The Basic Problem With Libertarianism

The demons, too, maximize their own hedonic profit – as they themselves construe it. Unfortunately for them, they are wrong in their construction of things. They are wrong about where the true hedonic profit truly lies. So, the profit they wrongly seek is of the sort that is earned as one Falls: falling feels like flying, for a little while.

We need not be like the demons. This is one of the things that makes temporal creatures like us superior to the aeviternal angels, some many of whom have Fallen incorrigibly: we can learn, and change our minds. For a little while.

Liberty can work toward the common good only insofar as it be first constrained by a vision of the good *which is in absolute terms itself correct about what is absolutely good,* toward which the idiosyncratic will finds itself inclined, prior to hedonic effects of this or that particular act. Liberty works, i.e., only when free agents think always in terms of a good prior to themselves, subvenient to their being, and therefore utterly suasive, whatsoever the agonies they suffer in obedience thereto.

Liberty unmoored from absolute morality is just chaos. Is, i.e., just evil.

We are fortunate that absolute morality is given to us ineluctably by our very bodies. We don’t want pain. We hate and avoid it with all our might, however stupidly. Were it otherwise, society would long since have dissolved into … well, it  would just have dissolved; and, so, would humanity.

Let us then thank Heaven for our pain, that guides us toward the right path. Or, rather, away from the wrong path.

OK then: what has all that to do with political arrangements under the orbit of the moon?

Simple. Integralism & Subsidiarity together tend to the maximum of mundanely achievable liberty and social adaptability.

Without integralism – which, NB, is no more than society as such, ordered under and by the principles of  a prior and absolute morality more or less reckoned (given, for those interested to find out, by the laws of game theory, that derive from that prior and absolute morality) – there can be no subsidiarity, for without an absolute, there is no way to comprehend anything less. A  thing cannot be in fact subsidiary to something that is not in fact actually supersidiary.

Subsidiarity follows from integralism without effort, and even without step: for, where the organs of the state are subject to the ukases of the Church, and so of the Logos who is himself the Order of all things (and who is the Life and Head and Mind of that Church – that Body who, despite her present stubborn defects and dispersions (akin to the dispersions on the field of battle of disparate divisions under disparate commands each a bit befuddled by the fog of war as delivered to them from their present predicaments), is the beginning (despite herself) of the New Heaven and the New Earth), a proper humility (vis-à-vis that Logos) on the part of all the agents of that hierarchy cannot but incline them to devolve all authority that can be devolved. Subsidiarity is just Christian humility – and Stoic practicality – as implemented in daily life by political actors. Subsidiarity then is just integralism as implemented. Thus integralism is the acme of liberty, properly construed.

No utopia is here on offer. No great political project is proposed, at least of the utopian sort beloved of our hellish adversaries. We are not getting out of this our present predicament except by the death of all we hold dear – to ourselves, at least. Our adversaries offer us a lesser, less costly way out of mortal Fallen life. It does not exist.

Let us all then pray that our own deaths might suffice to shield and redeem the lives of our progeny. On, then, into the fray; strongest & oldest, first.


PS: Wait, oh yeah, I should not neglect to post the coda, that concludes my argument. OK, here goes: Libertarianism – the Justice of each act under the purview of its agent, mutatis mutandis (and whatever, or despite, the sapience of that agent) – is true only insofar as it recognizes that the individual will does not by itself determine what it is right to do at this or that moment of life. So, mere liberty is no guarantee of virtue. Such an obvious statement. Yet, so rarely these latter corrupt days understood.

Libertarianism depends for the implementation of its preferred policies on a prior Christian weltanschauung. Like liberalism, and indeed nominalism and Marxism, it is an artifact of Christendom. Libertarianism differs from those other partial instantiations of Christianity only in that it is basically sane. It says, “society can work if everyone is more or less sane, rational, and Christian.” Which of course is obviously true, prima facie. A society like that would be … well. It would be the terminus ad quem of all politics. It would be an earthly paradise.

So, it can’t happen. Sorry! Still, we can and should try to make it so. No rest for the weary!

Marxism, per contra, says in all its variants, “society can’t work on its own organically; what’s needed is the state.” The exogenous authority of the state is not in Marxism fully described.  The state – whether or not withered away, in practical terms – is then in Marxist terms the sine qua non. Not truth; not justice; not persons; not reality; not cultural inheritance, schooled by millennia of experience. No: just the state. Behemoth. Moloch, i.e., in respect to this or that one of its subjects.

That the Christian terms of discourse within Christendom are still so widely deployed, even by those who manifestly know nothing about Christian doctrine or history, should give us credit, and encouragement. We live, still, in a fundamentally Christian culture, howsoever deranged by confusion and concupiscence.  After all, everyone still – for the time being, anyway – hates slavery (even when they like killing babies).

When they start to enslave Christians because they are Christians, or to persecute them on that account, why then we’ll know that our greatest possible mundane opportunity of martyrdom – and political leverage – has arrived. What a victory that shall be! Indeed, it seems to be now upon us.

Courage, dear hearts! We shall live forever, if only we persevere to the end. Hold fast!

3 thoughts on “The Basic Problem With Libertarianism

  1. I am for the two weeks each year after I file my federal income tax a stout libertarian. The fit passes in early May, but it is presently running pretty strong. Notwithstanding the present strength of my annual enrollment in the Sons of Liberty, I just this week disputed the value of objectless liberty with an evangelical friend. As you say, freedom should mean freedom to do what is good and not freedom to choose what is good.

    The world is, however, oversupplied with meddlesome and bossy control-freaks who do not know the meaning of minding their own business, and every one of us knows the agony that Huck Finn felt when he was incarcerated in the house of the Widow Douglas. It seems to me that there is a whole world of innocent liberty that is good simply because one is at liberty to do as one pleases. I mean the sweetness of a Saturday encumbered by neither chores or good works. I mean the sweetness of a walk on which one follows nothing other than one’s nose. I mean the sweetness of taking books up and putting them down at will.

    Liberty and authority must oppose one another like opposing buttresses on a gothic cathedral. Unopposed, they both will overrun their proper bounds. Anarchist and libertines are a real threat to human happiness, but so are bossy (and well-meaning) control-freaks like the Widow Douglas.

    • The meddlesome bossy control freaks who do not know the meaning of minding their own business are exercising illegitimate authority: authority which they may have de jure, but do not have de facto. Obeying legitimate authority is not irksome, even when doing so involves hard work. We resent paying taxes because we know most of the money we send to the government is going to be spent on stupid stuff; on exertion of illegitimate authority (authority that is stupid, ergo unjust, is ipso facto illegitimate.

      Authority and liberty are neatly balanced in the principle of subsidiarity. All social behavior must be ordered by a common vision of the good, if society is to work well. Thus all acts must be socially ordered. The question is, by whom? On the principle of subsidiarity, most acts with social implications should be ordered ad libitum by the agents thereof. Thus the sweet liberty of an open Saturday, or of choosing something from the fridge. The busybodies more and more want to control such trivial acts, under the rubric of the notion that the personal is political.

  2. Libertarianism teaches white men to be individualists while they are attacked by collectivists. This is not a recipe for success, but it’s not intended to be. Just look at the highly collectivist group that has supplied the most prominent libertarian gurus. But this is a good observation by Murray Rothbard:

    The egalitarian revolt against biological reality, as significant as it is, is only a subset of a deeper revolt: against the ontological structure of reality itself, against the “very organization of nature”; against the universe as such. At the heart of the egalitarian left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will — in short, that reality can be instantly transformed by the mere wish or whim of human beings.


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