Tuesday, January 07, 2003

If you're near a radio, go listen to Tom Palmer, Jonah Goldberg, and my colleage Richard Epstein on WBEZ's Odyssey, discussing libertarianism. UPDATE: So far I've heard mention of Kant, Locke, Pareto, Jeremy Waldron, Joseph Raz, "the crooked timber of humanity" (Isaiah Berlin's favorite phrase), and Cosmo the Wonderdog. UPDATE AGAIN: A couple of thoughts about Jonah and libertarianism. First, Jonah complains that libertarians get a lot of mileage out of emphasizing drugs as an issue (i.e. by appealing to pot-friendly college students). But, in a discussuion of the difference between conservatism and libertarianism, it seems to me that it's Jonah who's getting mileage out of emphasizing drugs, and the supposed libertarian premise that all individuals are always rational that's neatly disproven by drugs. Conservatives have also: supported sodomy laws, opposed gay marriage and adoption, supported censorship of a variety of sorts (Jonah's proud of this), and supported criminalizing scientific research involving the use of stem cells. Conservatives and libertarians also (by and large, not perfectly) disagree about abortion. In none of these cases is the intuition "drugs=irrationality" available as an argumentative shortcut. Second, Jonah complains that libertarians do less policing of the movement's boundaries than do conservatives (or at least the conservatives at NR). It's true that there hasn't been one libertarian organ that has held the quasi-authoritative position that NR has traditionally held among conservatives. When one wanted to know the conservative position on whether Pat Buchanan was an anti-Semite, one went to NR.

On the other hand, libertarian factions have had no shortage of mutual policing, reading each other out of the movement, etc. Picking up the habit from the Ayn Rand circle, many libertarians have been quite eager to declare where the boundaries are. The Rothbard group tried to read Cato and everyone affiliated with Koch out of the movement; Misesians declare Hayekians to be apostates; anarchists vs. minarchists, and so on. I've got my own boundary: the lewrockwell.com gang of confederatistas and apologists for slavery, police brutality, and immigration restrictions lie outside of it.

I'd've been curious to hear the rest of what Jonah had to say. Who is it he thinks libertarians should have been excluding but haven't been? And what's the argument that all this policing (easily ridiculed as the narcissism of small differences, letting the best be the enemy of the good, the enforcement of ideological litmus tests, and simple factionalism) is an unalloyed good.

ONE MORE UPDATE: Of course, NR's policing of its boundaries sometimes leaves something to be desired. John Derbyshire, anyone?

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