I’m still reading through my copy of Home From Nowhere while I recover. Here Kunstler describes exactly the things that alienated me from the libertarian conception of liberty. This dilemma (alienation from my own heritage) was resolved for me once I discovered republicanism and ceased to confuse liberty (or independence) with license. If liberty is independence as opposed to choice, and the proper end of political action, the law can and should be used to place moral and aesthetic restraints upon absolute freedom.
It is hard to imagine a culture less concerned than ours with the things that make life worth living. Much of what we esteem as life-enhancing and pleasure-giving tends toward the childishly self-destructive: fast cars, gooby microwaved cheese snacks, prolonged television viewing, compulsive shopping, playing with guns, heavy drinking, kinky sex, to name a few. These are the fruits of political liberty in our time, and so, tragically, liberty iself begins to seem a rather trashy thing.
James Howard Kunstler, Home From Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World For the Twenty-First Century (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), 80
The sordid culture that I deplore came about through the confusion of republicanism with liberalism in the twentieth century. America’s national ideals do not necessarily lead to the libertarian celebration of the freedom of counterfeiters, habitual litterers or pornographers to deface the public realm.
Similarly, equality does not demand the nihilistic relativism of all lifestyle preferences. This is a recent innovation. Previous generations made a sharp distinction between civic equality, or the equality of all citizens before the law, and social equality. Like many other aspects of our heritage, this vital distinction was thrown in the garbage in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, and has produced the interminable debates over the definition of marriage and abortion that have since fractured the nation.
Tolerance is another American ideal that has been perverted from its original meaning. A tolerant person was a reasonable man who was openminded to new ideas, not a dogmatic enforcer of the etiquette of political correctness. The culture of the Enlightenment is not responsible for the catastrophe that is contemporary America. Rather, it was the radical rejection of the Enlightenment and the Western tradition in the wake of the Second World War that has brought us to where we are today.