The Two Kinds of Libertarianism: Calhounian and Heinleinian

Today in America, we see two kinds of libertarianism, which we might call “Calhounian” and “Heinleinian.” Both kinds believe in freedom, but they are very different in their emphasis—and in their politics. 

The names behind the adjectives are John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), of South Carolina, and Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), of California. In other words, two different states, two different centuries—and two very different outlooks.

Today, the gap between the Calhounians and the Heinleinians is wide; indeed, for the most part, these two kinds of libertarians are not even in the same political party. But if the gap could be bridged, and the two libertarianisms united inside the Republican Party, that uniting would be great for Republican prospects. 

So let’s take a look at the two men, Calhoun and Heinlein, and the traditions that embody their legacies. 

A Closer Look at Calhoun 

Calhoun was a lawyer, pamphleteer, and constitutional scholar. He was also a proud slaveholding South Carolinian who rose in politics to be vice president of the United States—although he resigned that post in 1832 to protest what he saw as the excessively pro-federal unionist tilt of President Andrew Jackson.

Indeed, Calhoun spent the last two decades of his life making the case for states’ rights over national unity; seeing that his beloved South was destined to be outnumbered by the North, he ceaselessly generated intricate arguments in favor of minority rights—even at the expense of majority rights. In particular, he was a passionate advocate of “nullification”—that is, the idea that any or all of the states could nullify a federal law.

Calhoun died 11 years before the beginning of the Civil War, and yet it’s a cinch that he would have joined his fellow Palmetto Staters at the forefront of secession. Today, there’s no more talk of war, but Calhoun’s suspicion of, and opposition to, federal power is the still-beating heart of Southern conservatism.

A Closer Look at Heinlein 

So now to Heinlein, who came along more than a century after Calhoun.

Heinlein was also a scholar of sorts; he had learned engineering at the US Naval Academy, Class of 1929, and kept up with technology issues all his life. He was also on the right—not only a Republican, but a vociferous supporter of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. Yet by trade, Heinlein was a science-fiction writer; he ranks as one of the great sci-fi writers of all time, the author of such pathfinding novels as Starship TroopersStranger In a Strange Land, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Virtually all of Heinlein’s works include not only a solid dose of science and scientific extrapolation, but also strongly individualist, anti-authoritarian, libertarian themes. 

The lead character in Harsh Mistress, for example, describes himself as a “rational anarchist,” and the novel’s plot line concerns a lunar colony’s rebellion against earth, erupting in the symbolically loaded year of 2076—as in, three centuries after the American Revolution. 

Okay, so Calhoun and Heinlein were interesting figures. But how does that make them relevant to today’s politics? After all, the average Republican voter might not have heard of either Calhoun or Heinlein. So who cares about those old guys?

The answer is two-fold: First, the libertarian policy elites are familiar with both men. Second, even among those who have never heard of Calhoun or Heinlein, the belief systems of the two men still have the power to inspire and provoke.

Indeed, in comparison to the controversies engendered by the respective spirits of Calhoun or Heinlein—radical devolution, even civil war, for Calhoun; warp-speed space travel and immortality for Heinlein—most contemporary political arguments seem rather pale. Yes, it’s the vast scope of their persuasive ambition that makes both men relevant in our time.

The Elite Libertarian Synthesis—And Who’s Left Out 

Today, probably 90 percent of the Republican intelligentsia in Washington DC and New York City counts itself as libertarian on economic and social issues—and that matters. Why? Because it’s these libertarian experts/nerds/wonks who who write the articles, talking points, TV scripts, speeches, and books that shape Republican policy and politics. If there’s a wonk in every office putting policy material in front of his or her boss, then it’s the wonkocracy, overall, that not only sets the agenda, but also enforces the orthodoxy of the agenda.

Indeed, the libertarian influence is so large today that quite a few Democratic intellectuals are also substantially libertarian. Really? Yeah, really.

On social issues, of course, it’s a slam dunk favor of the libertarians—in both parities. It’s hard, for example, to find a Democratic wonk who is not in favor of gay marriage, unrestricted abortion, and legalized marijuana. In other words, on the social-issue side of libertarianism, the libertarian ascendancy in both parties is complete, save for a few conservative Republican holdouts.

And even on economic issues, many Democrats accept the basic idea of market forces, from free trade to spectrum auctions to the ill-fated Obamacare exchanges.

Indeed, it’s possible to see a great deal of overlap between Republican and Democratic intellectuals: They tend to have gone to the same schools, read much of the same policy literature, and share typically the same secular outlook. So yes, the respective parties, and bitter partisanship, still divide the wonk class, but there’s plenty still that unites them. If you’ve ever wondered why abortion, for example, is always legal, or why gay marriage and free trade are always advancing, the answer is the quiet bipartisan libertarian consensus among the elites. 

In other words, much—although by no means all—of the wisdom of libertarian economists has been translated into DC policy; the “neoliberal” Democrats have embraced at least some of the DC libertarian agenda. And so that opens up a lot of room for possible agreement among libertarian Republicans and libertarian-ish Democrats. 

Only those on the fringe left dream, these days, of socialism or central planning; in the current real world of DC, Jason Furman, whom Obama appointed earlier this year to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, argues for a lower corporate income tax rate. Global competition has, indeed, melted away most kinds of socialism. Even liberals understand that you can’t rely on the Post Office to compete in a FedEx world; to compete against FedEx, you need UPS, not a unionized civil service.

And so Republicans, too, get sucked into the elite consensus. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, for example, once inspired to get into politics by a liberty-loving writer, Ayn Rand, has since publicly disavowed many of her views. And now that he is chairman of the House Budget Committee, he is hard at work on some sort of fiscal “grand compromise” about government trimming. Although, in his heart of hearts, Ryan would undoubtedly seek to go much further, escalating from modest trims to deep cuts, even full-blown eliminations—he seems determined now at least to try to reach an agreement that the Democrats in the Senate, as well as Obama, can agree upon. And that limits his freedom of action. Meanwhile, we might note, the conservative social agenda languishes on Capitol Hill, as it always does. 

So we can see, the practical politics of the Beltway has a way of both bringing in the libertarians and then cramping their style. If Ryan wants to accomplish things, he will have to settle for small things, as opposed to big things. It’s just the way DC works.

Now, enter Calhoun and Heinlein. Their worldviews, and their supporters, stand well outside the mainstream of what’s familiar and acceptable to DC opinion. That’s what makes them interesting.

The Calhounian Challenge to the Status Quo

Let’s start, once again, with Calhoun. The Calhounian prescription for America can be summed up in those two potent words: states’ rights.

Not too surprisingly, we see the strongest Calhounian influence today in the places where Calhounianism was strongest two centuries ago—in the American South. Slavery is gone, segregation is gone, but the white South’s suspicion of Washington DC is not forgotten.

So the Dixie-dominated Republican Party, and the Tea Party, and allied movements, all owe much to Calhoun. Indeed, the Calhounian influence extends to other places, such as the Rocky Mountain West, in part because many of those states were settled mostly by Southerners uprooted in the wake of the Civil War.

Yet wherever they are in the US, Calhounian libertarians share an antipathy to the federal government, to Obamacare, to the United Nations, to Keynesianism, and, of course, to the MSM. 

Indeed, the Calhounian spirit is everywhere, especially outside the Beltway. The Calhounians drive the Republican preoccupation with devolutionnullification—even outright secession, at least at the local level.

As for social issues, the Calhounians are split. On abortion, for example, some are pro-choice, although most are pro-life. Yet either way, the Calhounians have a ready answer: states’ rights. Let the states decide abortion policy, and most other policies.

In the Calhounian vision, the federal government would be shrunk dramatically, and the states would, in fact, decide just about everything. That’s federalism in action, which would mean a big change from today. Right now, Massachusetts and California can support gay rights, and they can use their influence to outvote and outmuscle, say, Alabama and Utah—and so the latter states lose their rights. Red states end up with the social policy demanded by blue states.

The US military provides us with a case study of this majoritarian phenomenon. Under the Obama administration, the Pentagon is officially gay-friendly; even now, “diversity officers” are fanning out through DOD, propagandizing in favor of the new sexual order.

But in a Calhounian America, there wouldn’t be a national military, or at least not much of one. Instead, there would be state militias. And the Arkansas state militia would be run the way Arkansans want it to be run. 

The appeal of such policies should not be underestimated. And not just on the right. No liberal would ever praise “states’ rights,” but they tend to be in favor of “local control.” In the days of Reaganism, it wasn't hard to find folks in Burlington, Vermont, or Berkeley, California, who yearned to separate themselves out from the seemingly permanently conservative America, carving out their nuclear-free zones of of sexual and pharmacological liberation. That “small is beautiful”-type left-wing secessionism has faded since the Democrats started winning so many national elections; today, it’s the Baptists and anti-taxers who want out. But all that could change with the next election; the essence of Calhounianism is that loyalty to the local jurisdiction is, and should be, stronger than loyalty to the nation.

Were he alive today, Calhoun would sympathize with exit-minded left-wingers as well as as exit-minded right-wingers. That was his point: When a government gets too big, liberty gets crushed. A free people should be able to chart their own destiny, even if their chosen paths lead them apart.

But we can see four problems with Calhounianism:

First, there’s the issue of national defense. Can North Carolina go its own way and still defend itself against China? Can Montana afford to build a missile shield system against North Korea?

History shows that it takes a big nation to survive a threat from another big nation—or nations. And out of the imperative for national survival has come a necessary degree of centralization. Have the Calhounians really developed a “workaround” for that strategic challenge?

Second, there’s the reality that some systems are naturally, even necessarily, big. Industries need big markets to enjoy economies of scale, and they need rationalized systems of money and credit and contract-enforcement. Commerce also requires robust infrastructure. And there’s the Internet. Can Idaho have its own Internet? Can any state really leave the World Wide Web?

Third, Calhounianism seems to find itself in alliance with those opposed to modernity. That was the situation in the South of the 19th century, as Confederates praised life on the plantation, far away from big cities. And it’s the situation today, as the Tea Party today reacts to everything that liberals are doing. True to their Calhounians roots, Tea Partiers celebrate agrarianism and small-town Americanism. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with farms and small towns, but it’s a cruel truth that 82 percent of Americans live in cities or suburbs. It’s hard to build a successful national movement on a mere 18 percent of the population.

Fourth, it must be said, a certain anti-intellectual strain has crept into Calhoun Country. John C. himself was quite smart, he went to Yale. Yet fear of Yankee institutions seems to have extended to fear of concentrated clusters of knowledge. Here’s where the Tea Party’s reading of the Constitution—a reading that leaves out, of course, the parts about general welfare, common defense, infrastructure, and the regulation of commerce—has led the Calhounians into an intellectual cul de sac. Electricity is not in the Constitution, but it’s still a good idea. In this sense, Constitutional fundamentalism is akin to Biblical fundamentalism. Faith is faith, and faith is great, but the faithful need to be educated and smart in order to flourish and survive in a competitive political environment. In the game of national politics, it’s not Mississippi vs. Louisiana, it’s Mississippi vs. New York.

Calhounians have answers to all these concerns, but suffice it to say, most Americans aren’t convinced. And in particular, a key group of potential libertarian allies, the Heinleinians, aren’t convinced at all.

The Heinleinian Challenge to the Status Quo

If the Calhounians are numerous in the Southern and Mountain states, the Heinleinians are relatively small in number, even in the states where they are most likely to appear—the West Coast and the Northeast. In other words, Heinleinians are strongest where the Calhounians are weakest.

Politically, too, the Calhounians and Heinleinians are different. The Calhounians are virtually all Republicans now, however disgruntled, with a sprinkling of capital “L” Libertarians. For their part, the Heinleinians are much more diffuse: They are scattered across all the parties, although a good chunk of them are apolitical and don’t vote. Still, the bulk of them would regard themselves as “progressive,” and it’s fair to say that, last year, Mitt Romney didn’t get many of their votes.

Finally, the two groups are wired differently. Calhounians are often rooted in place, and feel both constrained and liberated by tradition and belief. 

On the other hand, the Heinleinians, tech-oriented as they are, tend to feel emancipated from the past. We might consider one of the central activities of a modern techster: computer coding.

If, as has been said, situation determines consciousness, then the act of coding and recoding gives one the sense that one can and should remake the world—every few hours.

Some might assert that the Hacker Way is a kind of relativism, and maybe it is, but it also can be seen as a new set of rules—very strict rules. After all, the laws of physics are immutable, and so definite boundaries exist. Yet within those boundaries, with enough brains and work, smart people can make the electrons dance in ever-newer ways. It’s a heady feeling, no doubt, but technology is also a severe discipline. Techsters cut loose, toga-party-wise, every now and then, but most of the time, they are working as diligently and quietly as medieval monks scribing Bibles.

And there’s one other big difference: Heinleinians admire Heinlein, as well as other sci-fi writers. And if they aren’t readers, then they might be watching sci-fi on video. And if they aren’t currently consuming any sort of science fiction, it’s likely that they are busy creating their own kind of science non-fiction—actual science.

Once again, this is a small group, but an important group—and a very smart and rich group. Having turned Silicon Valley into what it is today, techsters are now thinking beyond digital, looking out into space. Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu software and many other ventures— all spent money to make private space travel into a reality.

A company called Planetary Resources, based in Seattle, aims to mine the wealth of asteroids. You read that right: The governments of the world can’t even keep up a half-decent space program, and yet private billionaires want to fly up and extract minerals out of the heavens. As the company explains: 

There are near-limitless numbers of asteroids and more being discovered every year. More than 1,500 are as easy to reach as the Moon and are in similar orbits as Earth. Asteroids are filled with precious resources, everything from water to platinum. Harnessing valuable minerals from a practically infinite source will provide stability on Earth, increase humanity’s prosperity, and help establish and maintain human presence in space.

Now that’s vision. Pure Heinleinian vision, in fact—note the word “government” doesn’t appear. Nor does there appear to be any concern about despoiling the “natural” environment of space or crowding up the earth with new raw materials.

Indeed, if one looks at the big investors in the company—including Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google, Charles Simonyi of Microsoft, James Cameron of high-tech blockbuster filmmaking, plus Richard Branson and Ross Perot, Jr.—one sees nary a Tea Partier, and maybe even only one Republican. 

So we can see that the kind of libertarianism inherent in Planetary Resources is a far cry from the libertarianism of those who wish to see Tennessee opt out of Obamacare. That’s the difference between the Heinleinians and the Calhounians. The Heinleinians are reading technical papers and spreadsheets, not the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.

Yet make no mistake—the Planetary Resourcers are fully revolutionary. None of them are interested in waiting around to see what the federal government is willing to do in space—although, in their pragmatism, they are willing to work with NASA. Still, it has surely has crossed the mind of these investors that there’s no EPA in space; indeed, space can be seen as one universe-sized enterprise zone.

Heinlein was a huge proponent of space, but another theme, immortality, was also important in his work. One of his characters, the aptly named Lazarus Long, who has been around for 2000 years and counting, appears in no fewer than six Heinlein novels.

Today, the immortalist spirit of Heinlein is visible all over Silicon Valley. One expression is The Singularity, the concept of a kind of techno-rapture, in which computers and humans—at least some humans—become as one. The Singularity has long been championed by Ray Kurzweil, the prolific science visionary; Kurzweil now works at Google.

Earlier this year, Buzzfeed’s Eric Benson published a piece entitled “Sci-Fi, Religion, And Silicon Valley’s Quest For Higher Learning At Singularity University: Inside the $12,000 weeklong program teaching rising entrepreneurs that the secret to success is as simple as being able to tell the future.” In this piece we can see just how tightly helixed together are the strands of imagination, hard science, and capitalism; it takes a lot of gumption to charge $12,000 for a few days—and it takes a lot of disposable income to be able to shell out the $12k. Heinlein would have loved all of it.

Yet the Singularity is way more than a marketing gimmick—some of the smartest and richest people on the planet are striving to make it, or something like it, real.

In May 2013, Google’s Larry Page was quoted in The Verge, a tech publication, saying that while “the pace of change is increasing,” legal and regulatory systems haven’t kept up. And so, he said, we need “mechanisms to allow experimentation.” Sounds like another enterprise zone, eh?

Page continued: “There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation. And that’s good, we don’t want to change the world. But maybe we can set aside a part of the world.” According to The Verge report, Page likened this potential free-experimentation zone to the wide-openness of the Burning Man hippie-fest, adding that the world needs “some safe places where we can try things and not have to deploy to the entire world.”

Many observers might be horrified by the possibility of amoral—even unethical, even ruthless—projects that might take place under the banner of “experimentation.” In truth, nobody knows what’s coming.

What we do know is that the Heinleinians are rising up, albeit mostly outside of traditional politics. The techsters have been reinventing the world for some time, and now they are seeking to create enterprise/research zones where they can do even more of their thing.

So again, they are practicing libertarianism, in the sense that they want to be left alone, but they see politics as only dimly relevant to their efforts. 

Meanwhile, the billionaire beat goes on. In September, Google announced it was creating the California Life Company, or Calico for short, dedicated, the press release says, to improving longevity. Yet in an article in Time magazine at the same time, the Googlers went further, declaring that the goal wasn’t just longevity—the goal was flat-out immortality. Heinlein would have loved that, too.

The overall takeaway is that these cutting-edge billionaires are bored with the humdrum of life on earth and wish to create the option, at least, of going somewhere different. And since that might take a long time, they want to live longer in the meantime. And who knows what else they might have in mind, that they haven’t told us about? One is starting to see the value in reading sci-fi, just to keep up with the Googlers. 

We can also see that that these Heinleinian libertarians are putting forth visions that will either attract or repulse just about everyone.

On the “attraction” side of the equation, geeks and others who swear by science and technology will applaud the effort to conquer space, and maybe even death. All these efforts are not just “cool”; they are, as the late Steve Jobs would say, “insanely great.”

On the “repulsion” side, regular people, who might think of themselves as conservative or merely liberal, are likely to be confused, troubled, or even horrified, by these developments, and what they might portend for natural law. What happens to the social contract when billionaires live a completely different life from everyone else? It’s a cool world, but it’s also a cruel world, as seen in films as different as Metropolis (1927), Blade Runner (1982), and Elysium (2013).

In particular, what would happen to the basic bonds of humanity if some individuals can buy longevity, to say nothing of immortality?

So what of libertarians, in particular? They’d be in favor of all this, right, so long as it’s private? Ayn Rand—who never called herself a libertarian, but close enough—would surely admire the pure egomaniacal will-to-power of these tycoons and visionaries. 

Yet others who count themselves as liberty-lovers are sure to be troubled. As we have seen, most Calhounians are probably Christians—how can they square what’s happening in Silicon Valley with what’s written in the Bible?

Calhounians vs. Heinleinians

So now we’re starting to see why the Heinleinians aren’t Republicans. Indeed, some of them, such as Eric Schmidt, are avowed Obama supporters.

But wait a second: Obama is no libertarian. Except, in a way, he is: The President may be actively tangling up the economy in ruinous red tape, but at the same time, he seems content to let the rich do as they please. Obamacare may be a mess for most Americans, but the one percent won’t notice a thing.

Moreover, nobody in the Obama administration seems the least bit interested in scrutinizing, let alone regulating, any of the bold projects of Planetary Resources or Calico. We can think of this emerging reality as akin to the aristocracy of yore—the peasants were mired in feudalism, but the royalty could do whatever it wished. So today, the rich can carve out all the libertarian freedom they need from this status quo. 

Yes, maybe Obama is in favor of raising the taxes of the rich, at least in theory. But in practice, it’s only a theory, and nothing more. As we know, Obama doesn’t mean much of what he says, and he doesn’t seem to follow through on anything.

We might recall that Hyatt Hotels heiress Penny Pritzker had all her billions offshore, far from the reach of the IRS, and yet Obama rewarded her help to his campaign by appointing her as his Secretary of Commerce. So who really believes that any Obama tax initiative is going to truly crimp the lifestyle, or the worldwide investments, of Schmidt, Pritzker, or any of the others? No one should be so naive. That’s why it’s so easy to be a rich Democrat.

Meanwhile, as we know, the Democrats give the fun-loving rich most of what they could reasonably want on social issues: not just the personal freedom of gay marriage, abortion, and pot-smoking, but also the powerful psychic goods of Green self-esteem, loudly expressed tolerance, and class-appropriate disdain for the Bible Belt. Indeed, in the case of Obama, the African-American man, a supporter of his is immediately cleansed of any guilt feelings of racism.

Compared to all that, Republicans can’t offer the rich nearly as much. Yes, the GOP offers tax cuts and deregulation, but it’s no sure bet that even a President Mitt Romney would have gotten very far in that direction. Meanwhile, during the 2012 Republican primary contest, Romney surely antagonized Heinleinians when he angrily dismissed Newt Gingrich’s idea of a lunar colony. 

Indeed, the gulf between the Calhounians and the Heinleinians seems to be growing wider. The issue of healthcare illustrates the width of that gulf. The Calhounians, of course, adamantly oppose Obamacare. To someone with an ordinary income, the dislocations of Obamacare are huge indeed; a few thousand dollars in extra costs is a big deal. By contrast, to someone with an extraordinary income—the top tier of the Heinleinians—the cost of health insurance is no big deal. 

Instead, the Heinleinians are looking to solve a completely different problem; they don't worry about health finance, they worry about health itself. The richest of the Heinleinians have plenty of money; what they need is a cure for cancer, autoimmune disease, or whatever else it is that runs through their family. Illness is the real enemy to such people; the cost of disease is just a detail. (Come to think of it, illness is the real enemy of all of us.)

Of course, the less-wealthy Heinleinians—and that’s most of them—do have to worry about mere healthcare costs; it’s not altogether obvious to them that the Republicans have a better healthcare plan, or any sort of healthcare plan.

To sum up: The Calhounians are libertarians, for the most part, at their own particular level. And the Heinleinians, too, are libertarians, for the most part, at their particular level. The problem is that the levels are much different. And in the meantime, of course, the Heinleinians are infusing the Democrats, not the Republicans, with superior campaign technology.

Thus, from a Republican point of view, we see a painful paradox in the current situation: two different libertarian groups, both of which should be pushing in the same GOP direction. But they’re not—at least not yet. 

Calhounians and Heinleinians, Together at Last?

So how could the Southern-fried Calhounians and the sushi-eating Heinleinians possibly get together? How could they overcome their geographic separation and their cultural differences? How could the Calhounians get over their hostility to elites? How could the Heinleinians get over their snobbery? 

Most likely, it will happen like this: The Democrats will overreach and drive the two libertarian groups together.

We might start with the revelations that the National Security Agency is spying on everyone. Admittedly, the surveillance program seems to have started in the Bush 43 administration, if not before. But Obama is getting the blame. And while all Americans should feel threatened by the prying eyes of the NSA, techsters face the risk of losing not only their privacy, but also their business model. If American companies are subject to NSA snooping, and such snooping is legal under US law, there’s not much that techsters can do about it. By contrast, other countries have an option; they can create their own systems that are outside NSA snooping. Brazil and Germany, to name just two, are moving in the direction of digital independence from the US. If so, that’s a big loss for Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other American tech giants. 

And so it’s possible that American techsters will seek relief from the spying. If the GOP is willing to offer more immunity from spying, that could be a selling point.

In addition, the Democrats seem to be moving left. The election of Bill DeBlasio as mayor of New York City, for example, is great news for two key liberal constituencies: bureaucrats and criminals.

Also, the possible 2016 candidacy of lefty-populist Elizabeth Warren, as a challenger to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, is one of the most buzzed-about stories in DC right now. To smug liberal fatcats, Hillary is fine; she’s a known quantity, likely to support the next Wall Street bailout, just as she supported the last one. But if Warren were somehow to beat Hillary, well, that would be political game-changer.

Indeed, given the general sentiment of Democrats at the grassroots—as distinct from Democrats in DC—it seems possible, even likely, that the the national party will take a sharp turn to the class-warring left on issues concerning big business and free markets. The idea of France-style income taxes, or even confiscation and socialism, does not seem as absurd today as it did a decade ago. In other words, trends are developing that would change the political thinking of most billionaires.

So if, in the future, the Heinleinians start rethinking their affection for the Democrats, questions nevertheless remain for Republicans. Could the Calhounians, who currently dominate the GOP make room in their party for these rich and smart Heinleinian refugees? Can the two learn truly to play nice with each other? As in, support each other’s candidates? That’s a key political hurdle that both sides would have to learn to jump over. 

No, it won’t be easy to fit together Bible-believing Christians and space-traveling New Agers.

The Calhounians represent the old order. And it’s a good order, the order of the American Revolution, of patriot graves, of traditional family values.

The Heinleinians represent a new order. And it’s a good order, too, the order of progress and transformation. Indeed, the old order can't survive without at least one aspect of the new order: technology. We won World War Two, for example, not just with gallantry, but with better weapons. The A-Bomb alone saved millions of American lives.

Yet because they are not numerous, the Heinleinians need political cover. Hard-chargers have always needed politicians who can mediate the hard edges of transformation, from railroads to electricity to the internet. If the Calhounians could get their heads around what Heinleinians have in mind, they could be better allies than Democratic statists, levelers, and class warriors. 

To resolve this tension, we might might step back and observe that libertarianism is about a lot more than eliminating the government: Libertarianism is also about unleashing the imagination of free men and women.

For freedom lovers, that’s an exciting vision: The Calhounians get to do what they want, and the Heinleinians get to do what they want. The two groups might not have a whole lot in common, but they share something important—they both want to be left alone.

And that shared goal could be the beginning of a beautiful alliance.


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