Saturday, April 30, 2016

What is a 'cultural libertarian'?

In Search of the Elusive Cultural Libertarian - Hit & Run : - Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

April 20, 2016 - 'What is a 'cultural libertarian?' While young conservatives claim the term originated in a 2015 Breitbart article, it's actually a term that's been thrown around by libertarians and conservatives in the media since at least 2001. But does the 'cultural libertarianism' debated in outlets such as Reason and the National Review back then share anything with the version espoused by the likes of Canadian activist Lauren Southern and Breitbart personality Milo Yiannopoulos these days? Yes and no.

"Today's 'cultural libertarians' claim to be concerned, first and foremost, with free speech and fending off the 'illiberal' or 'regressive left.' Where they succeed, from a libertarian-no-qualifier perspective, is in igniting the passions of young people toward the protection of civil liberties. Where they fail is by turning off more people in the process than they win over, delighting in the kinds of tactics and stunts that provoke but little else....

"Southern positions cultural libertarianism as a sub-branch of broader libertarian philosophy. 'Libertarians who are not Cultural Libertarians would argue that the only suppression of speech and expression that is unacceptable is suppression that is perpetrated by the state,' says Southern, making it sound like just another way of saying 'thick libertarian.' Thick libertarianism is a term used by liberty-movement types to describe libertarians who 'concern themselves with social commitments, practices, projects or movements that seek social outcomes beyond, or other than, the standard libertarian commitment to expanding the scope of freedom from government coercion'....

"Breitbart's Allum Bokhari defines cultural libertarians in opposition to cultural authoritarians.... cultural libertarians believe in open expression, viewing art as separate from its political overtones, and recognizing 'that efforts to police language and expression are not only counter-productive, but also fragile'.... Tellingly, Bokhari mentions the main goal of cultural libertarian to be 'needling their foes' on the Internet 'with waspish critiques and satire'.... When it comes down to it, the cultural libertarians of the Breitbart set just want to mock 'social justice warriors' while invoking natural rights.

"Yet at the very bottom of Bokhari's list, there is this: 'celebrating culture in all its forms' ... this idea is the closest that Cultural Libertarianism 2.0 comes to its 2001 counterpart. Let's look at that old debate for a moment. In a December 2001 National Review post, Jonah Goldberg decried the 'Chinese-menu culture' that 'basically says that whatever ideology, religion, cult, belief, creed, fad, hobby, or personal fantasy you like is just fine so long as you don’t impose it on anybody else, especially with the government'.... This attitude, embodied by the 'arrogant nihilism" of Nick Gillespie and former Reason editor Virginia Postrel, was 'rapidly replacing liberalism as the real threat to America, and the true opposition to conservatism,' warned Goldberg.

"According to cultural libertarianism ... we can pick from across the vast menu of human diversity — from all religions and cultures, real and imagined — until we find one that fits our own personal preferences. Virginia Postrel can write triumphantly that the market allows Americans to spend $8 billion on porn and $3 billion at Christian bookstores, because she isn’t willing to say that one is any better, or any worse, than the other."

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