Monday, January 28, 2013
"A Libertarian in My Kitchen"
By: J. Hunter
Last night I threw a small party at our apartment to celebrate my wife’s birthday. Some friends came over to enjoy the cocktails, and the food that chained me to the kitchen employing multiple burners and an oven—preparing complex dishes as a one man assembly line. My wife and I are blessed with good friends, one of whom braved the hellish inferno to chat with me and keep me company.
On the one hand, he was, for a time, the only other man in the apartment. Perhaps that helped compel him to withstand the heat and abide my conversation that slowed unpredictably and seemed, at times, to wander while I smashed fried plantains into roundish tostones. I tilted my head examining them as they sizzled in hot oil waiting for them to turn golden. Tostones turn from golden, crispy and perfect to too brown, burnt and brittle in an instant. One must be paranoid and discerning to cook them successfully.
As he sipped his icy, yellow, “grown-up drink” (my three year old daughter, Lucy, covetously (and futilely) asked for sips of what we were drinking) the plastic cup glistened with condensation. This brave man kindly stood in the least comfortable place in the apartment to show appreciation to his busy host.
What does one talk about with me?
For most of you reading this, you probably think that I am a political beast that thinks about partisan conflict incessantly—you’re right. And so we talked politics.
It occurred to me then that he and I had never talked about politics directly. He didn’t even know I had a blog. He is my wife’s friend’s husband—in effect, I inherited our acquaintanceship by default. He’s heard me talk to others about our political views and thoughts on current events, but he and I never squared off, looked each other in the eyes and took on that subject that is expressly forbidden to encroach polite company. As it happens, he leans libertarian—which is a relief to me, as it means that he’s thought things through and isn’t just your typical Chicago brain-dead, reflexive, Democrat Party liberal boot-licker. Libertarians, I can enjoy. Liberals, I tolerate.
Of course, though, when talking to libertarians, I find that we seem to always have the same conversation about how similar yet different we are. It’s like a black American meeting a black Cuban for the first time—the two sharing similarities, but also separated by language, culture and worldview. We share a mutual disgust for liberal disregard for a limited State, yet when he turns on me for Republicans who staunch the growth of government rather than actually pruning Leviathan’s fruitless branches, he lands a punch that I can only counter by chiding libertarians’ damage to the argument by suggesting we cut federal departments and programs that are actually worthwhile—like defense, the Federal Reserve and the DEA. In all, it’s a profitable discussion that leads us both to nod in agreement even as a few tostones escape salvation.
One thing I noted that intrigued him was a difference I found among liberals, libertarians and conservatives: Libertarians argue for freedom as a virtue in and of itself. Whatever comes from choice, so long as it does not limit another’s, is good because it was freely elected. That places libertarians on an island—detached from liberals and conservatives who fight with each other about competing moralities and about how those morals should best be promoted. Conservatives rely on Judeo-Christian moral codes and tolerate philosophies and other religious values that do not stray too far from this ideal. What that means for the consistency of policy positions notwithstanding, we smile favorably on blue laws, abstinence clauses in foreign aid monies, and faith-based initiatives. Morality, to us, is a personal matter, but where there is mutual aggregation of values, the government should reflect the consensus. Liberals, on the other hand, believe that morality is staunched by immoral (and furthermore, obsolete) traditions. Morality must be promoted by government. The mutual aggregation of values compels citizens to elect or recall politicians who are outside the mainstream of American morality. Even more, where the people uphold an immoral belief—invariably the product of some sexist, racist, ancient tradition—enlightened agents of the State will enforce proper morality and shame dissenters into catching up with progress.
My friend raised his eyebrow slightly at my assertion—his invitation for me to make this charge about liberals more clear.
I did, by arguing that it is this view of morality and how morals should be promoted that leads liberals to distrust business more than they distrust government. In the liberal view, business buys indulgences by selling amoral products. That the Chick-fil-a owner does not abide same sex marriage is a threat that must go unanswered as long as people like their chicken sandwiches. That Forever XXI endorses the religion of a tribal ancient society (Christianity) by printing a Bible verse on each of their yellow bags must be tolerated as long as women shop there. Business, unlike government, is allowed to heretically flout the Left’s moral codes and attempts at enforcement. The bigger and richer a business is, the greater the opportunity for the entity to go rogue by pandering to the myths of the masses in order to grow ever larger and ever more powerful. This keeps liberals up at night. That conservatives and libertarians support business, makes us their moral enemies.
That libertarians have no input on the conversation of morality relegates them to mute bystanders in a street fight.
He nodded in thoughtful agreement. I appreciated the chance to talk shop. And as I've replayed the conversation in my head since we chatted, I would wager that he's done the same.
The party went on without a hitch: liquor flows with ease at our parties, like in Prohibition Era Chicago. The burnt tostones were exponentially outnumbered by the perfect ones. And for a moment, I had a conversation worth writing about—I hope, worth reading about as well.
Photo Sources: "Cocktails" from http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080730223029/recipes/images/6/69/Tenu%2Bde%2Bsoiree-7942.jpg; "Tostones"from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_4Zv_DtKsoQk/S_nUWFBrgVI/AAAAAAAAFJI/Xjq9HWr6v4o/s1600/IMG_6469.JPG; "Forever 21 bag" from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/06/23/forever.jpg