Describing Libertarians

I’m used to people giving unfair descriptions of libertarianism. Many people don’t know what it means, or have only heard about it from somebody else who didn’t know what it means. I usually adopt the motto of “Never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

But, sometimes that’s not possible. Recently James Taranto wrote (in response to a post by David Bernstein [who understands libertarianism quite well]):

It seems to us Bernstein has an incomplete picture of libertarians. He probably thinks of them as cute little nerds who have basically sound (if somewhat extreme) ideas about economics along with various eccentric enthusiasms: private toll roads, pornography, drugs, head-freezing. This is the libertarian world of Reason magazine. (Disclosure: This columnist was an intern for Reason nearly two decades ago.)

If Taranto interned at Reason, he knows better.

He goes on to say:

But libertarianism is an ideology. Ideology can lead to fanaticism, and fanaticism to hatred [Gil: and hatred to suffering?]. Check out the Independent Institute’s Web site (please note: not to be confused with the Independence Institute) or, even worse, (sorry, we’re not linking), and you’ll find far libertarianism to be pretty much indistinguishable from the far left and the far right.

Taranto is often interesting and amusing, but this is just a cheap shot. I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be characterized by extreme examples of “conservatism”.

Taranto reminds me of a kid in Junior High School who rejects his nerdy friends in order to join the more popular crowd. He seems to have a need to put down (often unfairly) his old group in order to cement his credentials with the idiots in his new crowd.



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