Saturday, September 22, 2012

The American Thinker misses the point of Libertarianism

Jeremy Egerer doesn't like Libertarian thought, that's clear.  But his dislike is not conditioned by the economic arguments of the philosophy:

I have no problem with the idea of man as a logical being (although I believe he's frequently blinded by desire), nor do I find wealth and free markets offensive. . . .
What Egerer finds offensive is that Libertarian philosophy--starkly painted, as by Ludwig von Mises--has no need for God.  It allows room for God--or at least the belief in God--but it has no need for the Deity:
Mises didn't revere our Founding Fathers; he intended to establish a new form of society, antithetical to our founding principles and Christianity.
(You see, within Libertarian philosophy, God is only necessary if belief in Her is necessary for your individual happiness.)

Egerer objects to Libertarian thought because he is effectively an old-line William Buckley conservative, harkening back to the days of the late 1950s and early 1960s when Libertarians were allowed in as the junior member of the three-legged stool that supported the Republican Party:  traditionalism, cold-warrior-ism, and libertarianism.

Conservatives liked Libertarianism only for what it said about fiscal conservatism and limited government, and they intended to use traditionalism (which was really a covert term for the Judeo-Christian tradition) to provide the moral bounds that government wouldn't, couldn't, or shouldn't.

Egerer is most self-revealing when he talks about the appeal to patriotism, which is, to him, the appeal to war:
One may of course say that men, living under a libertarian government, aren't necessarily bound to fight simply for the reasons the government says they fight; we say they can fight in the name of family, or friends, or even in the name of God.  But subjectivity is a poor banner under which to die, a foundation comprising anything but the meaningful.  
This misses the point that "under a libertarian government" men would not be asked to fight except in direct defense of their country or their homes.  The fact that this would make a truly Libertarian society more peaceful and less oppressive to its own citizenry and other nations is lost on him.

But it is chiefly Mises' atheism that appalls Egerer.  He is either unwilling or unable to accept the idea that a society not based on God-given morality is pointless:
Unalienable rights require a specific Deity.  And while I wouldn't for one second infer that the state must form its own religion, religious principles are the foundation for any meaningful system of law, a common discernment between what is right and what seems right, regardless of whether or not what's right is pleasurable.
So because Libertarianism as a political philosophy does not require God, it is empty and meaningless:
What am I to make of Mises and libertarianism, or that ideology's adherents?  In the end, though I find them destructive to Western civilization, I pity them.  They seek civilization in earthly pleasure, and meaning in meaninglessness.  I have a destiny, have a God, have glory, have unalienable rights and The Law, have incorruptible joy -- and should Pleasure ever stand between these and me, then with the Almighty's help, She will know where Her dominion ends.  Take your stand where you may; I cannot but with my whole heart reject libertarianism.
Unfortunately, aside from his confusion of Libertarianism with a rejection of religion by individual Libertarians, Egerer also mistakes the point of the philosophy's insistence on human happiness as a worthwhile goal of society--willfully conflating "happiness" with "pleasure," a common misreading that converts Libertarians into hedonists.

If religion and your belief in God provides you with happiness and personal fulfillment, Mises insists (and Egerer rejects), then that's OK.  But the person who finds happiness in completing fine woodwork, or drinking good liquor, or in collecting ladies' garters has no less a claim within society to the right to pursue that happiness.

This is the point that Thomas Jefferson makes in the Declaration of Independence:  "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"--and the point that Egerer so completely misses.

1 comment:

Dana Garrett said...

Egerer sounds like a theocrat–lite. The business about unalienable rights requiring a diety is preposterous and has been rendered problematical ever since Socrates asked, "Does God will it because it's good or is it good because God wills it."