Friday, September 28, 2007

Compare and Contrast, Again

In praise of Kay S. Hymowitz's realism about the limits of libertarianism, I say in "Compare and Contrast" that
Good things don't just happen, they must be made to happen. If they are not, bad things will prevail because the anti-social aspects of human nature -- dominance, enviousness, and aggressiveness -- outweigh the pro-social ones.
Hymowitz's "libertarian" critics (e.g., Ilya Somin), just don't get it. Somin thusly ends a post about Hymowitz's response to his critique of her stance on libertarianism:
Hymowitz concludes her response by criticizing what she calls the libertarian "tendency to view individual personal liberty as The Good that should swallow up all others." In reply, I can only reiterate a point I made in my critique of her original essay: believing that protecting liberty is the highest or even the sole legitimate purpose of government does not require libertarians to conclude that it is the highest good for all institutions. Still less does it commit us to believing that it is a good that "swallows up all others." To the contrary, libertarians have long contended that liberty actually facilitates the achievement of other important values and does so far more effectively than government coercion.
What Somin (and other so-called libertarians) fail to understand is this: Liberty doesn't just happen; it is not innate in human nature.

The true choice is not between liberty and government coercion, it is between ordered liberty, in which government does not (by omission or commission) undermine morality, and social dissolution, in which it does precisely that.

It is quite clear that we have been, for quite some time, in a state of government-condoned and government-sponsored social dissolution. As civil society dissolves, government takes over its functions, in ways that no self-styled libertarian could possibly endorse.

The key defect of libertarian absolutism (of the kind preached by Somin et al.) is its adherents' blindness to its consequences. They cannot seem to grasp the fact that wanting liberty and having it are two different things. They are fixated on "what ought to be" and blind to "what is possible," given human nature.

Related posts:
A Century of Progress?
The Case against Genetic Engineering
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Anarchistic Balderdash
The Meaning of Liberty