December 23, 2013

In Praise of Tom Woods on being Conservative

By In Society and Culture

Recently I shared Tom Woods’ post relating to “Thick and Thin Libertarianism, and Duck Dynasty.”  I have also copied it here:

I am in haste, as I always am these days because of the time I’m spending creating course material for the Ron Paul homeschool curriculum, but a quick note about Duck Dynasty. My wife really likes the show. I myself haven’t been able to get into it. I just find it boring. I realize I’m in the minority.

Having said that, I thought the whole matter of Phil Robertson brought up an interesting issue for libertarians. Some libertarians say the traditional libertarian principle of nonaggression is insufficient. That is merely “thin” libertarianism, they say. We also need to have left-liberal views on religion, sexual morality, feminism, etc., because reactionary beliefs among the public are also threats to liberty. This is “thick” libertarianism.

As a “thin” libertarian myself (or what in the past was simply called a libertarian), I reject the claims of the thickists. I see no good reason to expand the list of requirements people must meet in order to be admitted to our little group. If they support nonaggression, they are libertarians.

But if the thickists are concerned that certain cultural attitudes might be dangerous to liberty, why do I never hear them express concern that the hysteria of the cultural Left might be prejudicial to liberty? Why is it only the traditional moral ideas of the bourgeoisie that are supposed to be so threatening? Could this be yet another double standard?

Everyone in American society now knows there are certain things they must never say, lest they be banished from polite society by the opinion police. The opinion police do not believe competing views have a right to exist. Yes, yes, in theory they do. But in practice they seek out and destroy anyone who does not accept fashionable opinion on a range of questions. Couple this with thought-control organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which conflates “hate” with unconventional views — having condemned such purveyors of violence and hate as Judge Napolitano and Ron Paul (note to the brain-dead: that is sarcasm) — and which actually collaborates with law enforcement, and isn’t the result far more dangerous to liberty than the fact that lots of people dissent from the new orthodoxy on sex?

Yet I haven’t come across a thickist who seems concerned about this. Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough. I doubt it.

What a great way of putting it.  Although, what else would you expect from Tom Woods?  Woods is one of this individuals in the liberty movement who is not afraid or intimidated by the fact that he is both a social conservative and an anarcho-capitalist.  Libertarianism is a political theory only.  It refers to one thing: the role of the State in a free society.  To go beyond that to, say, issues of morality and religion, libertarianism simply does not apply.  Here at Reformed Libertarian, we are clear that we are libertarians because we are first Christians, but this does not mean that we ought to apply our libertarian theory beyond its proper boundaries.

Woods and I are cultural conservatives.  Without intending to speak on his behalf, I will note that this implies that we grow easily tiresome of not only leftist culture, but also the leftist infiltration into the libertarian camps.  When the left gets to control the language in society, they bring abused and redefined words into the debate, among them: hate, love, racist, homophobia, Jesus, judgmental, bigoted, etc.  Frankly, these have nothing to do with libertarianism as such, and thus to be a libertarian does in no way mean we ought to accept the definitions of the cultural liberals.  To oppose affirmative action is not to hate gays.  Neither is it to hate blacks.  Or women.  Or any other politically protected group which we are told are victims to White Christian Capitalist America.

Another wonderful example of Tom Woods in action took place in a recent podcast in his show.  He was asked about whether he would support Rand Paul given that many libertarians are “concerned about his social conservatism.” Tom Woods immediately made it clear that if he does not support Rand Paul it will be because he deviates from the anti-State libertarian message of his father (especially on foreign policy) and it will have absolutely nothing to do with his being conservative in his personal life.  If anything, it is an encouragement that Rand Paul, for all his deviations from libertarian theory, is actually a social conservative.  At least, he appears to be.  Social conservatism is good.  We ought to call out homosexuality as a sin, and stand bold behind the Biblical institution of marriage.  We must not be discouraged when the world despises the fact that we uphold traditional gender roles.  We must continue to teach that God defines sin and sin is an affront to His holiness.  The left hates when we use the word sin.  Swayed by the behaviorist psychology of the early twentieth century, the characteristics of a person are blamed on the individual’s surroundings, but never the individual’s wicked heart.

The difference, we should point out, between us and many Christian leaders who are not libertarians is simply that we do not want to use the State to enforce cultural conservatism.  Many “left-libertarians” blame conservatives as a group for using the State in a authoritarian way to legislate morality.  But what if, as cultural conservatives and those who hold to the Scriptures in all things, we preached the truth constantly, rather than using the State on our behalf?  So many Christian conservatives have been caught up in the Romanticism of the American Federal System.  But it is my contention, that we can break free from the idolatry.  That we can be cultural conservatives without the State!

Now, Tom Woods, being a traditional Catholic, will indeed disagree with us on some very fundamental doctrines and presuppositions.  He is no protestant.  But he is right that the libertarian should feel no shame in keeping his religious beliefs.  We are allowed to be social conservatives.  Don’t let the “thickies,” the so-called left-libertarians tell you otherwise.  We don’t have to approve of sin to consider the State as a terrible institution.  In fact, we ought to be consistent and consider all breaches of God’s law as sin.  For we too have broken God’s law.

And yet, we have been set free by the blood of Christ Jesus.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com