Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do your own thing = every man for himself?

The Sixties were a disaster, the end of the American dream: every child had a pretty good shot to reach at least as far as his old man got. Daniel Nichols recently pointed out that since 1968 the gap between rich and poor has widened while the middle class has shrunk.
If workers at the bottom had continued to share in the economy’s growth in the years since 1968 as they had in the three decades before 1968, we would be looking at a very different economy and society.
Nichols is making a different argument from my libertarianism; he thinks we’re part of the problem, that libertarianism’s by nature selfish. While there’s a well-known libertarian case against having a minimum wage, let alone raising it, the problem stands.

’50s square society was more just overall (never mind the tropes about race; it was squares like me who actually did anything to try to correct racial injustice, not the hippies), not by government force but because the culture was better. Left and right, it was more Christian. You had Mark in Spokane’s ordered liberty.

Rod Dreher said it: take away the veneer of Christian decency as the counterculture tried hard to do and... do your own thing means every man for himself.


  1. Profit motive. We will always have a profit motive. Selfish? Perhaps. Human nature? Definitely. Even gov'ts want something for themselves. Gov'ts are populated for people who are selfish and want something for themselves only they say it is the gov't that wants it. That something belongs to you and me.

    Give me selfishness and its profit motive any day over giveaways. We will always have selfishness. Might as well turn it to something good that has some chance at least of providing more for those with less or those without. St. Paul said something like "You don't work. You don't eat." A biblical fundamental law of economics.

  2. The correlation is large numbers of immigrants and women entering the work force. Price is elastic to supply.

  3. Thanks for the shout out! Much appreciated. I think that this is a major problem that libertarianism doesn't address. The "do no harm" principle doesn't really help larger social institutions (families, local communities, voluntary associations, etc.) deal with the folks who are fundamental selfish. I know that libertarians always counter that objection by saying "but libertarianism doesn't mean you have to be selfish" -- yet then the quotes from Ayn Rand always seem to start coming after that point...

    True community requires virtue, and virtue is a habit that has to be reinforced by law and custom both. That is the great conservative insight, an insight that was carried over into classical liberalism. Both modern liberalism and libertarianism have lost sight of that truth, though. And it from that loss that most of their other errors flow.


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