Two kinds of libertarianism

A writer who goes by the nom de plume “Hamilton” says that both Republican and Democratic intellectuals and policy makers are essentially libertarians.  (He says that there are few old-school socialists or New Dealers left in the Democratic party.)  But there are two different kinds of libertarians:  the school of John C. Calhoun and the school of Robert Heinlein.

Calhoun was the 19th century statesman from South Carolina who was a major spokesman for state’s rights, limited government, and individual rights.  Heinlein was the 20th century science fiction writer who championed individual liberty empowered by technology.   Calhounian libertarians are socially conservative, religious, and inhabit the Republican party.  Heinleinian libertarians are the socially liberal, tend to be involved in the new information technology, and are usually Democrats.

But Hamilton thinks that Calhoun and Heinlein could form an alliance.  I would  question the authenticity of a libertarianism that defends slavery, as Calhoun did, and that supports the power of one person over another that we see in abortion, as Democratic  libertarians tend to do.  But still. . . .What do you think of Hamilton’s analysis, given after the jump?

From The Two Kinds of Libertarianism: Calhounian and Heinleinian:

Today in America, we see two kinds of libertarianism, which we might call “Calhounian” and “Heinleinian.” Both kinds believe in freedom, but they are very different in their emphasis—and in their politics.

The names behind the adjectives are John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), of South Carolina, and Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), of California. In other words, two different states, two different centuries—and two very different outlooks.

Today, the gap between the Calhounians and the Heinleinians is wide; indeed, for the most part, these two kinds of libertarians are not even in the same political party. But if the gap could be bridged, and the two libertarianisms united inside the Republican Party, that uniting would be great for Republican prospects.

So let’s take a look at the two men, Calhoun and Heinlein, and the traditions that embody their legacies.

[Keep reading]

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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