Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What libertarianism has in common with Marxism

I have observed before that the difference between libertarians and traditional conservatives lies in the fact that libertarians see freedom as an end in itself, whereas conservatives see freedom as the means to the end of the common good.

This is, by the way, why libertarianism militates toward pure democracy, something the founding fathers eschewed, while traditional conservatism naturally inclines toward republican forms of government like that of the United States. In this sense, libertarians are at odds with, rather than inclined toward American constitutionalism.

As Aristotle points out in his Politics, each form of government has its unique aim. The aim of democracy is freedom. Republican forms of government, on the other hand, contain mixed aims, since a republic is a hybrid form of government.

This is why I think you will see (as we already have) so-called "libertarian conservatives" supporting Internet voting and multi-day elections and other means of "democratizing" the election process. And the next time the electoral college becomes an issue, just watch libertarians—who talk a good game on the Constitution, but don't seem to know much about why it was written the way it was written—line up in support of changes to make it a purely popular election irrespective of the role of the states.

The founders put all kinds of complicating factors into the system to balance it and keep it stable and to protect it from the destabilizing forces of pure democracy.

In any case, since libertarians have largely appropriated the "conservative" label these days, it is probably useful also to point out one way in which libertarianism is similar to Marxism.

Under Marx's "materialist dialectic," it is material factors that determine socio-political realities through socio-economic factors. In this sense Marxism is all about economics. Economics determine everything.

Under traditionalist conservatism, non-materialist values have played at least as much, perhaps a larger role in the well-being of a society. This is why values issues have always loomed large in conservative political rhetoric—always, until recent years.

For traditionalist conservatives, values matter, because they shape events more than material factors. But if you listen carefully to libertarian rhetoric, which now focuses almost exclusively on pocketbook issues, you will detect the implicit assumption that values don't matter (unless they are "market values," whatever that means). In fact, many so-called "moderate" Republicans say this outright: politics is exclusively about material issues.

This is why libertarianism can be referred to simply as the "materialist right." It is the materialist right that, unlike traditionalist conservatism, has given up on the culture.

Now as you listen to the campaign leading up to this next election, note the almost complete dependence of Republican rhetoric on economics—even among candidates who are ostensibly traditionalist conservatives.

This is also why, by the way, the Republicans will lose again—because they have given up on the heart issues. Voters vote their hearts, not their pocket books. That is why Reagan won—and Obama (It's also why Obama won re-election—right in the teeth of an economic crisis).

Just watch it happen again.

1 comment:

Shane Chubbs said...

Then in what bin do you put Hans-Hermann Hoppe, author of _Democracy, the god that failed_?