Monday, December 19, 2011

Is There Too Much Government in Our Lives?

If you are interested in a civil, extended debate on the issue of how big government should be between articulate representatives of both the Left and the Right today, you should check out this 40 minute debate between George Will and Paul Ryan, for the Right, and Barney Frank and Robert Reich, for the Left, moderated by Christiane Amanpour of ABC.

I thought that Ryan and Will were good, but not able to articulate some key points that would have enabled them to put the real issues on the table. Barney Frank is a good debater (a true Sophist) and was able to frame the debate in such a way as to disguise his support for big government control of the lives of ordinary people. For him, citizens are reduced to clients of government. Yet, by harping on conservative support for basic sexual morality, he was able to portray liberals as the libertarians. This is a major point on which people generally are confused today.

If you want to get to the section on individual liberties, go to the third segment. About a third of the way in or so, Frank starts ranting about anti-drug laws, marriage laws etc. and puts the conservatives on the defensive as defenders of intrusive "big government," which clearly makes them very uncomfortable.

You can check out the debate here.

What Will and Ryan Should Have Said

Will and Ryan missed the chance to say something like this to Frank after his big rant about how libertarian the socialists like him are:
"What you are doing is expressing the new view of liberals, which is "Libertarian Socialism." The classical liberalism of the 19th century depended on Christianity to uphold a social consensus on personal morality, which allowed for the extension of liberty in more and more areas of life. Anarchy and social breakdown was prevented by the existence of church and family and the morality inculcated through these institutions. But now, contemporary liberals have broken with Christianity and its traditional support for the defense of human life, traditional marriage and the family and have thrown in their lot with the cultural Marxism that seeks to destroy private property, the family and the church as obstacles to the Socialist Revolution. So an alliance has arisen between individual libertarianism in matters deemed private - sex, drugs, the family, etc. - and intrusive, big-government socialism in all matters deemed public - money, taxes, education, the military, etc.. This is a new phenomenon in the second half of the 20th century to the present: Libertarian Socialism.

What Libertarian Socialism does is to provide cover for the collectivists who want a ruling class of "experts" to have totalitarian control over the lives of everyone else. It does so by creating the illusion of freedom. When people are told they can have as much sex as they want with whomever they want any time they want, they can fall into the trap of believing they are, therefore, free. But this is not true freedom. It is a lie. It is an illusion of freedom, a parody of true freedom. True freedom is the ability to achieve one's telos, the end for which one was created. It is to become what one was created with the potential to become. Just as the telos of an acorn is to grow into a mighty oak tree, so the telos of the human being is to grow into a mature, responsible, moral agent who consistently chooses what is objectively good instead of being distracted into making choices that prevent one from attaining the good.

Libertarian Socialism prevents humans from becoming fully human in two ways. It infantilizes people and it removes their ability to make moral choices. It infantilizes them by assuming that the government take care of them. So we have socialized medicine in Canada, socialized education, government welfare cheques to replace fathers in the home and so on. Socialism creates a permanent, dependent class of clients who gradually lose the ability to govern themselves and, as that happens, they become happy to be governed from above. A good example of this is the massive intrusion of "family court judges" into the minute details of the lives of families down to determining their daily and weekly schedules as a result of granting the so-called "freedom to divorce easily." This is freedom? It looks more like a government take-over of the family.

Libertarian Socialism removes the ability of people to make good moral choices in two ways. First, it encourages them to make bad choices. Today government makes money out of encouraging gambling, drunkenness, pornography and, soon, prostitution. Libertarian Socialism professes to regard the individual freedom to commit consequence-free adultery as sacrosanct, but thinks it is only right to take money away from the middle-class tax payer to give to its cronies in socially-approved industries such as wind power.

If the goal of socialists is to have a ruling class of "experts" control every aspect of life in order to create a Utopian society free of poverty, crime and inequality, then libertarianism in the area of personal sexual morality is a double benefit to their cause. For one thing, it breaks down personal responsibility and encourages people to simply give in to their appetites, which makes them dependent clients without the personal discipline to demand freedom in other areas. For another, it destroys the family, which is the main bulwark against the tyranny of the total state.

The real agenda of Libertarian Socialism is not individual freedom at all, but rather a government so big, so intrusive, so controlling and so pervasive that individual freedom is destroyed forever. The logical and inevitable outcome of Libertarian Socialism is portrayed in Aldous Huxley's prophetic novel: Brave New World. In this horrifying portrait of the society of the future, our humanity has been all but erased and people are but children, wards of the state. The family has been abolished, promiscuity is a social duty and drug-taking is a way of life for all." In pursuit of Utopia, our basic humanity is diminished and our status as responsible moral agents is destroyed. Libertarian Socialists ought to understand that in the long run the Socialism will swallow up whatever libertarian ideas are embraced today.
Contemporary liberalism does not deserve to be called "Liberalism" because it is not about liberty any more; it is a movement designed to destroy liberty. This is what Ryan and Will should have said.

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