Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Goldberg: Why I'm a Little Bit Libertarian

Jonah Goldberg:
People ask me why I've become more libertarian because of writing this book. The simple answer is that the one thing libertarians grasp better than conservatives or liberals is the danger of the category error when it comes to the role of government. While there are certainly plenty of radical individualists swelling the ranks of libertarianism, libertarianism is not in fact an ideology of radical individualism. Or at least it need not be. The fundamental insight of libertarianism is that the government is the government. It cannot be your mommy, your daddy, your big brother, your nanny, your friend, your buddy, your god, your salvation, your church or your conscience. It is the government. A big bureaucracy charged with certain responsibilities, some of which it is qualified to carry out, many of which it is not.
Now, I would invest more cultural authority in the government than a typical libertarian would (see Jim Manzi's post here for clues as to why). And generally speaking, conservatives, because of their patriotism and faith in a culturally coherent and sovereign nation, are prone to over-romanticizing the government. But libertarians are simply immune to this temptation. This immunity sometimes blinds them to the poetry — for want of a better word — inherent to politics, but it also blinds them to the totalitarian temptations hardwired into human nature. That's not a bad trade-off.