Liberty’s Downside?!

Kurt Andersen, a baby boomer novelist and “social critic,” wrote an op-ed decrying “The Downside of Liberty” on Independence Day of all days.  I’m pretty tempted to tear down Andersen as a self-important member of the Eastern Establishment glitterati (he is), but let’s stick to the nonsense he writes.


“THIS spring I was on a panel at the Woodstock Writers Festival. An audience member asked a question: Why had the revolution dreamed up in the late 1960s mostly been won on the social and cultural fronts — women’s rights, gay rights, black president, ecology, sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — but lost in the economic realm, with old-school free-market ideas gaining traction all the time?”

So winning more liberty for women’s rights, gay rights, and civil rights is a plus, but economic liberty is seen as a failure of “the revolution” according to Andersen.  But Andersen’s emphasis on limited liberty doesn’t end at low taxes and free markets:

“‘Do your own thing’ is not so different than ‘every man for himself.’ If it feels good, do it, whether that means smoking weed and watching porn and never wearing a necktie, retiring at 50 with a six-figure public pension and refusing modest gun regulation, or moving your factories overseas and letting commercial banks become financial speculators.”

Yes folks, “refusing modest gun regulation” is also a sin to Andersen.  Forget the fact that our founders thought gun ownership so important that they explicitly forbade the federal government from impeding on that right……in thesecond amendment, right after free speech, free press, and the right to assemble.

The problem with men like Andersen is that liberty is only okay on their terms, and their terms tend to always veer to a statist point of view.  To men like Andersen only a neanderthal would abhor homosexuality or abortion, and yet it is perfectly reasonable to want to put an end to gun ownership and creating a 90% marginal tax rate.  Hell, he even reminiscences about it.

“My conservative Republican father thought marginal income tax rates of 91 percent were unfairly high, but he and his friends never dreamed of suggesting they be reduced below, say, 50 percent. Sex outside marriage was shameful, beards and divorce were outré — but so were boasting of one’s wealth and blaming unfortunates for their hard luck. When I was growing up in Omaha, rich people who could afford to build palatial houses did not and wouldn’t dream of paying themselves 200 or 400 times what they paid their employees. Greed as well as homosexuality was a love that dared not speak its name. “

Sure they hated gays, but they hated greed too!  And who does Mr Andersen quote to pain his point about greed?

“‘Self-love,’ Jefferson wrote to a friend 38 years after the Declaration, ‘is no part of morality. Indeed it is exactly its counterpart. It is the sole antagonist of virtue leading us constantly by our propensities to self-gratification in violation of our moral duties to others.'”

I’ll say this to Kurt Andersen: Jefferson was right, self love is no part of morality….but neither is statist intervention into the livelihoods of man.   You can’t have it both ways.  Men who love liberty can accept a society that tolerates the existence of homosexuals and atheists as well as guns.  A liberty loving social conservative doesn’t have to approve of homosexuality or atheism any more than a liberty loving liberal has to approve of gun ownership.  The important thing here is a respect for the rights of others.

Unfortunately we’ve seen too much of this drek lately, whether it’s Thomas L. Friedman lamenting the fact our system of governance isn’t as efficient as China’s authoritarianism or Toure saying who knows what.

Kurt Andersen, Champion of Limited Liberty