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February 18, 2005

Finding the Seam Between Factions

In conversation at the Republican event that I mentioned over on Anchor Rising, differences of opinion arose with respect to prioritizing "libertarian" issues and "social" issues. To be honest, I think I'm too exhausted to take up that or any matter but so lucidly. Still, to get some thoughts down, I'll let my fingers type some compounding points, letting my eyes check in from time to time from behind heavy eyelids.

The bottom line is that all issues, even those that rouse libertarians, are moral, "social" issues. We may all want lower taxes, for example, but there must be moral reasoning to justify cutting them. Moreover, tax cuts are not an obvious good if separated from an invocation of some form of ideology, and there are two options for considering efforts to amass wealth: a larger purpose or greed.

Particularly in Rhode Island, folks are willing to give their charity by proxy. High taxes hurt a given family somewhat, but families can feel, whether justified or not, that they "gave" to others in dire need. They support a system in which the government does what people are, ostensibly, not willing to do to help each other. In the ineluctable cycle of such things, these people gain the mindset that they are investing in protection of themselves. That isn't true, at least not for most families, but it is the feeling that they buy with their tax dollars.

Mixed up with the moral vanity of supporting giveaways, money and the purchased trappings of modern life can be means to an end, or ends unto themselves. One gets the sense that, for some people, consent to high taxes is a palliative for guilt over greed. As if the Mercedes is forgiven because the taxes help to fund welfare.

In a sense, those trappings are buy-offs embedded in the hidden forces of an unhealthy worldview seeking validation — an anti-individualist, anti-religious, anti-family, misanthropic worldview. Unfortunately for those willing to be bribed, the cost rises over time, changing form; high taxes become time lost for the sake of work becomes a separation from family becomes a family spread out across the country because taxes are too high in one area, stifling opportunity, and accustoming parents, children, and siblings to hardly seeing each other anyway.

With these generalities, I'm not drawing a sufficiently solid line that it ought to be followed as an argument to promote tax cuts, or any other cause. However, it circles an important bit of strategy: the social issues that strain family life overlap any political issues that affect citizens directly or indirectly (e.g., taxes and economic policy). It isn't enough to tell people that they can keep more of their money. It isn't enough to say that children will be able to stay within an easy drive if the economy improves through the government's making some hard decisions. As the culture sinks generations-deep into its corrosive mire, we must increasingly convince people that the traditional family is important in the first place.

Libertarian reason unmoored from social conservative principles ultimately has no basis articulable in terms of pure reason. Principles will inhere, whatever the case, and for society to continue to function, we cannot allow those principles to be negative by default, as attacking libertarian issues alone would ensure.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 18, 2005 12:22 AM
Libertarians vs. Social Conservatives