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Is Progress Possible?

CS_LewisThis essay by C.S. Lewis was originally published in The Observer in 1958. It was subsequently printed in the book God In the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, subtitled “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.”

Intro from God in the Dock: From the French Revolution to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, it was generally assumed that progress in human affairs was not only possible but inevitable. Since then two terrible wars and the discovery of the hydrogen bomb have made men question this confident assumption. The Observer invited five well-known writers to give their answers to the following questions: ‘Is man progressing today?’ ‘Is progress even possible?’ This second article in the series is a reply to the opening article by C.P. Snow, ‘Man in Society’, The Observer (13 July 1958).

Progress means movement in a desired direction, and we do not all desire the same things for our species. In “Possible Worlds” Professor Haldane1 pictured a future in which Man, foreseeing that Earth would soon be uninhabitable, adapted himself for migration to Venus by drastically modifying his physiology and abandoning justice, pity and happiness. The desire here is for mere survival. Now I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.

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Can Conservatives Be Libertarians?

Some libertarians are applauding the recent Supreme Court decisions relating to same-sex marriage, not because of anything to do with the Constitution, limited government, federalism, individual liberty, the proper role of government, or separating marriage from the state, but because they just happen to like the idea of same-sex marriage. As I have argued elsewhere, they are entitled to their opinion, but there is no libertarian “position” on same-sex marriage.

On Tuesday, March 26, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative passed in 2008 that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry that the California Supreme Court had recognized.

On Wednesday, March 27, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the merits and demerits of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal legislation passed in 1996 that defined marriage as only “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and that permits states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the section of DOMA that defined marriage (sec. 3) was unconstitutional, thus ending the ban on same-sex married couples being recognized as married and eligible to receive federal benefits. The Court also let stand a 2010 federal district court ruling that declared Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.

Conservatives who believe in traditional marriage and consider the term “same-sex marriage” to be an oxymoron are disturbed by the Supreme Court’s rulings. This is not generally because they find fault with any legal or constitutional arguments, but because the Court did not, in their eyes, rule in favor of traditional marriage—legal and constitutional arguments be damned.

But conservatives are also disturbed by what they see as libertarian support for same-sex marriage. This is not generally because they find fault with any arguments about individual liberty and the proper role of government, but because libertarians are not, in their eyes, upholding traditional marriage—philosophical arguments be damned.


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From God or the Sword

This article is by libertarian luminary Frank Chodorov, excerpted from chapter two of The Rise and Fall of Society. Is the State ordered in the nature of things? The classical theorists in political science were so persuaded. Observing that every…

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The Freedom Nobody Wants

This essay is by Reverend Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies, and is adapted from a seminar lecture de­livered as a mem­ber of the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education. It was published in the November 1966 issue of The Freeman. Read more from the Edmund Opitz Archive.

Freedom today has what might be called a good press; everyone speaks well of freedom. It is in the same category as motherhood, Sandy Koufax, and pure water. Nobody will admit that he is "agin" freedom. In modern times there has been a booming market for the Four Freedoms, and for Freedom Now. There is a vocal Free Speech Movement on college campuses. We celebrate freedom of the press and condemn censor­ship; we cherish religious liberty and hail academic freedom. The mood of our time is favorably dis­posed toward every freedom ex­cept one, and that outcast freedom is Freedom of Economic Enter­prise.

Economic freedom suffers attri­tion from within and attacks from without. Individual businessmen often seek to evade market man­dates, and intellectuals do not want people to have complete lati­tude for their peaceful economic transactions. This is how Profes­sor Milton Friedman views the problem: "It has often seemed to me that the two greatest enemies of the free market are business­men and intellectuals, for opposite reasons. The businessman is al­ways in favor of free enterprise—for everybody else; he is always opposed to it for himself. The in­tellectual is quite different; he is always in favor of free enterprise for himself, always opposed to it for everybody else. The business­man wants his special tariff or his special governmental commission to interfere with free enterprise, in the name, of course, of free enterprise. The intellectual, too, wants such commissions to control the rapacious man. But he is against the idea of any interfer­ence with his academic freedom, or his freedom to teach what he wants and direct his research as he wants — which is simply free enterprise as applied to him."¹

I wish to focus first on economic freedom and demonstrate that maintaining the integrity of the free market is essential to the preservation of every other lib­erty. Later I shall deal with some of the things on which the free market depends.

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