October 19, 2008

Rambling answer to libertarian comment...

Hale Adams comments on the previous post, "The New Progressive Person"
I think you're wide of the mark, John.

The coercion in the case of gay marriage lies not in the marriage itself-- one is free to marry or not marry as one pleases. The coercion lies in teaching things to kids who aren't old enough to make sense of them.

So, the anecdote about the cute little Hispanic girl isn't an argument against gay marriage; it's an argument against government-run schools, which are often "captured" by people who really shouldn't be trusted with the power to ram things down the throats of unsuspecting children.

You've just pushed the underlying problem away, not confronted it. The message comes from a hundred directions, not just public schools. And private schools want to push the same message, at least here in SF. (Coming soon to a town near you!) Hollywood and Internet too.

In our world we have a LOT of people who want to change the world into something very different. And it's hard to discuss this because we are using different terminology. In your terms that goal is some sort of socialism. Something like the Euro-socialist welfare state. You see the growth of the state as the problem, and you are right--that's a large part of the plan. (Though notice that there no longer seems to be any worship of the state, as there was in fascist and communist regimes.No demands for sacrifice for the state.)

In my terms the goal is to free themselves of anything that the individual can feel as being bigger than the self. That's the nihilism I keep harping about. The goal is making oneself God. (I would say that gay marriage and socialism and "radical feminism" and the welfare state are exactly the same problem, in different dress. They all have the same underlying goal.)

We are allies in a vast struggle with people who are foes of libertarianism, conservatism, democracy, religion, and tradition. But their tactics are like the peddling of a dangerous and seductive addictive drug. One whose harms only show up slowly, and whose pleasures are immediate. Not like the old socialist revolutions---there's no Comintern anymore.

For want of common terms, I'll call the problem "the Drug."

Libertarianism doesn't have a good answer. Less government doesn't get rid of the problem. The front line is everywhere, not just government. Art, architecture, literature, journalism, entertainment; all are war zones. All are being churned and transformed like a WWI battlefield. The meanings of the very words we speak are being morphed, sometimes deliberately. (And recently we've seen capitalist bastions on Wall Street turn out to be Democrat strongholds!)

Actually the battleground is every person. Libertarianism says to let people choose, but the very essence of the people who do the choosing is what is being struggled over and changed. Changed by this Drug, that gives people the power "to be like gods." To be in control of themselves and others.

I'm sure most libertarians would agree that this drug should be resisted. BUT, the ideas that help fight against the drug did not come from libertarianism. You have inherited those ideas as part of the package of Western---especially Jewish and Christian---civilization.

Libertarianism piggy-backs on a great inheritance of Western ideas and virtues. And you are assuming that most people here have a good stock of those. And that therefore you can give people lots of free choice, and expect good things. But libertarianism has no answer to the problem of when those ideas themselves slip away or grow dim. I think that is happening.

To fight this insidious Drug, we can't just rely on a diminishing stock of inherited virtue. My evidence can be expressed in one word: Europe. We've been watching Europe ratchet down, down, down for the last century, at least. And to me, one of the most salient features of this decline is that, at any particular moment, people assume that ordinary European people will stay the same. They assume that the German will always be hard-working. That the Englishman's home will be his castle. That the Spaniard will be Catholic, and the Italian will have a big extended family with lots of pasta-munching bambinos. That the Frenchman will fight for La Patrie...

But all those assumptions have been WRONG. If you bet any chips on the character, the inherited ideas and culture, on the virtues, of Europeans, you've lost your bet. And this wasn't like a fight between good guys and bad guys. It was a matter of people being "hollowed out." Of virtue just draining away mysteriously.

A telling statistic: By the year 2050, 60% of Italians will not know what it is like to have a brother or a sister or an aunt or an uncle or a nephew or a niece. Italy is in demographic collapse now, and will soon be in population collapse. It is economically stagnant, and produces no exciting new ideas or inventions. But who is the "bad guy?" Who forced this upon the Italians? No one; they chose it.

What does libertarianism offer here? How does it explain this? I think you are carrying a knife to a shotgun fight. You are unarmed.

Posted by John Weidner at October 19, 2008 8:27 AM
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