Over at Mediaite, Andrew Kirell responds to Bill Maher's recent broadside against libertarians on his eponymous HBO show. A while back, Maher said,
Libertarians have to stop ruining libertarianism! Or at least do a better job of explaining the difference between today's libertarian and just being a selfish prick.
Read and watch the whole bit here. Maher has called himself libertarian in the past and his preferences on many issues line up with those of most libertarians. In a previous post, I suggested that whether you think Maher is accurate or not about the contemporary libertarian scene, it's worth figuring out why liberals and conservatives—who often agree with much in the libertarian set of concerns—have such skewed opinions of the broader movement toward what Reason characterizes as "Free Minds and Free Markets."
Kirell does a comprehensive job of fisking Maher's complaint while acknowledging that yes, there are some nuts in the larger pie. He points out that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), one of Maher's main targets, is not libertarian and that libertarians at Reason and elsewhere have panned his support for war, Medicare expansion, and TARP, and have dissed his budgets for increasing spending. Kirell ends with this extended tour of the current libertarian movement that should especially give liberal critics pause when they try to equate libertarianism with contempt for the wretched of the earth:
You can't truly have a conversation about today's libertarian movement without mentioning Reason....Led by [Nick] Gillespie (once a guest of Maher's) and Matt Welch, the largest libertarian publication regularly churns out devastating critiques of police abuse, exposes the horrific injustices from the War on Drugs, and repeatedly criticizes the foreign policy blunders ofboth Republicans and Democrats.
You also can't neglect the Institute for Justice, a non-profit law firm that fights on behalf of small business owners in impoverished communities who dare take on the behemoth local bureaucracies designed to keep them from pursuing their dreams. They even once battled Maher's nemesis Donald Trump when he tried to use the government to strong-arm an old woman into selling her home.
There are also writers like the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf and civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald, both of whom cared about drone strikes long before the issue became a general talking point among the anti-Obama right; and long before Maher himself came around to his belated opposition to the warfare state.
Over at the Huffington Post, libertarian Radley Balko does more to fight the militarization of American police than any progressive writer on the same beat. His reporting pretty much single-handedly got a victim of the drug war off death row. Maher's contribution to the fight against prohibition? Having Zach Galifianakis smoke a "joint" on set.
Meanwhile, Fox News personalities John Stossel (disclosure: my former boss) and Judge Andrew Napolitano routinely eschew the conservative media narrative and fight for a variety of causes for which Maher also advocates.
There's also the indispensable Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank that regularly bucks both parties while receiving praise from progressives like Ezra Klein. While conservative organizations like Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute regularly change positions depending on who is in power (ahem, RomneyCare/ObamaCare?), Cato remains a principled advocate for reduced government in the boardroom and the bedroom.
Earlier this year, Reason TV interviewed Kirell and his Mediaite colleague Noah Rothman about their site. Watch that below.