Friday, July 10, 2009

"Why I am not a Libertarian"

Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will
and appetite be placed somewhere;

and the less of it there is within,
the more there must be without.

It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things,
that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.
Their passions forge their fetters.
Edmund Burke

I was reminded of this quotation as I read Joe Carter's explanation of why, although he has found Libertarianism attractive, he is not one. This is the portion that reminded me of Burke:
.... By placing an overemphasis on individual liberty without an equal accent on individual virtue, the libertarian unwittingly erodes the foundation of order on which his political theory stands.

Order is a necessary precondition of liberty and must be maintained from the lowest level of government (the individual conscience) to the highest (the state). The individual conscience is the most basic level of government and it is regulated by virtues. Liberty, in this view, is not an end unto itself but a means by which eudaimonia (happiness or human flourishing) can most effectively be pursued. Liberty is a necessary component of virtue ethics, but it cannot be a substitute. Since it is based on the utilitarian principle that puts liberty, rather than eudaimonia as the chief end of man, libertarianism undermines order and becomes a self-defeating philosophy.

Contrary to what libertarians might believe, order does not arise spontaneously. It is either cultivated from within, through self-disciple, or is forced upon an individual from forces outside themselves (i.e., by the laws or mores of the community) if they lack the requisite character. Once established, this order has to be maintained to be effective. In the absence of order there is no peace, no justice, and certainly no natural harmony. .... [more]
The immediately previous post on this blog makes a closely related point.

First Thoughts — Virtue Ethics and Broken Windows or Why I Am Not a Libertarian

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