Social Issues

Who Should Traditionalists Approve of More: Hypocrites or Libertines?

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Economist Bryan Caplan says the traditionalist should prefer the libertine to the hypocrite, despite commonly heard arguments about the benefits of hypocrites in at least upholding the idea of traditional virtue:

Even if traditional moral standards were infallibly correct, ardent social conservatives should still prefer libertines to hypocrites. 

Why?  Because they can and usually do avoid close social relations with libertines!  A conservative Christian needn't worry that she will accidentally disgrace herself by marrying a libertine, because the libertine has the decency to make his intentions known. 

In contrast, it's hard to avoid close social relations with hypocritical traditionalists.  Since they pretend to share socially conservative values, they worm their way into your life and your family.  Then like the hypocrites they are, they shirk, lie, and adulterer, bringing shame to their spouses, children, and extended families…..

Libertines are like the loyal soldiers of enemy nations; you may not like them, but at least you know what you're dealing with.  Hypocrites, in contrast, are like traitors in your midst - and the wise social conservative will hold them in the highest contempt.

Caplan's October 2007 cover story for Reason magazine on "The Four Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters (And We're All Stupid Voters)."