Wednesday, March 26, 2008
It is by a libertarian, but this New York Times article on John McCain's "decade-long attack on the individual" is worth reading both as a short introduction to the topic of "What's wrong with John McCain?" and as an example of "What's wrong with libertarianism?"
Regarding McCain, the article briefly touches on the following quote, which Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute also cited in his recent piece on McCain's threat to freedom of speech.
I would rather have a clean government than one where quote "First Amendment rights" are being respected that has become corrupt.But whereas Brook immediately notes that, "a government which strips us of our right to free speech is by that very fact corrupt," Matt Welch continues on with McCain's lame (and completely irrelevant) excuse for restricting freedom of speech, and without any real sense of alarm.
Be aware that McCain does not even regard freedom of speech as a right! I, for one am damn worried.
One might protest that I am nitpicking, and that this article is not focused on McCain's attack on freedom of speech. However, its whole tone is off because it never raises a serious moral or practical objection to McCain's anti-individualistic policies.
Why is a prohibition of any kind on speech that does not violate the rights of another individual bad? On what basis is freedom of speech a right? How might curtailing freedom of speech be at odds with the whole purpose of government? These issues never even come up.
Instead, McCain -- for his plain antagonism to individual rights and the grave danger this might pose to the Republic (and therefore, our lives) -- merely comes off sounding like an authoritarian prospective stepfather and the individual a flowering, sensitive adolescent whose whims might get hemmed in enough to cramp his style should Mommy decide to marry him.
It can be a bracing approach when his issues line up with yours -- I, for one, would welcome President McCain's unilateral wars on pork-barrel spending and waterboarding -- but it's treacherous territory for those of us who consider "the pursuit of happiness" as something best defined by individuals, not crusading presidents-to-be. [bold added](For the record, McCain's stand on waterboarding (also) endangers individual rights and his preoccupation with pork-barrel spending is a distraction from protecting them at best.)
Never mind that the moral purpose of man's life is "the pursuit of happiness", that the government's whole purpose is to protect our inalienable right to do so, or that both of these things can be objectively demonstrated.
Never mind that a candidate's core principles (as illustrated by a long track record like McCain's) imply that he is implacably opposed to individual rights.
Never mind that in such a case, one ought to suspect his motives any time he "lines up with" some cause or another, even if his stand looks good, taken out of that context.
Nothing McCain wants to do can be "bracing" -- unless one is oblivious to the life-and-death importance of the principles held by an individual as guides to his actions.
McCain does indeed have a record of antagonism towards the individual and he will have greater means to put that antagonism into practice if he is elected. But this is a much bigger problem than a reader of Welch's column will come away with -- if he doesn't leave thinking something like, "pursuit of happiness is too important to be left up to flaky individuals to define".
McCain represents a grave threat to individual freedom. Now is not the time for moral relativism. Not in the face of evil.