Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Libertarian dreams

Posted by Ron Coleman on September 12, 2007

Instapundit (link added):

I think, though, that Hymowitz misses something about libertarians’ cultural ideals: We can be conservative in our own lifestyles and childrearing (and many of the people she names are) without believing that it’s the government’s business to make everyone live that way. We can even think that traditional childrearing and marriage are generally a good thing without insisting on social mores that punish those who live differently. I don’t think that’s a “cultural contradiction” at all. It’s just a belief in letting people make up their own minds.

Not deciding is also a decision, Glenn. “Letting people make up their own minds” — does that mean being part of a commonwealth that “blesses” same-sex unions? How about abortion — no moral issues; the “minds” of everyone who counts being heard? How does the way you raise young children, short of cosseting them in a complete cultural remove, matter if they are exposed to relentless, gross and unapologetic obscenity, lewdness and immorality in the public square, electronic and otherwise? Can you make up your own mind to put your children to work in a factory at age six? Are they forbidden by law to pray, or even sit quietly, while within the confines of a school building — is that making up their own mind? Does every public bathroom have to be a place for intimate interactions merely because I am not literally, physically and immediately assaulted in the process?

The quality of a society is determined not only by what happens in my house, but in … the society. No, you can’t effectively coerce morality, for all practical purposes; but must the state abandon taking any moral stance on any issue? Is every public act really “free speech”? Is refusal to sanction immorality “punishment”?

Libertarianism hearkens to a state of nature that is not only mostly fantastic, but irrelevant to this society and its challenges, dysfunctions and spiritual voids. Maybe that’s exactly why it’s so popular on the Internet!


5 Responses to “Libertarian dreams”

  1. Libertarianism is alot about not meddling in other’s affairs and in turn not having yours meddled with.

  2. jaymaster said


    One bone I have to pick with many of your arguments against libertarianism is that you focus your argument against the viewpoint of the most extreme, illogical, and even wacko libertarians. Often, justifiably so. But then you offer up those beliefs as if they are the most typical, logical extensions of “mainstream” libertarian beliefs.

    But IMO, you are more accurately arguing against anarchy. And most libertarians I know would agree with you there.

    Most logical and reasonable people will agree that for societies to function, and hopefully, for the ultimate advancement of mankind, we as a people must agree to instill limits in many areas.

    Even as a libertarian (till they pry the gun from my cold, dead hand), I agree we need yellow lines on the roads, stop lights, and speed limits. And laws against murder. And limits to free speech.

    Determining and enforcing those limits is where “government” becomes a necessity.

    Ideally, “that government is best which governs least”. Not “that government is best which governs not at all.”

  3. zach. said


    I think the issue arises, though, that once you open the door to curtailing any behavior Ron would argue that it is a comfortable slope to curtailing specific behaviors he or some other small or large subset of the population disapprove of. The question is how to decide where limits get placed and where they do not, and simply saying “well there should be SOME limits.” doesn’t answer that.


    The “won’t someone PLEASE think of the children!” argument is a bit tired, in my opinion. As a parent you are never in full control over what your child is exposed to, even in a state that publicly prohibits lewdness or what have you. There are still playgrounds, etc., where boys and girls will discuss crude understandings of this and that far from the prying eyes of parents. Children are sponges and will soak up whatever you put in front of them, but as a parent you are still primarily responsible for instructing them which things they see are good and which are bad. You can control what they do and don’t see on TV, what movies they attend or don’t, which friends they can and can’t play with, etc. Fundamentally you are asking the state to be a co-parent when you make this argument, and is that really a good idea? Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to me like the current politics of massachusetts is really something most kids are going to be paying attention to. What 4 year old is eagerly awaiting CSPAN coverage?

  4. It seems to me that if your moral teachings to you children do not equip them to make up their own minds about what they encounter in society, the fault is yours not societies.

    A morality that exists only in the absense of temptation or the pressence of coercion isn’t really morality at all.

    That said, libertarianism does have a tough time dealing with the question of children, although not entirely the way that you describe. The problem libertarian has with children is how to ensure that parents take care of their kids. Since children are dependant on others and not fully rational actors it is obvious that they require support, but libertanism is incompatible with compelling that support, either form the parents themselves or society at large.

    That said, any philosophy which doesn’t have areas that are vexing in it, is probably either trivial or wholly insupportable.

  5. […] the eve of the Day of Judgment. So I’ve weighed in on the great animating spirit of the Internet — libertarianism (small L, okay?) — and […]

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