Postmodern Conservative

Creeping and Creepy Libertarianism

The only reason I’m adding a post this late in the day is that I can’t get our site to accept my comments.

PGlenn, thanks for all your fine comments. It’s true that my defense of liberal education is quasi-anachronistic and self-indulgent. Almost all the trends point in the other direction. Our main hope is the diversity of our free country and the niche opportunities available for all manner of strange things in our high-tech world. To some extent, we need to use libertarian means (deconstructing the authority of the experts) to achieve non-libertarian ends.

It is also true, as you say, that objectively a liberal education that emphasizes reading real books, writing text-based essays, and taking the “existential” and “personal, relational responsibility” questions seriously is the best preparation for successful leadership. But that is hard to prove to the satisfaction of skeptics, and for convincing myself I mostly rely on the students I’ve seen with my own eyes.

On Carlism: I will post later on the challenge posed by Mark Lilla in The New Republic. But for those who can’t wait, here’s a takeaway summary: Progressivist ideology is dead; libertarian dogma has won. My own piece of evidence: The Koch brothers are “moderating” the Republicans by leading them to stick to economic liberty and abandon their social conservatism. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley is “moderating” the Democrats by getting them to take property rights seriously and keeping them from having any tax scheme that actually makes super-rich job creators pay significantly more. The new birth of liberty of our time is the emerging constitutional right to same-sex marriage, freeing human beings from the constraints of biological determination. The new progressivism is transhumanism, which is a techno-project for making particular persons perfectly free and in no way necessarily relational. It has nothing to do with the civic spirit and nationalist communitarianism of the old progressivism. This is, of course, some provocative exaggeration to stimulate discussion.

Of course, Ralph wants to tie together big-government, socialist progressivism and transhumanism as two ways of using our freedom to turn particular persons into gods. There is something to that too.

Peter Augustine LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...

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