In last week’s Republican debate, Ron Paul called for a repeal of laws against prostitution, cocaine, and heroin. Paul argued that our society should treat turning tricks and shooting up in the same way that we treat freedom of religionâ€”they are inalienable rights. This kind of libertarianism in my view is deficient in its view of human nature and would comprise an unloving and degrading way to organize society. I couldn’t agree more with Michael Gerson’s critique of Paul’s libertarian approach. Gerson writes:
Libertarians often cover their views with a powdered wig of 18th- and 19th-century philosophy. They cite Locke, Smith and Mill as advocates of a peaceable kingdom â€” a utopia of cooperation and spontaneous order. But the reality of libertarianism was on display in South Carolina. Paul concluded his answer by doing a jeering rendition of an addict’s voice: “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws.” Paul is not content to condemn a portion of his fellow citizens to self-destruction; he must mock them in their decline. Such are the manners found in Paulsville.
This is not “The Wealth of Nations” or the “Second Treatise of Government.” It is Social Darwinism. It is the arrogance of the strong. It is contempt for the vulnerable and suffering.
The conservative alternative to libertarianism is necessarily more complex. It is the teaching of classical political philosophy and the Jewish and Christian traditions that true liberty must be appropriate to human nature. The freedom to enslave oneself with drugs is the freedom of the fish to live on land or the freedom of birds to inhabit the ocean â€” which is to say, it is not freedom at all. Responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries. They are cultivated in institutions â€” families, religious communities and decent, orderly neighborhoods. And government has a limited but important role in reinforcing social norms and expectations â€” including laws against drugs and against the exploitation of men and women in the sex trade.
Read the rest here.