WSJ om "freedom fetishists" og værdier

Wall Street Journal har dd. en længere kronik, “Freedom fetishists: The cultural contradictions of libertarianism” af Kay Hymowitz fra City Journal.  Fokus er, som titlen siger, den amerikanske “libertarianske” bevægelse og dennes syn på moral og kulturelle værdier–eller mangel på samme. 

Man kan være enig eller uenig med forfatteren i mangt og meget, men emnet er interessant, kronikken er velskrevet og niveauet er alen over, hvad man kan finde i danske debatter om samme emner–hvis de da overhovedet findes.  Her kommer nogle brudstykker:

“More than perhaps any other American political group, libertarians have suffered the blows of caricature. For many people, the term evokes an image of a scraggly misfit living in the woods with his gun collection, a few marijuana plants, some dogeared Ayn Rand titles, and a battered pickup truck plastered with bumper stickers reading “Taxes = Theft” and “FDR Was A Pinko.”

The stereotype is not entirely unfair. Even some of those who proudly call themselves libertarians recognize that their philosophy of personal freedom and minimal government can be a powerful magnet for the unhinged. Nor has recent political history done much to rehabilitate libertarianism’s image as an outlier.

The Libertarian Party’s paltry membership has never reached much beyond the 250,000 mark, and polling numbers for Ron Paul, the libertarian candidate the Republican presidential nomination, remain pitiable. Worse, despite Bill Clinton’s declaration that “the era of big government is over,” antistatist ideas like school vouchers and privatized Social Security accounts continue to be greeted with widespread skepticism, while massive new programs like the Medicare prescription-drug benefit continue to win the support of re-election-minded incumbents. A recent New York Times survey found increasing support for government-run health care, and both parties are showing signs of a populist resurgence, with demands for new economic and trade regulation.

And yet, judging by their output in recent years, libertarians are in a fine mood–and not because they are in denial. However distant the country may be from their laissez-faire ideal, free-market principles now drive the American economy to a degree unimaginable a generation ago. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who as a young economist sat at the knee of the libertarian guru Ayn Rand, presided in the 1990s over one of the most prosperous stretches in American history, with the support, no less, of a Democratic president. When the avowedly libertarian economist Milton Friedman died last November, he was lauded just about everywhere, and even given respectful treatment in places like the New York Review of Books.

Nor have libertarian victories been limited to the economic arena. Americans are increasingly laissez-faire in their attitudes toward sex, divorce, drugs and gay marriage. In the personal sphere as in the world of business and finance, freedom has become the guiding principle, especially for the young. As the motto of Reason magazine, the movement’s flagship publication, trumpets: “Free minds and free markets.”

… Doherty disabuses readers of the idea that libertarianism is exclusively concerned with economics. As he emphasizes, it has a political and moral dimension as well, “a vision of a radical and just future.” … Many of the figures described by Mr. Doherty believe that libertarianism is also good for the social fabric. Capitalism may not lead to the fraternité naively dreamed of by more conventional revolutionaries, but it does expand the circle of human trust beyond the traditional limits of family and tribe; social bonds thrive in an atmosphere of freedom. Indeed, several of Mr. Doherty’s subjects (particularly Hayek) argue that government meddling positively discourages the human instinct for association. If politicians and bureaucrats would get out of the way, people would more readily cooperate and support one another. As David Friedman (the anarchist son of Milton) concluded in studying the economics of tipping, people are capable of developing their own rules for distributive justice, and will pay for social goods of their own free will.

… Mr. Lindsey goes well beyond most libertarians in his claims for the moral benefits of the creed. In his view, it is not simply freedom that improves morals; it is the prosperity that follows in freedom’s wake. Wealth allows us to transcend “the cruel dilemma of lifeboat ethics,” in which scarcity prevails. Moreover, wealth expands human tolerance and imagination. Drawing upon the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs, Mr. Lindsey proposes that once people are confident of their survival and comfort, they feel free to pursue “postmaterialist values.” They have the time, energy and ease of mind to try to perfect themselves.

… Even on social and cultural questions, where libertarians have often tangled with tradition-minded conservatives, Mr. Lindsey is on to something in his talk of a “libertarian synthesis” combining self-expression and self-restraint. If the country was slouching toward Gomorrah for a while, it has at the very least straightened up a bit. Many of the indicators of social meltdown that received alarmed attention in the 1980s and early ’90s–high crime rates, “children having children,” teen drug use, rampant divorce–have improved lately.

But they have not improved nearly as much as one might wish–and it is difficult to separate the reasons for our abiding social disarray from the trends that Messrs. Doherty and Lindsey praise and for which libertarians bear a measure of responsibility. Despite Mr. Lindsey’s protestations to the contrary, libertarianism has supported, always implicitly and often with an enthusiastic hurrah, the “Aquarian” excesses that he now decries. Many of the movement’s devotees were deeply involved in the radicalism of the 1960s.

Nor should this come as a surprise. After all, the libertarian vision of personal morality–described by Mr. Doherty as “People ought to be free to do whatever the hell they want, mostly, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else”–is not far removed from “if it feels good, do it,” the cri de coeur of the Aquarians. 

… On the one hand, libertarians make a fetish of freedom; it is their totalizing goal. On the other hand, libertarians depend on the family–an institution that, in crucial respects, is unfree–to produce the sort of people best suited to life in a free-market system (not to mention future members of their own movement). The complex, dynamic economy that libertarians have done so much to expand needs highly advanced human capital–that is, individuals of great moral, cognitive and emotional sophistication. Reams of social-science research prove that these qualities are best produced in traditional families with married parents.

Family breakdown, by contrast, limits the accumulation of such human capital. Worse, divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing leave the door wide open for big government. Dysfunctional families create an increased demand for state-funded food, housing and medical subsidies, which libertarians reject on principle. And in courts all over the country, judges who preside over the manifold disputes occasioned by broken families are forced to be more intrusive than the worst mother-in-law: They decide who should have primary custody, who gets a child on Christmas or summer holidays, whether a child should take piano lessons, go to Hebrew school, move to California, or speak to her grandmother on the phone. It is a libertarian’s worst nightmare.”

5 Comments

  1. Tak fordi i tager det her emne op. Jeg vil gerne knytte et par kommentarer til den centrale del af teksten, der udgrunder et klassisk paradoks.The complex, dynamic economy that libertarians have done so much to expand needs highly advanced human capital–that is, individuals of great moral, cognitive and emotional sophistication. Reams of social-science research prove that these qualities are best produced in traditional families with married parents.Family breakdown, by contrast, limits the accumulation of such human capital. Worse, divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing leave the door wide open for big government. Dysfunctional families create an increased demand for state-funded food, housing and medical subsidies, which libertarians reject on principle. And in courts all over the country, judges who preside over the manifold disputes occasioned by broken families are forced to be more intrusive than the worst mother-in-law: They decide who should have primary custody, who gets a child on Christmas or summer holidays, whether a child should take piano lessons, go to Hebrew school, move to California, or speak to her grandmother on the phone. It is a libertarian’s worst nightmare.”Ja, vores frihed beror på vores evne til at forvalte den forsvarligt og fornuftigt. I den sammenhæng er det bedrøveligt at måtte konstatere, at mange ikke længere umiddelbart forstår forskellen på egoisme og individualisme.http://hansside.dk/debat/individualisme-er-ikke-egoisme.htmlEmnet her handler også om familie, social kapital og frihed, noget jeg har skrevet om her:http://hansside.dk/blog/jfa/sandheden-om-sammenhaengskraft-og-velfaerdsstaten.htmlHvor jeg blandt andet kommer frem til:”Sammenhold og gensidighed kan opstå på flere forskellige måder. Familien, i den gammeldags forstand, er et knudepunkt for sammenhold.Destrueres familien, destrueres den skrøbelige enhed, der har bragt os frem mod det åbne samfund.Der er muligvis intet naturligt ved familien.Konservative, der argumenterer for, at familien er nødvendig og rigtig – blot fordi den er naturlig, risikerer meget nemt at save den gren over, de selv sidder på. En tradition kan sagtens være kunstig og så stadig en god tradition.Når jeg her bringer familien på bane, er det altså simpelthen fordi, det er min klare opfattelse, at den menneskelige tilstand forbedres, når samfund baserer sig omkring kernefamilien.”Endelig er balancen mellem familie og stat, altså balancen mellem den spontane og den påtvungne orden central:http://hansside.dk/blog/harmoni/staten-som-sugar-daddyEt kort uddrag herfra “Kvinder vil have mere stat, for staten gør dem uafhængige. Tror de.Kvinder elsker at modtage – ja, hvem gør ikke det.Førhen modtog kvinder fra deres ægtemænd (produktion), og ægtemanden fik sex til gengæld (reproduktion).(Dette mønster finder vi for i øvrigt overalt i dyreverdenen, prøv bare at google “nuptial gifts”. )Denne implicitte (og husk: expliciter den aldrig, i en konkret situation, det vil ikke gavne dig) kontrakt afspejlede den gensidighed naturen har begavet os med.Ved statsdannelsen opstod en ganske ny situation. Ægtemanden var pludselig overflødig, ja ligefrem afhændelig, for staten skulle nok sørge for at kvinden fik hvad hun havde brug for.Men hvis staten er en sugardaddy der giver til kvinder, hvad får da staten tilbage? En mand fik da sex, men en stat kan vel ikke få sex, vel?Nej, der har du ret – en stat kan ikke få sex. Den kan ikke bruge sex til noget, men den vil stadig gerne reproduceres. Så det staten får tilbage er en garanti fra kvinderne om tilslutning.Så staten er glad og kvinderne er glade. Staten bliver reproduceret – ja vokser endog for hver generation. Kvinderne, de får fra staten de materielle goder.”Kære punditokrater, jeg beklager sådan at besudle jeres glimrende blog med betragtninger om køn og familie, for jeg ved godt at sådanne er ubehagelige at konfrontere. Nu er det bare sådan, at disse ting også ligger centralt for vores muligheder for i fremtiden at have et samfund, der beror på merit, individets inklinationer, talenter og behov i stedet for på nogle abstrakte betragtninger om, hvordan fordelinger af diveres slags bør tage sig ud.Hilsen JFA

  2. Interessant. Jeg er dog lidt forvirret. Så vidt jeg har forstået handler det libertarianske mere om at være fri fra staten, end om hvilken moral og hvilke værdier man iøvrigt skal leve sit liv efter. Nogle vil åbenbart gerne være fri til at ryge hash, nogle vil bare gerne være fri til at tage ansvar for sit eget liv og lykke.Det blotte faktum at man ikke ønsker statslig og påtvungen indblanding i sit liv, siger jo intet om, hvilke opgaver man synes der er vigtige at løse, eller hvilke institutioner man anser for værende vigtige. Man ønsker blot ikke at det er staten der løser opgaverne eller bærer institutionerne.Jeg ved godt at Rand agitererede for særlige dyder mv., men hun er vel ret beset heller ikke libertarianer eller hur? Det er vist ikke en underdrivelse at sige, at hun afskyede libertarianismen (hedder det det?).Hvis staten ikke fandtes var liberatarianismen vel overflødig. Ikke? Eller ligger der mere i det? Er det en “religion”? Det er ikke et retorisk spørgsmål, det var bare sådan jeg havde forstået det. Men jeg er ingen professor i politisk filosofi, så måske kunne nogen uddybe?

  3. Det er lidt mærkeligt at kalde familien for ufri. Artiklens forfatter opfinder et modsætningsforhold dér synes jeg. Ellers interessant nok.

  4. Interessant artikel, men jeg synes den rammer ved siden af mht. ‘moral.’ Moralsk set er mange lande i Europa langt mere laissez-faire end USA, og alligevel har vi ikke de store problemer med stoffer, vold, teenagegraviditeter, kønssygdomme mv. som man har der. I USA korrelerer disse problemer faktisk positivt med graden af konservativ religiøsitet i staten. Al sådan snak om moral er et forsøg på at hindre folk i at gøre hvad de har lyst til, og det tilmed uden grund.

  5. TorbenNu beviser korrelation jo ikke kausalitet. Det er langtfra kun “religiøsiteten,” der adskiller nord og syd i USA.Men givetvis er for meget religion en skidt ting, nøjagtig som for meget fordummet ateisme er det.Naturligvis er moral til en vis grad et forsøg på at hindre folk i at gøre, hvad de har lyst til. Lod vi os styre af vores umiddelbare lyster og impulser, ville denne verden være et mindre kønt syn, end den er nu.Vi er ikke dyr. Vi går ikke nøgne rundt og skider på gaden.Pointen er, at har vi ingen institutioner til at overlevere fornuftige adfærdsmønstre, har staten en glimrende undskyldning for at overtage denne rolle også. Så ved vi godt, hvilken vej vi bevæger os.En stat der også må opdrage, enten ud af misforstået ambition eller blot fordi ingen andre gør det, bliver en totalitær stat.Så mister vi faktisk vores sekularisering, som jeg er sikker på, at også du sætter pris på. Ikke fordi kirken overtager det politiske, men fordi det værdimæssige falder fra familien ind i staten – sammen med alt andet.Da går voksne fra at være voksne til at være børn.

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