The Corner

Libertarians & Stigma

From a reader:

Subject: Not a big fan… 

Of your recent blog posting. The cultural libertinism which can be

found in some libertarian circles (and I don’t think it’s as prevalent

as you imply) should have no bearing on your presence in the

libertarian camp. Most of your post seems to get at this, asserting

that your problem is only with the dreaded “some libertarians.” But

you also conflate those “some” with the “libertarian camp” generally.

There is empirical evidence that libertarianism does not necessarily

imply libertinism: namely that the two most prominent libertarian

politicians these days, Jeff Flake and Ron Paul, are pretty socially

conservative. Additionally, James Antle wrote a terrific piece in

Reason a few months ago about why socially conservative Christianity

is entirely amenable with libertarianism:

http://www.reason.com/news/show/119726.html

Me: I don’t really disagree with any of this and maybe I was unclear. I know plenty of socially conservative libertarians, pro-life libertarians, Christian libertarians and so on. I do not dispute for a moment that libertarianism and traditionalism are compatible. What I do think is true is that — as a broad generalization — libertarians are uncomfortable with  the idea(s) of condemning indecent behavior and/or of lending support to social conservatives who engage in that kind of public scolding.  This is certainly true, in my experience, with some younger libertarians who often try to prove how un-Republican they are by scoring rhetorical points off social conservatives. I think it’s also more true, and more understandable,  among gay libertarians who don’t trust social conservatives to stop at the civil society’s edge and not use government in ways they find offensive (they certainly have good talking points to back up their arguments, whether you find them all persuasive or not).

We discussed this very complaint of mine a great deal at a Liberty Fund conference earlier this year and quite a few socially conservative but card-carrying libertarians agreed with me that there is a reluctance among even traditionalist libertarians to lend support to social conservatives and neoconservative “scolds.”  And  as much as I  enjoy Reason magazine, you’ll be very hard-pressed indeed to find a whole lot of talk about upholding traditional values in there.

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