Libertarian means different things to different people, but Sabine Herold, the young self-proclaimed Franco-libertarian profiled by Matt Welch ("Liberty Belle," October) seems a bit confused on one of the most basic tenets of libertarianism: a non-interventionist foreign policy. In spite of libertarian positions on several important issues, including labor unions, drug policy, and taxes, Herold's leadership of pro-war rallies makes one wonder if she understands what libertarianism means or if she thinks it is just the newest political fad.
Unfortunately, Welch failed to question her misguided belief that fighting completely unjustified wars is somehow "libertarian" and left Herold looking rather more like a French counterpart to America's misguided hippies, rebelling against their respective national stereotypes. Ms. Herold may be rebelling against a stifling French socialism, but she is either too young or too immature to concede that her countrymen were completely justified in opposing the war in Iraq, even if their opposition was not based on completely libertarian reasoning.
Matt Welch replies: There are a number of prominent self-identified libertarians who supported both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. As has been detailed repeatedly in this magazine (most recently in the roundtable debate "Forcing Freedom: Can liberalism be spread at gunpoint?," in the August/September 2003 issue), libertarians have notoriously divided positions on international policy. There was much ground to cover in the 30 minutes I had with Mlle. Herold, and I chose to focus on other things.
It is unusual for me to find fault with the logic of Cathy Young ("Bipartisan Coulterism," October), but for her to use the much criticized (by conservatives) Ann Coulter as a representative of conservatism while underplaying the influence of Michael Moore, who was given an Oscar for his phony documentary Bowling for Columbine and received no criticism from liberals for his contemptuous acceptance speech, is absurd. More to the point, it isn't the people like Coulter and Moore who reveal the souls of their political ideologies; it is those who agree or disagree with them and the nature of their response.
Conservatives were major critics of Trent Lott after what should have been an inconsequential gaffe. Compare that to the acceptance of Howard Dean's repeated accusation that the president lied in his 2003 State of the Union speech. Read the venomous statements on the signs carried by so-called peace protesters and the letters to the editor aimed at anyone who disapproved of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on affirmative action or anti-sodomy laws.
When watching a political talk show such as Hannity & Colmes, one can mute the sound and still identify the debaters as liberal or conservative. The one with his mouth wide open and the vein on his forehead protruding is the liberal; the one sitting quietly awaiting his turn to speak is the conservative. Try it if you don't believe me.
Cathy Young replies: Michael Moore may have gotten an Oscar, but he has never, to my knowledge, been invited to speak at a political event by a major liberal political organization -- in contrast to Coulter, who has been a regular at Conservative Political Action Committee conferences.
Trent Lott's "inconsequential gaffe" cost him his position as Senate majority leader because it broke modern-day America's ultimate taboo: Lott seemed to express nostalgia for racial segregation (a statement that must be seen in the context of Lott's history, which included hobnobbing with the racist, segregationist Council of Conservative Citzens). On the other hand, conservatives circled the wagons around Rick Santorum after his bigoted comments about homosexuality. There are plenty of examples of even more extreme rhetoric that conservatives have tolerated in their midst.
I assume that Kenneth Dunlap has never seen extremist rhetoric on posters carried by right-to-life protesters, or venomous language in letters to the editor condemning those who oppose the war in Iraq. How lucky for him.
Denial of Service
Julian Sanchez's characterization of AmeriCorps ("Denial of Service," October) rang true. As a member of AmeriCorps' Teach for America program, I received a $40,000 per year living stipend in addition to the $4,000 in tuition reimbursement. That's hardly volunteer work; it's a good job with nice benefits for someone just out of college.