Classical liberals seek a world in which everyone is free to live out his own conception of the good so long as he abstains from forcibly interfering with others’ ability to do the same. We’re therefore just as concerned with defending a person’s right to view pornography or buy alcohol on Sundays (to the chagrin of some traditionalists) as we are with defending an employer’s right not to be involved in the provision of his workers’ birth control (to the chagrin of many leftists). One’s freedom, as far as the law is concerned, does not depend on his using it to do what’s objectively moral.
For Will-to-Power Conservatives, just the opposite is true: By virtue of representing the correct vision of the good, they say, they have every right to use the coercive power of the state to interfere with others’ choices. In place of equal rights under the law, it’s error has no rights. This is no way to achieve the common good.
Jonah Goldberg adds his voice to those who denounce the attempt to defend looting. Here’s his conclusion:
Books could be written about how wrong—historically, morally, logically—Osterweil is. But there is one place where she’s right. Rioting and looting are fun, which is why young people do it from time to time. Mobs are thrilling, which is why they’re so dangerous and evil. (Presumably rapists and murderers feel “joy” too, that doesn’t make them good; it illuminates their evilness.) That’s why civilized societies try to prevent them. Barbarians come up with clever word salads to defend them.
My GMU Econ colleague Daniel Klein and GMU Econ student Dominic Pino serve up 43 germane quotations from Edmund Burke. Here’s one of my favorites from Burke:
“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.”