Here’s Part I, which was updated to reflect Charles Hueter’s post. Now comes an update to that very same post by Charles, sent to him by frequent commenter here, Kyle Bennett. It’s all just crying out for a copy/paste job right here. Charles writes:
Kyle Bennett sent in the following comment:
Kos and his ilk have a very different notion of
"personal liberties" than libertarians do. It’s not just a political
difference about what constitutes a personal freedom, but a
fundamentally different epistemological and metaphysical view of what
freedom is. They look at freedom as something like Roosevelt’s "Four
Freedoms". Things like freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc. The
root of it is that they see *any* obstacle as an impingement on their
freedom, where libertarians see coercion as the only obstacle that
qualifies. Poverty, tragedy, discomfort, lack of opportunity, and even
the need to pursue your own happiness, etc., to them, these are all
examples of freedom being limited . Their "state of nature", against
which the legitimacy of government is measured, is not the libertarian
one in which everyone gets a spot on the starting line, but one in
which everyone has a comfortable spot on the finish line, complete with
a bed of laurels, and so never has to actually run the race. It’s the
*universe* that is his nemesis, not (some) other men – except for those
other men who take the universe’s side against his, i.e., those who
hold reality and reason as primary.
And where libertarians see the only obligation of society as that
of not *causing* the limited class of obstacles (coercion) that limit
their freedom, from their view of nature flows the Kos Kind’s vision of
society as having a positive obligation to remove or prevent the things
they see as limiting freedom.
In that sense, he’s not engaging in any contradiction, (at least not
until you delve deeper into the derivation of his notion of "personal
liberties" – there’s contradictions a plenty to be found there). It may
not even be a cynical and insincere attempt at some kind of
rapproachment, he probably actually believes it.
Mr. Bennett is referring to the two conceptions of positive and negative liberty.
If Kos is sincere about seeking a sensible partnership, this again
highlights how little he studies the fundamental issues. Libertarians
generally adhere to a "negative liberty" mental framework while the
more statist political ideologies advocate a "positive liberty"
mindset. There are exceptions to this. For example, I remember (but
can’t find at the moment) Kos making some negative-liberty-style
arguments against the drug war, government banning gay marriage, and
government spying. Of course, the smart money is on him ultimately
favoring "positive liberty" arguments leading to government
intervention in any given situation.
I shudder to think about the intellectual acrobatics it would take
to reconcile two 1,000-word Kos-authored essays elucidating his
position on random personal liberty issue (such as bike helmet laws or consensual sex) and random broad economic issue
(such as minimum wage laws or tariffs). The irony being that at their
core, every issue becomes a concretely, painfully personal issue at
some point. Libertarians generally understand this because, in yet
another significant departure from Democrats, they see and analyze the
individual as the fundamental unit of society. Not the class, race,
sex, orientation, religious belief, and so on.
It is good to see Democrats opposing various Republican Party
schemes and elevating their civil liberties rhetoric. However, I am
absolutely convinced that much of this is the result of their dislike
of Bush, today’s GOP, and everything done that can be linked to them.
I’m not at all surprised to see Nancy Pelosi put forward a muddled government-expanding mix of solutions as a hint at what she’d do to redirect the House of Representatives’ agenda.