• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    Better man

    I agree with Matt Welch that the proper response to this from Bush II wordsmith Michael Gerson is incredulity:

    Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, is appalled and that Teddy Roosevelt has become “the conservatives’ new demon.” Excerpt:

    The problem with America, apparently, is not just the Great Society or even the New Deal; it is the Square Deal. Or maybe [Glenn] Beck is just being too timid. Real, hairy-chested libertarians pin the blame on Abraham Lincoln, who centralized federal power at the expense of the states to pursue an unnecessary war — a view that Ron Paul, the winner of the CPAC presidential straw poll, has endorsed.

    Cupla comments: 1) Libertarians have chest hair?

    Yeah, seriously. Except in the mirror, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a libertarian with chest hair. If I had, believe me, I’d have snagged him already. Of course, I’m mostly not relying on empirical data. Without making any effort to confirm one way or another, I’ve always had the vague impression that the Reason guys, for example, are all baby-smooth with those conical moobs. Don’t ask me exactly how that comes through from the way they write, but it does.

    Presumably, Gerson is talking, all metaphorical-like, about tough and uncompromising libertarians (GRRRRR! HOT!), but even then I’m not sure the point works. I’ve heard libertarians dourly obsessed with ideological purity say some pretty out-there things, and it’s not hard to imagine that some of them have, indeed, complained that keeping the Union together involved an illegitimate use of executive power. But not all that many of them. If Gerson is frequently exposed to libertarians with that viewpoint, you have to wonder what social circles he frequents. (Note that expressing reservations about some of the precedents those sorts of government actions set is tantamount to saying that they shouldn’t have been taken. Maybe Gerson does, but I think he’s wrong.)

    Added later: And hey! What about libertarian women? Dare I say Gerson could be accused of reverse sexism?

    10 Responses to “Better man”

    1. Julie says:

      Oh, dear. I believe I have complained in the past that keeping the Union together involved an only semi-legitimate use of executive power. By which I mean that I understand why it is viewed as legitimate, but to me a social contract doesn’t work if it isn’t essentially voluntary. Besides, there’s that whole rebelling against tyranny thing, and, honestly, I think the Northeast can be pretty tyrannical.

      Hmm. I don’t have chest hair. And also, I like Teddy Roosevelt. I do think some of his actions were probably illegitimate uses of executive power, but in the main, I think he used them for good. I’m so confused.

    2. Sean says:

      Julie, we only boss the rest of you around for your own good. :)

      Seriously, what you’re saying is, in fact, something that I’ve heard more than once, and for good reason: process is important. And arguments that aren’t exactly the same but are very similar are frequently made over, say, civil-rights legislation or Roe v. Wade.

      What I took Gerson to be saying, though, was that rock-ribbed libertarians are outright dismissive of Lincoln and his motives, and I don’t think that’s usually the case.

    3. Eric Scheie says:

      Thanks for the link, Sean! But, um, does this mean that I can only become a good libertarian if I shave my chest hair?

    4. Sean says:

      I certainly hope not. I would never in a million years tell a man to shave his chest, and I’m pretty sure I count as a libertarian.

    5. Julie says:

      Oh, believe me, I know! We hillbillies just can’t quite figure out our best interests.

      I don’t think that’s usually the case, either. When I’ve made my complaints–rather timidly, because it is so uncool to gripe about Lincoln!–in the company of some very hairy libertarians, some of them have even been shocked that I would raise the point. OK, maybe not shocked, but startled. But then, I’ve never been in the room with Glenn Beck (is he a libertarian? More importantly, is he hirsute?)

      Oh…wait…I was at an event with Glenn Beck, now that I think about it. It was a demolition derby in Rexburg, Idaho. But it’s not like I talked to him. Between the gas fumes and the slinging mud, conversation about constitutional principles would have probably been out.

      I find that people don’t really get it when one complains about something on principle or complains about the process of something. If I may digress, that’s related to how I found your blog. I wrote a long-winded post on my now-defunct blog about how angry the pro-gay-marriage arguments made me. Not the actual position of being for SSM, just the rhetoric about it. I can’t really get behind introducing legislation for the purpose of “making me feel normal” or because “we love each other so much.” As you might expect, I was promptly labeled a bigot and a homophobe. Having spent most of my life in towns that most gay people flee (except, curiously, Mr. Chavez, our typing teacher), I couldn’t respond with the classic, “But I can’t be a homophobe–look at all my gay friends!” Yet I felt sure that I wasn’t a homophobe. So, I googled, looking for kindred spirits who are totally not homophobes but are vexed by the rhetoric. And, yea, I found you. So, thank you for providing succor in my hour of need.

    6. Sean says:

      No problem, Julie. What you say about your experience is very interesting, because mine’s generally been almost the opposite. Not with SSM supporters, certainly—I’ve learned that the minute one of them uses the term self-esteem, I need to turn away and read something else for the sake of my blood pressure—but with libertarians. I don’t frequent libertarian message boards and stuff much anymore, but when I used to, they were chock-a-block with debates over the implications of carrying some argument out with perfect, crystalline “consistency.” I’m very much in favor of paying attention to means as well as ends, and of following one’s arguments through to tease out possible unintended consequences. But it’s nice to stay within the known universe when doing so. I believe my pal Eric, above, was once privy to a discussion about whether vending machines dispensing automatic weapons should theoretically be permissible on public-school property, or some such balderdash. You know, pressing contemporary issues.

      Glenn Beck looks pretty hairless to me, though I’ve never ogled his televised presence closely enough to be really sure.

    7. Julie says:

      Yes, well, most of the (very few) people who ever read what I wrote were not libertarians. Most of them would be what we call “liberal” although I hate calling them that because to me that implies some sort of open-mindedness that I don’t think they, in practice, possess. At one point, I suggested that if marriage was truly no longer relevant to society (as some of my commenters were suggesting, what with all the “heterosexual marriages have a 50% divorce rate,” etc.), perhaps the government should just get entirely out of the marriage-sanctioning business and then SSM would just become a nonissue. That was not well received, although I would guess most libertarians would prefer that.

    8. Sean says:

      Yes, lots of libertarians do think “getting the government out of the marriage business” would be best. I’m not sure I disagree with them, though I think the probability that it would happen is vanishingly low.

    9. Julie says:

      The way things are going, I expect Nancy Pelosi’s staff will want to meet with couples personally to determine whether they are fit to get married and, if so, what type of punch they should serve at the reception.

    10. Sean says:

      Answered you in a full post, Julie. :)

    Leave a Reply