Calvin Freiburger had a great post the other day (The difference between Libertarians and Conservatives) about Rand Paul’s Civil Rights Act troubles.
Calvin nailed it:
More importantly, the affair crystallizes a key difference between conservatism and libertarianism. Both ostensibly stem from the same presuppositions—individuals have certain inalienable rights and government must be strictly limited so it’s power and scope extend no further than protecting those rights. But if modern libertarianism’s most high-profile representatives are any indication, their ideology’s purity comes at the expense of another value the Founding Fathers deemed essential to good government: prudence.
In other words, not all inconsistencies between theory and practice are created equal. Yes, we should strive to put concern for liberty and reverence for the Constitution at the heart of every political decision we make, but if we recognize, as the Founders did, that human nature is imperfect, then it follows that even the best-conceived of human governments are going to be imperfect, as well. Things are going to slip through the cracks, and not every perceived blemish is going to be either reversible, or worth the effort to reverse. Case in point: Thomas Jeffersonrecognized that, in making the Louisiana Purchase, he had committed “an act beyond the Constitution.” But I don’t hear any calls to rectify things by expelling the middle of the country from the Union.
Whenever I hear libertarians griping about marijuana, gambling, or prostitution laws, I have much the same reaction: so what? Even if you’re right that individuals should be totally free to pursue these things (which I don’t concede, by the way), are these really America’s most pressing concerns?
Put more crudely, libertarians can often be so lovestruck for freedom that they can’t think straight. They dive so lustfully toward freedom that they can’t realize when they’re actually getting into bed with totalitarianism. They have no prudence.
With tunnel vision in place the libertarian case against the federal government legislating that private businesses not discriminate on the basis of race makes a whole lot of sense. But take off the blinders and look at the whole picture: the wildly, irredeemably racist culture of the ’50s-era South. We’re talking about a place where domestic terrorism was occurring against blacks on a regular basis. Because of a government-intervention (*gasp*!) that culture was eventually nudged to what it is today — certainly not perfect but not the horror it once was.
Now consider another case of a barbarian, terrorist culture that’s far worse.
What’s the libertarian position on banning the burqa in Western societies? Obviously can’t do it. It would restrict the freedom to veil and would be the government intervening. Here’s the lunge for Freedom’s bra strap from Steve Chapman at Townhall.
The veil, we are told, is a symbol of oppression imposed on women by husbands and other male relatives. Could be. But how do the critics know? The same thing can be said about surgically enhanced breasts in Europe and the United States.
Just because a few adults may be coerced into doing something doesn’t mean others should not be allowed to do it of their own free will. If men are employing violence to control wives and daughters, the reasonable response is to punish them sternly while encouraging women to report the crimes.
But outlawing the burqa merely trades one form of compulsion (you must wear this) for another (you may not wear this). Besides, it is bound to backfire: If brutal men can no longer prevent women from wearing veils when they leave the house, they can prevent them from leaving the house at all.
And now he’s sharing a cigarette with Fascism. Chapman has become an ally of Islamist misogynists just as conservatives and libertarians accidentally stumbled into a menage a trois with racists in the ’60s.
Chapman’s got his libertarian blinders on. He’s looking at the burqa ban just as libertarians only look at the businessman deciding who they want to serve — as an isolated issue. He’s not thinking of the terrorism: he doesn’t mention female genital mutilation, child marriage, honor killings, or acid burnings.
So to return to Calvin’s point distinguishing libertarianism from conservatism… It breaks down like this: the libertarian lusts after freedom like a john chasing a prostitute, seeing liberty in a narrow context — not unlike a man seeing women solely as a source of sexual pleasure. Freedom means one thing: the libertarian dogmatist having the emotional satisfaction of an easy answer to every question. The conservative defends freedom like a husband protecting his wife. He knows that maintaining a society with liberty as its animating principle is not as simple as “the government never does anything” reflex of libertarian ideologues.