Neither a socialist nor a libertarian be

You don’t often seem something like this, an article pointing out the dead heart of libertarian philosophy by a conservative who understands the problem: How Libertarianism Makes People Susceptible To Huge Government. Title doesn’t really get there for me, but the text of the article does.

:Libertarianism has become less about a commitment to limited government and more a philosophy of autonomous individualism. The latter is an ideology that undermines the possibility of the former, in large part because it really does leave people alone.

If libertarians were actually conservatives, I would take the point. But the article makes the case that what libertarians lack is an understanding of the fundamental point made by conservatives. Libertarian philosophy is as dead as socialism while pretending to be on the other side. Let me begin by pointing out from the article that what is missing is conservative philosophy. It is the presuppositions in libertarian thought that make it so empty.

Astute libertarians (or classical liberals, for those who prefer that label) recognize that political liberty has cultural prerequisites. We are born neither free nor rational, but come into this world dependent and lacking in reason. Care and instruction are necessary for us to attain even some freedom and rationality, along with the virtues needed to exercise them well.

In essence, for a libertarian society to exist requires everyone to be born into a classical liberal society, learn their morality from an existing social structure, not be continually menaced by socialists in their midst, and then, but only then, be allowed to get on with their lives.

Only a virtuous people is capable of sustaining self-government.

The often-tenuous conservative-libertarian alliance has rested upon this truth … while remaining aware that limited government is dependent upon cultural antecedents that promote and protect the virtues required for self-government. Practical libertarianism requires strong families, churches, and communities, which provide stability, a sense of belonging, and the moral instruction that enables self-government….

Many libertarians appear to have forgotten or never learned this insight, as they now seem eager to condemn cultural conservatism as incompatible with individual autonomy. Such libertarianism is hostile to traditional forms of community, especially the family and church, which it sees as repressive and restrictive….

Today’s libertarianism allows and even encourages the destruction of the virtues and associations necessary for successful self-government.

Here is the central point.

Those of us who value liberty must not only promote virtue in the private sphere, but also wrestle with how government intervention is to promote it and how much intervention is necessary….

The paradox of libertarianism is that it depends upon cultural capital it cannot replenish.

Libertarians presuppose the continuing existence of all of the institutional structures that make our societies operate, in the same way that socialists presuppose the continuing existence of all of the necessary elements of a productive economy. A libertarian society has never been attempted, nor is it even possible, so there will never be a real-world example to demonstrate its inevitable failure. But like socialists who have seen many failures in the many attempts to set up a socialist economic structure, the end result is always the declaration that real socialism has not yet been tried. It would thus be said when the first libertarian state had broken down that a real libertarian society has never been tried. In this case, it will always remain true because it never will be tried.

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