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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Socialism, Conservatism and Ann Coulter

Most social conservatives that I know equate liberalism with socialism.  That they are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.  It’s probably the single biggest piece of evidence to me, that social conservatism is vacuous to begin with, because the very idea that liberalism and socialism have anything in common is a silly as a box of bollocks.

Now, let me first start of by saying that many people who call themselves “liberals” are really “social democrats” or are really “socialists” in terms of their actual thinking.  So there is a problem with terminology here, and when I use the word liberal, I’m referring to liberalism in it’s purest form.  To clarify, I will quote Wikipedia’s definition of liberalism:

“Liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Within liberalism, there are various streams of thought which compete over the use of the term "liberal" and may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for constitutional liberalism, which encompasses support for: freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, an individual's right to private property,[2] and a transparent system of government.“ -- Wikipedia.

Social conservatives are often quick to claim ownership of “freedom of thought and speech” and “small government” policy.  But the assertion that these ideas are in any way associated with social conservatism is an exercise of intellectual dishonesty.

Any serious look at the definition of socialism will help draw a contrast here:

“Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equal opportunities for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation.[1][2] Modern socialism originated in the late 19th-century working class political movement, and in an intellectual movement that criticized the effects of industrialization and private ownership on society. Karl Marx posited that socialism would be achieved via class struggle and a proletarian revolution, and would represent a transitional stage between capitalism and communism.” -- Wikipedia

Social conservatives, mainly of the Christian persuasion, have always sought to group liberalism and socialism together for another reason: they are both seen as secular.  That’s the common thread.  That’s how they’re viewed as the same thing.  And it’s probably one of the largest leaps of intellectual dishonesty that exists today among mainstream social conservatives like Ann Coulter.

In fact, Ann Coulter has more in common with socialists.  How so? Well, let’s create a check list with a bit of a roll call.

Raise your hand if you think social society should have a strong morality buttressed by law.

Socialism:             Yes, socialist principles of collectivism.
Ann Coulter:         Yes, based on the teachings of the Bible.
Liberalism:            No, morality is not the business of the state.

Raise your hand if you think citizenship should be connected to moral systems?

Socialism:            Yes, those who do not accept socialism in a socialist society should not be full members therein.
Ann Coulter:        Yes, those who conform to the Christian traditions of society are fuller citizens.
Liberalism:            No, plurality of belief is not only acceptable, but healthy.

Raise your hand if you think adherence to moral codes are more important than outcome?

Socialism:            Yes. It is preferable to have fairness than some with more and others with less.
Ann Coulter:         Yes. Traditions like marriage should be maintained irrespective of any outcome.
Liberalism:             Perhaps.  In so far as the adherence is to the principle of respect of others equal rights.

Is one of the purposes of policing to enforce social moral codes?

Socialism:            Yes.  The use of police to quell political dissension and anti-social behaviour is important.
Ann Coulter:        Yes. More police! More jails! Arrest people who do drugs, and engage in perverse sexual activities!
Liberalism:            Absolutely not.

Hopefully you can see the pattern emerging.  The reality is that liberalism stands opposed to both social conservatism and socialism, and both social conservatism and socialism share a common love for strong moral codes, enforced by the state, with strong policing.

Liberalism in it’s original, enlightenment form is the antithesis of strong, centralized control.  

Social conservatives have appropriated love for liberty, but only so far as economics goes.  They want lower taxes and less government services, but they want strong laws, stronger police, more jails, and bigger militaries--which ironically, end up costing as much, if not more than the social services they detest. They support the idea of “big government” while pretended to support “small government”, through a redefining of the term “big government”.  

For them, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a humongous government.  As long as all the money goes into enforcing morality through strong policing of sexual activity and drug use, and going to strange foreign-lands to wage war.  That’s a perfectly acceptable “big government”.  In fact, for them, it couldn’t be big enough!  The US government’s $652 billion military budget is not enough.  And yet, social conservatives want lower taxes.  They don’t really care about economics.  They want their cake, and they want to eat it too. Social conservatives want big militaries they can't afford, like socialists want big social programs they can't afford.

Give me low taxes, and huge militaristic, policing government with massive military and policing budgets.  Run a deficit, I don’t care!

Social conservatives believe in big government.  They just don’t call it that.  They are, with socialist, two sides of the same coin.

Posted by Mike Brock on February 21, 2009 | Permalink


Most social conservatives that I know equate liberalism with socialism.
Posted by Mike Brock on February 21, 2009

Interesting that the libertarian Brock likes to critique conservatism (fiscal, social,etc,) but never indicates what libertarians stand for other than some vague reference to freedom. Since he's asked Coulter what she thinks let ask a libertarian.

Raise your hand if you think social society should have a strong morality attenuated through law.

Libertarians like libertines don't have any morals and the only law that should apply to libertarians are property rights.

Raise your hand if you think citizenship should be connected to moral systems?

Citizenship is an artificial concept that tramples on our property rights. Libertarians believe in open borders and don't care if the country gets flooded with muslims or Paki's because a border infringes on their property rights.

Raise your hand if you think adherence to moral codes are more important than outcome?

Libertarians don't care about morals only property rights. Libertarians believe that morals trample on the rights of someone to marry their pet goat.

Is one of the purposes of policing to enforce social moral codes?

The only role of the police is to protect libertarians property rights. Libertarians don't believe in morals.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-02-21 4:26:17 PM

It's hard to think straight when the socialists are banging on your door. It's even harder when you have Ann Coulter standing behind you. Do you let the hoardes in? - or do you push Ann Coulter out? You can lose your house or your mind or both. Maybe you'll just have to get along. (How are you doing so far?)

Posted by: dewp | 2009-02-21 4:45:39 PM

As usual, when making broad brush stroke generalities about a particular demographic, you tend to get it wrong, piss off a bunch of people, and create no understanding.

I am a Libertarian and none of the statements Stig made represent my beliefs (OK, except for the goat but, really, we're not talking marriage).

Posted by: kris | 2009-02-21 5:09:55 PM

This is an excellent post, Mike, but I’m not sure I agree with your conclusions.

According to the definitions you provided, liberals and socialists share a common commitment to “equality of opportunity,” so it might not be all that “silly” to equate liberalism with socialism. Your own definitions show they have at least one major principle in common.

A "negative" or libertarian understanding of “equality of opportunity” is that the state should not discriminate against any individual or group. Segregation laws, for instance, violate “equality of opportunity” as the term is understood from a "negative" or libertarian perspective. So do anti-sodomy laws.

A "positive" or modern liberal understanding of “equality of opportunity” goes much further and suggests that the state should actively or positively level the playing field by giving the historically disadvantaged a helping hand. Public education, for instance, is popular among modern liberals because it helps to level the playing field between rich and poor, white and black. Anti-discrimination laws that govern private conduct are also often supported by modern liberals who adhere to a "positive" understanding of equality of opportunity.

Your personal support for human rights law that protect minority groups from employment or housing discrimination is an example of a “positive” view of “equality of opportunity.”

If one takes a "positive" view of equality (or of liberty in general) then one does in fact have something in common with socialists. It is fair to say that your support for anti-discrimination laws as they apply to housing would be supported by socialists and liberals and opposed by libertarians and conservatives. So can you really blame social conservatives who confuse liberalism with socialism?

(I’m not suggesting you’re a socialist; I’m only suggesting that that particular view is shared by socialists.)

I've been profoundly troubled by positive views of liberty and equality expressed on this site for preciously this reason. Everyone cares about liberty. People who believe in positive liberty are socialists; people who believe in negative liberty are libertarians or classical liberals – that’s been my operating assumption since I was first introduced to libertarianism. As for the principle of equality, Rothbard called it a revolt against nature.

You’re hostility toward social conservatives is also unjustified. There are many Western Standard readers who are both socially conservative and libertarian or libertarian leaning. I try to keep myself in this culturally-conservative-but-politically-libertarian camp as well, but often find the allure of the libertine lifestyle irresistible. Nevertheless, I understand that while my own conduct may fall short from time to time, there is still a standard of conduct worth emulating, and that standard is best defined and defended by social conservatives.

My hostility is reserved only for statists. There are friends of liberty who are culturally liberal (my friend Marc Emery comes to mind), and there are friends of liberty who are culturally conservative (Dr. Michael Wagner fits this category mostly).

I align myself with cultural conservatives generally because a radical reduction in the size of the state – the primary regulator of behaviour – will demand vibrant institutions to regulate society privately, without coercion. Those institutions are family, church and community – and those are institutions cherished by social conservatives.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-21 6:18:11 PM

Matthew, I take your points. But I do not--in fact--support levelling the playing field; I am misrepresented on this constantly. The article where I said I wasn't i support of the immediate abolition of those policies was in the context of the belief, that an attempt to do so would backfire and would culminate in a backlash that would be a negative for liberty. It's an admission of the need to help influence the cultural value of liberty.

But I digress.

I have plenty of social conservative friends (maybe less after this rant), but I don't follow your last two paragraphs.

What is a "libertarian leaning social conservative?". Is it a Christian libertarian? What does that look like?

I'll put it to you this way. Let's say for example a "libertarian leaning social conservative" supports the abolition of the Human Rights Commissions, but supports the drug war; criminalizing cannabis users, etc. In this sense I find it fitting you mention Emory, because it seems that a lot of the "libertarian leaning" social conservatives that show up here, are hostile towards Emory and are generally hostile to talk of cannabis decriminalization or legalization.

You'll excuse my pretension, but I do not accept a libertarian prefix to anyone who holds such a view.

A social conservative in the contemporary context, is somebody who sees a role for the state in regulating the personal behaviour in line with a proscribed system of morality above and beyond basic respect for the liberty of others. I hold this to be mutually exclusive with libertarianism.

That isn't to say that I do not share common cause with social conservatives on many fronts. I do. But I also see a dangerous trend that I find devaluing to the cause of liberty.

I am not the first person to compare social conservatism with socialism. Milton Friedman did it too in Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. And so have many others.

The basic assertion is that socialism and social conservatism both value strong, central, power structures in society for governing moral activities. On one hand you have a secular-humanist justification, and on the other you have a theistic one.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-21 6:34:32 PM

A culturally conservative libertarian would say, for instance: "I hate drugs and the drug culture, but I understand that the drug war has been a failure and/or a violation of individuals rights." Something like that.

A culturally liberal libertarian would say: “Drugs and the drug culture have been wrongly demonized, and the war on drugs has been a failure and/or a violation of individual rights."

Libertarians within the Lew Rockwell/Mises Institute orbit are generally culturally conservative. Libertarians within the CATO/Reason orbit are generally culturally liberal. Both are libertarian.

Libertarianism is about politics, not culture. What culture would -- or should -- a libertarian society cultivate? I say a socially conservative culture. Some say a socially liberal culture. If we ever have a free society, the best cultural ideas will win and dominate, which wouldn’t mean pockets of counter culture activity would be legislated out of existence. It means the dominate culture would be maintained by means of private discrimination and exclusion.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-21 6:59:34 PM

Matthew, I'm afraid I don't draw as strong a delineation between politics and culture as you do.

Politics are a reflection of culture. For example: a culture of democracy is what maintains democracy. If democracy isn't valued, it deteriorates as an institution (insert Russian example, insert Venezuela example).

The same goes for freedom of speech, capitalism, etc.

Culture is most certainly directly related to politics. I think it's wishful thinking to believe the vast majority of people can have socially conservative views and not have those translate into political policy.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-21 7:19:08 PM

Culture is important, Mike, and culture does, of course, influence politics. But libertarianism isn't about culture; it's about politics.

The libertarian movement is very culturally diverse -- socially conservative Christian libertarians are culturally different than gay libertarians who are culturally different than the back-to-the-land libertarians. I could go on.

There is no definitive libertarian culture. There is only a common commitment to negative liberty and limited government. This would define a libertarian poltical culture, which is only a small part of culture.

You wrote:

"I think it's wishful thinking to believe the vast majority of people can have socially conservative views and not have those translate into political policy."

You're right. It is also wishful thinking to believe people who believe in equality will not look to the state to support anti-discrimination laws that protect racial minorities or homosexuals, for instance.

Only libertarians resist the temptation to see their preferences imposed by the state. That's why we're such special people.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-21 7:47:45 PM

I find some similarities between socialism and liberalism(as practiced by many libertarians). The two have no respect for traditional values that have been passed down from generation to generation in a society. Socialists want to destroy traditions and replace them with collectivism(look at the eastern bloc). Many adherents of liberalism seem to oppose traditional values because they don't automatically bend to the flavor of the week(ex: opposition to gay marriage or abortion). Second, both beliefs seem to have an anti-religion component to them. Many socialists oppose religion because it puts something other than the state at the center of a persons life. Numerous libertarians seem to oppose religion because it actually suggests standards that people might want to adhere to.
I think that it is important to understand that confusion about classic liberalism as compared to socialism has been aided by our politicians. In the U.S., the Democrats adhere largely to social democratic policies(there are a few conservative ones who follow a more christian democratic doctrine). However, no politician here would ever let themselves be called socialist. They know that it is electoral suicide. In Canada, you have a party called the Liberals who seem very similar to the NDP(in my view). Yet, they claim to espouse liberal values.
I consider myself a social conservative and an economic libertarian. I support the fair tax, privatizing many government social services, school vouchers, privatizing social security, hate Obama's killing of welfare reform, and oppose the bailouts. I also support the second amendment. Also, I support the right of parents to spank their children(a right that I found out is restricted in Canada to ages 3-12). In addition, I support the right of schools public(22 states) and private(48 states) to administer corporal punishment with the parents' permission. Something which I believe the Canadian Supreme Court has outlawed. However, I support certain policies that some libertarians might disagree with. I support the death penalty and three strike laws(third violent crime convinction is automatic life sentence) because I feel that tough sentencing is one important aspect of fighting crime. I oppose abortion because I feel that it is the taking of an unborn life. I oppose gay marriage because I believe marriage is a sacred institution that has stabilized societies. In addition, I see nothing wrong with school prayer. It was allowed in U.S. public schools from 1775-1962 and the country was not a theocracy.God forbid that kids there is a higher power that they might someday be accountable to.

Posted by: Tony | 2009-02-21 11:20:45 PM

Matthew: "It is also wishful thinking to believe people who believe in equality will not look to the state to support anti-discrimination laws that protect racial minorities or homosexuals, for instance."

Wise words, and I completely agree, but this exposes a frustrating dillemma for me.

As a classical liberal and a Christian, I believe that human nature is essentially fixed and immutable. I don't believe we can change it by tampering with politics or culture.

Given that the vast majority of people do believe in coercion as a legitimate way to impose a political/cultural agenda (and probably always will), does this mean that libertarianism, as a philosophy, is useless and destined for frustration?

Metaphysically, I believe that the impulse towards coercive collectivism is identical to the Christian concept of Original Sin, which is something that cannot be "fixed" on a human level. That doesn't mean that I won't continue to do my part in promoting liberty. But at times, I wonder if it is all fruitless...

In the mean time, I will at least take heart in your suggestion that, by virtue of our beliefs, "we're such special people." I only wish there were more of us...

Posted by: Jeremy Maddock | 2009-02-22 4:31:56 AM

The Stig:
Don't be ridiculous. The thought that libertarians only believe in property rights and no other rules or morals is something you've fabricated, and who knows why.

In fact, morality would be very important in a libertarian society. The growth of the nanny/"moral" state and the elimination of the ability of individuals to make moral decisions willfully would and has probably been the largest source of eroding morality in society.

I've blogged on this before, and you can read more essays on this topic by following the link here: http://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2008/11/freedom-or-free.html

Mike, I'm not sure if I agree with you. While many social conservatives believe in increasing the size and scope of the state to enforce morality, many believe (as I've said above) that that is exactly the way to destroy it. Examples that jump immediately to mind are Isaac Morehouse, who blogs here, and Larry Reed of FEE.

Posted by: Janet | 2009-02-22 7:57:33 AM

"It’s probably the single biggest piece of evidence to me, that social conservatism is vacuous to begin with, because the very idea that liberalism and socialism have anything in common is a silly as a box of bollocks." Devil's Advocate Mode: I don't think it's vacuous or unreasonable for some to fear that unrestrained social liberalism can become the impetus for unrestrained economic socialism. I also don't think it's vacuous to believe that the libertarian mantra of, "give people complete freedom to make their own mistakes and leave it up to them to fix their own problems later on," requires far too much suspension of disbelief in the realities of human nature. I don't think it's vacuous to believe that the Enemies of Liberty frequently seize upon the smallest opportunity to increase economic socialism if/when increased social liberty allegedly results in increased pockets of economic misery. Even if the enemies of liberty are wrong, morally and statistically, they are very good at drawing media focus to increase the scale of pockets of misery in the minds of the voting public. As such, I don't think it's vacuous to believe in the value of the state maintaining at least a cursory focus on regulating social behaviour amongst small groups (such as drug users, or the sex trade, for example) in order to maintain as much liberty as possible for the larger society. I'm reminded of the apocryphal stories I once heard that the Soviet Union used to smuggle as much marijuana and heroin (though not stimulants like cocaine or amphetamine) into Western Europe as it could, at greatly subsidized prices. The idea was to keep down the price of drugs that had a lethargic effect on the younger generation, which was the prime age group for military and industrial productivity. At the same time, the Soviet Union had incredibly harsh penalties for its own drug users. If these stories are true, then why would legalization be a good idea when the Soviet Union thought that easy access to lethargic drugs would weaken Western Europe's strategic capabilities? (I apologize for the glaring fact that I cite no reference for this apocryphal story. I do remember that Ian Fleming used it in a James Bond story, though that hardly counts as a valid source for historical information.)

Posted by: anonymous | 2009-02-22 1:12:29 PM

Janet: As the risk of drifting way too far into esoteric debate, I can't help but wonder where our society draws the line between "public" and "private", in the context of the Charter of Rights and the cursed Human Rights Commissions. For example, I could sympathize with the idea that social morality would be strengthened without the stifling, top-down pressure of the "nanny-state", as long as smaller social groups were given greater power to enforce their own democratically-agreed-upon moral codes. I'm referring to organizations such as parents associations, school boards, community associations, small municipalities, etc. If a neighbourhood or a school board votes to create a rule that a resident finds illiberal, then that resident is free to vote with their feet and move to another community. That sort of freedom doesn't exist to nearly the same degree when morality is enforced at the Federal level. But Human Rights Commissions have shown no compulsion against ruling against these smaller civic bodies, so we end up with a situation where the only the Federal and Provincial levels of government have the authority to legislate on moral questions, and only when they conform to the Human Rights Commissions' point-of-view.

Posted by: anonymous | 2009-02-22 1:25:11 PM

Re-reading my last post, I see I didn't really get to the point. My point is that many (most?) social conservatives would be happy to let the Federal and Provincial levels of government get out of the morality business if they were confident that parents, private non-governmental organizations, and smaller democratic civic organizations, would be given much more power to enforce codes of behaviour within their own spheres of influence. Unfortunately, since social conservatives cannot see the Federal and Provincial levels giving up their authority over these smaller civic organizations, social conservatives have no alternative but to turn their lobbying efforts towards the Federal and Provincial levels. As such, I cannot bring myself to look down upon social conservatives for making the rational decision of directing their efforts at the only levels of government that have any authority in this area of public policy.

Posted by: anonymous | 2009-02-22 1:34:41 PM

Final post, I promise: As for Ann Coulter, does she believe that the Federal government should be in the business of enforcing Christian concepts of morality, or does she believe that the United States Constitution leaves that area of public policy to the lower levels of government, and the Federal Government has a duty to stay out of the way of the lower levels, regardless of their decisions? But if the Enemies of Liberty focus their energies at the Federal level (specifically the U.S. Supreme Court), why should we expect libertarians who are "personally socially conservative" abandon that "theatre of battle"? When the supreme court rules that NO level of government can legislate on a particular moral question, it is de facto saying that ONLY the Federal level can legislate on it, via a constitutional amendment. As such, it's completely rational for social conservatives to shift their resources to the federal level.

Posted by: anonymous | 2009-02-22 2:02:44 PM

I see the problem of a lack of clear definitions, since for example Americans use liberal and liberalism when they actually mean socialist and socialism. Furthermore even elsewhere in the English speaking world liberalism has virtually nothing in common with the original classical liberalism.

Another problem with labels is that we can never fit people neatly into a single box. Their views tend to cross the line depending on the topic.

Perhaps we should distinguish between the collectivists/statists and those who favour personal responsibility and freedom and private property. The collectivists want big powerful government since they see it as being an effective tool to re-order people's lives. This includes government "charity" instead of private charity. They also ignore or disregard human nature, believing as they do that government programs can create people the way they want them to be. More times than not this system rewards bad behaviour, and when bad behaviour is rewarded you get more of it.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-22 2:40:22 PM

You have some very interesting points, that is for sure. Good read. BUT, I still disagree.

You have failed to mention one word I find the most important when talking about political positions:


Posted by: Ryan | 2009-02-22 2:53:13 PM


Posted by: Ryan | 2009-02-22 3:32:05 PM

"Perhaps we should distinguish between the collectivists/statists and those who favour personal responsibility and freedom and private property." My point is that even with that dichotomy we end up forcing people into a corner. Imagine a person who thinks that the Federal government should be 100% out of the morality business, but also thinks that smaller civic organizations do have the authority to enforce codes of ethics and behaviour. Is this person a "statist" because they think the community has the right to enforce certain moral codes of behaviour, or do they favour "personal responsibility and freedom" because they prefer that the Federal government stay out of their community's decision-making? In the Canadian context, the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commissions would most likely rule against the small organization's authority to enforce moral codes, while often upholding the authority of the upper levels to enforce moral codes. Human beings tend to organize and congregate around common values, and it would be futile to legislate that NO civic organization may enforce moral codes of conduct. It's a basic human impulse to organize in this way. Rather than trying to stamp out that impulse by berating folk like social conservatives, why not work to devolve power so that such expressions of authority is limited to smaller spheres of influence?

Posted by: anonymous | 2009-02-22 5:28:05 PM

Valid points, anonymous. As I stated there are two problems for labels: one a lack of clear definition and secondly that no label will apply to a person 100% of the time.

I also agree that it is preferable to leave moral codes and ethics to the local level allowing the local citizens to decide. If left in the hands of citizens, one will find that a lot of the moral codes and ethics will tend to evolve and change over time, rather than remaining static. The most serious problem at present are the non elected judicial activists being able to impose their agenda on us. A case in point was their reading into the Charter sexual orientation. The framers of the Charter had purposely excluded sexual orientation. This is not the only example. A second equally serious problem is the Charter itself, thanks to which we actually have fewer rights and freedoms than we did prior to the Charter.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-22 7:24:00 PM

In the Canadian context, the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commissions would most likely rule against the small organization's authority to enforce moral codes

I would hope the Supreme Court would rule against it. You'll excuse me if I don't want some "small organization" having authority of me.

You see, I think I own myself. The government doesn't own me, you don't own me, and some non-existent God doesn't own me.

I don't need/want someone to tell me that jerking off in my back yard is "immoral" according to some "community standard". Or telling me that I don't have the right to do with my body as I please.

If you want to submit yourself willingly to some higher authority, then by all means knock yourself out. But I have to say, the very idea that you're sitting here debating who should have authority over what does and does not constitute moral behaviour with myself, my own body, and my own property is offensive.

And no, democracy and majority rule does not grant authority over me. 99.99999% of people could vote in a referendum claiming that I didn't have the right to cut off my own arm, because their imaginary God said I couldn't. And you know what, those 99.99999% of people could go fuck themselves. And if they didn't go fuck themselves, I'd be forced to show those people just how far my self-defence of my own property (my body) was willing to go.

I can't believe that in the 21st century, we're sitting here debating what "organizations" have the authority to dictate social morality to people.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-22 9:28:45 PM

It strikes me that "libertarians" want to have their cake and eat it to. Generally this is not a realistic situation in terms of government/the people but I suppose one can always dream on. Identifying as being an "eclectic" is what academics do - and while it works in academia, it generally does not work in practice.

To combine two threads - where is it that libertarians would like their children to go to school these days - and who would they like to have pay for this education?

AB has been funding Charter/Independent Schools since 1985. It has been a case of these schools increasingly demanding/getting more government funding, and politically the Gov't has got itself locked in. Funding is somewhere around 70% now and the only way it is going to go is up.

By contrast, ON has rejected the AB model. Which is the better model becomes highly subjective - depending on parents ability to pay (or not) the huge fees of charter/independent schools. Should low/middle income families with high achieving learners be basically barred from having their students attend these schools - or is it up to the gov't. to pay for something because a parent wants/demands but hasn't got the money for? This would be ludicrous.

The AB education system is an elitist system that continues to increase the elitism gap. The gap is not totally a function of the position of teacher's unions - but certainly if vouchers could be used by parents to send their children to any school of their choice within the Public/Catholic systems (and cover their own transportation costs)pressure would mount for improvement in those schools that lose students.

Some schools would be hugely oversubscribed while others would left with few students. Adjustments would, no doubt, be painful but the time has come when this should be done - rather than creating more independent schools that are funded 100% by the gov't.

Posted by: Calgary Clippper | 2009-02-23 7:26:50 AM

Steady on, Mike. I suspect that we are on the same page. When I refer to local moral codes and ethics it in no way endangers what you yourself do in private. However, what you do in public is a different matter. I doubt you are insisting on the "right" to flaunt your sexual practices or your nudity in public, for to do so would be imposing it on everyone else. Yet under the present system with judicial activists running the show and reading what they want into the Charter, this is what we have.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-23 11:11:16 AM

Alain, why can't people "flaunt" sexual practices, as you say? What is that supposed to mean, anyways?

Whenever we start talking about this subject, we inevitably end up talking about Gay Pride Parades and homosexuals having the tenacity to hold hands in public. And that inevitably leads to the bullshit social conservative position that: it's okay to be gay, just don't "show it off" in public. Of course, heterosexuality is "shown off" in public all the time. That's okay, of course.

If you want to talk about modesty and nudity, then we can have a discussion about that too. I would argue that our sexual modesty and fear of nudity is a socially conditioned practice stemming from religions attempts to control people, make them feel small, tell them to be ashamed, etc.

If you're asking me, that if an ideal world, people could choose to sit in their backyard naked, to get a tan, even if their neighbours can look out the back window and--gasp!--maybe see them, then I say screw you and your "sensibilities".

The argument that I'm *forcing* something on you based on my appearance is the most ridiculous argument I've ever heard. If you're going to accept that logic, then you should also accept the logic of people who feel advertising is being forced on them in a public space. But you'd probably just tell them to look away...

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 12:31:20 PM

Mike, should parents have the authority to set rules and dictate morality? Of course.

Authority is not the enemy of liberty. It is simply of question of creating a society in which legitimate authority is allowed to express itself, and political authority is reduced or eliminated.

When I come off the beach and walk into a restaurant with a sign that reads "no shirt, no shoes, no service" I don't walk shirt-less and shoe-less to the counter and insist that I have the right to do whatever I want.

In both these examples, the authority expressed is legitimate.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-23 1:05:12 PM


Parental authority is legitimate, up until the point that it's not (when the children reach maturity).

Restaurants are private businesses. No problems there.

I believe the example I used was my own backyard. This was intentional, and to make a point.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 1:17:10 PM

Mike, it seems we are not on the same page and shall not agree. As for flaunting one's sexual practices in public, others have the right to ban it, and this applies to all types of sexual practices not just parades.

No, it is not in the least "ridiculous" to say that when a community opposes such behaviour and yet it is forced on them by judicial activists that it is indeed a matter of forcing it on to others. According to your argument people should be allowed to copulate anywhere in public any time they feel the urge. Sorry but I cannot support such a total collapse of civil society. Even the most primitive tribes have their moral codes and ethics, like it or not.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-23 1:24:51 PM


Is it acceptable for two gay men to hold hands and kiss in a public place? Not copulate. But hold hands and kiss. You know, like young heterosexual lovers do all the time.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 1:29:37 PM

I just wanted to be clear that when I speak of authority, it's private authority rooted in property rights. Political authority has no moral foundation, although democracy attempts to justify political authority as coming from the people themselves. This notion is, of course, inconsistent with individual rights.

Even when a child reaches maturity a parent can say: "As long as you're under my roof you'll follow my rules." It's about property rights. An adolescent can reject these rules by running away. Parents don't actually own their children; they can't eat them or sell them like they could a cow.

By the way, a respectful neighbour would jerk off inside. Henry Thoreau wrote: "I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject."

If you accept that I can not walk done a public street nude, then you accept the idea of public standards. Since we will all disagree on where the draw the proverbial line when it comes to these standards, we would be wise to limit public property as much as possible and thereby limit the opportunity for conflict that surrounds the regulation of these public spaces.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-23 1:41:14 PM

"If you accept that I can not walk done a public street nude"

If it's a commonly accepted community standard, that will upset people and make people stop being your friends or associating with you. I'm fine with that.

If the state is going to send in the police to arrest a woman who is topless in public, then I have a serious problem with that. To me: that's tyranny of the majority at best.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 2:00:28 PM

Mike, personally I do not care if two men or two women walk down the street holding hands and kissing. They may find others who will make comments on their behaviour or even on the same behaviour of a male and female couple, which is also their right. However I draw the line if the others resort to physical action, for it becomes assault which is against the law.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-23 2:12:37 PM

Why is it tyranny of the majority? The majority might be quite happy to see topless women in public. It might be tyranny of the minority. Or it might not be tyranny at all.

It's really about community standards. Until all property is privately owned and privately regulated, we are forced to regulate public property according to some standard of decency and via some collective decision making process.

Should it be a liberal standard -- anything, or virtually anything, goes -- or should it be a conservative standard, one that is more restrictive so that fewer people are offended by risque behavior?

You can hardly blame conservatives for wanting standards on public property similiar to their own standards anymore than they can blame you for wanting your standards to prevail.

We should not conclude from this that conservatives are less committed to liberty than liberals. They, like you, simply want their own values and preferences protected in the public sphere.

I say limit the public sphere by extending property rights as far and as completely are possible.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-23 2:24:01 PM

You can hardly blame conservatives for wanting standards on public property similiar to their own standards anymore than they can blame you for wanting your standards to prevail.

The fundamental difference, is that I'm not trying to impose standards. Conservatives are. The question about same-sex couples holding hands to Alain is very demonstrative of a serious point.

While the state most certainly does not prevent same-sex couples from engaging in hand-holding, it has only been within the past few decades that such standards have been lifted to permit these people their right of free association and unrestricted rights to show their affection.

The problem with conservatives, is that they go kicking and screaming into this new world.

The only reason conservatives now accept that same-sex couples can hold hands, is that their power to enforce their morality and community standards was stripped away; homosexuality wasn't forced or foisted on them. Although conservatives regularly complain this to be the case.

They complain about being "forced" to see homosexuality in movies, on TV, and in public.

The use of the word "forced" is an insulting, condescending attempt to turn themselves into some sort of victim. They are not victims. Rather, they are oppressors. They seek to deny other's their expression, their sexuality, and their right of free association and claim that the manifestation therein is an affront--that is an active attack--against them.

Anybody who would present such a logic to me, even if it's restricted to cultural preferences, is not truly a libertarian to me.

I believe that cultural libertarianism is almost as essential as political libertarianism. That being, the proliferation of community standards that are at the very least, respectful of people's rights to be themselves. And not to seek to culturally ostracize people for their sexuality, their religion, or any other identifying factor.

I don't ask that you be these people's friends. Or let them on your private property. But I do ask that you don't project "community standards" that seek to exclude these people from the public sphere, when their actions do not impede on your ability to act freely, practice your religion freely, etc.

When I hear arguments that suggest that same-sex marriage impinges on the free practice of religion, for example, it sets up another false assertion that, two consenting adults that have nothing to do you you, are somehow impinging on your religious rights. This is what we hear from conservatives, and it's bullshit.

I don't believe in the Christian god. I don't believe in the Islamic god. I don't believe in any god. And I don't accept, not one iota, that what I believe to be false proclamations about moral behaviour by what I believe to be a false god, should in any way factor into the rights of others to go about their lives.

That being said, this is a cultural argument here. And no, I won't ask the state to enforce secularism, or force priests to marry same-sex couples; all that offends me as it does you. But you'll excuse me if I think conservatives walking around bitching non-stop about the feminist and homosexual agenda are a cabal of assholes.

You know what it sounds like to me when I hear about the "homosexual agenda" or the "feminist agenda"? It sounds absolutely on par with Islamists and anti-semites talking about the "Zionist agenda". And you know what? It really is...

In fact, I agree that homosexual activists and feminists have an "agenda". Of course they do. In fact, the Marxists inclinations of many feminists offends my libertarian sensibilities. But I'm at least sensitive enough to understand why these women are so pissed off. And it's because of the world that religion constructed, and the world social conservatives want to maintain, which paints women into a narrowly-defined role in society that excludes women from endeavours they would otherwise want to engage in.

Conservatives like Ann Coulter, attack single mothers for their tenacity to raise a child without a father. Or attack atheists like me for having the tenacity to have a child out of wedlock and have a common law relationship.

They want to enjoin women into institutions and cultural roles that limit them. Of course they have an "agenda", and it's to get social conservatives to fuck off and leave them alone. I won't follow them into Marxism, but I'll at least follow them that far.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 3:16:48 PM

The fundamental difference, is that I'm not trying to impose standards................
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 3:16:48 PM

Brock is either:

1) a failed communist who has turned to greed for salvation, and who shames you for your humanity.


2) someone who thinks toll sidewalks is a good idea.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-02-23 5:34:04 PM


Try "reformed conservative"

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 6:01:35 PM

Stig, based on his views expressed here he belongs to the collectivist socialist group.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-23 7:11:21 PM

Stig, based on his views expressed here he belongs to the collectivist socialist group.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Would you care to elaborate on that? Do you even know the meaning of collectivism?

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-23 7:17:21 PM


Excellent comments and post!

I'm beginning to agree with you that cultural libertarianism and political libertarianism run together. Or, at least, that they should, if only for practical reasons.

After all, why should we believe those who believe that homosexuality is inherently immoral will merely be content to express their disapproval in words?

Why wouldn't they also seek to use the machinery of the state to "express" their odious views?

This is especially so if you're a "libertarian" who believes that, e.g. Utah ought to have "plenary police power" to pass whatever laws the majority of its citizens wish.

If the majority of those citizens hate gays, those laws are going to be... distasteful, at the very least.

The mob ought to be stripped of that power. That is a truly libertarian goal.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-23 11:11:50 PM

Mike, we both want to live in a society free of coercion, but you seem to also want to live in a society in which people are free from judgement.

What Coulter was saying is that raising children in single parent families is less optimal than raising children in two parent families, and, therefore, single motherhood should not be celebrated. It should be discouraged, not by law, but by custom, as it has been historically. Coulter is stating an emperical fact, which nobody challenged her on. I wish she was kinder with her language, and I personally don't like her for this and disagree with her on many policy issues, but that's a separate matter.

You seem to be saying that liberals are, generally speaking, more socially tolerant and, therefore, more libertarian than conservatives, who are, generally speaking, less socially tolerant.

My point is that many, many anti-libertarian policies come out of the desire for tolerance (anti-descrimination laws), and out of a desire for equality (wealth redistribution), and out of a desire for social justice (universal public education), etc.

You may see qualities and values within the conservative movement that you do not like, but these qualities and values are not necessarily hostile to liberty. You may not want to sit down and have a beer with a social conservative, but it is unfair to suggest that cultural conservatives are more oriented toward statism than cultural liberals.

Remember, you came from the right. Libertarians draw from both the so-called left and the so-called right.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-23 11:12:36 PM


Why should we believe those who believe that homosexuality is inherently moral will merely be content to express their approval in words?

Why wouldn't they also seek to use the machinery of the state to "express" their progressive views?

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-23 11:31:08 PM

Why should we believe those who believe that homosexuality is inherently moral will merely be content to express their approval in words?

I think the point is, that a libertarian culture would implicitly not accept the state interfering in people's lives.

The assertion is that a socially conservative culture is not likely to have durable, long-term, restraint. It will, likely, overtime begin imposing legal restrictions stemming from it's morality; probably starting with abortion.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 10:47:45 AM


That one is easy. Liberals don't think homosexuality is morally superior to heterosexuality. They just believe it is no worse. Someone who believes that neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality is inherently evil has little reason to try to ban or oppress one or the other.

Now how about those social conservatives? What's their motive?

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 12:07:50 PM

I believe in the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death.

There's no moral restriction on that belief; only the recognition and acceptance of a biological fact.

It's a positive articulation of something that's good.

Posted by: set you free | 2009-02-24 12:24:40 PM

But they have every reason, Terrence, to prevent social conservatives from exercising their private judgement, which the foundation of Canada's human rights laws. (If my memory serves me, I think there was a print shop that was fined for refusing to print gay literature.)

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-04-08 9:38:22 PM

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