The Corner

More Balko

Something else bothers me. He writes:

As a libertarian, I really don’t buy into the “No Guardrails” way of thinking. I don’t believe in collective rights (affirmative action, for example), or in collective morality. I think that left to their own devices, people will generally make decisions that are in their own best interests. Let each pursue his own happiness, so long as he doesn’t hurt anyone else.

That’s fair enough as far as it goes. But for the record, it’s simply nonsense to assert that there’s something contradictory about being a “moralist” and a “libertarian.” A huge chunk of Bennett’s “sermonizing” never called for the State to do anything. Rather he believed in shaming people who did shameful things. There’s absolutely nothing inconsistent with libertarianism and this position. Hayek was a strong supporter of the influences of culture on individual behavior and I know plenty of libertarians who would argue that the smaller the State gets the more assertive the culture would have to be in policing and shaming errant behavior. Indeed, the glory days of early America are a perfect case in point. The government was strong but local moral codes were very strong. Many early — and I would guess current — National Review conservatives argued that the expansion of the State crowded out the ability of other institutions (Burke’s “Little Platoons”) to police, nudge or otherwise influence individual behavior. If Balko believes libertarianism is about radical individual autonomy, he’s hardly alone but he’s adhering to a form of libertarianism which will never catch on in this country and never existed in this country — thank goodness.

CORRECTION: Woops! That should have read “The government was weak but local moral codes were very strong. Many early — and I would guess current — National Review conservatives argued that the expansion of the State crowded out the ability of other institutions (Burke’s “Little Platoons”) to police, nudge or otherwise influence individual behavior.”

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