There's been an interesting exchange among libertarians in response to the Catholic Church's kick-off of a campaign against application of the HHS mandate on contraception and "morning after" pills to certain religious institutions.
Tim Carney, writing in the Washington Examiner, began
the conversation by suggesting that social conservatives recognize big
government as an enemy of religion and calling on libertarians to
reassess their political alliances. Walter Olson of Cato responds,
observing that libertarians have been out front in opposing state
impositions on religion, but pointing out that there are limitations to
co-operation between libertarians and social conservatives to the extent
that the latter support state intervention as an instrument of the
culture war. Walter's Cato colleague, David Boaz, argues
that social conservatives have often called for impositions on liberty
to advance a particular moral view, citing a number of historic
Two things. First, it is always heartening to see
libertarians understand that freedom requires resistance to impositions
on voluntary associations as well as restrictions of individuals. It is a
common mistake to see the freedom movement as entirely individualistic
and unconcerned with communities. People often choose to exercise their
liberties in association. Defending the right of a voluntary association
to defend the principles around which their members come together is also vital.
there are often paradigm shifts in politics and public life. For years,
traditional Catholics, Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews clashed over
theological differences. More recently, they have come to see the state
and secular culture as a common and more immediate threat. They have formed alliances that once would have been thought impossible.
can't say that libertarians and social conservatives are at the point of such a shift, but the
thought is intriguing. Might it not make sense for social conservatives
to understand that the enlisting the state as an ally in fostering the traditional morality they support
is both theologically suspect and politically implausible? Might not
libertarians come to recognize (although Walter would argue that they
have) that a state powerful enough to enforce sweeping dictates of life
style freedom against private individuals and organizations will always
do so selectively and contingently?
Someone suggested that
this may be one of the differences between the Moral Majority and the
Tea Party. At some point, people recognize that the best offense can be a
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin and Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog.