Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Who likes libertarians?

For self-conscious libertarians - we really do love you. We just need to set you straight every once in a while, and disabuse you of your tendancy to pick and choose from the broad liberal tradition and cordon off everything else as being anti-thetical to liberalism.

I was actually in a libertarian club in college, and have many libertarian sympathies myself. I just learned over time that the air-tight internal consistency of the program didn't always mesh well with reality. Regardless - interesting poll results.


  1. "We just need to set you straight every once in a while..."

    Liberals really have no special access to the truth. Indeed, if anything liberals are the ones who have to be reminded constantly of the "broad liberal tradition," given their elevation of "equality" over all other values (including of course free speech).

  2. Liberals? Why do you bring up liberals?

    Don't get me started on them - liberals bug me too. Although I'm not sure I'd accuse them of elevating equality over all other values. Can you expand on that? Why do you think they think this? That seems to be more of a communist position.

  3. You seem like a garden variety liberal to me. Please disabuse me of this notion if I am in error.

    Because mentioning equality is nearly the whole of their rhetorical weaponry. The free speech debate we are having with liberals is a good example of this; making sure that their is equality in speech - especially in the context of politics or with regards to certain groups that liberals would like to privilege - is far more important to liberals than limitations on speech. The contrast can be seen when comparing speech freedom in Canada vs. the United States. In the U.S. we have a libertarian approach to the subject; in Canada they have a liberal approach.

  4. I haven't a clue what you're talking about, Anon. We need some substantive discourse here if the end game is any sort of understanding. Right now you're offering fluff and buzzwords.

  5. Ahh, I am fairly clearly referring to "hate speech" exceptions and the efforts to either publicly finance and/or curb the amount of money spent on political campaigns. Nothing fluffy or buzzy about that.

  6. Well, yes, that was obvious enough. I'm guess I'm confused about why these two issues constitute such a pervasive liberal threat to freedom in the name of equality. Or are these supposed to be representative of "nearly the whole of their rhetorical strategy?"

    Surely positing a balance of some sort between freedom and equality can be a compelling political approach without becoming some sort of ideological deadlock... can't it? I don't see why these two issue answer any questions, especially when you're not specific about the terms of the limitations on freedom in either of these cases.

  7. I think the issue, Anonymous, is that (1.) a hate speech law ISN'T putting primacy on equality, but it IS putting emphasis on both freedom and equality. You may very well disagree with that shared emphasis, but it is a shared emphasis - it's not "equality uber alles", which I think is Evan's point.

    Second, neither Evan or I are "garden variety liberals". We share views with liberals on some things to be sure. On some things he more than I and on other things vice versa. But I don't think either of us would be comfortable at all in the liberal camp. For example, I certainly don't (and I'm guessing he doesn't either) put a whole lot of importance on hate speech laws.

    This is what I was getting at in the comment section of the other post. Libertarians can have this tendancy to homogenize whoever disagrees with them. I think you've missed the mark a little on that here.

  8. I disagree. Hate speech laws place an emphasis on equality - though "equality" for preferred groups (which means that it is not really equality in practice as one generally understands the term). Anyway, you cannot really put an emphasis on both; the whole notion of "striking a balance" in practice never comes to such - one side or the other is always expected to give way for the value that is most prized.

    As for non-libertarians; to echo Hayek, they all have far more in common with each other than libertarians have with any particular non-libertarian group. So yes, there are certainly differences between liberals and conservatives (for example), but they agree far more with each other than a libertarian ever would with either group. So the lumping is justified.

  9. Anonymous -
    I don't see the basis for your second paragraph at all. They may be more alike on the issues that libertarians differentiate themselves on the basis of. That's the whole point though, isn't it? You wouldn't have a separate name for yourselves if you didn't have some facet of your belief where you were substantially different from both.


All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.