The libertarian: (i.e. the moral wimp)

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Andrew Sullivan has a new article in Time. It gives the basic anti-Bush argument from libertarian premises, and he really does make the same fundamental mistake libertarians tend to make.

Let's look at Sullivan's complaints:

"Where once education was essentially the preserve of states, school principals and parents, this President has expanded the federal role in unprecedented ways. The No Child Left Behind Act holds states and localities accountable for meeting educational standards in order to qualify for federal funds."

"States' rights? Only if the states do what the President believes in. How else to explain the vast expansion of federal power that the Partial Birth Abortion Act entailed, limiting the rights of states to regulate abortion as they see fit?"

"Want to lose weight using ephedra? You can't. Bush's FDA has banned the over-the-counter supplement. Steroids? You heard the Nanny in Chief."

"There has always been a tension in conservatism between those who favor more liberty and those who want more morality. But what's indisputable is that Bush's "compassionate conservatism" is a move toward the latter � the use of the government to impose and subsidize certain morals over others. He is fusing Big Government liberalism with religious-right moralism. It's the nanny state with more cash. Your cash, that is. And their morals."

It's one thing to be critical of the government in areas that the general populace would oppose (e.g. anti-sodomy laws that forbid all sodomy, including oral sex). It's quite another to say the government has no right to restrict partial-birth abortion. Hardly anyone who knows what's going on in this procedure will admit that they think there's nothing wrong with it. Those who resisted the ban did it on grounds that they thought a very small minority of cases were borderline morally ok and therefore shouldn't be restricted. The overwhelming support in Congress shows that most people really do see this as a moral evil, with some people still thinking it should be allowed legally. This is what I just don't get. If it's such an awful thing, why not prevent it with laws? Well, that would be legislating morality, and who are we to declare that our morals are the right ones?

If you're going to say that, you have to stop laws against murder, rape, stealing, perjury, pederasty, selling heroin to a child, etc. These are all moral issues. If we can't let the government decide which moral issues to pursue having laws against, then we're in big trouble. If something is a real moral evil, then the government has a responsibility to protect people from that evil. Partial-birth abortion certainly falls under that category. I would argue that allowing students to fall behind simply because we have no standards in our schools is in the same category. Ephedra has been shown to be extremely harmful, and an FDA ban makes as much sense as for any other harmful substance, no longer allowing sellers to take advantage of an unsuspecting public by promising good weight loss results without telling people the deleterious effects of long-term use. This just seems to me to be lack of a moral backbone.

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