By Arnold Kling
Lee Harris pens a provocative essay.
To natural libertarians, there can be no more existential conflict than the one they face today. Are they destined to perish from the earth along with their cherished cultural and religious traditions, pushed aside by those who claim to champion progress but who in fact promote learned helplessness in the general population, however benevolent their intentions? Will the natural libertarians’ roadblock to serfdom simply be brushed aside without a fight? Or will these roadblocks turn into barricades, to be manned by those who are willing to make the last sacrifice to preserve their spirit of independence?
Like Arthur Brooks, Harris posits a battle between plain folks who instinctively value freedom and elites who believe that plain folks need the state to protect and regulate them. How can this view be reconciled with Brink Lindsey’s project of stressing the commonality between liberalism and libertarianism?
Presumably, liberaltarians would see cultural and religious traditions as something to be rebelled against, not “cherished.” Lindsey probably would want to make a case that liberals are better candidates for natural libertarians than are conservatives.
I think that most people resent being told what to do, and yet such people are not libertarians when it comes to other people being told what to do. I have a stronger criterion for natural libertrianism. When you see other people doing something that really offends you, are you willing to see the state allow that behavior to continue? Only if you can answer “yes” are you a natural libertarian. I think that there are very few natural libertarians.