Putting the Constitution ahead of Culture War

Whether you're a card-carrying Libertarian, a small-l libertarian, a libertarianish political non-conformist, or I suppose even if you're from the other side and hate libertarians, you don't want to miss David Harsanyi's The Libertarian Case for Palin.

The potential political consequences of Sarah Palin have been chewed over from every imaginable angle.

Though there is plenty to ponder, one thing is certain: libertarian-inclined voters should be encouraged. No, I'm not suggesting that your little Molly will be bringing home "The Road to Serfdom" from her (distinctly non-public) elementary school. But in contrast to any national candidate in recent memory, Palin is the one that exudes the economic and cultural sensibilities of a geniune Western-style libertarian.

I think he's right. (And I suspect M. Simon would agree; see his related post.)

Not that Palin will please all in the libertarian camp. Her social conservatism gives pause to many, although Harsanyi recognizes (as I did in another post) that she places the Constitution ahead of her personal beliefs. And of course, her Second Amendment position ought to delight any libertarian:

....unlike Obama, Palin seems to believe that the Second Amendment means the exact same thing in rural Alaska as it does in the streets of Chicago.

Yes, Palin is without argument a staunch social conservative. She is fervently opposed to abortion - even in cases of rape and incest, which will raise eyebrows, but is certainly more philosophically consistent than the namby pambyism of your average politician. The choice issue, after all, is complicated, even for many libertarians. And, as I was recently reminded, Ron Paul, the Libertarian champion of the 21st century, also opposes abortion.

Even when advocating for "moral" issues, Palin's approach is a soft sell. Palin does not support gay marriage (neither does Obama, it should be noted). Yet, in 2006, Palin's first veto as Governor was a bill that sought to block state employee benefits and health insurance for same-sex couples.

We cannot bore into Palin's soul to see her true feelings about gay couples, but, at the time, she noted that signing "this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office" because it was unconstitutional. For most libertarians, the thought of politician following any constitution, rather than their own predilections, morality or the "common good," is a nice change of pace.

Yes, it is.

And this was music to my ears:

On the counterproductive War on Drugs, Palin is no warrior.
Whatever her personal beliefs are, Sarah Palin strikes me as a principled person who departs from the decades-old Culture War script that "the personal is political." I have long harbored the hope that someone might come along who'd be able to make a stab at uniting libertarians and religious conservatives....


Maybe "unite" is the wrong word, because they don't really need to be united. Brought together in a rational way, maybe. Because, the Culture War arises from instinctive, gut-level personal dislikes more than from a desire to have the government enact these dislikes into law. Religious conservatives and libertarians both know that any unconstitutional scheme that might allow, say, fundamentalists to take charge of "the culture" could be used against them, as it would also allow Islamists or Communists to do the same. And both libertarians and religious conservatives have now been holding their noses for a long time -- not just at each other, but at the Republican Party. Perhaps learning to hold your nose is a good thing if you learn that something you don't like (homosexuality or creationism, say) is not going to break your legs or pick your pocket. I have long thought that religious conservatives and libertarians have more in common than they realize, but are driven apart simply by constitutionally irrelevant feelings of mutual repugnance. Larger forces want them battling, though.

Anyway, I liked Harsanyi's piece so much that if I keep quoting it my enthusiasm will violate the DMCA, so just go read it all.

posted by Eric on 09.02.08 at 08:15 AM


"I have long thought that religious conservatives and libertarians have more in common than they realize, but are driven apart simply by constitutionally irrelevant feelings of mutual repugnance."

I think there's a lot to that. As one who is both I feel the tension strongly. Part of the difficulty has been the tendency for religious neutrality by the government to turn out to be de facto hostility. As a consequence, religious conservatives are more closed-minded about neutrality than they should be. They don't trust it. They think it's a scam, a cover for smuggling in quasi-religious values that can be made to look neutral - environmentalism comes to mind here. Similarly, most prolife people I know would accept taking the law to the states, where they could push back the number of allowed abortions as far as the society would bear. We live under a government, which has to accommodate many. What we resent is someone else's philosophy being imposed under the cover of neutrality. On abortion, for example, a line will be drawn somewhere that reflects someone's values. We have to hammer that out as a people. What we resent is being told that we're the only one's drawing a line, and our opposition is just taking some neutral, noncommittal opinion.

Usually that imposition of values is done

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  September 2, 2008 9:22 AM

I'm a libertarian, I haven't been as enthusiastic about a presidential or vice-presidential candidate for a long time. (MILF factor aside, although that helps.) Part of it is that she seems to tick off the Hive as much as she does, judging by the innuendo campaign about her, and the Hive's party line changing overnight to "Experience counts" after months of "Who needs experience when you can talk nice in front of a teleprompter?" She's certainly preferable to that socialist doofus Obamaessiah.

Bilwick   ·  September 2, 2008 9:42 AM

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