The Corner

Culture

C. C. Pecknold Miscasts Kevin Williamson’s Argument

In the Catholic Herald, C. C. Pecknold responds to Kevin’s criticism of Senator Rubio by pretending that Kevin wrote something that he did not: Namely, that markets exist for their own sake and that commercialism is the only force in the universe. “Williamson,” Pecknold writes, “seems to think of politics primarily as economic liberty. But as Senator Rubio, channeling Aristotle, has rightly asked, economic liberty for what end?”

Senator Rubio has indeed asked this. So, routinely, does Kevin. The difference between them is the scale on which they are operating. Pecknold, like Rubio, seems to believe that if it is to count for anything, the question of what we should do with our liberty must be answered nationally. Kevin, by contrast, seems to believe that this question can — and should — be answered by individuals, groups, families, communities, and so forth, and that the role of federal legislators such as Senator Rubio is to foster an environment in which those people remain free to make those decisions. That Pecknold reads Kevin’s criticism of a federal legislator’s national plans and opinions and concludes that Kevin must be against plans and opinions per se is deeply, deeply weird. There is a big difference between arguing that, at the national level, politics should be economic liberty, and arguing that economic liberty is all that should matter to our civil society.

The charge evidently bothers him, but one cannot help but see a busybody poking out through Pecknold’s complaint. Kevin’s contention was that we protect the market so that we have a mechanism by which people can trade and interact as they see fit, and so find meaning as they see fit. Pecknold’s response to this, in effect, is to say, “no, I must be involved with everybody’s lives.” Why? Who invited you, exactly?

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