Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Right reflections
“A disposition to preserve” is the central intuition of many Americans who call themselves libertarians. Some of them also call themselves conservatives, but if they say that word, they know they will spend the afternoon in explanation. Their perception is that you should not have to earn the right to live unmolested. The main harm of property would seem to be its encouragement of self-conceit, but though wary of the danger, the creed of liberty is to live and let live without resentment.

“I do not like to see,” said Burke, “any thing destroyed; any void produced in society; any ruin on the face of the land.”

It is an odd fact of American society in the past 60 years that a section of the party of improvers — the improvers of wars — have so often called themselves conservatives.

It would be hard to say whether statist liberals or statist conservatives are more seduced by love of the state. The most acute recent critics of the American empire have been writers like Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich who in the decade of Truman and Eisenhower would surely have been called conservatives. Both served in the military. Both came late to their stand against imperialism. If critics such as these ever joined forces with a statesman like Chuck Hagel, we might see a change in the things that are speakable in our politics.

It has been invigorating in the past few years to notice the first signs of a conservatism that is libertarian about civil rights as much as property rights; distrustful of the liberal state but not itself illiberal or the tool of bigotry; willing to speak of morals and religion but distrustful of compelled displays of piety; and hostile to any proselytism that claims a higher sanction than honest argument. Will the experiment succeed? The answer may depend in some part on its relationship to the remnant of liberalism that values liberty.
Unlike Mr Bromwich I’m not a Lincoln fan but, answering the fears of Catholics like Paul Goings and other Christians about anarchy, what I think is his minarchism is a respectable position (a government that delivers the post, paves the roads and guards the coast, full stop).

From RR.

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