Cool Libertarians


In this, my last scheduled contribution to Editor's Links, I want to say a few nice words about libertarians a much-maligned, funny, quarrelsome lot of people who were kind enough to foot my bills this summer.

One of the great things about laissez-faire types is that they're not in power and truth be told they have no desire to be. This is seen by some as a bad thing; a sign that libertarians aren't "serious people." But the approach is not without its benefits.

Right- and left-wingers are tethered to partisan political movements or political parties, which can be weights of albatross-like proportions. Advancing a party's propaganda and interests often contorts and warps reality all out of recognizable proportion. For instance, a recent Washington Monthly review of right-wing bomb thrower Ann Coulter's new book Slander relayed her claim that "for about twenty years now, all new ideas have bubbled up from the right wing." The incredulous reviewer asked "All new ideas? All? Air Jordans? The Macarena? Pizza Hut's Stuffed-Crust Pizza?"

Across the aisle are odious pundits like Joe Conason who, in his Salon blog today, credited "big government" with saving the Pennsylvania coal miners, reminded readers that Ted Bundy was a young Republican (only one step removed from Ralph Reed), and compared the Bush administration's attempts to have hiring and firing flexibility in the newly created Department of Homeland Security to the anti-union "obsession[s] of totalitarian regimes and their imitators." He justified this last charge by explaining – I am not making this up – that if Ann Coulter could be nasty then so could he.

Libertarians are sometimes damned as purists, but at least they aren't as predictable or as boring as their sniping counterparts on the right and left. They're also and I say this from experience a whole lot more fun. They lack the anti-corporate nervous tics of progressives ("Oh, I couldn't order Dominos. Do you have any idea what kind of causes they finance?!") and the woe is us moralistic hang-ups of conservatives ("There was sex on TV last night! We're doomed.").

A startlingly diverse group, the only common ground that all libertarians share is a desire to live in a society in which people are truly free of wars, of petty government regulations, of a creeping Puritanism that holds suspect any fun activity. That might be a pipe dream, but it's one I've come to share.