[ExI] Libertarianism isn't the problem---Libertarians are

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Apr 5 01:35:40 UTC 2009

I'm as much a conservative as a libertarian. Here is why:

Few libertarians fully appreciate how difficult it is
for a civilization to rise to the point that freedom
of speech, freedom of the press, the legal right to
peacefully assemble, and the legal right to say anything
that one pleases are at all possible.

Yes, I mean *possible*---capable of being instituted
at all.

It tooks many hundreds of years, chiefly in England
and the American colonies, but throughout much of
western Europe for the necessary preconditions to

Even the finest libertarians that I know, e.g. Rafal S.,
seem to think that the exalted liberties we so celebrate
on this list and thousands like it can operate in a
vacuum. Put these people down in Tokagawa Japan, Hammerabi's
Babylon, or Cicero's Rome, and they'd instantly try to
persuade the ruler or rules of the incomparable virtues
of libertarianism. Of course, any ruler foolish enough
to listen to them would be instantly deposed.
(This actually was Cicero's mistake: he didn't realize
that the ancient Rome he loved was already dead, and
that the Republican values he cherished were not any
longer feasible. He should have supported Caesar, a
good dictator, rather than oppose him.)

Even today we have many areas, e.g. most parts of Africa,
all of Russia, inner cities in America, and so on, which
have not yet risen culturally to the level where real
liberty is possible. Yes, I mean *possible*.

To people living in inner cities, for example, it feels
like there is a power vacuum, and only the advent of the
local gangs fills that vacuum and restores some kind of
order. In those locales, the American constitutional
order feels weak and hardly present at all.

Other countries, like Iraq and Turkey, are clearly borderline
cases that could go either way with regards as to whether
they're ready. We don't know if Iraqis can survive as a
democracy---and the smart, cynical money is doubtful.

The flaw is not in libertarianism, but in naive libertarians
who believe that the principles of liberty can unthinkingly
be applied in all its glorious abstract terms regardless of
context. So in many cases, they end up reflexively supporting
policies that in the long run simply cut their own throats.

And my throat too, unfortunately.


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