Freedom Fetishists

Kay Hymowitz writes for Commentary Magazine:

Murray Rothbard, for example, became a fan of Che Guevara and the Black Panther leader H. Rap Brown. Karl Hess, a libertarian/anarchist said to have written Barry Goldwater’s famous lines about “extremism in the defense of liberty,” was an equal-opportunity revolutionary; during the 60’s, he symbolized his move to the New Left by donning a Castro-style beard and jacket. And many young libertarians spent the decade moving back and forth between the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom and the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society.

The point in rehearsing this history is not to play gotcha; many good people did and thought things during those days that they would prefer not to remember (assuming, as the joke has it, they can remember). Rather, it is to suggest that, when one’s moral compass consists of nothing more than doing “whatever the hell you want” and avoiding physical harm to anyone else’s person or property, it is very easy to get lost.

The civil-rights movement is an instructive case. Lindsey includes it in his list of libertarian victories, but it is a perfect example of the inability of libertarians to find a political and moral framework suitable to the big questions of American public life. If people ought to be able to do what they want, then certainly hating blacks—either by oneself or in the company of like-minded souls—is nobody else’s business, including the federal government’s. To the extent that libertarians are remembered at all for their role in the civil-rights era, it is not for marching on Selma but rather for their enthusiastic support of states’ rights and the freedom of white racists to associate with one another.

Libertarianism was complicit, too, in the vociferous attack during the 1960’s on the bourgeois family.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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