Freedom, Freedom, Freedom

It’s only a ruddy parking ticket.

But seriously. Speaking of Burke and Kirk, and the joys of tradition and custom…I thought the answer I got to my question at the Chronicle’s colloquy was not all that satisfying. Possibly the fault of my question. I took seriously the instruction to be brief, so my question was pretty simple-minded – then I saw that other people asked very long questions, and I gnashed my teeth in impotent fury. But all the same, I did find the answer a bit off the mark.

A widespread hostility exists, especially among those of a liberal or libertarian orientation, toward any body of thought that seeks to impose restraints upon the will of either individuals or popular movements. Unable to bear any norm of conduct above that of individual feeling, critics argue that any external or internal restraints placed on the spontaneous will of the individual by society, government, culture, or religion constitute barriers to the fulfillment of his true humanity. Hence, the removal of all moral, cultural, and legal restraints is a prerequisite to the realization of the full potentiality of the individual.

Yes yes, I know all that. I even agree with it to a considerable extent. I don’t like libertarianism, and I get intensely sick of hearing Americans insist on their right to do anything they want to – you know, drive their SUVs at high speed while chatting on the phone, smoke anywhere they damn please, pay their workers whatever the market will bear. But that doesn’t mean that tradition and custom is always to be preferred to change, and it doesn’t mean that tradition and custom is never antithetical to important, valuable, non-frivolous non-destructive freedoms. It’s traditional and customary for women to be treated like livestock in much of the world. It’s traditional and customary for dalits to be oppressed in India. Those two groups could do with less tradition and more real freedom, if you ask me. And there are other groups in similar situations. I’m not bleating about individual feeling or the spontaneous will, I’m talking about the ability to live a real life as a rational autonomous (i.e. non-dependent and non-subservient) adult. I’m also talking about asymmetrical ‘moral cultural, and legal restraints’ as opposed to just restraints, period. But since I didn’t ask a long enough question, I didn’t make that clear.

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