Centennial Review, January 2013 ▪ 3
Edmund Burke,meet Ayn Rand.
than it takes in? How much should the government takein taxes? Should we redistribute income from richer topoorer Americans? These and a thousand other questionsare profoundly moral. The supposedly sharp distinction between social
conservatives and scal conservatives or libertarians isarticial. Though intellectuals and the media set it up as a
straw man, politicians and the public recognize substantialoverlap between the two viewpoints. There is a common-sense awareness that the libertarian
or scal-conservative commitment to free markets and
limited government is best preserved withina broader social-conservative context that values life, marriage, and religious liberty.In
, we spell out 10 basic principlesthat ground this practical conservativefusionism (as the late Frank Meyer called it). And we explain why these principles ought to appeal to the “everymanlibertarian” who values limited government, individualrights, and free markets but is not otherwise committed todoctrinaire libertarianism.For a brief illustration of these principles, let’s apply them
to the two issues that stir the most conict between secular
libertarians and faith-based conservatives: abortion and
the denition of marriage.
Love Freedom? Then Defend Life
Pro-choice libertarians argue that limited governmentshouldn’t legislate what happens in the uterus of a woman.
While this sounds supercially plausible, they are striking
at the foundation of their own beliefs, since the case foreconomic freedom is also a moral one.“Free trade,” wrote Edmund Burke, “is not based on
utility but on justice.” While you might expect Burke, as
a Christian, to say something like that, consider also thepro-choice atheist Ayn Rand. “Man—every man—is anend in himself,” she insisted, “not the means to the endsof others.” The moral case for economic freedom is invariably rootedin the idea that every human being, whatever his or herrace, age, or social status, has inherent dignity. Even at theRandian extreme, the notion persists, though hanging inmid-air, that a human being is valuable and should be freebecause of what he or she is apart from whether he or sheis useful to anyone else. (Rand maintained her own pro-choice stance only by denying, implausibly, the humanity of the unborn.) The intrinsic value of the individual is the foundation of the pro-life position, too. It is why pro-lifers argue thatthe government should protect the life of the unborn,
Richards and Robison
Social and Economic Issues Indivisible
the elderly, and the inrm, and should prohibit scientic
procedures that destroy human embryos. “Human lifecannot be measured,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Robert
Casey in a 1995 speech at Notre Dame. “It is the measure
itself. The value of everything else is weighed against it.”Most libertarians support a
government, not anabsence of government. The central role of governmentis to maintain the conditions in which individual initiative,personal freedoms, and private property are protectedunder the rule of law. This necessarily excludes “freedom”of some to violate the basic rights of others.Protecting innocent, pre-born, human life,then, is not only consistent with economicfreedom; as Congressman Ron Paul hasinsisted, it is one of the prerequisites of freedom. That is why libertarians committedto freedom should be pro-life.
Love Limited Government? Then Defend Marriage
It’s less obvious, however, why those who believe in limitedgovernment should also believe that the governmentshould favor conjugal marriage. Shouldn’t the state get outof the marriage business altogether and just treat us all asindividuals? If two men want to get “married,” we’re told, where does Big Brother get off telling them they can’t? The problem with this line of reasoning is that it ignores what marriage
. Marriage is a public institution with
public consequences. We’re having this debate because
marriage is about public recognition and approval, notprivate feelings and vows. “Including homosexuals withinmarriage,” observes Andrew Sullivan, a supporter of same-sex marriage, “would be a means of conferring thehighest form of social approval imaginable.”
Politics Can’t Repeal Reality
Ironically, however, redening marriage would strike at the
foundation of individual rights. As individuals, we get ourrights from God. Our government doesn’t bestow them onus. A just and limited state simply acknowledges and protectsthe rights that already exist. A government attempting to
redene reality itself, as the Orwellian governments of the
century did, would become virtually unlimited and, assuch, not a protector of individuals but a threat to them.Marriage, like the individual, is a
. Ittranscends every political system. Even cultures thathave taken homosexual acts in stride, such as the ancientGreeks, still knew that marriage was for a man and woman. The question is not what people would like to do, but whatmarriage is. Because only a man and woman can mate,marriage always has a special relationship to bearing andraising children.