Monday, January 28, 2008

Culturists, Libertarians and Ron Paul

Yesterday I went to a libertarian meeting. I wanted to see if their ideas squared with culturist ideas. Libertarians are deep political philosophers. If they give you a policy suggestion and you ask "why?" a long answer will come your way. I applaud all people who take political thought and the fate of society seriously. They were able to present interesting challenges to culturism.

Libertarians believe in total individualism and miniscule government. Culturism holds that we have to manage our culture and that means government. Herein lays a potential disagreement. Culturism holds that majority cultures have a right to define, protect, and promote themselves. That implies democratic communitarianism. What to do?

Well the fundamental disagreement comes about when we consider what me mean by self-government and self-determination. Libertarians, often, take this to only apply to the individual as an island. Culturists believe that self-government and self-determination are collective as well as individual. We collectively have a right to choose what we want to do. Culturist would, of course, use the courts to protect the rights of minorities. But in the end, we stand with democracy, not individual rights as the way to have direction and self-government.

Much of the intellectual backing for this disagreement can be traced back to the Declaration of Independence. Libertarians put a lot of emphasis on the phrase "unalienable rights." By this formula, no one can tell another person what to do. Culturists have sympathy as individualism is a cornerstone of the American culture. However, the Declaration of Independence declares our collective independence from Britain rather than our individual independence from each other. Furthermore the Constitution - a more fundamental document - lays out a system of collective governance, not a form of anarchy. Culturists emphasize the "we" in "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Culturists recognize "we the people" are the first three words of the Constitution.

Culturists and Libertarians agree, however, on many things. Whereas Libertarians think that government should be limited on a matter of absolute principle, culturists believe it should be limited because of the lesson limiting government teaches. Limiting government teaches self-responsiblity. When the government does not take care of charity, community philanthropy has a reason to exist. When the Federal government determines all policy there is no reason to be involved in politics locally. But this is the rub. Culturist do not invoke, as Libertarians often do, absolute principles and extremes. Culturist believe we must look at actual situation and decide what to do on pragmatic grounds. Perhaps my home town might decide to tax for a road. Doctrinaire Libertarians would outlaw all non-private efforts as a matter of principle. Culturist might agree in theory, but see the benefits of public roads. Culturists are more pragmatic. That said, we both believe in limited government whenever possible.

This agreement is something that culturists can work with. Ron Paul believes that our Constitution entitles us to sovereignty. He believes that, to the extent possible, we should not interfere with other nations. Likely, he believes in these policies because he holds it to be a truism that government should be limited to enforcing our security and that is all. Culturists come to the identical policy conclusions based upon the idea that our culture is unique and needs defending. Culturists connect this supposition with the affirmation that other cultures are unique, will defend themselves and also have a right to do so. So, on slightly different bases, we arrive at the same conclusion. Culturists are not dogamatic and will agree with those who defend Western Civilization on any principle. We would hope that Libertarians would also be pragmatic and return the willingness to cooperate for our collective greater good.
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