The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Volokh Conspiracy

"Sometimes Contrarian. Often Libertarian. Always Independent."

Some of us are libertarian, some conservative, some moderate, many a mix -- but all are independent of Reason's editorial line (such as it is) or of any dictates from me or from each other. Expect many departures from libertarian orthodoxies.


People sometimes berate us for departures from self-professed libertarianism—not just that we're not being libertarian, but more, "How can you call yourselves libertarian if you say [X]?" That happened when we were at the Washington Post, and I'm seeing it in the comments here as well.

I thought it might be helpful to repeat in a separate post what our blog subtitle (and the title of this post) says: Don't expect solid or even near-solid libertarianism from us. Some of us are pretty hardcore libertarians. Some are more conservatives. Some are moderates. Most of us are a mix. Our blog subtitle says "Often libertarian," and that's true. But "often" was deliberately chosen to also flag "not always" (and not even almost always).

If you call me anything, you might call me a libertarianish conservative, but even that isn't really that helpful. I think human affairs are complicated things—as my father likes to quote, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made." We all come at this with some general principles, but, to offer another quote, "General propositions do not decide concrete cases," in part because there are so many things we want at once and so many opportunities for good general principles to conflict.

For instance, I want liberty (often including privacy) and security; indeed, security is often another term from liberty from private misconduct (or liberty from foreign governments). These aren't always consistent, but I can't tell you that one should always trump the others. (That's why the Fourth Amendment, for instance, bans unreasonable searches and seizures rather than banning all searches and seizures; that's why the Constitution tries to create a limited government, but does create a government.) My guess is that many of my cobloggers take the same view.

Now maybe I'm not libertarian enough, or maybe I'm too libertarian, or maybe I'm one of these in some situations and another in others. Perfectly possible, indeed very likely. But measure me, and the blog, against what you think is right, not against our supposed (but never actually offered) assurances of libertarianism.