Fukuyama and Libertarianism

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VH1′s
upcoming special, One
Hit Wonders
, calls to mind popular tunes by long-forgotten
artists known only for one song (link2).
Who can forget catchy hits like “99 Luftballoons” by Nena, “Tainted
Love” (Soft Cell), “Play That Funky Music” (Wild Cherry), and “Hot
Child In The City” (Nick Gilder)? But try to name another song by
these groups, and you'll be stumped.

But
– how’s this for a segue? – one-hit wonders are not restricted
to the world of pop. They populate the neocon world too, though
their hits are not as memorable. Case in point is Francis Fukuyama,
the obscure State Department official whose faux-deep 1992 book
The
End of History and the Last Man
made a splash, despite
its non-rigorous, implausible, neo-Hegelian thesis. His subsequent
work has never matched it in popularity or notoriety. Fukuyama’s
latest offering, “The
Fall of the Libertarians
” (Wall Street Journal,
May 2, 2002), is a weak and confused attack on libertarianism that
does not endanger his status as a neocon one-hit wonder.

Fukuyama
claims that libertarianism is doomed because of two apparently primary
(and faulty) tenets: first, its foreign policy views; and second
– get this – the libertarian stance on … biotechnology.
I see. We have reached the end of history, and it is necessarily
one that will be dominated by: war, interventionism – and no
cloning. Sort of a constrained, and strangely selective, vision
of the future. Unfortunately for libertarians, we are anti-war and
pro-cloning, and thus stand athwart the new permanent direction
of world history (which has ended). “Therefore,” our days are clearly
numbered. Huh? Let me get this straight: our views on legalizing
drugs and prostitution, abolishing regulations and taxes, etc. don’t
bug Fukuyama too much, but our views on – say it with me –
biotechnology, do? I repeat: bi-o-tech-no-lo-gy. Try to stifle
your yawns. Apparently, biotech has become a burning issue for neocons,
and for some reason they think it's become a pet issue of libertarians
as well.

First,
let’s take foreign policy (please). Unfortunately, and contra Fukuyama,
not all libertarians are anti-war and isolationist. See, for example,
Joe Stromberg’s discussion of libertarian interventionists –
whom he dubs “liberventionists
– and these
blogs
(link2,
link3)
concerning the pro-war views of some libertarians, such as Virginia
Postrel, David Brown, and Brink Lindsey. In fact, I would venture
to say that the more pro-war type libertarians would tend to be
pro-cloning, pro-choice, etc. Conversely, the libertarians who are
anti-war – the paleos – are less likely to be pro-cloning.
So I guess Fukuyama is attacking the modal libertarians (and leftists)
on cloning and attacking the paleolibertarians on the war issue.
But I digress.

Let’s
grant Fukuyama that most libertarians are anti-war and anti-state.
Where Fukuyama is wrong is in thinking this is some fatal flaw in
libertarian thinking or that it relegates us to obscurity. Some
of us
might even counter that if the US had been more
“isolationist,” if we had not tried to “promote democracy and freedom
[sic] abroad,” if we had not so often “tax[ed] citizens” to “promote
collective interests,” then perhaps, just perhaps, we would not
be embroiled in as many conflicts as we currently are. And then
we would not need so many taxes to support even further interventions
to deal with the consequences of earlier interventions. And so on.

In
any event, opposition to war and state has been with us for some
time and there is no reason to think that it is all of a sudden
at the end of its rope. Does anyone think we have really reached
“The End of Opposition to War?” I suspect that as long as there
is war, there will be those pointing out that it is wrong, just
as there will be victims who oppose crime, so long as there is crime.

Bizarrely,
however, Fukuyama devotes the bulk of his attack to libertarian
views on biotechnology – in particular, our alleged
“support” for cloning. My first reaction is: Huh? (Or do I repeat
myself?) Our former federal government employee writes:

The second
area in which libertarians have overreached themselves is in biotechnology.
Here they join hands with the New York Times and important
parts of the American left in opposing restrictions on human cloning
currently under debate in the U.S. Senate. Many libertarians oppose
not just a ban on research cloning of human embryos, but on reproductive
cloning as well (that is, the production of cloned children).

Let’s
allow that libertarians indeed oppose a federal law banning cloning
(e.g., S. 790, under consideration
in the Senate). Is it because we are leftists or libertines at heart?
No. The simple reason is that libertarians are in favor of constitutional
restrictions designed to limit government’s ability and tendency
to tyrannize peaceful citizens (isn't Fukuyama?). One important
restriction in our written Constitution
is that it grants only enumerated
and limited powers
to the federal government – unlike
the states, which are seen, from the perspective of the federal
Constitution, as having plenary, “police” powers. The structure
of the federal Constitution, along with the ninth
and tenth amendments
, makes this scheme clear. For the
most part, the listing of rights in the Constitution
and the Amendments
(including the Bill of Rights) is superfluous, meant only to put
an exclamation point on what is already implied in the very structure
of the Constitution and our erstwhile federal scheme.

Accordingly,
certain federal powers are explicitly enumerated in Art.
I, Sec. 8
of the Constitution. But if there is no enumerated
power to take a proposed action, the federal government simply is
not authorized to do it. Coming back to cloning – there is
nothing in Art. I, Sec. 8 or elsewhere in the Constitution that
empowers Congress to restrict cloning (and the argument that the
interstate commerce clause empowers Congress to regulate activities
that “affect” commerce is complete
bunk
; link2).
Congress can only regulate cloning by disregarding limits placed
on its power by the Constitution that authorizes its very existence.
Surely it is reasonable for even neoconservatives to be a little
concerned when the most powerful military and police institution
in world history blatantly disregards the paper limits placed on
it.

How
can Fukuyama support obviously unconstitutional federal restrictions
on cloning, while endorsing the “liberalism” and “natural rights”
views of the Founding Fathers and Thomas Jefferson? Surely their
liberalism included the original constitutional system which limited
the federal government to enumerated powers. So, is Fukuyama in
favor of “the American political tradition,” or ain’t he? If he
is, he cannot support federal anti-cloning legislation. Or does
he think the Constitution actually does give Congress the
power to regulate cloning? If so, where is it enumerated? Or does
he think the Constitution should be amended to eviscerate federalism
and remove all limits on Congress’s power? I’m confused. Or more
likely, Fukuyama, the former State Department official, is.

Fukuyama
continues:

Libertarians
argue that the freedom to design one’s own children genetically
– not just to clone them, but to give them more intelligence
or better looks – should be seen as no more than a technological
extension of the personal autonomy we already enjoy. [...] There
is no cause for worry if eugenics is practiced by individuals.
The latter could be counted on to make sound judgments about what
is in their own and their children’s best interests.

Libertarians
do not maintain that “There is no cause for worry if eugenics is
practiced by individuals.” We just don’t think “cause for worry,”
by itself, justifies making the “worrisome” conduct illegal (good
thing, for I find many of Fukuyama's views “worrisome”). Rather,
it is only aggression – i.e., using the body or property
of others without their consent – that may be outlawed and
regulated, for only the initiation of force justifies the use of
force in response. Elsewhere, Fukuyama implies that “inflicting
harm” justifies “government intervention.” But government intervention
is always the use of force, and it is only justified in response
to harm that itself involves the use of force. Harm that is not
caused by aggression – for example, hurting someone’s feelings
by insulting them, or reducing the value of a competitor’s company
by providing a better product – does not justify a forceful
response, i.e. a law.

Moreover,
libertarianism does not hold that individuals can “be counted on
to make sound judgments about what is in their own and their children’s
best interests.” Fukuyama probably does not understand that our
support of individual liberty is not contingent on the individual’s
wise exercise thereof. What he seems to miss here is that just because
libertarians do not believe a given federal law is justified, does
not mean they think the behavior left unregulated is “just
fine”. Apparently unlike neocons, we are able to separate private
morals from the political question of what behavior the government
should be allowed to regulate. And yet, we are the ones who
are supposed to have simplistic, unnuanced views? Ah, I see.

Fukuyama
also assumes, mistakenly, that libertarianism rules out any laws
prohibiting some cloning related actions. He provides the following
example:

A deaf lesbian
couple recently sought to implant an embryo to produce a child
who they hoped would also be deaf. Children do not ask to be born,
of course, but it is a stretch to assume the informed consent
of a child to be born deaf, or a clone, or genetically redesigned
in a risky experiment.

This
implies that libertarians “assume the informed consent of” the child
to be born deaf, and that we would therefore oppose laws (e.g.,
even state law) prohibiting such actions. Since a significant minority
of libertarians are not pro-choice,
it stands to reason that not all libertarians uphold the right of
parents to genetically harm their children. In fact, while
some libertarians might oppose all laws limiting “genetic” freedom,
in my view a libertarian case can be made that it does violate
the rights of the child for its prospective parents to intentionally
engineer a defect that the child would not have consented to. This
is an open question, the answer to which is not implied by libertarians’
opposition to unconstitutional federal anti-cloning laws.

Other
comments by Fukuyama are also confused and weak. For example, he
writes: “Research cloning of embryos [...] is a line that we should
cross only with trepidation.” This begs the question by assuming
“we” have to ask permission from someone before engaging in action,
and that the permission-giver should be very careful in handing
out this permission. But in a free society, we are not supposed
to live by permission, at the whim of government. Rather, it is
the other way around. Unless it can be shown that research cloning
is a violation of rights, the government has no business intervening.
It is the use of state action that we should endorse “only with
trepidation.”

Other
examples of confusion in Fukuyama’s reasoning include: “the community
of interest that is presumed to exist between parents and children
cannot be taken for granted [is] why we have laws against child
abuse, incest etc.” Well, no. We have laws against child abuse because
child abuse violates the rights of children, not because there is
some “community of interest” that is “presumed to exist.”

Or
take this comment:

Libertarian
advocates of genetic choice want the freedom to improve their
children. But do we really know what it means to improve a child?
It is hard to object to therapeutic aims, such as the elimination
of genetic tendencies toward diseases. [...] Parents, of course,
try to improve their children in all sorts of ways today, through
education, resources and upbringing.

So,
we don’t “really know what it means to improve a child,” yet elimination
of disease is an acceptable improvement (even if accomplished
through genetic engineering, presumably), as are use of education,
resources, etc.? Fukuyama also says that, unlike improving kids
through education, “the genetic stamp is indelible, and would be
handed down not just to one’s children but to all of one’s subsequent
descendants.” Well isn’t eliminating disease through biotech “indelible”
and handed down to descendants? Further, I am not sure that “indelibleness”
can be measured or quantified, but in any event “indelible” marks
are made all the time on children and descendants by a host of neocon
government laws and policies, such as: immigration policy, war,
welfare, drug laws, taxes, etc.

Like
other
neocons
who have attacked libertarianism, Fukuyama fails
to mount a successful attack on liberty, individualism, and rights.
Libertarianism, though outnumbered by its statist competition, is
alive and well. As with Fukuyama’s premature proclamation about
the “end of history,” his report of the death of libertarianism
is greatly
exaggerated
.

May
6, 2002

Stephan
Kinsella [send
him mail
] is an attorney in Houston. His website is www.StephanKinsella.com.

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