re: Liberaltarianism as a Disposition
On first glance, I see much less basic sympathy between liberals and libertarians than Jason does. American liberals — of the type embodied by Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama — tend to be more concerned about guaranteeing the health, wealth and rights of the most vulnerable in society. Diverse, discordant, and unpredictable lifeplans? Not so much.
Maybe Jason is thinking primarily of liberal rhetoric on culture-war issues. If so, that’s a fine point since those issues skew in all kinds of odd ways. On abortion, the left tends to stress a libertarian case about choice while the right makes a liberal case about unborn life. The rhetoric on marriage is more unsettled, but I think the most convincing arguments of the left are, once again, libertarian. Probably most gay-marriage supporters (I’ll admit to having no proof of this mere guess) are more convinced by arguments of the live-and-let-live variety than they are by calls for compassion towards their gay fellow-citizens.
On pretty much everything else, though, there isn’t that basic unity between libertarians and the left. The economic arguments Jason makes — the ones about change, innovation and the like are exactly the sort of thing you’ll find in National Review or First Things. And my reaction to Jason’s piece is, in the end, a lot like my reaction to the arguments those magazines make. No, I don’t think that all things should remain the same. Nor do I think it’s any great boon to have all things made anew. I certainly don’t think either prospect is likely.
What we have to do, then, is give an account of why any particular change might be good or bad. Whatever our predispositions, we need to do the hard work of understanding the benefits and costs. Then, perhaps, we can begin to say how goods that disappeared in the last transformation can be reclaimed in the next one.