C. Jay Engel is introducing a new magazine, focused on Austrian Economics and libertarian ideas: Austro Libertarian, A Magazine for Liberty.
The Austro Libertarian Magazine is a physical print, quarterly published, premium magazine that seeks to promote, explain, and defend the tenants of Austrian Economics, Libertarianism, and cultural restraint in a world fascinated by the State and other Progressivist themes.
Like I said, going old school, both in format and also in cultural tradition. The magazine is also available in digital format, of course. Engel sees in his sights the work being done by the socialist publication Jacobin Magazine and considers that there is nothing similar in the tradition of Austrian Economics and Libertarianism.
Engel has made available online an essay from the inaugural issue. This is done in conjunction with an interview at The Tom Woods Show by the author of the essay, Ben Lewis. The title of the essay is Just Don't Call it Fusionism: Frank Meyer’s Defense of Freedom and Virtue. (PDF) Again, going old school – to write of virtue in this age…. I will now focus on the essay, as I found it most worthwhile.
To the casual observer, Frank Meyer is well known as a fusionist – attempting to combine traditional conservatism and libertarianism. It was a label he rejected:
…he disavowed the fusionist label, saying that he was not attempting to fuse two disparate elements together, but was simply attempting to show that “although they are sometimes presented as mutually incompatible, [they] can in reality be united within a single broad conservative political theory, since they have their roots in a common tradition and are arrayed against a common enemy.”
Meyer found an emphasis of freedom and virtue in the ancient Greeks and in the Old Testament, with both societies also separating earthly power from heavenly power. The recognition of the dignity of each individual was found through the Incarnation of Christ.
One cannot separate these: the tradition that found the individual was also a tradition that emphasized the development of virtue. Both are an anathema to the modern left, hence conservatism and libertarianism can – even must – walk together.
Meyer does perhaps his most meaningful work in examining the relationship of the individual to various societal institutions. For instance, the family:
“The family as an institution,” he wrote, “cannot guarantee the raising of the young in the paths of virtue...only individual persons, acting through the form of the family, can do so.”
Yes, only individuals act; however they act through institutions. It is the institutions that offer the forums for action. Hence, placing family above the individuals that make it up is an inversion; yet the individual loses his ability to act without institutions.
Meyer was clear that virtue could not be brought on by the state – to teach and uphold virtue was not a political function. Conservatives are right when they focus on virtue and virtuous behavior; they are wrong, however, in calling for the state to be the means toward this end.
Meyer also disagreed with libertarians who discounted the importance of virtue.
These “libertines,” he thought, threatened civilization by removing all social restraints on individual behavior. …“The first victim of the mobs let loose by the weakening of civilizational restraint will be, as it has always been, freedom – for anyone, anywhere.”
Virtue and freedom are inseparable. The loss of one will result in the loss of the other; one is not possible without the other. What Meyer wrote of decades ago is only more significant today. As Lewis offers:
The decline of freedom and virtue that alarmed Meyer 60 years ago is now at such an advanced stage that one wonders whether either can be salvaged. What Meyer attempted to show was that to save one, we must rescue the other.
Needless to say, the Meyer as described here is one with which I can wholeheartedly agree. His thoughts on the purpose and necessity of both institutions and virtue toward finding and maintaining freedom are exactly spot on.
The conclusion offered by Lewis – that we are now 60 years further away from a virtuous society than when Meyer wrote – is, of course, correct; the rate of decline seems, at times, to be accelerating. As I have said before, it is time for Christian leaders to start acting Christian. The work must start here.
There is much more in the essay: a thorough description of the dialogue between Meyer and Russell Kirk, a dialogue that seemed characterized by violent agreement; the dialogue between Meyer and Robert Nisbet, also characterized similarly – although perhaps not as conclusively; the dialogue between Meyer and Murray Rothbard, perhaps not in disagreement at all but just trying to work out the ideas.