With apologies to Michael who hates when I post comments, I thought Becca’s comment in Phoebe’s post is simply terrific and deserves to be seen by more people:
So much complicated stuff, so little time.
Standing on one foot, then:
1) Neither libertarianism nor Conservative Judaism necessarily regards itself as a compromise or hybrid “middle way,” though that’s sometimes where others place it on the spectrum.
Committed libertarians & Conservative Jews (I’ve been the former & have sympathies; I am still the latter) see them as coherent wholes that are internally consistent. (i.e., Libertarianism = not a hodge-podge of social liberalism + fiscal conservatism, but a commitment to greater individual freedom and less government intervention in both social and economic realms.)
2)”I’d thought that libertarianism meant that nothing could be outlawed unless it involved harming other people.”
Presumably, then, those who are convinced that a fetus is a person are anti-abortion/pro-life. Now, whether a “pro-life libertarian” proposes to carry out this opposition to abortion through governmental legislation against abortion (which, you’re right to say, most libertarians are against or at least mighty wary of–though unless you’re an anarcho-libertarian, you generally admit some minimal role for the state, so it’s not inconceivable that you’d see this area as one where the state should act) or through some other means of voluntary action–that would presumably need to be clarified by the self-proclaimed “pro-life libertarian” in order to know exactly what they mean by the term.
3) Phoebe writes: I’m wondering a) if Shapiro’s correct that the movement’s in decline, and b) if so, why that is, and what could/should be done about it, if anything.
Again on one foot:
a) Depends on what you mean by “in decline”:
Has it lost synagogue/affiliating members, primarily to Reform Judaism rather than Orthodoxy [look at the 2000-1 NJPS numbers etc.]? Yes. Dreadfully/disablingly? No.
Does it have internal tensions? Yes. Is this a new thing or unique to this movement? No
I wouldn’t say Conservative Judaism as a whole is “in decline” (this is not the Fall of Rome or the Temple), but it’s got plenty of challenges to confront–as does the Jewish community as a whole, and as do we all.
b) Lots of things! But what could/should be done depends, of course, on what you think the problem is! The Shefa Network is one group that’s talking about these issues, from various points of view in the Conservative community.
If you think that what’s wrong is that synagogues are big & impersonal & have little sense of community, you either start independent minyanim of various sorts or work to make synagogues more engaging and full of spirit.
If you think that what’s wrong is that Conservative Judaism is dragging its feet on making real and necessary substantive change on GLBT issues, then you do things like create Keshet Rabbis and tackle the substantive halakhic issues.
If you think that the problem (or a problem, at any rate) is muddleheaded apologetics about gender issues and whether/how it’s halakhically defensible to be “traditional AND egalitarian” rather than “traditional BUT egalitarian,” you write articles like Will the “Real” Judaism Please Stand Up?.
If you think that what’s wrong is that the movement is driving the intermarried away (whether that’s into Reform Judaism or non-observance/non-affiliation), you focus on keruv (drawing near: outreach, engagement) of intermarried families.
If you think that what’s wrong is that intermarried families aren’t serious enough about Judaism or Jewish continuity, you emphasize converting the non-Jewish spouse and promote edud rather than keruv.
Or you wash your hands of it and say it’s no longer your battle–
If you think that too much halakhic change is the problem, you split off from the USCJ and go UTJ or become Orthodox. If you think too little halakhic change is the problem, you go Reform or Reconstructionist.
There’s nothing inherently small-c conservative or boring about the Conservative movement, nor is a gray-flannel-suit kind of dull moderation mandated by being in the middle of someone else’s spectrum. If Conservative synagogues or institutions are humdrum, that’s something to be dealt with–but its not a necessary consequence of Conservative ideology or approaches to Jewish life!