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Jay Currie

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3/28/2005

Libertarians and Conservatives

Anyway: the Schiavo case (and our recent experiences up here) proves once again that libertarians and conservatives are (surprise!) irreconcilable.
relapsed catholic
Kathy Shaidle has it half right. There are areas in which libertarians and conservatives, by which I think Kathy really means socons, cannot, in conscience, reconcile their differences.

As much as anything it is because of differing conceptions of the role of the state. Socons tend to want the state to do something on certain issues, libertarians would prefer, in almost all cases, the state to forebear from acting.

Like many of the libertarian commentators Kathy cites in her post, I have not written anything about the Terry Schiavo case. Not because I am untouched by the sadness which attends all side of the case; rather because I cannot see the argument for state intervention. But that is because I accept the notion of brain death and the legal necessity of that notion.

States are about legal certainty. At the margins this makes for extremely difficult decisions. After all, the definition of brain death or the precise instant human life begins, is as much a philosophical and theological point as it is a matter of scientific certainty.

Human life is all about uncertainty. There are plenty of things about which we have no clear answers. There are others about which, in principle, it is impossible to have clear answers.

Some religious people would deny this is the case: they will argue that the tenets of their religion provide the answers. And they may very well be right. But not in the sense that those answers can be acted upon by the state.

If, as a matter of faith, you believe life continues until the heart stops beating you are perfectly entitled to that belief; but why that belief should be embodied in public policy is not obvious.

Libertarians tend to want to maximize the sphere in which indivduals are free to act according to their own beliefs. And to do that libertarians cast a jaundiced eye at any attempt to extend the state's reach into individual's lives.

On gay marriage this is a no brainer - there is no compelling reason for the state to be involved with marriage in the first place. Decisions about the beginning and end of life are far more difficult.

The irreconcilability Kathy writes about often arises because of a socon inclination to treat all their issues as having the same weight. This is tactically foolish and leads to the silly situation where the CPC is willing to create second class Canadians as part of a deal to keep abortion off the floor of their policy convention.

Now, frankly, were I a socon, I would be far more interested in conceeding on SSM in exchange for a promise to regulate third trimester abortions. One is important, the other is semantics.