I attended the Federalist Society meeting at the Governor’s Club recently, where Ilya Shapiro spoke on this term of SCOTUS. Slicing and dicing statistics, and wielding deft political commentary, he led a merry tromp through recent history and threw out a few prognostications. I’ve never heard this man speak, but it was apparent that he knew his way around the podium. His comfort and ease before the cameras translated well to the friendly audience.
Shapiro is a libertarian, and it was painfully obvious in his argumentation. He failed to lay any ultimate ground for the liberty that he cherishes; libertarianism simply does not and cannot scale well past the individual person. While individuals are the only political unit that we have, nevertheless, there are transcendent operational truths which the philosophy never addresses. Consider: if I and my wife save, it is well for us. We have money then shored up against disaster. If the entire country saves, the economy collapses, for no products are sold and companies that create and sell them go out of business. Libertarianism likewise does not work well on a state, culture, or national level.
For instance, take CATO’s position on homosexual marriage. Shapiro noted that while marriage had been existent for millenia, that state involvement only traced back two-hundred years or so. If true (which I suspect not), he failed to mention the emergence of another two-hundred-years-or-so-old phenomenon: America. America is a country founded on certain ideals and it would be strange indeed if America simply behaved like all other countries in regards to preexistent societal structures, like marriage, money, taxes, standing armies, national churches, and so on. I think you can see the irony present in such a statement. Of course America did things differently precisely because of its ideals.
To wit, America was and is, political Protestantism. That is, it inculcates an understanding of how the world works, its moral foundations, and structures its laws in accordance. As a result, America became the freest, prosperous, and mightiest nation the world has ever seen. That’s not merely rah-rah hometeam fervor; it is a statement of fact that should cause observers to wonder why and how this occurred. It is something so unusual and without parallel, that one writer described the resulting advancement as the 5000 year leap.
Libertarianism cannot recognize the existence of any ideals outside of individual desire; thus, it can only write off a state interest in promoting marriage as some Big Brother interference in people’s pursuit of happiness. It has no concern with rejecting something that has worked for millenia and substituting something else for the same term. Like America would not have succeeded as it has, if its building blocks were something else, neither would have society lasted were marriage (and all the lessons children learn from both mother and father) something else. We simply have no evidence that say, open marriages produce the same stable societies. We have no evidence that homosexual marriage and marriage lead to the same results.
Thus, I could see that Shapiro and CATO at large, might be winning the battle, but they are losing the war. Without an undergirding moral framework, law collapses to simply the war of all against all; there can be no culture, nor state, nor nation. While man’s natural state is not collectivism, neither is it individualistic anarchy. Libertarianism does not understand the need of mankind for his fellows, for it does not understand how and that man is designed.
While liberals are children, whose mental development has stuck forever in time at age six, libertarians have advanced to age twelve. This is not pejorative ratiocentration – liberals are pre-cognitive thinkers, and libertarians are preteens who have not yet discovered nor admitted the undying existence of things which they cannot alter. It is one thing to discuss gravity; it is another thing to fall from a cliff and experience gravity. Specifically, the existence of male and female is a fundamental unchanging building block of life which libertarians childishly deny. Like preteens, they do not understand the long pall that mortality casts over us all and neither have they ever considered the centrifugal pull of community. They know not man, society, nor God, and so their answers ring strangely hollow – as if walking in an abandoned home. Such a structure seems solid from a distance, but closer inspection gives way into darkness.