Saturday, September 03, 2011

A libertarian reviews The Morality of Every Day Life

For The Freeman.

When you openly celebrate a jumbled, particularistic moral philosophy not based in rationality, but in tradition, you’ll end up inconsistent. Fleming is against foreign aid, condemned as a way for the state to benefit others at the expense of yourself and your family. But he is for tariffs that benefit other producers at the expense of your and your family’s consumption. [And so we have here an instance of the liberal preoccupation with rights. Tariffs are bad because they interfere with my rights as a consumer. What about the obligations of the consumer as consumer to his community? He has none.]

Fleming presumes the self-evident value of small, localized cultural traditions over those of the global, commercial modern West. While one might share this as an aesthetic value, he doesn’t do much to convince the skeptical that this is a matter of moral philosophy. But the sort of rationalism that would involve “convincing” has no role in Fleming’s moral vision. He ultimately presents an intellectual defense of nonintellectual localized preference and prejudice, a love of tribalism as an intellectual construct while showing mostly contempt for his own “tribe,” contemporary fellow Americans. [One can be critical of the failings of one's fellow Americans in order to illustrate a general moral point while being loyal to them at the same time.]

Ultimately, the localism and tribalism that Fleming celebrates, the families and small communities that he insists are the proper grounds for human well-being, have their best chance of surviving and thriving in a libertarian polity—if the individuals that are part of the localities and tribes and families and communities want them to. [The individual trumps all.] Certainly, the “globalism” that a universal free market allows can corrode old ways—but not by force. [And so it's acceptable, because no force is involved, rather it involves free decisions on the part of the individuals. What about the corporations?] As Fleming skillfully points out, it’s the contemporary state that wars against local values and uniqueness, on many fronts. [Again, what about the corporations?]

Fleming’s moral vision needs libertarianism. Once you grant that the state has the right or the obligation to interfere with others for the sake of some greater good, all smaller communities and interests are in danger of being crushed. [Dr. Fleming does not do this, with respect to the Federal Government.] Libertarian political philosophy may be universal and rational, but only it allows room for the widest play of local and individual variance and seemingly irrational attachments. The only catch is—and this should be morally bearable, even for those skeptical of universal, rational moral philosophy—they have to be freely adhered to, personally chosen. [I must be free to choose and consent to my moral system for it to be valid. If I don't acknowledge duties to my parents, then they don't exist and I should not be punished for this.]

Should I be disappointed when a libertarian thinks as a libertarian?

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