Libertarians: Just Petulant Children


As a libertarian, there are many Washington personality types I find grating. But the most insufferable are the Earnest (caps intended). These are people, generally big government conservatives, who don't merely disagree with libertarians, they disagree in arrogant, whispering hushes—quietly scolding, enormously condescending, fatherly I-know-better-than-you lectures.

The "compassionate conservatism" of the Bush administration (see raiding medical marijuana dispensaries, banning assisted suicide, the persecution of pain specialists) has unfortunately ushered in a wave of prominence and influence of earnest types, who are quite fond of using government power, influence, and coercion to mold the collective populace into good citizens, much like a father smacks the behind of a three-year-old for putting his fingers near the electrical outlet, or forces him to share his cookies with his sister.

The Prince of Earnest is NY Times columnist David Brooks, a guy who was once a bit irreverent and whimsical, but whose last few years writing for the most sought-after space in journalism has infected him with a case of earnestness that makes Jedediah Purdy look like Johnny Knoxville.

Brooks' latest paternalistic jab at the unruly libertarians came last week, in a column where he made the Orwellian argument that we should embrace big government because "security leads to freedom," and—I'm not kidding—supported that argument by calmly explaining that "the 'security leads to freedom' paradigm is," after all, "a fundamental principle of child psychology," as if the psychologist-child relationship were in any way an appropriate model for the state-citizen relationship. It's certainly a telling analogy, though.

Brooks goes on to suggest that it wasn't corruption, the arrogance of power, the failed endeavor in Iraq, or the complete detachment from principle that doomed the Republicans last November, it was their slavish devotion to "extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" Goldwaterism. Ri-ight.

At Cato's blog, Gene Healy plays the role of unruly teenager, and explains why all that time in the den smoking the pipe (tobacco only, of course) has caused Papa Brooks to lose his grip on reality.