If millennials want liberty, they need virtue too

In the short term, the attraction of lumping conventional morals together with technocratic tyranny (as twin evils which both threaten our personal liberty) can seem almost overwhelming, particularly for those libertarian Republicans who have no strong tie to organized religion. Young people always crave freedom from conventional expectations that seem to cramp their style. Presenting statist overreach as yet another overbearing influence is an easy way of recruiting them to the libertarian camp. Twenty-year-olds readily warm to the message that they can manage without presidents and popes.

In theory, this “rally around small government” compromise can look generous and fair to everyone else too, including liberal progressives and social conservatives. The latter tend not to see it that way. But given the present state of society, shouldn’t religious conservatives be grateful for the chance to be peacefully counter-cultural rather than besieged? Isn’t it enough to live in a world in which they are free to preach their conventional views on morality, and to impart them to their own children? Even libertarians who are generally sympathetic to the importance of culture sometimes write missives that seem to imply social conservatives should see themselves merely as supine voting blocks whose only remaining alternative is to choose their protectors (libertarians or statists).

I can see why, looking at the current cultural drift, that might seem like a realistic appraisal of where we are. But if it is, then Frum is right. The war is lost, the libertarian moment will be no more than a flash in the pan, and we’re only a few inconsequential battles away from being blanketed by the pink police state. Soon you will be completely free to exercise your autonomy through exciting choices like: which kind of porn do you prefer? And shall we have geraniums or zinnias in the window boxes? Oh, sweet breath of liberty!

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