Libertarians Rising

Michael Kinsley is a smart guy, and has written an interesting essay for Time Magazine: Libertarians Rising. Go read it. It’s short and I’ll wait.

The good news is that the success (relative to most people’s expectations) of the Ron Paul campaign has caused many people to reconsider libertarianism and the benefits to the major parties of appealing to those of us who favor libertarian policies. I’m not ready to talk about anything like the historical inevitibility of libertarian success, but I’m always happy to see hopeful signs of progress.

I’m also happy to see Kinsley write disparagingly about “Communitarians” and positively about libertarians:

And every time the Democrats lose an election, critics scold that they must put less emphasis on the sterile rights of individuals and more emphasis on responsibilities to society. That is, they should become less libertarian and more communitarian. Usually this boils down to advocating mandatory so-called voluntary national service by people younger than whoever is doing the advocating.

Libertarians and communitarians (to continue this unjustified generalizing) are different character types. Communitarians tend to be bossy, boring and self-important, if they’re not being over sweetened and touchy-feely. Libertarians, by contrast, are not the selfish monsters you might expect.

I won’t quibble with everything I disagree with in the essay (which Kinsley acknowledges is generalizing), but I feel that I must point out that the opposite of libertarianism is not communitarianism. See this article about their compatibility. The opposite of libertarianism is statism. Many libertarians favor many of the communitarian values, and in contrast to Kinsley’s characterization of them as “Smart loners, many of them rich and some of them complacently Darwinian, convinced that they don’t need society–nor should anyone else,” they often sing the praises of civil society (you’ll find this in many Cato articles, like this one).

What we oppose is the idea that the way to promote these values is through coercive state action.

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