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©Deirdre Nansen McCloskey | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Christian Libertarianism (or, outside the USA, Christian "Liberalism")
An exchange with The Clinic, a satirical journal in Chile (cf. Britain's Private Eye)

Deirdre N. McCloskey
21 November 2011
Filed under interviews

Which are the "risks" of giving more liberties to the people?

None. Only real conservatives view liberties with alarm. Real liberals, as their very name implies, believe in liberty.

Why do the economical liberals/conservative focus on conservative "morals," and won't give up?

I do not know why economic liberals are not also ethical liberals. Probably is because they are not really liberals, but are actually conservatives, or more exactly reactionaries. For example, they believe, wrongly, that homosexuality is (1.) bad and (2.) a choice. It is neither.

What's the line between liberalism and fascism?

Correctly defined they are opposites. Fascism subordinates people to the state. Liberalism frees people from the state. Unfortunately, some people calling themselves "liberals" actually love the state. (This is even true in the USA, where "liberal" has, strangely, come to mean "moderate socialist." In Chile and Europe it has sometimes come to mean "reactionary conservative, almost fascist." Neither is how it should be defined!)

We want you to talk more to us about the conflict, the liberal versus the conservative. We think that Chile is a very important example of the duality.

Friedrich Hayek, the modern master of what people in the USA call "libertarianism" and what others call "real liberals," once wrote an essay entitled "Why I Am Not a Conservative." He was not a conservative, nor am I or Robert Nozick or Tom Palmer or Donald Boudreaux or Ronald Hamowy or John Locke or Thomas Paine or (the Blessed) Adam Smith. (For a full list see p. 400 of Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World [2010].) I am a Christian Liberal. That is, I believe on the one hand that in human affairs the best policy is to let people alone to exercise their creativity. Such creativity has made the modern world. We should take power away from the massive modern state, which so often follows the Other Golden Rule: Those who have the gold, rule. States are corrupted by the rich, usually, and especially so in countries like the United States and Chile. Look at American "defense" spending, or Chilean deals with mining companies.

But on the other hand as a Christian I also believe that as a spiritual affair we should love God and love God's creatures, that is, our neighbors as ourselves. (It is Jewish and Muslim law, too: Rabbi Hillel was asked to summarize the law and the prophets while standing one leg. His reply was: to love God , the commandments 1-4, and our neighbors, 5-10.) In consequence, unlike fatherly and unChristian liberals, I believe in helping the poor. At a meeting libertarians/liberals last year in the Bahamas I expressed to someone what I thought was an axiom, "But of course we all want to help the poor." He instantly retorted, "No: only if they help me." It took my breath away. I want to help the poor, period, not only as part of an exchange-although opportunities for exchange, such as between the North and the South if the North would but give up protecting its pampered farmers (something Chileans can well understand), are good, and would be much bigger than all the foreign aid the North gives. And my liberal part adds to my Christian duty: Help the poor really, not by making them unemployable by raising the minimum wage, or uneducated by forcing them into public schools, or violent and victimized by outlawing recreational drugs.

The Clinic, named after the private hospital in London where General Pinochet was treated, and at which he was charged with crimes against humanity, says, "It's true: marihuana leads to coke . . . and a cheeseburger and fries."