in the piece in addition to its many other virtues, but I want to shift from admiration to a more contentious point on which the author as well as some of my regular readers will likely feel that I am a bit unfair to our articulate Burkean conservatives hereabouts.
I regularly assimilate into a single pernicious movement advocates of neoconservative, social and religious conservative, and market libertarian positions.
But is that fair?
Does it lead me to ignore differences that make a difference? To miss opportunities for useful tactical alliances? To misassign blame where instead I should be extending the hand of consolation or friendship?
Shouldn't I recognize the tangled discursive nuances that bespeak the suave disavowals of kooky market libertarianism by moderate conservates like this Robert Locke, or the suave disavowals of social conservatism by secular libertarians like Joe Scarborough?
I. Think. Not.
Definitive details in both the present Bush Adminsitration's foreign and domestic policy rely for their force and intelligibility and currency on libertarian formulations and attitudes and advocacy.
I personally think that a rough and tumble version of what Robert Locke has called "street libertarianism" prevails among a considerable portion of the cultural coalition that empowered the Reagan victories in the 1980s ("Government is the problem"), the Gingrich Revolution of the 1990s ("Contract on America," birth of "Starve the Beast"), and subsequently shepherded the Bush Administration into power today ("Society for the Owners").
I say that this "street libertarianism" makes a cultural and temperamental contribution to the ongoing disastrous prevalence of "New" Republicanism in America exactly as foundational as does the fundamentalist Christianity and social conservatism (which often just amounts to scarcely stealthed straight up race hatred in any case) of the other largish cultural/temperamental constituency of these "New" Republicans.
Is it true that these constituenties scarcely make much sense as allies in a purely logical analysis? In many ways, sure enough. Is it true that there are arid abstract characterizations of "libertarianism," "neoconservatism," "fundamentalism," "social conservatism," etc. at odds with what is happening on the ground in their name? Again, sure.
But this is politics, people, and it isn't unfolding as a diorama on Mount Olympus.
Many libertarians make arguments with which I strongly agree about the current Iraqi debacle on antiwar.com, but this certainly doesn't mean that I am wrong to insist nevertheless that an important part of that very debacle is articulated definitively through the lens of precisely the kind of libertarian assumptions they themselves mobilize in arguments they make elsewhere.
Neither Focus On the Family nor the Cato Institute find in the Bush Administration a perfect incarnation of their arguments and idealizations, of course, but these institutions are equally indispensable to the emergence, maintenance, and consolidation of "New" Republican hegemony.
It doesn't matter much to me (not now, when the world is on fire and all) that the intellectuals in each institution might ardently disgaree with one another from time to time in position papers on matters of detail, might imagine they are fighting for altogether different kinds of ideal world, might disapprove of the particulars that keep eventuating from the abstractions they mobilize.
But here's a bottom line for you: Market Fundamentalists + Religious Fundamentalists = Bush Hell.
It is one thing to argue the logical merits of arguments in the abstract, another to identify the effects of arguments in the social, institutional, cultural contexts in which they bear their fruits. There are times for both kinds of discussion, but I think a focus on either to the exclusion of the other inevitably leaves you blind and vulnerable to exploitation.
I'll return to teasing at the nicer distinctions among the manifold varieties of social conservatism and market enthusiasm when it is no longer true that so many people who affirm these labels are cheerfully holding hands and destroying the goddam world I live in with the people I love.