“The main point about liberalism,” Hayek wrote, “is that it wants to go elsewhere, not to stand still.” My sense is that in the last few years, elements of the right have come to appreciate Hayek’s point. They became fed up with mere holding actions and have resolved to push a “positive” program. Unfortunately, it’s a state-saturated program that ought to make genuine liberals sick.
In his recently leaked first draft of an opinion that would reverse the abortion-rights cases Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gives Americans a choice between judges who read their personal preferences into the Constitution and judges who recognize only rights that they find “rooted in [our] history and tradition” and deem “essential to our Nation’s ‘scheme of ordered Liberty.’” Is that it? Neither choice seems an adequate safeguard for individual freedom.
Under the best of circumstances, conventional political systems are dodgy places to seek the protection of liberty, even in matters of public health, where property rights, contract, and voluntary community should reign supreme.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, as if we needed another demonstration, that little stands between the government and our liberty. Champions of individual freedom have been properly disturbed by how much power governments at all levels have seized since the pandemic hit in 2020.
Collective security, the official goal of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, seems plausible on its face. A group of nations ostensibly concerned about a common threat agree to defend one another in the event of an attack. “All for one and one for all,” as the Three Musketeers said.
If you’re looking for morality tales — clashes between the clearly good and the clearly bad — I suggest you look elsewhere than to the geopolitical theater. There we find only conflicts between shades of darker gray.
It’s been said that everyone has a philosophy whether he knows it or not. The only question is whether that philosophy is explicit or implicit, accepted with care or in a slipshod way. The same can be said of ideology. It’s an obligation of responsible adulthood to be clear with oneself about how one makes political decisions. But one way or another, everyone has a method of doing so.
What’s going on with Joe Biden? Is he oblivious to the fact that Russia has about as many strategic nuclear weapons as the United States has? Is he taking advice from the neocons, who apparently believe that we should not fear a nuclear holocaust because that’s exactly what Vladimir Putin wants us to do?
I am not one for romanticizing the past because in every alleged golden age you find grumblers looking longingly to some earlier alleged golden age. Nevertheless, our own time has earned its share of criticism. For example, we live in a time when, for many, character assassination is the preferred way to rebut the people they disagree with. Why bother to painstakingly refute positions you dislike when instead you can accuse their advocates of one vice or another?
To judge by what Congress is up to these days, one would think that it wants to reward Israel for its relentless confiscation of Palestinian land and continued ethnic cleansing.