Each Family a Royal Family, but Only If Rights Persist

Perhaps the greatest divide on the American political right is that between libertarians, who are frequently socially liberal, and religious conservatives.  Inasmuch as this large divide is still not as expansive as that between even libertarians and secular liberals, common ground clearly exists.  Where the right diverges tends to be along the line of “and so,” following upon the insistence of limited government.  Indeed, religious conservatives’ complaint (I assert, as one) is often that libertarians tend to stop immediately after the demand to be left alone.

In a First Things article from last April (subscription required), Providence College English Professor Anthony Esolen offers an excellent starting point for considering the matter.  I suspect that many libertarians might be able to go as far as agreeing with the principles described in this paragraph:

These other centers of authority were embedded in a history of their own that rightly commanded reverence.  Therefore the right of inheritance is the most jealously guarded liberty in Magna Carta.  You may not pillage a man’s castle simply because he happens to have died.  We mistake the matter entirely if we consider such a right only in terms of wealth retained.  The right of inheritance allowed a family the same kind of being extending through the centuries that the nation enjoyed.  It honored the family as not merely a biological happenstance within the state but as a metaphysical and political reality that preceded the state.

Esolen goes on to extend a similar importance to rights of association, with the development of fraternities, which can be translated into the modern world as private groups of individuals who share common principles or goals.  One could even go so far as to include villages as voluntary associations marked geographically.

Where the question begins to get sticky, in the modern political discourse, is with the “and so.”  In this context, it is not possible to be a family or fraternity of one.  Something beyond individualism is needed if rights opposing the state are to be maintained.  In terms of the family, that means a cultural preference for those forms that are most deeply connected with lineage and public policy that does not, at least, interfere with their development.  In terms of free association, that means insisting on space in which those of like mind can join together, including in the formation of municipal governments.  Here, freedom of association and federalism unite.

The inherent power of government creates a strong incentive for its possessors to create methods of bequeathing it to those whom they prefer to wield it.  The most recent finding of the American experiment (still in process) is, arguably, that it is insufficient to place paper boundaries around that force.  We must voluntarily submit to other forms of authority — disaggregated and organic — that restrict government by their presence.  Their absence merely creates a void.