Freedom and Virtue The ConservativeLibertarian Debate

Freedom and Virtue The ConservativeLibertarian Debate The long running debates between between conservatives and libertarians are vigorous and highly charged dealing with ideas about the very nature of liberty and morality Like no other single work Freedom and Virtue explores what unites and divides the adherents of these two important American traditions—shedding much light on our current political landscape


8 thoughts on “Freedom and Virtue The ConservativeLibertarian Debate

  1. says:

    Demanding essays often referring to other's thought in the collection trying to define the terms conservative and libertarian Reuires some proficiency in political philosophy as well as careful reading


  2. says:

    First published in 1998 then reprinted in 2004 this book is almost of a historical document than something with resonance today In an era of Trumpism and beyond the academic discussions of libertarianism conservatism and its attempted fusion by Frank S Meyer and his disciples seem almost uaint Yet these essays are worth a read for those who wish to better understand how the Right lost its way in some ways it never really knew what it was doing or where it was going except against Russia and the Commies it seems and why America's political system was always doomed to fail in the end since it lacked a documented connection to an enduring moral order Blandly referring to a Judeo Christian tradition whatever that is isn't enough and time has proven that to be the caseThe conservative believes ours is a God centered and therefore an ordered universe; that man's purpose is to shape his life to the patterns of order proceeding from the Divine center of life; and that in seeking this objective man is hampered by a fallible intellect and vagrant will p 6the limitation of government power becomes the highest political objective of conservatism p 7A movement that can accommodate libertarianism's axiom is dominated by it if freedom is the 'first principle' in politics virtue is at best the second one; and the programmatic aspects of the movement that affirms that hierarchy will be determined accordingly p 21the idea that the uest for the common good begins with the individual man and will ascend to increasingly collectivized levels only under necessity and always with a prudential concern for the dangers of going higher p 37It took the study of John Calhoun to wake me up to a realization that a constitution is and should be primarily a negative document to be revered for what it prohibits than for what it authorizes A constitution is a series of 'thou shalt nots' to the government p 73The conservative on the other hand is tolerant because he has something to tolerate from because he has in a sense suared himself with the structure of reality p 76individual liberty limited government representative institutions and the scientific attainments of the West are products of Biblical theism generally and of the Christian Middle Ages in particular p 91In the Biblical perspective as Jaki puts it the universe is 'a totality of interacting things' harmonious in character and intelligible to human reason which is part of the same creation formed by the same creator p 100It may be said that the characteristic feature of liberalism broadly defined classical as well as modern has been an attempt to take these by products sever them from their theological origins and make them independent and self validating On the whole it has not been a totally successful experiment p 101the institution and protection of private property reuires some kind of legal authority government or similar institution in society p 110uoting Dostoevsky To begin with unlimited freedom is to end with unlimited despotism p 177First the great line of division in modern politics as Eric Voegelin reminds us is not between totalitarians on the one hand and liberals or libertarians on the other instead it lies between all those who believe in a transcendent moral order on the one side and on the other side all those who mistake our ephemeral existence as individuals for the be all and end allSecond in any tolerable society order is the first need Liberty and justice may be established only after order is reasonably secure p 182Thus the perfection of society is impossible all human beings being imperfect p 183One would hope that libertarian philosophers would accept the fact that their notions have merit only in relation to the religious basis of Western civilization and that the liberty they seek is valuable so long as the ends toward which it is directed are derived from transcendent truths and values which are God's and not man's p 210In short as people viewed sexual s as a matter of taste rather than a uestion of right or wrong the moral underpinnings of the law collapsed followed by the laws Only a renewed consensus could allow the re establishment of the laws p 215All told an unfree society is not likely to be a virtuous one p 217We would be better off if public officials adopted as their maxim 'First do no harm' p 217


  3. says:

    Thoughtful helpful essays exploring the similarities and differences between conservatism and libertarianism This book was awesome


  4. says:

    A collection of essays meant to flesh out the debate about the philosophical differences between traditional conservatives and libertarians which the collection roughly breaks down as traditional conservatives believe in a society that pushes respect for order and virtue while libertarians believe in a society that values individual liberty As a libertarian I will note right off the bat that the collection skews heavily in favor of essays attempting to push the traditional conservative virtue philosophy That's okay though because I think that the pro conservative essays are on the whole generally weaker they all essentially end up arguing that government is bad at things like regulating the economy or making people eual but is perfectly up tot he task of making men moral Likewise when attacking libertarianism they all tend to focus on strawman arguments like euating anarchists with the entire libertarian intellectual movement or arguing that all libertarians believe in an atomistic individualism that forecloses any sort of cooperative engagement The essays by the conservatives do have the bonus of clearly expressing what they believe and highlighting the ways in which conservatives and progressives share a common statist underpinning even if their ultimate goals differ The essays by actual libertarians are fewer in number but from my perspective enlightening especially Tibor Machan's excellent Libertarianism The Principle of Liberty in that they clarify just to name a few things that libertarianism is essentially a political and not a moral philosophy; that libertarians believe in a freedom that allows virtue through free choice to flourish; that libertarians believe that a society that promotes individual liberty will reuire and foster cooperation and voluntary association; and that society can and will operate as a check to moral excess but that check shouldn't be back by the coercive power of the state On the whole I found it a useful collection that demonstrates exactly the impulse that separates conservatives from libertarians even if they sometimes find common ground


  5. says:

    I have to confess philosophical arguments make my head spin This collection of essays is probably great for someone already steeped in the various voices of the conservativelibertarian debate But frankly it was a bit over my head There were some moments of clarity and light and I did find this useful to help me see there is much to this debate than can be captured in sound bites and memes Russell Kirk's essay A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians was especially lucid I also enjoyed the back and forth between Paul Kurtz and Edward B McLean


  6. says:

    An interesting collection of essays on the differences between conservatism and libertarianism Some individual essays are very good Others I had trouble taking seriously but did have a value as giving insight into the other side of the debate


  7. says:

    Very good exercise in comparative politics


  8. says:

    How conservatives look at the virtue reuired to give us our liberties as opposed to how libertarians seem to think free people will be virtuous


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