TCS Daily

Hayek and Fusionism

By Edward Feser - February 16, 2007 12:00 AM

"Fusionism" is the attempt to combine libertarianism and conservatism into a unified political philosophy and program. It has been controversial ever since Frank Meyer first defended it half a century ago, and every electoral cycle seems to generate another round of debate over the question of whether fusionism is possible or desirable. The discussion occasioned by Brink Lindsey's suggestion that the Republican electoral defeat in 2006 should lead libertarians to reconsider their alliance with conservatives is the most recent example. Most of this discussion has focused on questions of practical feasibility - the stuff of policy analysis, opinion polls, interest group politics, and spin doctoring. But the deeper, long-standing question is whether fusionism represents a coherent philosophical position in the first place. Does it?

Many think the obvious answer is no. Libertarians want to maximize individual freedom, including the freedom to do many things traditionally regarded as immoral - using recreational drugs, watching pornography, engaging in extramarital sex, and so forth. Conservatives want to uphold traditional morality. So aren't they unavoidably at cross purposes? The standard fusionist retort is that there need be no conflict here as long as what libertarians insist on is only the legal right to do the things in question. If they allow that such behaviors might nevertheless be morally wrong, the conservative can in principle endorse the libertarian program. Indeed, the conservative should endorse it, according to fusionists. For virtue, they say, is only virtue if it is freely chosen. Hence, while vigorously promoting a return to traditional moral standards through persuasion and private initiative, conservatives should, so the argument goes, join hands with libertarians in opposing the use of governmental coercion to do so.

Fusionism, natural law, and individual rights

But as it stands, this particular defense of fusionism is superficial. (I say this as someone who used to endorse it.) For one thing, some influential arguments for libertarianism do not simply imply that behaviors of the sort mentioned ought to be made legal, while allowing the possibility that they are immoral. For example, libertarians who ground their position in moral contractarianism hold that we can be morally obliged to follow only those rules that would be agreed to by all rationally self-interested persons. But not all such persons would agree to rules against drug use, pornography, extramarital sex, etc. It follows, on this view, that such things cannot be regarded even as immoral, much less made illegal. Hence some (though not necessarily all) libertarians motivated by this sort of moral theory are not satisfied merely to legalize the behaviors in question; they want a society in which the traditional moral objections to those behaviors are, while legally tolerated, considered no more respectable or worthy of attention than arguments for creationism or racial segregation. Obviously, conservatives cannot endorse such a program for consigning their views to a cultural ghetto.

Of course, other libertarians would base their view on a doctrine of individual rights deriving from natural law rather than human contract. Here there might seem to be a greater harmony of libertarian and conservative interests, for natural law is an eminently conservative notion. But appearances are deceiving. On the classical sort of natural law theory deriving from thinkers like Thomas Aquinas - the kind often appealed to in support of traditional morality - rights are grounded in moral duties. What I have a right to do is just whatever I am obliged to do under natural law, or to what is a necessary prerequisite of performing my obligations. That is the reason rights exist at all - they are safeguards of our ability to fulfill the natural law and flourish as the kinds of beings we are. Hence there can be no such thing as a right to do wrong; the very idea is incoherent. Yet that is exactly what libertarians claim we have - they say, for example, that a person has, all things being equal, a moral right to inject heroin into his veins even if it would be immoral for him to exercise this right. From a classical natural law point of view, this is just muddleheaded. There may well be reasons for government to tolerate certain immoral activities - classical natural law thinkers do not necessarily endorse paternalism, and in fact are often wary of it - but rights per se can have nothing to do with the matter.

Why then do some libertarians claim that natural law supports their view? Some no doubt assume that since John Locke was both a natural law theorist and an influence on libertarians like Robert Nozick, natural law must support libertarianism. But Locke himself was not a "libertarian" as that term is generally understood, and his version of natural law, while very different from the sort that traces its lineage back to Aquinas, hardly leads in a libertarian direction. For Locke, our rights are grounded in God's ownership of us. Strictly speaking, to say that each human being has a right to his life, liberty, and property is just shorthand for saying that we have a duty not to kill, enslave, or steal from others because to do so would be to damage what belongs to God. But by the same token, we have no right to do what is harmful to ourselves either, for this too would damage God's property - hence Locke's explicit denial that we have any right to commit suicide. No libertarian could plausibly make a Lockean case, then, for drug legalization, physician-assisted suicide, or any other such practice on the grounds that it only harms the one doing it.

Other libertarians would appeal to a conception of "natural law" that makes no reference either to God (as Locke does) or to an unchanging metaphysical human essence (as followers of Aquinas do). Instead, it holds only that there are certain empirical facts about the human condition that we ought to keep in mind in our moral and political decision making, "natural laws" about human biology, psychology, and social organization analogous to the laws of nature uncovered by physical science. But this rather banal claim really has nothing particularly to do with natural law theory as it has historically been understood; it is certainly not what Aquinas and other medieval thinkers meant by "natural law." (See here for an explanation of what they did mean.) And for that reason it could hardly be appealed to by a fusionist in support of the claim that there is a harmony between libertarianism and conservatism insofar as they both rest on "natural law" theories; for the similarity between the theories is in this case purely verbal.

It should also be noted that the fusionist's "virtue must be freely chosen" mantra, while surely containing an element of truth, hardly constitutes a complete moral psychology. Certainly it will not do, all by itself, as an argument for fusionism. As traditional moralists have always maintained, while some virtues are best acquired by struggling against one's impulses, others can be almost impossible to acquire if the impulses against which one must struggle in order to achieve them become sufficiently strong. And they are bound to become very strong indeed when one's social environment is veritably filled with temptations to follow them. Chastity - the virtue of restraining one's sexual appetites so that their indulgence is confined to their proper sphere (which for traditional moralists means marriage) - is the most obvious example. Someone continuously exposed to sexual imagery and the like is far less likely to develop sensibilities about sex conducive to wanting to develop chastity, and less likely to have the willpower to maintain this virtue even if he does want to develop it, than is someone whose environment is relatively free of such imagery. Hence conservatives' worries about the highly sexualized character of contemporary popular culture, especially youth culture. It is hardly possible for very many freely to choose virtue when the surrounding culture denies that it is virtue at all, and heaps ridicule on those who dare to disagree.

Nor need one be a conservative to have analogous concerns. Liberals argue that an ethnically and culturally homogeneous society is one in which it is very difficult for people to develop proper moral sensibilities and habits of behavior with respect to people of different races and cultures. Many libertarians would seem to agree with this, insofar as they often defend capitalist society on the grounds that, by fostering individualism and commercial interaction with people of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, it best promotes cosmopolitanism and tolerance. In doing so, they implicitly acknowledge the force of the traditionalist worry that virtue can only be "freely chosen" if the context of choice is one in which virtue can realistically be presented as a live option. They (or at least the more socially liberal among them) differ with traditionalists only over what counts as "virtue," not on the point that certain virtues are only possible on a large scale if the social context is conducive to their development. But then, if legal means might in principle determine whether a social context is conducive to virtue, such means cannot be ruled out merely on the grounds that "virtue must be freely chosen." For the question isn't whether one should be free to choose for or against virtue; the question is whether one's choice should be an inordinately difficult one to make.

Enter Hayek

The concepts of natural law and individual rights thus seem a dubious foundation on which to construct a fusionist political philosophy; for libertarians and conservatives often simply differ too radically over the grounds and content of rights and natural law. They differ also over what would count as a society that promotes the free choice of virtue. But there is another and more hopeful basis on which the fusionist might make his case, namely the social and political philosophy of a thinker very widely admired by conservatives and libertarians alike: F. A. Hayek.

As it happens, Hayek rejected both the "conservative" and "libertarian" labels; he preferred to call himself a "Burkean Whig." But then, Burke was the father of modern conservatism, and the Whigs were the classical liberal ancestors of contemporary libertarians. So while there are certainly versions of conservatism and libertarianism Hayek would not have endorsed, his own self-description seems to indicate a commitment to fusionism of a sort.

More substantively, Hayek was the preeminent twentieth-century champion of the free market so beloved by libertarians, and made central to his later work a Burkean defense of tradition as a repository of social and moral wisdom. Nor is this combination accidental, for the two themes are deeply intertwined in his work. The foundation of Hayek's thought is an emphasis on the severe limitations on human knowledge, especially where human social institutions and other complex phenomena are concerned. For Hayek, even the knowledge we do have is dispersed and fragmented, directly available only to scattered individuals rather than to society at large, its governmental representatives, or would-be social-scientific experts; and much of it is embodied in practice, habit, and "know how" which it is impossible to convey in explicit propositional form. The economic implication of this is that central planning of the socialist kind is impossible, for no would-be planner could have the knowledge requisite to doing the job. Only prices generated in a capitalist economy can encapsulate the scattered and otherwise ungatherable information needed for rational economic activity, and individuals responding to price signals in the marketplace ensure the most efficient allocation of resources as is practically possible. But there are moral and social implications as well. For tradition, in Hayek's view, plays a role similar to that of the price system, embodying the inchoate moral insights of millions of individuals scattered across countless generations, and sensitive to far more information than is available to any individual reformer or revolutionary. The radical moral innovator, who falsely assumes he can design from scratch new institutions superior to existing ones, suffers from a hubris analogous to that inherent in socialism.

Obviously all of this calls for further development and qualification, but it is clear enough that Hayek's thought has a decidedly fusionist tenor. The combination of free market economics and moral traditionalism is, in Hayek's system, no shotgun wedding; both components flow organically from the same theory of knowledge. The common criticism of fusionism to the effect that it is a sheer artifice concocted for purposes of political expediency, and can have no coherent philosophical rationale, is thus without foundation. The very existence of Hayek's philosophy proves otherwise.

But this is not the end of the story; and though practical politics is not the whole of the matter, it is part of it. While there is a clear sense in which Hayek's position has both "libertarian" and "conservative" elements, there is also a real question whether it can be either libertarian or conservative enough for most real world libertarians and conservatives. If not, then Hayek's brand of fusionism will have little attractiveness beyond the circles of Hayekian intellectuals - hardly a constituency large enough to sustain a coherent ongoing political alliance.

Why might there be a worry here? Consider first the potential difficulties for libertarians. As I have noted elsewhere, Hayek's traditionalism led him in his later years to an ever more explicit advocacy of "stricter observance of rules of sexual morality," of placing "limits" on "tolerance" of those who deviate from a community's moral standards, and of upholding "mystical and religious beliefs," especially "the main monotheistic ones," as a means of shoring up traditional moral norms. To be sure, he did not say that legal measures ought to be taken to further these ends. At the same time, there is nothing in his system of thought that entails the decriminalization of so-called "victimless crimes" like drug use and prostitution. A laissez faire attitude toward questions of personal morality was no more a part of Hayek's agenda than it was a part of Locke's, or Adam Smith's for that matter. Indeed, Hayek explicitly repudiated laissez faire even in the economic realm. He called for a social safety net for those unable to support themselves in the market economy, and had no objection to government regulation of business within certain limits. If Hayek was a libertarian, his libertarianism was hardly very radical.

As all of this indicates, Hayek's differences with contemporary libertarians were not confined to matters of policy. There is also a difference in ethos. The market utopianism, assertive lifestyle individualism, and celebration of consumerism that one finds in certain segments of the libertarian movement find no echo in Hayek. He believed that human beings are and always would be hardwired to long for a deeper sense of meaning, solidarity, and common purpose than modern commercial society allows for. For this reason, he thought, like Marx, that capitalism produces alienation. Unlike Marx, he also thought that we nevertheless simply had no alternative to capitalism if we wished to generate enough wealth to sustain the population levels characteristic of the modern world. This is a far cry from the optimistic hope of many libertarians that high technology, ever-increasing consumer choice, and moral autonomy will suffice to maximize human happiness.

Many conservatives are also bound to find much in Hayek that sits poorly with their own commitments. Though he did not consider the individualism of modern society an unmixed blessing, he did, as I have indicated, believe that we are in any event stuck with it, and it is hard to square this acquiescence with the more organic and communal conception of society championed by traditional conservatism. Divorced from such a conception, Hayek's attempt to shore up traditional morality is bound to seem, from a conservative point of view, an exercise in futility.

Moreover, though Hayek defended traditional religious belief on grounds of its social utility, he was personally agnostic. Nor is this merely an incidental biographical point. As we have seen, Hayek's entire system rests on a general agnosticism: a conviction that we simply have too little knowledge of things to be able to do much more where moral and social institutions are concerned than tinker with whatever tradition has delivered to us. This went hand-in-hand in his thought with a subjectivist view of the nature of value. While Hayek thought certain values were favored by tradition over others, he did not think this reflected any objective and unchanging metaphysical order. It was simply the way things had happened to work out given the contingent facts of biological and cultural evolution. There is, in Hayek's view, no cosmic purpose being worked out in human affairs. As he put it in The Fatal Conceit, "life has no purpose but itself." It is hard to see how one could oppose all of this with any confidence while accepting Hayek's moral, philosophical, and religious agnosticism.

But of course, a great many conservatives would oppose it, and precisely because they maintain that we can have far more in the way of metaphysical, moral, and religious knowledge than Hayek imagines. From the perspective of what I have elsewhere called "Realist Conservatism" - the view (represented, for example, by the classical natural law theory mentioned above) that traditional morality rests on a set of objective metaphysical truths knowable through reason - Hayek's epistemological pessimism is simply philosophically unwarranted. Lifestyle libertarians implicitly believe the same thing, insofar as they are quite confident that they know enough about the functions of long-standing social institutions safely to be able to alter them radically, as their defense of "same-sex marriage" illustrates.

Neither conservatives nor libertarians generally agree completely with Hayek's austere conception of human knowledge, then. But that is the foundation of his entire system; more to the point, it underlies the fusionist element in his thought. Nor is it only Hayek's premises which many conservatives and libertarians would reject. They are bound to find his ultimate conclusions troubling as well. For the moral and social vision Hayek seems to have reached by the end of his life is roughly this: Capitalist society frustrates our deepest longings, but we are stuck with it because it best supports large populations. Traditional moral rules concerning property and the family also frustrate individual desires, but should be rigidly enforced anyway because they keep capitalist society stable. Traditional religious beliefs are probably false, but they too should be supported because they are a bulwark of traditional morality. Ultimately, life has no purpose but to produce more life. That capitalism and traditional moral and religious beliefs together fulfill this end better than any alternative is the main consideration in their favor.

This has, shall we say, its defects from a marketing point of view. For many libertarians, Hayek can only come across as a killjoy; for many conservatives, as a nihilist. If mutual acceptance of his philosophy in its entirety is the only basis on which a fusionist marriage could work, most libertarians and conservatives would opt for divorce.

And yet in fact Hayek is, as I have said, very widely admired by both libertarians and conservatives, and for good reason. His critique of socialism as an economic and political system is utterly devastating. His defense of the free market is as original, penetrating, and compelling as any that has been given. Among twentieth-century political thinkers, he is rarely matched, and never surpassed, in the depth and breadth of his vision. He had wise and interesting things to say, not only where economics and politics are concerned, but also in fields as diverse as law, philosophy, cognitive science, and the history of ideas. He was almost certainly the most consequential thinker of the mainstream Right in the twentieth century, and possibly the most consequential political thinker of that century, of any ideological stripe, period. (For those readers who might be interested, the contributors to my recent anthology The Cambridge Companion to Hayek explore the various aspects of Hayek's thought in depth.)

Whatever one's ultimate judgment of his philosophy, Hayek must be taken seriously. But would-be fusionists in particular have reason to consider his thought, and to ask themselves how much of it they can accept. A lasting marriage between libertarians and conservatives based upon it seems unlikely. But it may not be possible on any other basis either.

Edward Feser is editor of The Cambridge Companion to Hayek and author of the forthcoming Locke. His book Philosophy of Mind has just been released in a revised edition. He is a regular contributor to the blog Right Reason.



Jetblue Alienation
Here's where conservatives and libertarians can't fuse: What to do about Jetblue?

You've heard the moral outrage about the trapped-on-a-plane-for-ten-hours Jetblue incident? What should be "our" response? For conservatives, government ought to intervene by punishing Jetblue and legislating virtue for all airlines, e.g. a "Passenger Bill of Rights". For Libertarians, simply don't fly Jetblue anymore.

Core assumptions about the proper role of government and the true extent and utility of government power produce the different responses to Jetblue between Conservatives and Libertarians. And these core assumptions flow out of ideals and beliefs about the universe that are usually dangerously untrue.

Conservatives imagine an ideal universe peopled by human beings who themselves embody the ideals of traditional virtue in thought and deed. This ideal, virtuous folk then congresses to produce a virtuous society lovingly watched over and guided by a paternalistic state, who gently but firmly nudges those who step out of line back into line, thereby conserving both society's and the wayward individual's virtue.

Is this kind of ideal actually possible? Does government have enough power of the right sort, enough valid and true information whenever and wherever it's needed, to match problem with solution at every pass? And do our politicians themselves possess the virtues necessary to ensure that the solutions to problems don't become asymmetrical with the problems, thereby creating more problems? Of course not.

Libertarians are worse in some ways. While arguing that individuals and polities can't help but cozen themselves into believing in ideal universes that can't exist, and worse, endowing government with the moral license and power to try (and invariably fail) and actualize them, Libertarians won't admit their own ideal universe's flaws, namely, that everyone is virtuous enough to pay the costs of his own freedom and will resist the temptation to rent-seek to get others to pay their bills.

So although Conservatives preach limited government but don't actually believe in it, rather believing in a paternalistic government empowered to restore and maintain traditional virtue to society and individuals, Libertarians believe in limited government while denying it can exist without a society to whom traditional virtue has been restored. And this paradox is where fusion fails; for the only thing that alienates people from their universe is the belief that is as it ought to be.

PS: Natrual Law as a Critique of Power
Christianity's core message, as appropriately laid out in the first three chapters of Genesis, is that man doesn't possess the power to transcend his own nature on his own steam. But, because man is made in God's image, he simply can't take his eyes off of the prize - to be godlike, to transcend the physical and psychological limitations that bind him to the nature he despises yet cannot escape.

It is this conflict raging in man that drives him to seek either God or power, to embrace God's will and embark on the only available path to becoming godlike, or to impose one's will on others and the material universe to refashion all according to some ideal that inevitably falls into awful conflict with the universe as it is.

On to natural law. First, the law is force, that is, it is power, and therein lies its fatal disutility. Now, traditional natural law theories such as Aquinas' assumed that laws must reflect man's nature as it would be if man were already godlike, that is, as if human nature had already transcended its own physical and psychological limitations such that all men by nature already knew and were already capable of doing God's will. But of course this can't be so; why else does each individual need to believe, to repent, to seek God through Christ, and to strive to walk in Christ's footprints? Indeed, why is this so darn difficult if by nature everyone is already capable of it?

Hence, the fatal flaw in Aquinas' and all other natural law theories is this: The law and through it justice are but a measuring line of what man ought to be but isn't, and not a standard endowed with its own power. (Isaiah 28:17) This means that the laws God has given man provide man a test, a metric, to determine whether he is on the only path to becoming godlike that God has allowed him the power to negotiate. And the source of that power? Through faith and through honestly and humbly seeking God through Christ, the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean for you non-Christians? Simply this: A secular natural law theory must be one that criticizes power in human hands. Therefore, because man is by nature fatally flawed and this universe does not allow man to undo what's already been done, man must withhold from himself a portion of the power of law, namely, that power to declare some men superior or inferior to others, thereby justifying imposing legal burdens on some to benefit others with legal rights and entitlements. Simply put, all men must be equal before the law if any man is to find refuge from it.

Feser's brief is inadequate on many counts
Feser, of course, shows his erudition as usual but he very selectively uses history (i.e. cheery picks) to guide the reader to his particular conclusions. He essentially takes snapshots of historical thinkers instead of looking at their viewpoints as part of a process that has broadened and deepened the concept of liberty.

First of all, he starts his discussion of national law/rights with Aquinas. A real discussion would start with the Stoic philosophers of Greece and Rome – in particular Cicero, who the founding father read and cherished. He continues with Aquinas and Locke (but skips Hugo Grotius), mentions Nozick but completely leaves out Ayn Rand. Rand is one of the most influential writers on individual rights in the 20th century.

Feser’s biggest error is his failure to organize virtue by hierarchy. Liberty is a virtue as are the sub-virtues that one cultivates with one’s liberty: prudence, wisdom, self-control, and courage (i.e. the classical cardinal virtues.) However, once one specifies liberty as a right one can no longer constrain, by law, the sub-virtues. They must be left to the individual to achieve on his own.

Feser’s failure stems form a complete lack of understanding of the centrality of human reason as man’s tool of survival. Liberty isn’t a nicety; it is a necessity if one wants to respect man’s capacity to initiate rational thought and behavior to further his life. For the full explanation, read Rand.

The differences between conservatives and libertarians on social issues are minor compared to the agreement on economics and national defense. Once again, priorities (i.e. hierarchy) dictate joining force for the future of our nation.

rent seeking
I have never met a libertarian who assumed that people would not rent seek.
What we do say is that the solution to rent seeking is not more govt regulation.

Correction: liberty is not a virtue, it is a value.

Liberty is a value that demands and requires the cultivation of the primary virtue of rationality. Other virtues must be subordinate. For example, discipline is desirable but if one must submit to authority to insure discipline one negates a primary virtue (independent judgment) for a secondary virtue (discipline.) One can argue the same point with a host of virtues: honesty, integrity, self-reliance, self-responsibility, continence, prudence, etc.

The original point remains valid: once one protects the right of an individual to freely use their own judgment to think and act for themselves (as long as they respect other’s right to do the same), one can’t mandate the sub-virtues. They must be left to the individual to achieve on his own. One’s sole recourse is to apply reason and rhetoric to convince others of the value of virtue.

Fusionism founders on its own idealism
It's a grand idea-- and one holding out a promise to cure the demographic dilemma of the Libertarians (no votes). But I'm afraid it's doomed to failure. There is a fundamental antithesis between the two persuasions.

Libs want to shrink government, so that people rely on their own wits and personal virtues to create wealth. The Tendency With No Name (one can't really call it conservatism any more) gives voice to this sentiment, but only because it gets them votes. What they really do, once in power, is to use the organs of government to make their money for them-- so they don't have to rely on fickle market mechanisms for their daily bread. Call this trend Corporate Socialism.

Corn-based ethanol is the perfect example. ADM spends quite a lot of money buying people in Congress to extend special status to them. As a result, every gallon of corn ethanol produced costs taxpayers something like eight dollars before it's even sold at the pump.

(Don't just ask me for a reference. Please do your own research on this and form your own conclusions. You wouldn't believe me anyway.)

If you'd like to see an interesting article on the MICC (the military industrial congressional complex) from the very respectable, check this out:

Higgs is just telling us what folks on the left have been saying for years. Our endless wars are a game that justifies massive and perpetual government spending. Government itself has become the consumer of choice, as it pays more handsomely than do the lowly wage earners.

How can one really expect there to ever be a sincere rapport between such people and libertarians? A far more natural ally would be with voters on the left. They have natural and deep seated tendencies to be anti-government (forget the dinosaur dookey about leftists loving the government dole-- it's propaganda designed to befuddle you). And they are nothing if not libertarian in their social values. Live and let live, with no intrusion into people's private lives is their credo.

So if you want to co-opt about thirty million votes, merge left. Merging right brings you to the altar all right-- but with a philandering groom.

Feser and Confusionism
I admire the tapdancing and the handwaving, but the contradiction remains: if your basic political belief is to have the state step out and the market rule, having the state enforce quasi-religious prohibitions against all kinds of private individual behavior doesn't compute. Libertarians may make alliances of convenience with religious fundamentalists and other 'traditional values' types (and indeed have to, because their beliefs are utterly unsaleable to the electorate), but the contradictions remain.

Libertarian Jet Blue
How many government regulations does Jet Blue work under?

All airlines are subject to a wide variety of regulations.

One reason people may be kept on a plane longer than required is for flight cancellation statistics. If they return to the gate and put everyon off, the flight must be cancelled and a whole new set of regulations apply.

So a real libertarian response would encompass much more than 'don't fly JetBlue'.

Eliminate the regulations which make in more economical for Jet Blue to hold their customers hostage than be responsive to their needs.

Don't forget those trying to cash in on AGW.
(Don't just ask me for a reference. Please do your own research on this and form your own conclusions. You wouldn't believe me anyway.)

"voters on the left. They have natural and deep seated tendencies to be anti-government "
What a hoot!

Here are some words that may refresh your recollection: wiretap. habeas corpus. torture
Or perhaps you don't think those are government activities.

Stealing profits are government activities

"I want to take those profits and put them into an alternative energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy alternatives that will actually begin to move us toward the direction of independence.",2933,250060,00.html

Separation of Law and Morality
There's a slightly different formulation that would allow an alliance of libertarian and conservative ideology but it's going to have Feser's "marketing problems" as well.

In complexity theory jargon, Hayek is arguing that tradition is a self-organized critical system. Such systems tend to be very robust and responsive to outside perturbations--as long as you leave them alone. Hayek then argues that the way to leave tradition alone is to rigorously enforce traditional mores.

The fuzzy area comes with the means of enforcement. Are they legal or are they cultural? If you use legal strictures on behavior, you tamper with the self-organized criticality because you restrict the ability of your traditions to migrate to new states in response to changing conditions. Eventually, the encumbrances render the society incapable of response to changing conditions. In biology, the technical term for this is "death."

On the other hand, true cultural enforcement of mores is a dicey proposition, too. It involves social ostracism, exculusion from economic opportunity, denial of social services, coercion, and violence--villagers with torches and pitchforks storming Frankenstein's castle. Cultural enforcement like this produces grudgingly diverse, not-very-tolerant societies. We should consider, however, that societies like this might turn out to be more flexible than ones with legislated mores.

So there's a balance here somewhere. Both libertarians and conservatives can agree that freedom is essential for any type of societal health. But for an alliance between the two ideologies to work, conservatives need to give up on legal enforcement of mores and libertarians need to understand that freedom also means the freedom for all of your neighbors to be intolerant to just short of the point where life, liberty, and property are endangered.

In short, a compromise--something's that's in short supply these days.

And this is a bad idea why?
And why do you find it more objectionable than spying or telling people what they can do in the bedrooms, or telling women what their doctors can and cannot do?

Why are there so few Libertarians?
Because liberty requires discipline. Because it requires thinking beyond instantly gratifying circular reasoning, such as: "A few rich people have a lot of of money while a lot of poor people have a little money, so let's take money from the rich people and give it to the poor people - that'll even everything out!"

Why won't this work? Libertarians know because we think beyond the next step to the next step, and then the next one beyond. This is why there's so few of us.

How to beat this? Keep it simple: Don't fly Jetblue.

Why is there even debate on this issue?
The essence of the left is government control of our lives. Imagine a day in the world of the left:

Because of open space laws, the Endangered Species Act and zoning ordinances, you cannot wake up in your own home. Instead, you wake up in government-owned, government-subsidized housing. Thanks to rent controls, the building is decrepit and falling apart. The graffiti has not been painted over for months and the landlord is about to flee the state so he can stop losing money by building homes in your city.

Your showers run weak and cold thanks to restrictions on the amount of water you can use and requirements for energy efficiency in your water heater. Make sure that you abort your children, or marry somebody of the same sex so that you don't have multiple people splitting the four minutes of hot water. After all, we need to stop global warming. As for the the new toilets, it is a better idea to use your backyard than to try to flush anything down one of those.

When you eat breakfast, watch what food you eat. Some of the foods that the government has banned for your own good will include: Soda (sugar and empty calories,) potato chips or hash browns (acrylamide,) or cheap meat (after all, killing animals is wrong and raising them in factory farms is unsanitary and smelly.) Furthermore, expect to pay plenty for whatever you eat. The pesticides, insecticides and fertilizer that farmers need to produce reasonable quantities of food have all been banned. Don't even mention GM crops (Frankenfood!!!!!) Thankfully, the libs have also banned these foods in government-run schools, to ensure that our children (assuming you failed to abort them,) only eat organically grown tofu.

When you drive to work, you can hop in to your electric car and speed along at 25 mph. Of course, your briefcase will have to be strapped to the roof, because of the reduced interior space, and don't crash: The plastic frame will probably crumple like a cardboard box.

Once you arrive, you will be very lucky if you stil have a job. After all, now that the government has mandated health care, daycare, elder care, time-off for every concievable purpose and vacation, employing you is an expensive prospect. Get ready to empty your own trash and clean your own floor as well, since the minimum wage has made it impossible to employ a janitor. Assuming you make it to the end of the day with your job intact, the union will take your fees directly from your paycheck, Social Security and Medicare will take other large chunks, and the IRS will withold 70-80% of what is left.

The radio on this wonderful day will not feature any Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly, or any other opinion programs that deal with politics. The re-enactment of the Fairness Doctrine has essentially banned the right from broadcast media. Nor will you hear global warming sceptics, since they are all on trial for crimes against humanity. Nobody will ever express any opinion that is in the slightest bit insensitive or demeaning to the self-esteem of anybody around them, unless the target is the White Christofascist Patriarchy. Anybody who says something offensive abotu women or minorities will be sent to mandatory sensitivity training and mental health treatment.

The question that Libertarians need to ask themselves is:

Would I rather side with people who demand government control over even the most menial aspects of my life or with the people who make a few minor moral demands on me?

It seems to me there is not even a choice to make, assuming you are truly a Libertarian. If you are a Libertine, there is a serious question. Conservatives tned to object to a few moral items, namely: the murder of unborn children, smut (bad language, sex, violence) on broadcast television during family viewing hours, porn stores in highly public areas, drug abuse and the imposition of gay marriage by unelected judges.

Are porn, crack and anal sex within wedlock so important that you are willing to toss out all of your other views on government? If they are, you are not a libertARIAN, you are a liberTINE. You are a Democrat, and ought to leave the movement.

Publius means Cato ...
A graphic picture that gets to the essence of the problem! The left “isn’t an option.”

I’ll add that social conservatives, for all their talk, haven’t gotten much of what they’ve wanted either. Obviously, they’d like to avoid the horror scenario that you describe (as much as libertarians) even if it means tolerating their neighbor’s hedonism.

Neither libertarian or conservative shares long-term aspirations in every detail but that’s not a concern for the immediate future. Of course, communism and Islamism are threats we face from abroad. Overbearing and oppressive government is a domestic threat from the left and from moderate Republicans who cave & give into the left.

Given the “unholy alliance” of the left with our foreign Islamic enemies, it makes sense to keep the fusion intact to another generation.

Feeble scaremongering
This day in the life isn't taking place, and isn't likely to, but why not run in circles crying "wolf, wolf" for a few more laps.

Publius means zippo
I mean, go to Beverly Hills (heavily democratic), and see how much of this is taking place. Wny aren't you guys worried about real wiretapping instead of imaginary censorship of Rush Limbaugh?

Wiretaping in Beverly Hills
C'mon. Are they coming after you at night, Lemmy?

Wiretapping vs. Censorship
The NSA Program:
Wiretapping calls from numbers known to belong to foriegn terrorists to people within the United States. Note, this does not include calls from your mother to let you know that her Am I frightened by this? No, because I do not associate with al Qaeda. Should we let Homeland Security know that Lemuel IS worried about this?

Censorship of Limbaugh:
After the dismal failure of Air America and the startling success of FOX News, the party that controls most of the legacy media wants to silence those who present a different viewpoint by reinstituting the fairness doctrine. If you can't compete, get the government to regulate your opponents out of business! What a great idea! And I thought the right-wingers were the ones who were always trying to silence debate?

What am I more worried about? The fact that our government is tracking down the people who have sworn to destroy our entire way way of life without listening in to any innocent people's phone calls, or the fact that the left is trying to silence all of its critics through government action? Hmmm...

Stealing is a good idea? OK, tell me where you live and I will take all your stuff.
Since you don't find it objectionable.

"This day in the life isn't taking place,"
Yes, it is.

Your are a frog and you don't notice the water is beginning to boil.

We're talking about reinvesting windfall profits in energy independence
only after consideration and an act of congress, but, sure, that's the same thing as stealing.

You mean, are the liberals marching on Beverly Hills to close down all the private pools?
Is warrantless wiretapping taking place? Yes.

Ah yes, the 'if you're innocent you have nothing to worry about."
This coming from someone who belives government is intrinsically evil and oppressive, but tap the phones, no problem: after all you're the government.

>, the party that controls most of the legacy media wants to silence those who present a different viewpoint by reinstituting the fairness doctrine.

here's the argument. why not argue with the specifics?

Really??? Where?
Or are you just finally starting to worry about global warming?

Privacy is Private Property
So why do you think taking someone's money or land any different than taking someone's privacy?

Life is so much easier if I'm not responsible for the consequences of my actions.

Don't want to choose between saving for retirement and a new plasma TV? No problem, everybody has a right to a plasma TV and a fully funded retirement. The plasma TV line is just left of the government cheese line.

Of course life is better if I'm responsible, it's just not easier.

Just ask the Chavezheads in Venezuela: since moving from a democracy to socialism is your life easier? Yes, I'm told what to do, when to do it. I don't have to make any decisions at all. Life is easy a pie.

Now ask the Chavezheads if life is better: No, life is as easy as pie but I don't have any pie, or freedom, or liberty, or hope for the future.

Worry about things you can control.

"Today Marks & Spencer, one of Britain's largest grocery store chains, announced its plan to hire 1,500 food police to patrol supermarket aisles and lecture shoppers on the contents of their carts. Reminiscent of grade-school Hall Pass Monitors, these health food patrols will donofficial Healthy Eating Adviser badges while harassing customers about the fat, sugar, and salt levels of their purchases."

"Food made from cloned animals would be labeled. Menus would be filled with fat percentages, sodium contents and calorie counts. And trans fats would be banned.

The bills, introduced in recent weeks, seek to promote healthier eating _ or at least better awareness of what's in food.

Supporters point to rising obesity and diabetes rates to justify the need to take action. "

Of course it is
>So why do you think taking someone's money or land any different than taking someone's privacy?

I don't: I think there has to be a compellling public interest and due process. Why do you think private property is totally off limits to government but privacy is open season?

Then you must be completely calm
Because it doesn't seem that there's very much going on that you're in a position to control. But maybe the libertarians will have an electoral sweep in 2008.

What a shame that Brits can't shop anywhere but Marks & Spencer..
... and that these inspectors will have power to refuse to sell them sugar and lard.

"private property is totally off limits to government "
Since when?

Ever hear of Kelo or the 16th amendment?

Supreme court judges have created privacy rights out of thin air.

Privacy is given a much higher priority by the government and by libertines than money and land.

No comment about California or New York? They shatter your myth?

What's the idea? They're poverty pockets? Their economy is collapsing?
I have no idea what your point is. why not try to make it with specifics?

Let me get this straight: wiretapping is fine, but raising my taxes is anti-American??
Thanks for making this clear.

So if the government needs my property to install wiretaps on my neighbor, that's ok?
But if it needs my property to build a road, that's anti-american. Help me out here.

So, all that is needed is an act of congress?

"Name: Lemuel
Subject: Feeble scaremongering
Date/Time: 16 Feb 2007, 2:08 PM

This day in the life isn't taking place, and isn't likely to, but why not run in circles crying "wolf, wolf" for a few more laps.

"Name: Lemuel
Subject: Really??? Where?
Date/Time: 16 Feb 2007, 3:37 PM

Or are you just finally starting to worry about global warming?

""Name: marjon
Subject: CA
Date/Time: 16 Feb 2007, 6:11 PM

"Food made from cloned animals would be labeled. Menus would be filled with fat percentages, sodium contents and calorie counts. And trans fats would be banned.

The bills, introduced in recent weeks, seek to promote healthier eating _ or at least better awareness of what's in food.

Supporters point to rising obesity and diabetes rates to justify the need to take action. ""

"Name: Lemuel
Subject: What a shame that Brits can't shop anywhere but Marks & Spencer..
Date/Time: 16 Feb 2007, 6:57 PM

... and that these inspectors will have power to refuse to sell them sugar and lard. "

"Name: marjon
Subject: No comment about California or New York? They shatter your myth?
Date/Time: 16 Feb 2007, 7:26 PM"

"compellling public interest and due process"
"I don't: I think there has to be a compellling public interest and due process. Why do you think private property is totally off limits to government but privacy is open season?"

State spying on criminals or enemies of the state is a "compelling public interest" to protect citizens from harm.
Due process exists for spying on you and taking your property.
Why are more upset by spying?

Congress can vote to ban abortion then?
All it takes is an act of Congress.

Abortion is just murder.

Ant and grasshopper
The nanny state rewards the grasshopper for playing all summer and punishes the ant for working all summer.

A libertarian government would allow both the grasshopper and the ant to enjoy the fruits of their labor. (Of course for the grasshopper, that wouldn't be much and would need charity to survive the winter.)

If an act of Congress can take people's property with "due process"...
then they can order people to do what Congress decides through due process.

Intellectual bankruptcy
I'm very disappointed in the quality of these comments. 45 comments, and no one can come up with anything better than this?

Try going back to the subject-- fusionism. If the Libertarian movement is to have any kind of impact on politics, one would think something like this would have to be discussed. But you've got nothing. Just idiotic bickering.

You guys deserve to be a nonparty. With all due respect, I think the only comment on here worth reading was my own "Fusionism founders...". Otherwise the intellectual performance I see here is just pathetic.

An emotional truth
Publius-- I've read over your complaint in its entirety. And I have a problem with it. The complaints you list are all heart-rending-- but none of them are true. You describe an emotional truth-- something you feel strongly in your heart. But there is no corresponding actual truth in the world we live in.

Go to an actual store. There you can find pizza, doughnuts, sodas, potato chips, tobacco and alcohol, and even meat made from the flesh of murdered animals, all being offered for sale.

Go to the hardware. While restricted flow shower heads are offered to those who want them, you can still find plenty of old fashioned full force heads, some even with pulsating stream. It's a free country and we have more choices than we have ever had in history. You can even buy toilets that flush.

I'm sorry you are being forced to live in "government-owned, government-subsidized housing". And can't imagine how you ended up there. I own my own home.

There's not much legislation of morality. It's true that drug use (other than the worst two, tobacco and alcohol) has been criminalized. And kiddie sex will land you in prison. But otherwise we are pretty much free in most states to live any way we want.

Abortion would certainly be a question of who owns the rights to your person, you or the state. And here, most states place few restrictions on a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

All in all, I think the country we're already living in embodies more of the libertarian principle than just about any other country on earth. And in fact that may be the reason so few people want to join the Libertarian Party to change it.

Look over your list of grievances again. And tell me it's not all true.

don't think congress would
and I'm sure you'd feel; exactly the same about abortion if you were a 14 year old girl who had been raped by your stepfather and was pregnatn.

due process isn't being used
is there something about the word 'warrantless" you don't understand in the phrase 'warrantless wiretapoing?"

Maybe you have a point
try making it.

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