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On a macro level, the U.S. economy continues to be productive with high employment and high college graduation rates. It seems, as Brink Lindsey argues, that Americans have reached a manageable balance of social libertarianism with an intelligent self-discipline—because such self-control helps enrich them. As Lindsey has written, “The strength of this desire, and not the fading hold of old cultural forms, provided the basis for ongoing commitment to middle-class self-restraint—self-restraint as a means to exuberant self-expression.”
Hymowitz says that libertarianism’s creed:
described by Doherty as “[P]eople ought to be free to do whatever the hell they want, mostly, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else”—is not far removed from “if it feels good, do it,” the cri de coeur of the Aquarians.
Actually, one can believe “if it feels good do it” is a bad way to run your life while still believing in the political principle of people being free (from outside coercion) as long as they aren’t hurting others. So those two ideas are as far removed as “I don’t think it’s good for you to do this” is from “I should use violence to prevent you from doing this.”
If you don’t understand that distinction, it’s not just that you
haven’t kept up with supposedly wacky radical modern libertarians
such as Karl Hess and Murray Rothbard. You haven’t even kept up
with John Stuart
Mill. And you are accepting a political principle that
constricts human liberty to a very narrow range indeed, one in
which no disapproved urge or action is safe from state
interference. It’s the kind of narrow range of freedom in which
even most families—the bulwark of human social development and,
yes, also human individuality—would find it hard to thrive.
Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man and Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.