Notes From Babel

If Libertarianism Is the Young Man’s Ideology, Liberaltarianism Is the Young Confused Man’s Ideology

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Timothy Lee can’t see the link between conservatism and libertarianism.  Observing that conservatism is said to revolve around protecting individual liberty, Lee remarks:

This seems completely wrong to me.  Conservatives care about “protecting individual liberty” for some people, but the conservative movement includes many people who are indifferent, if not hostile, to the liberty of foreigners, immigrants, drug users, gays and lesbians, women who want abortions, broadcasters, sex workers, criminal defendants, Muslims, publishers of pornography, atheists, and so forth.

I have to note initially that “women who want abortions” is an odd description for a group of people—particularly for a group of people supposedly drawing the ire of an entire ideology. What makes Lee think that conservatives are so full of rude energy over any of these groups that they’ve rewired their entire concept of “liberty” in order to take them down a peg or two?

It sort of makes the point on its own:  obviously, conservatives don’t have a list of people who deserve less liberty than everyone else.  Why is Lee making this personal?  If conservatives think the acts of prostitution or drug use or abortion are wrong and should be illegal, this doesn’t mean they want to “deprive” anyone of a “liberty” interest.  It simply means that conservatives don’t believe that these activities are properly described as “liberties,” because there is no rightful claim to engage in the acts in the first place. Libertarians obviously tend to have a broader definition of liberty than conservatives.  But this is a somewhat narrow scope of disagreement.

The fact is, Lee and so-called “liberaltarians” are wrong to suggest that libertarians have no more in common with conservatives than with liberals.  Libertarians and conservatives have sharp differences in their concepts of liberty, but they do believe in the central importance of liberty as an end in itself. Progressives, on the other hand, regard liberty as a means rather than an end, as something to be subjugated and subverted as needed in order to achieve some form of social enlightenment.  And modern liberalism, by the way, is really just rebranded progressivism, having hijacked the word “liberal” in a violent outburst of irony.

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