Liberty and the Social Order – Part One

[An Article from Free Life]
The twilight of the Cold War – which had largely seen the question of freedom framed as a purely economic debate between “capitalism” versus “socialism” – led to a resurgence of the importance of cultural matters in libertarian thinking. A noted effort from around this time was the paleolibertarian movement, the aim of which was to restore the governance of individual freedom to traditional culture, customs and institutions as an antidote to the un-tethered, culturally relativistic, “libertine” influence of the counterculture in the preceding decades. Right-leaning libertarians today continue to press for the avoidance of hollow, abstract, cosmopolitan, universalist messages in favour of focussing instead on the importance of time, place, culture, custom, tradition, family and community.
In other words, there is greater awareness today that – in spite of their foundational importance – the mere legal application of libertarian principles (e.g. “non-aggression”) to the governance of social relations is not the last word to be said on the composition of a free society. Additionally, the sociological and psychological requirements of sustaining such a society must be given greater attention.
While I agree entirely with these efforts, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that grasping the nature of the (often) unwritten values, morals, traditions and cultural elements of a free society – much less how these things can be recruited as part of a political strategy – is likely to be straightforward. As such, this is the first of a series of five articles which will seek to address this complex subject matter in detail.
To introduce this series, we will devote this first instalment to some clarifications that will dispel a number of confusions and illusions I have seen dog these kinds of issue in discussions elsewhere – confusions which could lead libertarians down a wrong path. This effort will also serve as an indicator of some of the intricacies that we will hope to unravel during this series.