Where Do Libertarians Belong? (1 Viewer)

V Chip

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Aug 14, 2001
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A very good article in debate format via Reason.com. I don't agree with all of it and don't like the fact that the two latter contributors are mostly replying to the first one instead of just providing their own commentary, and I'm not a Libertarian, but it makes some very good points about the left and the right and civil liberties.

[Long quotes because it is a long article but very worth reading.]

Brink Lindsey said:
Now, however, opposition to Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress has sparked a resurgence of libertarian rhetoric on the right, most prominently in the “Tea Party” protests that have erupted over the past year. “Libertarian sentiment has finally gone mainstream,” wrote Chris Stirewalt, political editor of the conservative Washington Examiner, in a column this April.
Such talk gets many libertarians excited. Could a revival of small-government conservatism really be at hand? After the long apostasy of Bush père et fils, could the right really be returning to the old-time religion of Goldwater and Reagan?
In a word, no. Without a doubt, libertarians should be happy that the Democrats’ power grabs have met with such vociferous opposition. ... That, however, is about all the contemporary right is good for. ... The contemporary right is so deeply under the sway of its most illiberal impulses that they now define what it means to be a conservative.

What are those impulses?

First and foremost, a raving, anti-intellectual populism, as expressed by (among many, many others) Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Next, a brutish nationalism, as expressed in anti-immigrant xenophobia (most recently on display in Arizona) and it’s-always-1938-somewhere jingoism. And, less obvious now but always lurking in the background, a dogmatic religiosity, as expressed in homophobia, creationism, and extremism on beginning- and end-of-life issues. The combined result is a right-wing identity politics that feeds on the red meat of us versus them, “Real America” versus the liberal-dominated coasts, faith and gut instinct versus pointy-headed elitism.
This noxious stew of reaction and ressentiment is the antithesis of libertarianism.
Does that mean I think that libertarians should ally with the left instead? No, that’s equally unappealing. I do believe that libertarian ideas are better expressed in the language of liberalism rather than that of conservatism. But it’s clear enough that for now and the foreseeable future, the left is no more viable a home for libertarians than is the right.
Jonah Goldberg said:
yet, as a matter of practical politics, Lindsey would have libertarian spokesmen and advocates alienate conservatives in the hope that this would earn credibility with liberals. It seems far more likely that liberals would pocket libertarian attacks on the right—of the sort found in Lindsey’s essay—while continuing to ignore libertarian arguments on economics and other key areas of public policy. Left-wing environmentalists will not suddenly embrace property rights because libertarians vilify the Christian Right. But the Christian Right may well stop listening to libertarians if they all started talking the way Lindsey does here.
One of the main reasons conservatives have emphasized their “illiberal” policies on such issues as national security and abortion is that they are popular (even, dare I say it, centrist). Nowhere does Lindsey provide evidence that support for, say, military tribunals is unpopular, because he can’t. The Obama administration has been learning this lesson the hard way. In fact, both parties have emphasized their more illiberal facades in recent years. Nonetheless, I would still dispute that the GOP is less libertarian today than it was, say, at the beginning of Bush’s first term, when the libertarian-rebuking “compassionate conservatism” was all the rage.
Matt Kibbe said:
From my perspective, the Tea Party movement is a beautiful chaos, or as F.A. Hayek would put it, a spontaneous order. Ours is a leaderless, decentralized grassroots movement made up of people who believe in freedom, in the government not spending money it does not have, and in the specialness of our constitutional republic. They have arisen from their couches and kitchen tables and self-organized a potent countervailing force to the cozy collusion of political expediency, big government, and special interests.
The Tea Party movement, if sustained, has the potential to take America back from an entrenched establishment of big spenders, political careerists, and rent-seeking corporations. The values that animate us all—lower taxes, less government, and more freedom—is a big philosophical tent set at the very center of American politics.

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