When Democrats Define Libertarianism


While you were watching The Martha Stewart Chronicles, the lefty blogosphere (including some of its brighter lights) erupted in a short but lively session of libertarian-bashing. In the posts, and especially the comments (in which one can find many variations on the theme of "libertarians = people who want the poor to starve, and/or Republicans who like to smoke pot"), there are characterizations which, to put it politely, don't jibe with my personal observations. Those of you who enjoy posting comments might want to weigh in at the following sites:

* Kevin Drum's CalPundit ("I suspect that most libertarians would change their tune pronto if they ever had the chance to actually live in a truly libertarian society").

* Brad DeLong ("Libertarianism as we know it today shows up first in the anarchist-socialists of the late nineteenth century [left libertarians who think we can eliminate not only the state but also property] and then later on shows up in the right-libertarians who currently populate Reason [who for some reason break the dream of perfect human freedom and communal solidarity by creating 'ownership']").

* Matthew Yglesias ("Fans of gay rights are overwhelmingly people who think gay sex isn't actually wrong. Fans of drug legalization really do tend to have a 'pro-drug' point of view and not just the official private-conduct-is-private point of view. One can go on down the line like this, but the point is that liberal/libertarian views about [certain elements of] politics track libertine views about [certain elements of] life pretty closely").

* Belle Waring ("Reason recently published a debate held at its 35th anniversary banquet. The flavor of this discussion is indescribable. In its total estrangement from our political and social life today, its wilfull disregard of all known facts about human nature, it resembles nothing so much as a debate over some fine procedural point of end-stage communism, after the state has withered away").

All of which reminds me of Madeleine Albright's memoir Madame Secretary, in which she throws this anti-libertarian dart in the midst of describing a trip to Africa:

Seeing the misery these conditions caused made me think of politicians back home who belittled public service and ran down our own government institutions. I thought to myself: Let them come here to the cracked edges of the world and experience life without 'big government.' After all, there was no federal income tax in Liberia, no ban on assault weapons in Angola, no bleeding heart judges in Rwanda, no welfare system in Sudan, and no burdensome environmental controls in the Caucasus.