I like Jonah Goldberg. Not that I’ve met him personally, you understand, but I’ve been reading his columns for National Review Online for quite a while now. He’s funny, insightful and most sound on the French, or “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” as he prefers to call them.
I recently returned from Paris, and I must say that it is, indeed, good to hate the French. Mr. Goldberg not only understands the important difference between a democracy and a republic, but also correctly acknowledges the advantage of the latter over the former. And one can’t help but admire a writer who devotes significant amounts of space to Cosmo, the Wonder Dog. If you don’t read his stuff, you should.
Now, you can probably hear the “but” coming on like Jennifer Lopez in spandex. So here it is: Like most conservatives, Jonah appears to miss the most significant aspects of libertarian thought, and even flirts with intellectual dishonesty from time to time by deliberately reducing serious philosophical objections to silly straw men.
Conservatives seem to think of libertarians as a combination of pothead idealists and philosophy-mad sex addicts, while viewing themselves as hardheaded pragmatists firmly rooted in the grit and grind of the real world. And they are the salt of the earth, truly they are, but when it comes to libertarian thought, they simply do not understand it.
I’m not saying, of course, that I don’t know any libertarians who smoke the devil ganja from time to time and there are surely a few who have personal inclinations to make Caligula blush but, by and large, most of the serious libertarians I know and read are nothing more than ex-conservatives. Just as a conservative has been described as a liberal who was mugged, a libertarian is a conservative who got wise to who is really doing the serious mugging in this formerly great nation of ours. So put that in your water pipe and smoke it … or Just Say No, as you like. That’s the beauty of liberty.
The atomic foundation of libertarian thought is nothing more than this: Government is like fire. Fire can be useful, fire can be desirable on a cold winter day and it can even be desperately needed on occasion, especially when the alternative is eating raw dead pig. But fire is always – always – dangerous, and if you turn your back on it, it will burn your house down at the first opportunity, most likely with you in it. Government may occasionally be a necessary evil, but it is an EVIL! Government bad, freedom good. Aristotelian individual liberty trumps the Platonic public imperative.
Can you seriously argue with that? Remember, in the previous century, more people died at the hands of their own governments than died in every war and civil war combined. If people are given Nobel Prizes for trying to outlaw war, then shouldn’t something be done for the individual who has contributed the most in attempting to outlaw government?
In the shadow of the 9-11 hijackings, leftist journalists have tried to argue that government is “making a comeback” and that “public trust in government has never been higher.” How could that be? The one thing the federal government is supposed to do is to provide for the national defense, a responsibility for which it failed miserably, in a shockingly obvious way!
Yes, the firefighters and policemen who gave their lives doing their jobs were very brave, and we rightly honor them, but they were individuals and there is nothing inherently governmental about their occupations. Volunteer firefighters and private security guards not only provide very similar services as their publicly-funded counterparts, but they significantly outnumber them across the country as well – by a factor of more than 10 to one.
Indeed, many of those brave firefighters might well have survived had they been working for a private firm which did not use the labyrinthian procurement methods of the New York City government, thus allowing them to have state-of-the-art communications equipment.
Conservative proponents of government, unfortunately, have increasingly tended to mutate into the pale echoes of their socialist (liberal) counterparts. They support Social Security, but in a reformed manner. Ditto for subsidized health care. They support the unconstitutional federal income tax, but they want to see the rates reduced. On every issue of substance, from the Federal Reserve to the IRS, the IMF and the United Nations, their positions are identical to those of their supposed ideological enemies.
Which raises the question: If even the conservatives are progressives now, why do we bother with a Constitution?