[The Editorial Board is once again pleased to publish a piece by its Cultural Correspondent, Casanova Bedlam. The following article was submitted in the early hours of Saturday morning from an undisclosed location, as is common with all of Mr. Bedlam’s writing. The following piece is even less straightforward than usual, and we have reason to believe that this is an unedited rough draft. He asked us to pass on his apologies. -Ed.]
This Hayek guy. Right? Who knew?
A little story about myself. I read little when I was a lad–between hunting squirrels for food, taste-testing my father’s whiskey (which also served as a kitchen degreaser and bonfire starter), and extreme physical conditioning, I had no time for such frivolities.
But as I grew and began my studies, I found joy in the printed word, as I still do. To read is an extraordinary action–near enough to writing, which is, in itself, magic. I can discuss this at another time, perhaps; maybe I will ask my friend and Spiritual Adviser, the Rt. Rev. Jack Roller, to write a piece for me. Regardless. I read voraciously, as all great men have done.
I came across Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged during my studies, and devoured it. You can guess the outcome; this XKCD comic should be adequate explanation of my behavior for the next six weeks or so. The point is, I developed an early fascination with hardcore libertarianism and laissez-faire thought that persisted for years.
A return, several years later, to foundations of Christian thought brought my economic philosophy in a more progressive direction, one which I still hold, to a large extent, today. I recognize, as obvious on its face, that a white-knuckled, stubborn adherence to classical liberal dogma leads to vast inequality and the kind of market crisis that culminated in the election of Der Fuhrer. [Emphasis ours. -Ed.] During the primaries, I was fascinated by Uncle Bernie and his unapologetically collectivist message. It’s now several months removed, and I find myself confronted with several new realities, only one of which is a fascist preparing to take power.
This is rambling even more than usual, and I apologize. I am attempting to multitask this morning. I am trying to write this piece, make coffee, organize a Spotify playlist, and shop for gifts for the annual Winter Solstice Festival at my family’s home. I will return to the point, which is:
This Hayek guy. Who knew, right?
I happen to agree with him more than I would have expected, especially because, or perhaps primarily because, of his insistence that the State has a vital role to play in the lives of its citizens. To be sure, he takes the kind of limited view that Paul Ryan (R-WI) masturbates to, but it’s something. The State DOES have a vital role. We all have rights, guaranteed not by the State, but by the blood that pumps in our veins. The role of the State, then, is to protect and to preserve those rights from those who would, through force or coercion, deprive us of them. [Emphasis his. -Ed.]
Within that role, there is tremendous variability, as “protection” could encompass all behavior from the most intrusive social engineering to the most distant and lean administrators. As I see it, we must look at the rights we have. The Founding Fathers were wise, but did not see the need to elaborate, as I believe we must: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness should, I think, be qualified to say “Life with Dignity, Liberty with Responsibility, and the Opportunity to Pursue Happiness.”
Life without dignity is bleak and monstrous; liberty with responsibility is chaotic; there can be no pursuit of happiness without getting a chance. These are the rights the government should preserve, and I see a great opportunity to help many within it. The preservation of dignity means we must be stewards of the environment, and we must ensure access to healthcare; the responsibility of liberty means we must have a reformed tax system that reduces the burdens across all tax brackets and sees consumption, not production, as the primary method of taxation; and opportunity means strong consumer and labor protections against wage theft and exploitation.
And beyond this, the State should have no power. The Bill of Rights is an exceedingly good start; our freedoms of speech, the press, religion, our rights to privacy and a court of law, these are all restrictions on the State, not us. I would see those rights strengthened, made mighty, and secure from assault from all corners, from those on the left who protest campus speakers to those on the right whose claims of “religious liberty” are almost too ironic to be taken seriously.
The State has authority that I recognize, respect, and wish to protect. But we must be cautious, ever vigilant, of attempts by the State to overstep its authority.
We are free men. And while we live, we will remain so.