Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Classical Liberalism: Not Quite

Libertarians are a dime a dozen at Hillsdale College, and that's great. Even if Republicans can't deliver on small government when they preach about it, Conservatives and Libertarians can generally get along. But Hillsdale has, in addition to typical Libertarians, its own form, a fringe element that takes (dwells in) the title "Classical Liberalism." Indeed, in the tradition of Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises and dozens of others, Liberalism wasn't always about killing babies, saving the environment, and eating rich people to achieve these and other tired ends. It was about life, liberty, and property, and all the coolness that happens when everyone respects those and is left alone to their own.

It is often over the not-cool results that Libertarians and Conservatives split, and where Classical Liberals seem to get more than a little salty. For example, in a purely free market, drugs and prostitution can be quite commonplace. Conservatives say outlaw it, Libertarians say live with it, and Classical Liberals... well, they're generally too busy doing the drugs and paying the whores to chime in.

But when they do get around to it... duck!

By the time the Classical Liberal is through damning the War on Terror, proclaiming that with Natural Rights come no moral obligations, and making a few ridiculous remarks about Abraham Lincoln, one may indeed wonder if those intellectuals that want to make the political spectrum into a circle rather than a line (where far left meets far right) might be onto something.

"At least Hitler built an Autobahn." - Unnamed Classical Liberal

While Libertarians want small government, Classical Liberals want small authority. "To each his own" can generally be deduced to man, his couch, his bowl, and munchies. And while this is quite easy to come by despite the size and scope of the U.S. Government, obviously the Classical Liberal wants more. After all, if the joy of ganja and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl with a few select Hostess products to wash it all down can't fill up all the space, what's there left to do? Why, complain, of course!

Yet again, the meeting of the minds becomes clear. However, while the Classical Liberal has an actual ideology to hold onto (though Libertine it has certainly become), modern Liberals basically reject anything old (except maybe the Sixties, the Communist Manifesto, Rousseau and, for the guy who orders the extra large espresso, maybe a little Nietzsche) and don't really have principles. So maybe the Classical Liberal does have something going for him. But in between hot-box whine sessions, pretentious platitude spitting and mundane immoral showboating, more often than not it's hard to tell.