Reason Podcast

National Review's David French Is a Conservative, Evangelical Christian Who Is Getting Worried About Theocracy. So Should You.

Why libertarians should care about the illiberal Right as much as the illiberal Left.


Donald Trump has seriously altered the ways in which we talk about politics. While conversations about politics and ideology have never been particularly civil or uplifting, these days they tend to be downright nasty, and especially among groups who are mostly on the same side of things.

This is nowhere more clear than on the Republican friendly right wing, where the division between pro-Trump and "Never Trump" conservatives is creating more friction than Stormy Daniels on a stripper's pole. Today's guest is David French, a senior writer for National Review and a columnist for Time. He's one of the most prominent Never Trump conservatives in the country and he recently has been attacked by fellow right-wingers for—get this—being just too nice a guy.

French's conservative bona fides are sterling: He's a devout evangelical Christian who writes about how religion is central to living a flourishing life. He's written critically of high levels of immigration. He's resolutely anti-abortion and pro-military intervention and even served during the Iraq War. He believes that young men today are being stripped of their traditional masculine identities by feminism and he's written critically of trans people.

So why are some on the right attacking David French and why should his travails be of interest to libertarians?

French is being attacked because he believes in the classical liberal ideal of a marketplace of ideas, where people civilly argue over ideas and agree to abide peacefully by the outcomes of elections. He mostly believes in the power of persuasion rather than coercion. Unlike a growing number of conservatives and Republicans, he thinks that social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have the right to kick off whomever they want, even if that leads to fewer conservative voices. And he's a resolute civil libertarian who remains skeptical of government power, even or maybe especially when his own side is wielding it.

He talks about all that, and also about a recent court decision finding Oberlin College "guilty of compensatory damages for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with business relationships" in relation to statements its officials made in relation to a local Ohio bakery. French is the former president of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in education, the nation's premier outfit fighting for free expression on college campuses, and he thinks the Oberlin verdict may be a turning point when it comes to political correctness in higher education.

French sat down to talk with Reason's Nick Gillespie while both were at FEECon, the annual conference organized by the Foundation for Economic Education.

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