I have always wondered why the libertarians almost always choose the right wing party in America, when theoretically, they could just as easily choose the left. I have variously chalked it up to hypocrisy, selfishness or greed, since when it comes down to it, most of them seem far more interested in property rights than individual liberty (or, at least, seem to define individual liberty as narrowly applying to their right to own property.) But that’s facile. I always figured there had to be more to it — I just don’t believe that the only thing that animates human beings in money, not even Randian libertarians. Humans are far more complicated than that, and there are much more primal motivators at work.
Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about Ron Paul and his odd notions about women’s reproductive freedom. And we’ve also talking about the Catholic Bishops and the Religious Industrial Complex and their more conventional objections on the same subject. Coalitions are one thing, but this one, on this subject, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Except, it actually does, which I learned from talking to Corey Robin about his book last night on Virtually Speaking. He sent me here for a smart take on it from Mike Konczal:
I see the religious conservatives getting ready for this battle, but where are the libertarians? Perhaps we need a refresher course on the libertarian case against female sexual autonomy and birth control. For this, let’s go to our man Ludwig von Mises and his 1922 book Socialism. The book is a full-frontal assault on all things socialist; one of the many cases he brings is against “free love” and for the traditional family.
Why? He starts the case like this: “Proposals to transform the relations between the sexes have long gone hand in hand with plans for the socialization of the means of production. Marriage is to disappear along with private property… Socialism promises not only welfare—wealth for all—but universal happiness in love as well.”
Corey Robin suggested I check out this book, and it is great. I love this part, as it is very relevant for the Right today: “The arguments, sometimes unctuous and sometimes venomous, which are put forward by theologians and other moral teachers, are entirely inadequate as a reply to this programme.” The socialists are coming with a plan to equalize gender relationships – and by making the wife an equal of the husband it is only a matter of time until the worker seeks to be the equal of the boss, and with sex itself freely shared among consenting equals how can we even maintain the idea of “private property”? The theologians in charge of sex and the family are both (a) inadequate to stopping them and (b) kinda creepy about the whole sex thing to boot (Mises goes on at length about this). The libertarians are going to need to man up on this.
So, when Ron Paul and the boys are going on about the Austrians, they aren’t just talking about monetary policy are they? It turns out that the father of modern libertarianism has more in common with Catholic Bishops than is readily apparent. Here’s Mises again:
So far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution. When, going beyond this, it attacks the institutions of social life under the impression that it will thus be able to remove the natural barriers, it is a spiritual child of Socialism. For it is a characteristic of Socialism to discover in social institutions the origin of unalterable facts of nature, and to endeavour, by reforming these institutions, to reform nature….
Why do so many more libertarians join the right wing instead of the left wing? Because they care more about maintaining traditional, private realms of power than anything else. And that translates to dominance over women in the home and workers in the offices and factories. The people who are drawn to that ideology have no problem making common cause with social conservatives because ultimately, they care about the same thing, the social cons would just have the state enforce it. And as we’ve seen, Ron Paul and many of his followers are fine with that too — as long as it isn’t the centralized state doing the enforcing. Tyranny on a local, private level isn’t tyranny. It’s natural.
Update: Be sure to read Konczal’s piece and the ensuing argument over Mises’ “endorsement” of birth control. He endorsed it — for the husband/father to make women use if he didn’t feel it was financially viable to have more children. Rick Santorum wouldn’t agree with that. But in the end they can both agree on one thing: men are looking out for “the family” when they control women’s reproduction. What could be wrong with that?