Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why I Am Not a Libertarian

It's not just because many libertarians are, in theory if not in practice, libertines, but rather because we have different views on the appropriate role of government.  To lift a line from the Catholic Encyclopedia, "The goal of the State is the temporal happiness of man...."  However, virtue is a part of temporal happiness, not just eternal happiness (which is the goal of the Church, not the State).  As a result, the State has an obligation to promote virtue, something with which a libertarian would not agree.  That is not to say that the State should be coercive in the promotion of virtue; both justice and prudence place strong limits on what the State should do.

One non-coercive tool for promoting virtue is the "bully pulpit".  Like any tool of government, it can be (and often is) abused, but it is appropriate for there to be some public statements about the character we the people aspire to have.

Anyhow, that is one reason why I am not a libertarian.  Yet at the same time, I would want someone with libertarian habits to always be on hand to ask (to paraphrase the WW2 slogan), "Is this law really necessary?"  Even the most well-intended law may be (or become) too burdensome, intrusive, or punitive.

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