Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The admin of the ADF blog has a post where he diligently and gleefully beats the tar out of his straw man version of “leftist libertarians”. Being one of those myself, I find the whole exercise quite amusing and absurd. The straw man is apparent in his false portrayal of what libertarians believe about liberty:

In the final analysis, the debate comes down to differing conceptions of freedom. Is freedom solely about me and doing whatever I want? Or, is freedom conditioned on adherence to such notions as virtue, responsibility, civic duty, and duty to one’s Creator? History teaches that the former conception leads to anarchy and hence to tyranny.


You’ll be hard pressed to find a sillier paragraph than that anytime soon. Libertarians, leftist or otherwise, do not believe that freedom is “doing whatever I want.” We believe that freedom is doing what you want within the confines of the equal rights of others. It’s all about reciprocity: each person owns themselves and has the self-determination that comes with that self-ownership. As long as their actions do not deprive another of their equal right to self-determination (including the right to the property they freely acquire through their efforts and actions), they are within the boundaries of what Jefferson called their rightful liberty:

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

That last sentence is very important. Notice that Jefferson makes no distinction between laws passed democratically and laws imposed by royal decree; any law that violates the rights of the individual, no matter how it may be enacted, is unjust. That is the standard by which we determine the limits of individual liberty, not by whatever duties an ADF attorney might think we owe to a Creator. If you think you owe a duty to your Creator, then by all means follow through on that debt. But that doesn’t mean someone else who does not accept such a duty can be forced to do so as well.

Then there’s this absolutely bizarre paragraph that just throws out every religious right bugaboo in a single spew without anything resembling a coherent point:

Yet, many American libertarians have apparently adopted the former view of freedom along with the American left, the ACLU, and the French.

The only possible response to that is a horselaugh. It’s written as though he’s playing that game with refrigerator magnets with different words on them, just throwing together all their favorite buzzwords into one sentence. What on earth do the French have to do with this? They certainly don’t share the libertarian perspective of liberty, as evidenced by their national ban on wearing religious clothing in schools, a clear violation of liberty by almost any definition. Wait, I think he’s going to explain why it’s there:

American libertarians may go along with that conception of freedom for a time, but it is doubtful they will like the all encompassing brand of socialism that is the hallmark of French government and which necessarily flows from an abandonment of marriage as a fundamental societal institution.

Uh, okay. But who exactly is advocating an abandonment of marriage? Certainly not libertarians. Certainly not advocates of gay marriage either; for crying out loud, they want more marriages and more focus on marriage as an enforced set of rights and responsibilities. And if there’s some connection between fewer people getting married and socialism, I’m stumped as to what it might be. This is absolutely ridiculous rhetoric.

Invoking America’s Founding Fathers, social conservatives have historically held to the notion that marriage and stable families are prerequisites to any system of limited government. The American experience with welfare and crime confirms this notion as evidenced by an abundance of statistical data.

Great. And I’m all for marraige and stable families. I’m so in favor of marriage and stable families that I think we should encourage families headed by gay couples to make the same commitment to make their families more stable. For some reason, the anti-gay marriage crowd seems to think that stability and commitment only matters to families headed by straight people and that the same arguments they make in favor of marriage magically don’t apply to anyone they disapprove of.

Comments

  1. #1 Tulle
    November 28, 2006

    You have nothing to worry about. I never thought of you s a “Lefidt Libertarian” (whatever that is). I think of you more of as a “Middle of the road Libertarian”. I don’t get the French thing either. The French are one of the most dogmatic of the EU members. It’s always the French way or noway.

    I just hope that before my kids are 18, only 5 more years for the youngest, I can provide them with the same protections as a straight couple. It is strange how they frame the gay marriage thing as religous, as I can already get married in a church, I just can’t have the same legal protections for my family that they can.

  2. #2 valhar2000
    November 28, 2006

    Ah, but you see, Tulle, the church that allows you to get married is not a “real” Christian church, it is actually a mockery made by the Devil to entice the weak of heart. If those guys had their way, you would most certainly NOT be able to get married in a Church.

  3. #3 kehrsam
    November 28, 2006

    The lede for the article states: The Washington Post has posted an article titled, More Longtime Couples in France Prefer L’Amour Without Marriage. The article describes how the French have reportedly rejected marriage as a political, social, and religious institution. Of course, it does not mention adverse consequences resulting from that choice.

    So that’s where the French come in. How this has anything to do with marriage elsewhere is a bit of a mystery, as the author merely intones over and over that marriage has always been seen as a bedrock institution. Well duh. He also seems to like the word socialism and throws it around a bit. If there was any attempt to produce an actual argument, however, I missed it.

  4. #4 Dave M
    November 28, 2006

    That first quoted paragraph is classic. That’s the final analysis? My word, what were the other ones like?

  5. #5 argystokes
    November 28, 2006

    Or, is freedom conditioned on adherence to such notions as virtue, responsibility, civic duty, and duty to one’s Creator?

    Yeah. Real liberty is doing nothing that’s not Biblical. It’s time to ban out wedlock sex, and female teachers.

  6. #6 Sastra
    November 28, 2006

    Yet, many American libertarians have apparently adopted the former view of freedom along with the American left, the ACLU, and the French.

    The French? For some reason I keep picturing that scene in “The Music Man” where the mayor’s wife tries to get across how loose the local librarian is by rolling her eyes and revealing that she reads “Baaaallllzzzzaaaaac!”

  7. #7 CPT_Doom
    November 28, 2006

    The American experience with welfare and crime confirms this notion as evidenced by an abundance of statistical data.

    Um, who exactly is committing those crimes – oh, yeah, straight men. And the breakdown of the family unit, which certainly has led to higher crime and poverty rates, particularly for single mothers, can be laid at the exact same doorstep – straight men who abandon or neglect their responsibilities once they zip their pants back up.

    And isn’t it interesting that in 5 millenia of recorded human history, the first time “the family” – that is the nuclear family comprising man, wife and children – has been a widespread phenomenon is the 20th century. Not that poeple did not get married and form such families in the past, but with disease and accidental death, it was far more unlikely than today that the children born into such a family would still be in that family upon reaching adulthood. With the death of one or both parents, children might be raised in mixed and/or step-families, by other relatives, or by friends of their parents. Communities and extended families have always worked together to take care of children who did not have both parents around, and oddly enough produced generations of relatively productive and happy people. Apparently we can’t risk that same possibility now – incredible!

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    November 28, 2006

    Sastra wrote:

    The French? For some reason I keep picturing that scene in “The Music Man” where the mayor’s wife tries to get across how loose the local librarian is by rolling her eyes and revealing that she reads “Baaaallllzzzzaaaaac!”

    Oh god, you’ve just flooded my brain with repressed memories. When I was in high school I performed in the Music Man and it has scarred me for life. It left me with a passionate and entirely irrational hatred for Broadway musicals. I am firmly convinced that there will be no peace in this world until Andrew Lloyd Webber is strangled with the entrails of Stephen Sondheim.

  9. #9 ThomasHobbes
    November 28, 2006

    Yet, many American libertarians have apparently adopted the former view of freedom along with the American left, the ACLU, and the French.

    I nearly spat my drink all over the monitor when I read that. What a blatant and idiotic appeal to latent American Francophobia.

    Wait, I bet I can play this game too: The French are coming! Hide the women and the silver!

  10. #10 SharonB
    November 28, 2006

    Sophistry du Jour from the idiots(les idiots) at ADF.
    Always good for a good horselaugh, I say.
    The sooner they are relegated to their proper irrelevancy, the better.

  11. #11 quitter
    November 28, 2006

    What I’ll never understand is why any leftist would self-identify as “libertarian” when the Libertarian party is full of such complete and utter lunatics and crackpots.

    I realize what you mean, but why use that word to describe it? It associates pretty common sense ideas about disapproval of government intervention in people’s private affairs with people who believe the FDA, EPA, DOE, SEC, DOI, etc., should be disbanded for a return to a pre-regulatory society that gave us Upton Sinclair novels and patent medications. They will then tell you that this all-powerful consumer will do all the right things, because people make such rational decisions and are totally informed about all things all the time and can make good decisions on everything from pharmaceuticals to safe food based on nothing more than their Chuck Norris-like powers of deduction.

    I hear “libertarian” and can’t help thinking of these sufferers of frustrated white man syndrome, who are absolutely convinced it’s the government keeping them down (but not all those successful people) and not their own obvious mediocrity. Maybe we can call it something else, or at least add “civil” to the description to distinguish it from the anti-regulatory freaks.

  12. #12 Joshua
    November 28, 2006

    It left me with a passionate and entirely irrational hatred for Broadway musicals.

    Not that irrational. ;)

  13. #13 Russell
    November 28, 2006

    He’s right, that “in the final analysis, the debate comes down to differing conceptions of freedom.” He and many other social conservatives today have a conception of freedom that is indistinguishable from social authoritarianism. They like the word “freedom.” It’s just when people don’t live the way they want that they get upset.

  14. #14 Troublesome Frog
    November 28, 2006

    Wow. I’m used to stuff from the ADF hanging together semi-logically but being throughly dishonest. It’s not hard to see the flow of where they’re trying to go, but it’s abundantly clear that they’re just trying to whip people up into a frenzy and not really construct an airtight argument.

    This pile of words is different. There really isn’t even a logical thread to speak of. American Libertarians are French anarchists who want socialist government and the elimination of marriage? Buddha has a ghost penis that lives in my cereal.

  15. #15 Matthew
    November 28, 2006

    Engels wrote a whole book saying that marriage was an institution for the oppression of women. After the Soviets came to power they enacted a new marriage law that made divorce easy, though Stalin later reversed it after he started moving towards nationalism in the 30s.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    November 28, 2006

    Troublesome Frog:

    I had the same reaction. Even by ADF standards, it was just an incoherent bit of word salad that made no sense. And nice Patton Oswalt reference; I thought about using that very line in my post about the monk who cut off his penis the other day.

  17. #17 Coin
    November 28, 2006

    Is freedom solely about me and doing whatever I want? Or, is freedom conditioned on adherence to such notions as virtue, responsibility, civic duty, and duty to one’s Creator?

    Wow. I can’t believe he actually said that out loud. If a bitter flaming socialist was trying to write a satire of modern conservative thought, I would imagine them writing a paragraph like that.

  18. #18 Gene
    November 28, 2006

    Dear Mr Brayton,

    I have heard of Left Libertarians, but can’t find any resources about them. I’d like to know about them. But every time I google all I seam to find is articles bashing them. I’ve avoided the Libertarian party because all I see is the Right Libertarians. Where can I find the Left Libs?

    Thanks,
    -Gene.

  19. #19 raj
    November 28, 2006

    Tulle | November 28, 2006 10:23 AM

    You have nothing to worry about. I never thought of you s a “Lefidt Libertarian” (whatever that is).

    Actually, Ed is a “leftist libertarian” (and, as far as I can tell, much as I respect Ed’s ideas, a bit too much libertarian).

    As was explained to me several years ago by self-described libertarian Justin Raimondo, he of Anti-War.com and with several gigs at the von Mises group and the American Enterprise Institute, there are left-libertarians and right-libertarians. The left-libertarians are generally aligned with the philosophy of the Libertarian Party–to the extent that the LP’s philosophy can be discerned, given the rather mixed up nature of the LP.

    On the other hand, the right-libertarians are “libertarians” of the “Murray Rothbard ‘natural law’” philosophy. Of course, “natural law” is really a religious concept (clap-trap, in other words), but apparently right-libertarians believe in freedom of the individual, as long as the actions of the individual conform to what is deemed “natural” (hence the use of the phrase “natural law”). The obvious sticking point in the “natural law” philosophy is that what is deemed “natural” is in the eye of the beholder, as I pointed out to Mr. Raimondo.

    Long and short, Ed is a “leftist libertarian.” As far as I can tell, “right-libertarian” is a perversion of the term “libertarian.”

    On the subject matter of the post, it is nice that the ADF has come out and confirmed that they are nothing more than a religious operation. “[D]uty to one’s Creator“? Give me a break.

  20. #20 clayton
    November 29, 2006

    Their platform sounds about right to me:
    “Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”

    “quitter”, you wrote “What I’ll never understand is why any leftist would self-identify as “libertarian” when the Libertarian party is full of such complete and utter lunatics and crackpots…people who believe the FDA, EPA, DOE, SEC, DOI, etc., should be disbanded for a return to a pre-regulatory society”
    – That makes about as much sense as my saying the democratic party is full of tree hugging PETA members who advocate the freeing of pets, and the outlawing of junk-food. The truth is that, in both cases, you’ll find very few, but entirely too publicized, people at the extremes.

    Inform the public, if they choose to do something you deem too risky and die, enjoy watching natural selection do it’s magic. Take Belmont, CA, it’s illegal to smoke in your own car now. True, it’s unhealthy, but so is sunbathing. I’m perfectly capable of performing my own risk/reward analysis, if I make a mistake, don’t worry, there are 6 billion replacements for me. I need someone to build my highways not be my mommy.

    ADF says “The left favors big government and socialist policies completely antithetical to libertarian principles.” While, to a large degree, this is true in so far as libertarians tend to be tighter with the purse strings, the following lecture provides a level-headed libertarian approach, that gives an idea how to provide for social accountability while maintaining personal freedoms.

    Cass Sunstein, Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Chicago Law School : “Libertarian Paternalism Is Not an Oxymoron”
    http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/lectures/20061005sunsteinVN350K.asx

    Then again, WTF do I know ;)