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Last week, four Republican congressmen sent a missive to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. This one-page letter beseeched Barr to actually enforce extant obscenity law as it applies to legally relevant hardcore pornography. It would be prudent for Barr to “declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority,” the congressmen argued. Accordingly, Barr ought to urge federal prosecutors to “bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material.”

My colleague at The Daily Wire, Matt Walsh, wrote a column arguing for regulating or banning pornography. “At some point conservatives decided that government should not be used to advance the common good,” my coworker tweeted. “And at that point conservatism became limp, shallow, and ineffectual.”

For these grievous sins of calling for government to play a greater role in regulating a noxious industry complicit in human trafficking, retarding children’s sexual development, and destroying marriages, the libertarian mafia on Twitter went haywire. “If you don’t like porn, don’t watch it,” tweeted high school activist CJ Pearson. “Social conservatives need to realize that we can handle pornography and other social ills without turning America into a Christian version of Saudi Arabia,” warned Casey Given. “We must never let lazy moralizing force us to surrender our freedom to the government.” Only libertarians understand “how the Founders wanted our government to run,” the Libertarian party’s official Twitter account hectored yours truly.

What utter tripe.

Once upon a time, opposition to the spread of pornography was a unifying political principle for self-described conservatives. Alas, it seems that in our increasingly liberalized conservative movement, such opposition is no longer unifying.

For those who erroneously conflate liberty with libertinism, it is easy to focus on the Preamble’s avowed dedication to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” to the exclusion of its equally clear vows to “establish Justice” and “promote the general Welfare.” The result is that many on the so-called “right” now issue apologia for an industry whose lofty denizens were recently charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California with “forc[ing women] to perform certain sexual acts they had declined to do, or they would not be paid or allowed to leave.” It is embarrassing just how far, in 2019, are the depths to which some wings of the conservative movement have plunged.

Knee-jerk classical liberal urging to merely “[l]et parents do their job” is sophomoric in the context of our pornography public health crisis. Rote sloganeering about rebuilding the culture from the ground up is an inadequate remedy for a systemic national emergency. The sheer ubiquity of and ease of access to pornography renders hollow meager pleas for civil society-centric solutions. Libertarians and classical liberals fail to recognize that using political power in the pursuit of national solidarity and wholesomeness can be both just and necessary.

But more important, the online backlash to conservative calls for greater pornography regulation underscores the stark differences dividing solidarity-centric conservatives from our libertarian-minded brethren.

At its core, libertarianism misunderstands the human condition. It is inimical to Aristotelian human flourishing. And it ultimately bastardizes the very thing it seeks to prioritize: Liberty, properly understood.

Libertarianism has no answer for the pressing needs of the human soul—to belong, to parent, to worship, and to thrive. Its liberationist agenda has no political use for communitarian niceties. It cares not for John Adams’s warning that our Constitution and the political order it ordained was only designed for a religious and moral people. It cares not for Aristotle’s wisdom that “a state exists for the sake of a good life, and not for the sake of life only.” It pays little heed to the axiom that human beings are inherently tribal in nature, that we seek to form tribes with those similar to us, and that solidarity is necessary for a nation-state’s endurance. It has no answers to our metastasizing crises of moral decay and debilitating mass despondency.

We know that libertarianism is uninterested in prioritizing the political pursuit of justice, the common weal, or human flourishing. But even when we judge them on their own terms, modern libertarians fail. The American founders were careful to distinguish between true liberty, which entailed the dutiful worship of the Creator in accordance with the moral guardrails of one’s Judeo-Christian conscience, and licentiousness. As Edmund Randolph once said, “licentiousness has . . . contributed as much (if not more) as any other cause whatsoever, to the loss of their liberties.” Unregulated pornography promotes licentiousness—not liberty.

Yet today’s self-proclaimed liberty-minded “conservative” vanguard defends licentiousness by invoking the mantle of freedom. Such legerdemain would be merely dystopian were it not so societally ruinous.

America will recover a sense of national solidarity and purpose, or else it will risk withering and dying. America will recover a sense of virtue-infused communitarianism, or else it will risk withering and dying. America will recover a sense of orienting our political order toward true justice, or else it will risk withering and dying.

Just don’t ask the libertarians to help us along the way. They would rather criticize four congressmen for requesting enforcement of obscenity laws against hardcore pornographers.

Josh Hammer is editor-at-large of The Daily Wire and of counsel at First Liberty Institute.

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