Mike Huckabee denounces libertarianism as a “heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism” that poses “the greatest threat to classic Republicanism” and is “not an American message.” Justin Logan blows a gasket. I, personally, am greatly looking forward to the infighting that will occur in the right-of-center camp if McCain loses. — Matt Yglesias
In managing to get the problem almost completely 100% sdrawkcab ssa, the Huck not only resuscitates his Nice Hugabee nickname but, more sadly, contributes to an increasingly damaging confusion in the ‘right of center camp’ over what the hell is their problem.
So let’s take a deep breath and…
(1) The biggest ‘problem’ with libertarians is not an excess of heartless callousness but an excess of sympathetic solidarity. For cultural libertarians, wherever a law impedes a lifestyle choice human beings are enduring great and unjust suffering. For many atheist or antitheist cultural libertarians, indeed, it’s precisely because there is no heavenly soul that the flourishing of the earthly individual soul necessitates compassionate solidarity among we autonomous moral legislators.
(2) Only in an insane sense are the economic ideas of cultural libertarians conservative. Huckabee is right that social liberalism and economic conservatism is a combination that cannot withstand the strain of its own ambition, but he is wrong that this combination describes libertarianism — that is, political libertarianism. For Huckabee’s claim to hold, we must indulge in a double fantasy wherein political libertarianism is (a) in theoretical tension with and (b) competing seriously in the minds of voters with ‘classic Republicanism’. In both cases this is simply untrue; in the wake of the Bush years, political libertarianism is both more consistent with Goldwater/Reagan Republicanism and more unpopular than ever among movement Party types.
(3) Huckabee clearly is an opponent of cultural libertarianism, but since he wishes to combat it politically he is therefore also an opponent of political libertarianism himself. Despite everything bad I have to say about cultural libertarians, Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, make a mistake in thinking the only way they can save their country is by nationally banning disliked lifestyle choices. They may save their culture for a few decades longer, but they will continue to destroy their polity. Cultural libertarianism should and must be allowed to defeat itself, even as it must be prevented from becoming national courtesy of dogmatic judges. The best way to do this is by betting our fate on federalism — ah, federalism, that thing which used to bring political libertarians and political conservatives so close together as to make their policy positions occasionally indistinguishable.