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Goldwater redux?

George Will, dorky docent of American conservatism, detects a return to the libertarian stylings of Barry Goldwater at the Republican national convention.

Four decades after a Republican convention in San Francisco nominated Sen. Goldwater, sealing the ascendancy of conservatism within the party, his kind of conservatism made a comeback at the convention here. That conservatism – muscular foreign policy backing unapologetic nationalism; economic policies of low taxation and light regulation; a libertarian inclination regarding cultural question – is not fully ascendant in the party. But the prominent display and rapturous reception of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrated that such conservatism is not an insurmountable impediment to a person reaching the party’s highest echelons.

For structural and probably cultural reasons, it is highly unlikely that America will ever have anything other than a two-party system. For this reason, pragmatic libertarians will have to learn how to work the two-party system. For all their manifest shortcomings, the Republicans seem to be a more hospitable environment at this point.

But the domination of the Republican Party by cultural conservatives did make some other conservatives — libertarians and religious skeptics, among others — feel uneasy, even unwelcome. Being derided as RINOs — Republicans in name only — did not help. And the dominance of the cultural conservatives gave force to the Democrats’ and media’s caricatures of the Republican Party as a brackish lagoon of intolerance, a caricature that, like all caricatures, contained a trace of truth.

For all the rending of garments coming from the Democrats and the secular left, I see remarkably little in the way of actual state action implementing the allegedly theocratic cravings of the social conservatives since their rise to influence in the Republican Party. I certainly disagree with them on a number of points, but a careful reading tends to show that a great deal of what they want falls into the area of civil society, not state action. They have, of course, been infected to some degree with the virus of statism, but cries of alarm from the statist left that the Christian conservatives are attempting to implement state-mandated mind and social controls smack more of projection than anything else. Much of the social/cultural conservative agenda is defensive and reformist – they are animated by a desire to roll back what they see as a state-facilitated and noxious cultural of radical relativism and secular radicalism. Even their current flagship issue – the “defense of marriage” – boils down to preventing change from being imposed by state organs without democratic approval.

Interesting times, my friends, interesting times.

ADDENDUM: A few additional thoughts whilst standing in line for lunch.

In discourse, terminology is destiny. As a legal drafter, I always go first and foremost to the defined terms of a contract, regulation or policy. In bashing out the paragraph above on cultural or social conservatives, I mistakenly adopted some of Will’s terminology.

The bugaboo of the left (and their organ the Democrats) in the US is the “religious right,” and my comments in the paragraph above are directed primarily to this bugaboo. Aside from religiously driven moral concerns, though, the major driver of real social/cultural conservatism in this country is the puritan streak that has been handed down through the ages as the antithesis of the hedonistic American thesis.

In recent decades, this puritanical impulse has been mated to the statist impulse, yielding such unholy offspring as the radical environmental movement, the anti-smoking crusade, the nascent anti-fat crusade, and of course the drug war. You will note that the puritans reside comfortably all across the political spectrum in America, and have had a much greater impact on state activities than religious devotees. Neither the Republicans or the Democrats has really made any effort to take on the puritans, who in many ways have become a major bulwark for the cult of the state.

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51 comments to Goldwater redux?

  • George Bush is no Barry Goldwater.

    “Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar”

    Barry Goldwater.

    “A lot of so-called conservatives don’t know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.”

    Barry Goldwater.

    I don’t have any respect for the Religious Right. There is no place in this country for practicing religion in politics. That goes for Falwell, Robertson and all the rest of these political preachers. They are a detriment to the country.

    Barry Goldwater.

  • For structural and probably cultural reasons, it is highly unlikely that America will ever have anything other than a two-party system. For this reason, pragmatic libertarians will have to learn how to work the two-party system. For all their manifest shortcomings, the Republicans seem to be a more hospitable environment at this point.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I cannot tell you how long I have been waiting for someone to point this fact out. An American political party performs the functions that would require a coalition of parties in basically every other nation in the world.

  • James Wetterau

    The Libertarian Party platform in foreign policy is more closely represented by the Democrats. We’ve debated it here, but I think the mainstream Democrats are more properly libertarian on this, as in my view the Republicans are interested in picking fights around the world, as they did in Iraq. (Of course I know that many here will disagree with this description of the war. But I do have the LP on my side on this one, too.)

    This is also a spending issue, so the libertarian perspective is, in my view, twice over better represented by the Democrats on this point.

    Finally we have the theocratic concern. A big issue there is whether the Supreme Court justices chosen by the next President might enable some of those goals.

    Beyond that, the Democrats may talk more about
    intruding into our lives than the Republicans do, but when the federal executive and legislative branches are gridlocked, that’s the best possible defense against greater spending, and all the talk goes out the window.

    If you want to play the two-party game (which, by the way, I think is a bad idea if you’re not in a swing state), I think a libertarian would be better served with Kerry.

  • flaime

    But the domination of the Republican Party by cultural conservatives did make some other conservatives — libertarians and religious skeptics, among others — feel uneasy, even unwelcome. Being derided as RINOs — Republicans in name only — did not help. And the dominance of the cultural conservatives gave force to the Democrats’ and media’s caricatures of the Republican Party as a brackish lagoon of intolerance, a caricature that, like all caricatures, contained a trace of truth.

    The Democrats’ caricatures do still apply to the most influential members of the Republican party, like Bush, Santorum, Ashcroft, Frist…

    No party clearly serves the interest of the dedicated libertarian. Any good the Republicans might represent is invalidated by their adherence to extremist religious values. Any good the Democrats might represent is nullified by their nanny state attitudes.

    And the two party system is the only game in town because we dont stand up and force a change. If there was ever a climate in which that might succeed, this would be it. Too bad Teddy Roosevelt isn’t around now.

  • Bush’s main domestic theme seems to be personal empowerment via portable pensions, health saving accounts and so on. ‘Big Government Libertarianism?”

    Small Government, budget cutting, department chopping, welfare and education cutting etce etc; is just not going to happen. Newt tried to start something like in and got his head handed to him on a platter. Limited Government, is a very hard sell, those who support it have got to prepare for a long and difficult educational effort.

    “National Greatness Conservatism” is a little easier to get across. It also makes for a better contrast with the Democrats who instinctively dislike anything that makes America stronger. Someday a bright young political scientist will figure out why the left has a nearly pathological need to put down their own homelands. When Kerry complains that the GOP is “questioning his partiotism” the only answer is that he’s been doing that to himself since 1971, why does he need their help?

  • The Libertarian Party platform is not represented by the Democrats any more than it is by the Republicans. The Democratic faction of the Boot On Your Neck Party has absolutely no objection to picking fights around the world, as long as it’s a member of their faction in the White House.

    Of course the same is true of the Republican faction of the Boot On Your Neck Party. In the last election the Clinton had a history of picking fights all over the place, while Bush was giving lip service to non-intervention in his campaign. The only difference this time is that Kerry isn’t even giving lip service to libertarian foreign policy principles.

    If you support a libertarian foreign policy, your choices are to vote for Michael Badnarik or to not vote at all. A vote for Bush/Kerry is a vote for picking fights throughout the world.

  • James Wetterau

    I just want to make perfectly clear that I do intend to vote for Badnarik. I think Mr. Hagler has it mostly right, and I do, in fact, blame both Clinton and Bush for the state of American foreign policy today. After all, Clinton was perfectly willing to commit the US to unilateral mllitary adventures.

    I am worried at the extent to which Mr. Bush and some in his inner circle seem to take this to the maximum extent possible, but I certainly would go along with urging a vote for Badnarik.

  • stubby

    RC: I think you mean “doyenne”.

    Sorry. I am a librarian, though. Schoolmarmish in matters of language if not dress or personality.

  • R C Dean

    Pedant Alert 😉

    docent: A lecturer or tour guide in a museum or cathedral. This is, actually, what I had in mind for Will, with his rather stuffy writing style and static world view in mind.

    Doyenne(Link) does rather capture his feminine side, though.

  • Rick

    I used to think I was a Libertarian (and am still so registered), although I was always uncomfortable with that Party’s “sign our oath or else” doctrine. But the war on terror has convinced me that I am not only not a Libertarian, I am not even a libertarian.

    I believe that government has several roles, including real national defense. It is just as obvious to me that we need to be pre-emptive in attacking terrorists and their allies as it is obvious to me that we were right to fight Adolph Hitler and his allies despite the fact that only Japan had yet attacked us.

    Furthermore, while I do support abortion during the early months of pregnancy, I consider Goldwater’s unqualified libertarian support of abortion illogical on its face. Killing a child the moment before it exits the womb is not merely a choice made by the aborter, it is also the taking of a viable human life. The “choice ” to abort must be weighed against the taking of a human life.

    One of my children was born 7 weeks early, and he could not have survived on his own, but I deny that anyone, including my wife, had the right to kill him. The fact that he left the womb early was just an unfortunate technicality.

    Libertarians are quite similar to religious zealots. They have a few simple premises that they never question, and they determine that all truths must follow from these premises. When they are asked to discuss a gray area, like terrorism or late-term abortion, they draw a simplistic line and declare the truth to be obvious.

  • Speedwell

    “…they draw a simplistic line and declare the truth to be obvious.:

    Um, that would be you, my dear.

    Libertarians (however capitalized), if they believe in liberty, also believe in your right to make up your own mind based on your experiences, knowledge, and best judgement.

    Even if you disagree with their own views.

    People who tell you you must sign a loyalty oath and follow a party line are not libertarians; they are cultists.

  • D Anghelone

    I used to think I was a Libertarian (and am still so registered), although I was always uncomfortable with that Party’s “sign our oath or else” doctrine. But the war on terror has convinced me that I am not only not a Libertarian, I am not even a libertarian.

    It is the libertarians without tolerance for individualism who are not libertarian. They are ideologists and you are likely still libertarian.

  • jk

    The Will piece was great — thanks for bringing it up here.

    This year’s crop of Democrats is promising protectionism, tax hikes, Federal price controls on pharmaceuticals and $2Trillion in increased spending.

    Against that, I will allow President Bush to throw some bones at the social conservatives.

    Like Milton Friedman, put me down as a little-l libertarian and big-R Republican.

  • Julian Morrison

    Blech. The republican party is as libertarian as it is religious, as it is capitalist. Ie: not at all in conviction, and only in practise if and whilst the political winds happen to blow that way.

    BTW, as a libertarian libertine atheist anarchist who doesn’t believe democracy confers legitimacy, I wish BOTH the repugnicans and democraps would all die in their sleep tomorrow.

  • I remember supporting Russel Means instead of Ron Paul for LP president, partly for choice, and partly for recognition. In fact, neither Rep nor Dem is very libertarian, because voters are NOT libertarian. They want “the other” to be controlled; the rich should pay more, the irresponsible should be forced into some better lifestyle.

    I was wrong about abortion. Killing a human fetus to support sexual pleasure consequences is wrong — even if the fetus doesn’t have full rights, it deserves some. Enough so that society should protect its innocent life, even from a murderous mother who would rather kill than let it be born and give it up for adoption.

    “no place for practicing religion in politics” is … silly. There is always some moral framework for each and every law. And each law is permission to use force against law breakers. (Libertarians for Life) I like Barry, but he was wrong on this.

    Property rights need to be enforced, as do contracts, as do anti-fraud provisions–all require force.

    Unfortunately, BOTH Dems and Reps want lots more gov’t spending. Notice I don’t say “public” spending. Buchannan did a huge diservice in Public Choice Theory naming, instead of Gov’t Choice or State Choice or Forced Choice.

    Too many voters confuse “public” with “government” — and then belief in the public becomes belief in gov’t.

    The USA needs to accept its role as world’s policeman/ posse deputy in a land without any real marshalls. And start kicking the butts of non-democratic governments. US security needs a World Without Dictators, before terrorists get nukes.

    Or else, afterwords, and after one or more is used — and it will NOT be pretty.

  • Rick

    My dear Speedwell,

    Perhaps I need to elaborate. I do not object to libertarians saying that some things are obvious. I object that they say these things are obvious based on their favored base assumption.

    The Libertarian oath that I have never been willing to sign says: “I do not believe in the initiation of force to achieve social or political ends.”

    I do not believe that unambiguous conclusions can be reached based only on that premise, at least not to the extent that most libertarians do.

    Did Hitler initiate force against the US? No, at least not directly. But one could argue that Hitler initiated force against our European allies, and that we could justifiably see that as an attack against us. Alternatively, one could say that we know by Hitler’s actions that he would subsequently initiate force against the US, so we can justify pre-emptive force against him. Or one might argue that the US should not have attacked Hitler until after he had invaded the US.

    My point is not that no person should claim any actions were “obviously” justified or not justified. Rather, my point is that the “non-initiation of force” premise does not have clear implications. You have to incorporate additional premises, value judgements, empirical evidence, experience, and logic to justify your conclusions.

    Similarly, the justice of individual “free choice” does not clearly justify abortion. One must determine whose choice is to be “free” and within what constraints. Most of us claim the right to kill animals and eat them, even very intelligent animals such as pigs. We deny even adult animals the right to “free choice”, but claim it for ourselves. (It should go without saying that “non-initiation of force” can not be used as the sole premise for allowing abortion.)

    So I do not claim that issues of war and abortion are never, in any sense, “obvious”. Rather, I claim that they are not justified by the direct application of one or two simple premises.

    I do not use the term “obvious” as a synonym for “simple”. Rather, by “obvious” I mean that a conclusion is evident to most observers, perhaps based on compex reasoning and evidence, but where most of us have already reached the same conclusion based on that reasoning and evidence.

    Hence, I predict that most readers of this site agree that the US should have fought Hitler, and should pre-emptively fight terrorists. I claim the latter because most people seem to agree, by now, that the war in Afghanistan was justified. But that war was pre-emptive. The US was not throwing back an attack on its soil. Rather, it was preventing expected future attacks. (Of course, one might support pre-emption in Afghanistan but not in Iraq. It is only the goal of “pre-emption” that I claim most people readily accept.)

    All those reading this who oppose the US war against Hitler and any pre-emption of terrorist attacks, please speak up.

  • snide

    Rick: this has been argued out here before, and it shows that saying ‘what libertarians think’ is kinda risky as clearly the guys who write for samizdata, most of who are clearly what most people would call “libertarian” (unless you are one of the anti-war.com fruitcakes), obviously do not think what you say “libertarians” think.

  • “For all their manifest shortcomings, the Republicans seem to be a more hospitable environment at this point.”

    Either that or a more convincing fraud – which is my opinion, for what it’s worth.

    Even with both houses and the presidency in hand, Republicans still blame “Clinton” or some other reason they can’t actually shrink government. Everything about Republicans today (and Dems, of course) is about more government. Heck! Even Republican tax cuts are designed to INCREASE revenue and hence INCREASE government.

    And government grows fastest with this “hospitable” Republican game.

    There is no “more hospitable” among the two parties.

  • Tedd McHenry

    Julian:

    BTW, as a libertarian libertine atheist anarchist who doesn’t believe democracy confers legitimacy

    What, in your opinion, does confer legitimacy?

  • veryretired

    I have been voting for alternative candidates since 1972, when I was confronted by the utterly unappealing choice between Nixon and Mc Govern. I have even voted a few times for the uninspiring stiffs the Libertarian Party has trotted out every four years to ensure that no more than 1% of the voting public will ever suport them.

    This year, the candidate may possibly be in jail before any election can take place, but I doubt that too many people would even notice. Why should they, when the party and its devotees are so completely out of touch with political reality that they discredit not only themselves, but any potential consideration of libertarian ideas by the vast majority of the electorate.

    It is beyond my comprehension that any serious person could see the news today, with the pictures of slaughtered children and heartbroken parents, and then propose that the average voter support a doctrine which states that the government of the nation is criminal if it conducts military operations to disrupt the terrorist networks that might bring such carnage to our own streets.

    The other ridiculous comments condemning religion, in a nation where 96% of the population professes a belief in a divine being, or demanding the instant abolition of everything we don’t like before we’ll deign to participate, or denying the virtue of the democratic process because thigns happen we don’t approve of—yes sir, these are the ideas that will generate the kind of societal support we need to reduce the state and create, er, ah, whatever it is that will come after.

    The political process is slow, dirty, and cumbersome, requiring compromise, incrementalism, and a relentless committment to basic principles that one strives toward, even if the results seem far away. This is the kind of determination the statists have used for over a century to move society to its present collectivist situation.

    Do any of the people who frequent this blog, and profess libertarian ideas, actually believe that they can just snap their fingers and undo that accretion of statist ideologies? Does anyone seriously believe that stomping around whining about how the system is rigged and we don’t have a chance so we’re not going to try will actually produce any positive result?

    If you feel marginalized, that’s because libertarian ideas ARE marginal, and will continue to be until all the poseurs looking down their noses at anyone who doesn’t agree with every iota of their latest theory of how things on earth should be, get out of the way and let those of us who are actually trying to accomplish something about reducing the size and power of the state by doing some down and dirty politics go about our business.

  • Julian Morrison

    Tedd McHenry asks me “What, in your opinion, does confer legitimacy?”

    Individual consent confers legitimacy on actions done to a person or their property. Nothing else can do so. Not democracy, not religion, and not “need”.

  • Shawn

    I want to vote for veryretired for Pres. Brilliant post.

    flaime wrote:

    ” is invalidated by their adherence to extremist religious values.”

    What does trotting out the word “extremist” mean? Extreme to who?

    The fact remanins that the religious values you call extremist are the values of most Americans, even of many of those conservative working class people who vote Democrat. They have been the values of most people in the US for all of its history. Reality check, this could be the reason why Libertarian atheists are not currently well represented in Congress and have never won the Presidency.

    Libertarians love to claim that they believe in the free market. That the market determines the relative values of a product. Well, the Libertarian Party has been in the market for a long time now and the market has utterly rejected it. If the LP was a business it would have collapsed long ago. The American people do not want a foriegn policy that does nothing until the the Islamists are already killing millions of our people with chemical, biological or dirty nuke weapons. They do not want a foriegn policy that looks at the horrific events in Russia and says, “Its not our problem”. They do not want a foriegn policy that would have left Hitler in power to kill every Jew in Europe. And they do not want it because they know it for what is is. Gutlless limp wristed cowardice masquerading as principle.

    Neither do they want open boarders, mass immigration, child “rights” that would have allowed sex between “consenting” children and adults, or any of the other lunatic crap the Libertarian Party has advocated.

    The market has spoken. The LP should do the honorable thing and cease to exist.

    RC Deans post was spot on. Moderate libertarians and relegious conservatives have enough in common to work together. This was the idea behind fusionism, an idea whos time is coming.

    Most religious conservatives do not want a theocratic state, we simply want the state to stop forcing radical anti-Christian policies on the American people. Yes we are opposed to abortion, but unless I’m mistaken the Constitution mentions something about the right to life. And some principled libertarians agree: http://www.l4l.org/

    Idiots theocrats like Pat Robertson are not representative of conservative Christians. He is not even representative of Evangelicals, most of whom do not rate him highly as a spokesman for the Evangelical community.

    There are some issues that secular libertarians and religious conservatives are always going to disagree on, but they are few in number and should not prevent us from working together.

    As for “LIbertarians for Kerry” and “Libertarians for Dean” and “Anarchists for the destruction of the United States”, they are a tiny fringe of armchair theorists and of no relevance.

  • fnyser

    Quite a bit of confusion on what makes a libertarian here and I think it is caused by the detour the Libertarians took over drug policy for a while. The party’s primary focus was pot and they didn’t care if you were Stalin as long as you stood with NORML. Bill Maher calls himself a libertarian though he is nothing more than a libertine socialist of the most authoritative kind, demanding the right to shoot up and/or screw goats in a state approved cannibis freindly vehicle, and the right to have others foot the bill for rehab, delousing and “sustainable” rations of hemp seed oil.

    The party seems to have pulled its head out and maybe that has something to do with large defections to the Republican Party and the formations of libertarian caucuses within the GOP…. maybe Larry Elder becoming a “Republitarian”.

    Even at their wackiest, the Libertarians have always siphoned off more votes from GOP candidates and why this is so should be obvious to anyone who has read any of the requisite texts but not to someone focused on dope and buggery.

    As far as the Religious Right/Social Conservative drive for theocracy straw-man goes… I think you’ll find the vast majority of these “radical right wingers” would like to be able to set standards for their own communities rather than imposing any their vision of morality on the entire nation, and want to be judges by their family, peers, and their church, not by some butt-wipe in Washington.

  • Kirk Parker

    Rick,

    > One of my children was born 7 weeks early, and he could not have survived on his own

    Hope he’s well now. Your statement, though quite true, doesn’t go far enough and thus is unfortunately quite open to misunderstanding. In fact, it’s not just your somewhat-premature son who couldn’t have survived on his own, but rather no full-term infant in the history of the world has ever been able to survive on their own. I know lots of people who want to find a bright line somewhere in the abortion debate they can live with (other than conception, that is.) I can only say that any bright line regarding dependency is far, far on the breathing and outside-the-womb side of delivery.

  • Kirk, Nice try at a bait and switch: If one seriously wanted to draw the line at “dependency” one could justify the killing of ‘children’ perhaps even as old as the 30 yr old Italian mama’s boys who still live at home. The proper line is not dependency but viability. No amount of medical intervention can sustain a first trimester fetus outside the womb.

  • Tedd McHenry

    No amount of medical intervention can sustain a first trimester fetus outside the womb.

    If that’s true, surely it’s only a matter of time until it’s no longer true. It strikes me as a very weak position to argue from.

    I know lots of people who want to find a bright line somewhere in the abortion debate they can live with (other than conception, that is.)

    I suspect this may be one of those situations — very common when moral questions are considered — where no such “bright line” is possible. The truly challenging moral questions never have theoretically or ideologically pure answers. That is why attempts to encode them in laws or otherwise decide them in advance are destined to produce tragically immoral results.

  • If that’s true, surely it’s only a matter of time until it’s no longer true. It strikes me as a very weak position to argue from

    I don’t see why this is axiomatically so. If it’s no longer true then the line moves back to the new line of viability. Otherwise you are merely fetishising the line of first trimester for its own sake rather than as a marker of viability.

    I suspect this may be one of those situations — very common when moral questions are considered — where no such “bright line” is possible. The truly challenging moral questions never have theoretically or ideologically pure answers. That is why attempts to encode them in laws or otherwise decide them in advance are destined to produce tragically immoral results.

    This is the sort of reasoning that irritates the hell out of me. You seem to imply that because there may be some fuzziness about where the “bright line” of viability might be, one must stick with the entirely arbitrary ersatz bright line of birth instead. The thing is: for abortion there isn’t a choice between law and no law. As there is generally a prohibition on murder, the purpose of abortion legislation is to determine when the fetus/infant acquires the implied right to life. The choice is between Law A, abortion legal up to birth, or Law B, abortion legal up to some sort of accepted line of viability or Law C, no abortion at all. Not choosing between A, B and C is not a neutral stance and implies a choice for A.

  • Rick

    I have to agree with Tedd, that no “bright-line” is possible.

    What do we mean by “viability”, if viability is something less than the ability to survive totally independently of support from other humans. (And please note, I would not claim that even for myself, and I am substanially older than 30 and do not live with my mother.)

    But if “viability” means ability to survive, given some “normal” human support, then ANY fetus is “viable” except those that die without any attempt to abort. In fact, this concept of “viability” might imply that the papal objection to contraception is valid.

    My point is that you have to make a decision without any “bright-line”. There is no simple distinction between the right to life and the right to kill that can be justified without “fuzzy-thinking”. We are forced to be fuzzy, but we can reach just about any conclusion in a fuzzy way. And we just have to think, argue, decide, and still be prepared to change our minds.

    And this gets me back to my objection to at least most libertarians. They seem to think that they have some unchallengeable base principles (such as non-initiation of force) from which many conclusions logically follow, without any necessity of fuzzy thinking.

    I am in favor of fuzzy thinking as a necessary evil. I deny that this forces any particular conclusion, and I further deny that this precludes reaching any conclusion at all.

    Rather, it is simply a form of humility. I have my opinions, but I acknowledge my fallibility in choosing them.

  • But if “viability” means ability to survive, given some “normal” human support, then ANY fetus is “viable” except those that die without any attempt to abort. In fact, this concept of “viability” might imply that the papal objection to contraception is valid.

    This is an absurd attempt at a reductio ab absurdum. The fetus isn’t anything close to viable – as in capable of living outside the womb – in the first trimester, never mind a freshly fertilised egg and as it happens is not all that viable in the second trimester either. Come the third trimester and you have something which is pretty damn close to a newborn child. Probably the reason so many of those who style themselves “pro-choice” [sic] favour “fuzzy thinking” is that it assists them in denying that patent fact. Whatever justification a woman has to “evict” the fetus from her womb, there is no possible justification for deliberately destroying it, no matter how viable it is. As a practical matter non-viable fetuses once evicted will simply die obviating the need to destroy them.

    The problem is that abortion is so damn convenient that all sorts of post-rationalisations are conjured up to justify it but anyone who delays the “choice” to abort until past the point of viablity doesn’t suddenly, out of sheer inertia, acquire a moral right to kill a viable human being which came into being as a direct consequence of her own freely chosen actions.

  • M. Simon

    Republican Socialism

    Nationalize the flag
    Nationalize permissible eating, drinking, and smoking habits etc.
    Nationalize people’s sex lives
    Nationalize women’s bodies.

  • M. Simon

    OK. So we make abortion illegal.

    How in the hell are you going to enforce it? I this day of RU-485 and D&C instructions (and descriptions of a home kit for same) available over the internet.

    The “home kit was described on the front page of an “underground newspaper” in 1969.

    I have yet to hear how any one believes the enforcement of such laws will work any better than drug prohibition. Which we all know has dried up drug supplies and done a good job of keeping drugs out of the hands of children.

  • I have yet to hear how any one believes the enforcement of such laws will work any better than drug prohibition. Which we all know has dried up drug supplies and done a good job of keeping drugs out of the hands of children.

    There is a significant difference between consumption of drugs which, if at all, only harms the drug taker and other crimes against persons or property. Nobody argues that because pickpocketing is easy and the law against it is “difficult to enforce” therefore it should be legalised. Probably the most significant flaw in the pro-abortion argument is the assumption that it is a matter only for the person involved, i.e. the mother. This is a begged question: assuming, a priori, that the interests of the fetus count for nought.

  • Just to clarify for those who think that any restriction at all on abortion amounts to a “nationalisation” of women’s bodies: I don’t believe that any woman should be compelled to carry a fetus against her will. However I don’t think that this “right of eviction” confers a right to deliberately destroy her fetus

  • M. Simon

    Frank,

    The only way to effectively enforce anti-abortion laws is to nationalize women’s bodies.

    Do you mean to tell me you wouldn’t ationalize women’s bodies to save millions of children a year?

    I mean to enforce drug prohibition we have already gone quite far in that very direction. And you tell me we won’t go even farther to prevent murder?

    Well maybe not at first.

  • Shawn

    “The only way to effectively enforce anti-abortion laws is to nationalize women’s bodies.”

    I dont see that this follows. The term “nationalise” is nicely emotive but illogical.

    The law says that I cannot walk next door and murder my nieghbour. Does this mean my body is nationalised? Of course not.

    M. Simon’s mistake is to assume that a concieved child is not a unique human being with the right to life, but merely an appendage of the Mother’s body. But this is false. Conception creates an individual human being. All the talk about “viability” is of no relevance. Conception alone is the only moral and rational point at which we should consider a human being exists.

    Nationalisation is not required. Only enforcement of the Constitution and the laws against murder.

  • Guy Herbert

    To return to the original topic of the post, The Economist acutely points out how the Convention was operated on the floor for the faithful social conservatives, but it was projected to the outside world using Reagan Republican social liberals such as Schwartzenegger and Giuliani (and for that matter Bloomberg).

    The spirit of Barry Goldwater clearly is alive in America, since the Bush campaign makes efforts to appeal to it, but whether it is reviving in the Republican Party itself is open to doubt. Recall, Arnold would never have got on the ballot had he had to face a primary.

  • Guy Herbert

    fnyser: I think you’ll find the vast majority of these “radical right wingers” would like to be able to set standards for their own communities[…]

    Well, there’s the rub. I deny anyone the right to “set standards” for me, whether they are in Whitehall, Brussells, Washington or next door. My neighbour may constrain how I live, but only to prevent injury to him (or, perhaps, other people). He may not impose his “standards” because he believes they are good for me or to avoid his emotional distress at my being permitted to deviate from them.

  • Tedd McHenry

    You seem to imply that because there may be some fuzziness about where the “bright line” of viability might be, one must stick with the entirely arbitrary ersatz bright line of birth instead.

    I did not mean to imply that, and I do not believe it, but I can see how you inferred it from what I said.

    When I said “no ‘bright line’ is possible,” I meant no ‘bright line’ period, including the ‘bright line’ of conception. I think what I’m arguing is similar to what Rick called “fuzzy thinking,” that is, finding suitable answers in the absence of theoretical or ideological purity.

  • Rick

    “The fetus isn’t anything close to viable – as in capable of living outside the womb – in the first trimester, never mind a freshly fertilised egg and as it happens is not all that viable in the second trimester either. Come the third trimester and you have something which is pretty damn close to a newborn child.”

    You are implicitly defining “viable” as ability to survive outside the womb with help from other humans. Even a full-term, natural-birth baby could not survive a week if you deposited it in a wilderness and walked away.

    Hence, the newborn is “viable” only with intensive assistance from others. But the first trimester fetus is fully capable of surviving (in most cases) until the so-called “viable” third trimester if the mother simply lives a normal life. The first trimester fetus ONLY dies if the mother actively and physically attacks it and kills it.

    Your so-called “bright-line” is totally arbitrary and circular. You define “viability” as humans that can survive outside the womb even if intensive care by others is required. You define as “non-viable” the first term fetus that will die only if actions are taken to directly kill it.

    We adults are therefore closer to the “non-viable” first term fetus than to the full-term baby. We are likely to survive without any altruistic efforts of others to care for us, but we can be killed by direct efforts with that aim.

  • Rick, you seem to miss the point: I don’t argue that a woman has the right to destroy her fetus prior to some arbitrary bright line of viability. Rather that, by upholding her right to withdraw consent to the fetus to use her womb, (upholding her right to evict), in practical terms that means eviction prior to viability will mean death of fetus while a fetus evicted post viability ought receive the same care as a “wanted” preterm fetus. Doctors’ hippocratic oath ought to apply to those infants equally regardless of whether their mother preferred them dead or not.

    I would see it as an impossible burden on self-ownership that any woman be compelled to gestate against her will, but I cannot see any corollary that she acquires a right to deliberately destroy her fetus, or indeed avoids any obligation to the life she voluntarily created. Nor do I see any reason why one must persist in the polite fiction that post-first-trimester abortion merely “undoes” the unwanted impregnation and does not involve the destruction of a life.

    The simple bright line can be drawn at the existing prohibition on killing. It is those who argue that personhood may only be conferred at birth and a fetus has no implicit rights who are guilty of obfuscation as a post-hoc response to the undoubted convenience for many women that abortion is freely available, as late-term as you like, and no longer attracts social stigma.

    By the way: there is a huge difference between fuzzy logic and fuzzy thinking. It is not fuzzy logic but fuzzy or, as I prefer, muddled thinking which is employed by those who prefer to handwave their way around uncomfortable truths to justify a predetermined conclusion. If you think fuzzy thinking is worthy of celebration, you might reflect that fuzzy thinking can be used to justify anything at all.

  • Wow. There are so many things, with which to take issue in the above thread. I guess I’ll just stick to one in particular, where the facts are a matter of public record (but apparently, not well known to the pundits in here).

    Quit calling the Libertarian Party’s non-initiation-of-force certification a “pledge” or an “oath” — certainly not a “loyalty pledge” or “purity oath.” Party founder David Nolan has said repeatedly that the certification of non-initiation of force was intended neither as a central religious axiom, nor as a purity test, but as a practical indemnification from government persecution (and prosecution).

    When the party was founded, Nixon was in his heyday and the US government was busily engaging in operations, both overt and covert, to uncover and take down communists and what we could today (and some back then did) call domestic terrorists of a left-wing persuasion. There was a lot of talk about violent overthrow of the government (for those who weren’t there or who were smoking too much dope to remember that time), and the FBI, among other agencies, was leading the charge in cracking down on any group that seemed to threaten violent revolution.

    With its opposition to the Vietnam war, the draft, Nixon’s wage and price controls, the drug war, and so much more, the LP certainly fit many of the FBI’s criteria for suspicion as a “left-wing revolutionary group.” By constituting the party as a membership organization, and requiring all formal, dues-paying members to sign the certification of non-initiation of force, Nolan and others sought to collect evidence that might someday prove necessary in court, to defend the party in anti-terrorism witch-hunts.

    Fast forward to the mid-1990s, when another regime in Washington was concerned about domestic terrorism, in the wake of the incidents at Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Oklahoma City. For those who weren’t there or don’t remember, the concern this time was over right-wing revolutionary groups. Again, the same principles and positions that put the LP under suspicion along with the left-wingers in the 70s, brought them right back into the spotlight with the right-wingers in the 90s. Government representatives mentioned the LP in the same breath with the scary bogey man of “right wing militias,” almost as often as George W. Bush later mentioned 9-11 and Iraq in the same breath — and with much the same result. People began, very wrongly, to assume that there was some substantial connection between the LP and the militia groups, just as later, they came to believe that Iraq aided and abetted the 9-11 terrorists. Both ideas were mistaken. In the latter, unfortunately, it took a bloody and expensive war to bear out and hammer home the lack of connection. In the mid-90s, however, the LP was able to allay the bulk of the suspicion directed against it, because the party could point to the non-initiation of force certification. LP representatives could say, sincerely and truthfully, that the LP existed to work within the existing political system, and that it explicitly denounced such things as violent overthrow of institutions. Those who engaged in unprovoked or “preemptive” violent strikes against the government, as Tim McVeigh did, for example, could be disavowed with high credibility and sincere conviction. LP members who advocated pre-emption could and were tossed out of the party.

    I believe that things would have gone harder for the LP in the 1990s, without the certification of non-initiation of force. It served its intended purpose well, has apparently proven very helpful during two eras of party history, and will likely be needed again.

    Those who don’t like indemnifying the party against criminal prosecution are free to register to vote Libertarian, or remain registered as “decline to state” or “independent,” but vote for as many Libertarian candidates as they want. But to be a close party member, involved in activism, voting for party leadership, and paying dues, it is important not to leave yourself open to charges of being a terrorist, or to leave the party open to persecution because it is alleged to harbor terrorists.

    The people who keep fixating on the “loyalty” or “purity” oath aspects of the certification — which were interpretations that OTHERS grafted onto the certification in later years — are simply wasting their own and everyone else’s time. If we could make a series of thirty minute episodes of these internecine fights, we might be able to rule Thursday Nights on NBC television: Like “Seinfeld,” such episodes would be exquisite comedies about nothing.

  • Rick

    James,

    Nobody, to the best of my recollection, referred to the LP oath as a “loyalty” or “purity” oath. But as even you say, the pledge must be signed in order to become a full LP member. That is an oath if ever there was one.

    You make it sound as if the purpose of the oath is not to certify a belief that is intrinsic to being a member of the LP, but rather, the purpose of the oath is to provide legal protection for the LP against wrongful prosecution (or persecution) as a revolutionary organization.

    Let me ask you then, do you believe that one must accept that oath in order to be a true libertarian (as opposed to a legally-approved member of the LP)?

  • Rick

    Frank,

    You say:

    ” I don’t argue that a woman has the right to destroy her fetus prior to some arbitrary bright line of viability. Rather that, by upholding her right to withdraw consent to the fetus to use her womb, (upholding her right to evict), in practical terms that means eviction prior to viability will mean death of fetus while a fetus evicted post viability ought receive the same care as a “wanted” preterm fetus. Doctors’ hippocratic oath ought to apply to those infants equally regardless of whether their mother preferred them dead or not.

    I would see it as an impossible burden on self-ownership that any woman be compelled to gestate against her will, but I cannot see any corollary that she acquires a right to deliberately destroy her fetus, or indeed avoids any obligation to the life she voluntarily created. Nor do I see any reason why one must persist in the polite fiction that post-first-trimester abortion merely “undoes” the unwanted impregnation and does not involve the destruction of a life.

    The simple bright line can be drawn at the existing prohibition on killing.”

    If I understand you, you are stating that a woman has the right to “evict” but not the right to actively kill a fetus. You seem to further argue that the fact that some of these evicted fetuses will inevitably die is merely a side-effect of the right to evict, but does not mean that eviction, per se, is killing (even though it may necessarily result in death).

    What I find most strange in this reasoning is your claim that once a fetus (child) is “evicted”,

    “a fetus evicted post viability ought receive the same care as a “wanted” preterm fetus”.

    Why?

    Reference to the Hippocratic Oath appears irrelevant to me. Suppose the mother gets an abortion from a non-doctor or a doctor who has refused to take the Hippocratic Oath?

    If the mother can not be compelled to leave a fetus in her womb (given that with the exception of rape it is clearly true that the fetus must be in the mother’s womb in the first place because of actions the mother took), then how can a mother (or anyone else) be compelled to actively assist an infant in staying alive?

    “Eviction” is an action initiated by the mother. Leaving the fetus in the womb would be passive. Caring for a new-born infant is an action. How is it that you see one action (“eviction”) as a right of the mother that may be chosen in preference to the passive acceptance of gestation, while another action (caring for the newborn child) is an obligation of the mother that she must choose over passive neglect of the child?

    Please note that putting a child up for adoption is also an action. If the mother is totally free, then I see no reason that she is obligated to even pick up the newborn infant. You should allow the mother to give birth in a gas station bathroom (or an isolated wilderness) and leave the baby where it drops.

  • fnyser

    Guy Herbert:

    Well, there’s the rub. I deny anyone the right to “set standards” for me, whether they are in Whitehall, Brussels, Washington or next door. My neighbor may constrain how I live, but only to prevent injury to him (or, perhaps, other people). He may not impose his “standards” because he believes they are good for me or to avoid his emotional distress at my being permitted to deviate from them.

    So noise ordinances are out of the question… noise causes “emotional distress” and no real physical harm. I guess we can all bang away on whatever life form we want to in the street in front of your house. We’ll just open a rendering plant adjacent to your house because the smell only causes “emotional distress”.

    I’ve known a few people who’d tolerate all these things but the vast majority of us would seek out others who could agree we’d not do some things in front of each other, not stink up the neighborhood, and turn off the music at night. Then we’d wall the damn place up.

    The whole point of our Republican form of government goes to this Idea. Let New Orleans be New Orleans and Salt Lake…. well stay in Utah.

    You’d rather impose your lack of any values (probably not a total lack… you just take for granted that nobody is going to build a refinery on your block etc…) on everybody else and deny them the right to seek out people they agree with and set community values.

    I’d love to step out on to my patio and blast a few cans then launch a mortar round into the fields just as much as the next guy and believe I have the right but I also realize I’m going to need some property and should see if my neighbors in the next valley sleep at some point so I could time my huge explosions.

    You’re never going to get the free for all you think you want and if you did you would be denying others the right to live how THEY wish. So how ’bout we keep that kind of stuff strictly local and you when the rest of us deny you the right to walk about in the buff with bouquet hanging out your ass, you can move to a more ass-flower friendly town.

  • fnyser

    Frank:

    Can I use a Mossberg Pump Action at will to “evict” tenants? No? But what if it is agreed to in a contract that when I tire of them using my property I can indiscriminately blow their heads off?

  • Guy Herbert

    fnyser, what I wrote, and you quoted, was: “or to avoid his emotional distress at my being permitted to deviate from them.” Did you read it?

    I have absolutely no problem with neighbours expecting to be undisturbed directly by my actions. I have no problem with rules of the road (I include normal civility, and traditions of deference in that) that allow everyone to operate in public spaces without damaging conflict. What I object to is the imposition of taste on the ground the fact of deviation, rather than the deviation itself, is harmful to others. You are not entitled to control my actions merely because they offend you.

    There is no social action at a distance. Everything is strictly local as it affects any of us. The “strictly local” life- control by ones neighbours that you appear to be advocating is morally indistinguishable to me to that offered by the Taliban, even if in practice a small rock-ribbed Republican town would be a more pleasant place to live than Kandahar.

  • fnyser

    Guy:

    I have absolutely no problem with neighbours expecting to be undisturbed directly by my actions. I have no problem with rules of the road (I include normal civility, and traditions of deference in that) that allow everyone to operate in public spaces without damaging conflict.

    Your views of normal civility and traditional deference may seem indistinguishable from the Taliban’s to many. You are simply taking your (most of our) views of morality for granted and thinking “everyone behaves that way out of common courtesy.”

    You are not entitled to control my actions merely because they offend you.

    So sex in the street in front of Guy’s house is OK? What else can we do that is only offensive in front of your house.

    Your neighbor could only claim offense if you decided to torture livestock in your basement so long as you kept it quiet (noise falling in the nebulous “normal civility and traditional deference” category) since most of us kill them and eat them. What’s a little torture before supper – it’s not harming the neighbor – just his sensibilities.

    Again, you are just expecting “normal civility and traditional deference.” You’ll paint anything more restrictive than your views as as Taliban-esque and probably find an economic harm justification for denying others the right to do things you disapprove of.

    Like it or not most of the “normal civility and traditional deference” we enjoy are *gasp* morals and most are also down as law.

    You can push for a relativistic and lawless society if you want but then you’ll have to throw out “normal civility and traditional deference” – or you can accept some of the bad with all the good you enjoy and lobby to be able to do those things you feel everyone should be able to do – or move to the ass-flower friendly town down the way.

  • If I understand you, you are stating that a woman has the right to “evict” but not the right to actively kill a fetus. You seem to further argue that the fact that some of these evicted fetuses will inevitably die is merely a side-effect of the right to evict, but does not mean that eviction, per se, is killing (even though it may necessarily result in death).

    Look, this may seem a bit jesuitical but it is an important distinction because some abortion practice involves actively killing the fetus, in some cases cutting it into pieces, and then removing it. If you don’t think there is a difference then you must also refuse to differentiate between walking past a slowly expiring tramp and, American-Pycho-style, bending over and cutting his head off.

    What I find most strange in this reasoning is your claim that once a fetus (child) is “evicted”,

    “a fetus evicted post viability ought receive the same care as a “wanted” preterm fetus”.

    Why?

    Look, imagine two preterm infants side by side. One has been” evicted” the other is “naturally” premature. Ordinarily the parents of any child are regarded as the arbiters of that child’s interests and make the decision as to the course of treatment. In the case of a mother who wishes her child to die, there is obviously a conflict of interest. It falls to the doctor to determine the best course of treatment for that infant, the oath – do no harm – must apply to the infant and not only to the mother. In many cases, for very premature infants, the view might be that it would be more humane to allow them die naturally. But this decision must be made with reference to the health prospects of the infant and not whether the mother had previously expressed a wish for it to die.

    As for the mother’s obligations. My point is – because this comes up a lot as a spurious utilitarian justification for abortion – that “society” shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for care of the infant. The idea being that the mother must arrange the adoption or at least pick up any costs involved in arranging that adoption not necessarily that she be obliged to care for the infant herself.

  • Rick

    If you don’t think there is a difference then you must also refuse to differentiate between walking past a slowly expiring tramp and, American-Pycho-style, bending over and cutting his head off.

    This is the wrong comparison. How about:
    “If you don’t think thee is a difference then you must also refuse to differentiate between gently picking up a slowly expiring tramp, taking him out in a boat, and placing him in the ocean, versus, American-Psycho-style, bending over and cutting his head off.”

    I guess there is a difference. Cutting his head off would probably cause him to die in less pain than drowing in the ocean.

    In case this is too nuanced, my point is that when you “evict” the “non-viable” fetus you are actively taking the fetus from an environment wherein it is very viable and placing it in an environment where you fully expect it to die.

    Regarding the Hippocratic Oath, recall that it says first do no harm. Wouldn’t that prohibit abortion in the first place? But once the fetus has been “evicted”, wouldn’t it allow the doctor to do nothing (ie., do no harm)?

    And why do you persist in assuming that there is a doctor, or that any doctor must be bound by the Hippocratic Oath? Why do not free people have the right to bear children (or abort them) without a doctor present? And why does not a doctor have the right to practice medicine without obeying the Hipporatic Oath?

    As for the mother’s obligations. My point is – because this comes up a lot as a spurious utilitarian justification for abortion – that “society” shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for care of the infant. The idea being that the mother must arrange the adoption or at least pick up any costs involved in arranging that adoption not necessarily that she be obliged to care for the infant herself.

    Where do these “mother’s obligations” come from in the first place? Why does the mother have any obligation to even a full-term newborn infant? Let the infant take care of its libertarian self!

    And what cost is there to the society if the mother chooses to give birth in the wilderness and walk away without picking up the child?

    If the mother has no obligation to carry a fetus that the mother conceived by voluntary actions (here I exclude rape) to full-term, then why does the mother have any obligation to even touch the newborn child if she does carry it to full-term?

    Your logic seems to be that conceiving the child creates no obligation to the child, but carrying the child to full-term (or even to the third trimester) creates some maternal obligations. Why?

  • Rick says, “Nobody, to the best of my recollection, referred to the LP oath as a ‘loyalty’ or ‘purity’ oath.” Maybe not in this thread, but the subtext is clearly related to innumerable other discussions on Samizdata and elsewhere, where those words have often been used in the past 30 years. If you don’t recall any of them or don’t relate this discussion to them, then your recollection doesn’t go very far, even if restricted only to Samizdata articles. At very least, my introduction of those terms here aligns the present discussion with the longstanding larger one, of which it is a tributary, and of which every participant here could benefit from being aware (if only to make educated statements in future discussions!).

    Rick says, “You make it sound as if the purpose of the oath is not to certify a belief that is intrinsic to being a member of the LP, but rather, the purpose of the oath is to provide legal protection for the LP against wrongful prosecution (or persecution) as a revolutionary organization.”

    Not at all. Although the practical purpose of the certification is to provide indemnification (albeit not airtight legal immunity, I concede), it could not do so without being a more or less accurate statement of libertarian core beliefs. Why would an obvious lie provide any legal protection at all? “Fig leaves” are routinely dismissed by courts.

    That being said, someone can call himself libertarian, align himself with the party, register to vote as Libertarian in many states, and certainly vote for Libertarian candidates, without being a dues-paying, certification-signing member of the party. On the other hand, if he wishes the latter status — especially in the paranoid authoritarian climates of Nixon-era or GWB-era America — he becomes a potential legal liability to the party if he can’t honestly delcare that he is not a violent revolutionary.

    The wording of the certification was, as I understand, determined at the time to secure the necessary legal position, while still allowing the broadest number of committed libertarians to sign it in good conscience. Wordings of such things as the certification and the party platform have been objects of contention since the start, and I can imagine the final wording in this case as being the product of vigorous debate and compromise. (Remember that Jeffferson’s original Declaration of Independence draft said, “life, liberty, and property…”)

    Not everybody will be able to sign the certification, but anyone who can’t or won’t can still “be a libertarian” in the sense of helping the party, speaking out on libertarian matters, influencing others, voting for candidates, and so forth. They just can’t determine the official views or the elected leaders of the Libertarian Party.

    I can see how you might regard the certification as an “oath,” but that word is usually reserved for declarations before God or some higher authority, which the certification is not. It is also not a pledge of loyalty to the party or any political unit, nor was it intended as some kind of purity test to enable internecine witch-hunts and purges. (For that matter, neither was the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. It was intended as a conversation starter and a means to get people to think outside their own political box. Hierarchy-minded libertarians, however, have often flaunted their WSPQ scores as if they provided accurate measure of their libertarian “juice,” which is absurd.)

    Now, to answer Rick’s direct question (“Do you believe that one must accept that oath in order to be a true libertarian?”): I don’t think that whether you have signed an an oath, a pledge, or a certification makes or doesn’t make you a “true libertarian.” Libertarianism is in the heart. I do think that the certification statement is a very concise distillation of what it means to be a libertarian: if a libertarian desires a particular political or social change, he won’t unilaterally coerce someone else to get his way, although he may very well use force to defend himself, his property, etc., or to retalliate for damage or injury. I suppose that someone doing otherwise a time or two under exceptional circumstances doesn’t negate their essential libertarian character. Being “true” to libertarianism doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes veer from the path, but that you know the path and keep trying to get back on it, as necessary. On the other hand, someone who routinely finds himself using, advocating, or supporting coercion or other initiation of force against those who have not harmed or attempted to harm him first, should probably question whether the “libertarian” label is appropriately applied in his case. Someone who is “more or less” libertarian in philosophy or behavior certainly isn’t “true libertarian” in the “be true to your school” sense, but I wouldn’t refuse to work with him on a campaign, or hang out with him at a libertarian supper club or county fair booth. I wouldn’t look down my nose at him as I do to some of the most egregiously statist politicians I might name. I would definitely question whether anyone who repudiated the certification statement outright were a “true libertarian,” but I’ve heard some good arguments from those who have, right here on Samizdata, as a matter of fact. I won’t say those arguments were ultimately compelling to me, as they usually led to justifications for first-strike military carnage, which I think, at best, displays a restricted and somewhat inconsistent form of libertarianism. But that’s an even bigger and more contentious argument than the “pledge” controversy, and I did say in my original posting that I wanted to stick to one topic, which we could discuss from a basis of fact. 🙂

  • Rick

    I don’t think that whether you have signed an an oath, a pledge, or a certification makes or doesn’t make you a “true libertarian.” Libertarianism is in the heart. I do think that the certification statement is a very concise distillation of what it means to be a libertarian…

    I would definitely question whether anyone who repudiated the certification statement outright were a “true libertarian,” but I’ve heard some good arguments from those who have, right here on Samizdata, as a matter of fact. I won’t say those arguments were ultimately compelling to me…

    These statements were part of a longer answer to my question. A short summary of James’ answer would be: “Yes”.

    (The question was:
    “Do you believe that one must accept that oath in order to be a true libertarian?”)

    Wow! That was a pretty simple conclusion that was very difficult to extract. However, my view is that you have essentially stated that the legal rationale for the “pledge” (is that word OK?) was merely the impetus to creating it. In reality, you believe that anyone who sincerely repudiates the pledge is not a true libertarian, regardless of legalisms.

    And that is my point. I sincerely repudiate that pledge, and do not consider myself a true libertarian.

    But I will say that it is useful that the LP facilitated my self-discovery be requiring that I sign that pledge in the first place.

    (P.S. Since it has taken an inordinate amount of time to reach the simple conclusion that a true libertarian would not repudiate the pledge, I would like to defer to some other time any further discussion as to why I or anyone else might choose to so repudiate that pledge.)