Monday, 27 September 2004

You are not X, say Y

I’m beginning to be increasingly fascinated by a certain strand of argument in the blogosphere. It started with Andrew Sullivan’s thoroughly non-sensical attempts to argue that conservatism necessarily required support for gay marriage, detoured through lectures by non-Christians to Christians about the necessity of their support for a particular American political party, and may have reached its apogee with a series of posts at Crooked Timber (made, incidentally, by people who make no pretense of being libertarian) alleging that any libertarian who supports the war in Iraq isn’t a libertarian.

What I find utterly fascinating about the last is that it originates from the longstanding view from left-liberals that the “wrong” (read “pro-war”) libertarians—folks like Glenn Reynolds, Virginia Postrel, Colby Cosh, and the libertarian-leaning Samizdatans—have dominated the blogosphere at the expense of the “right” (read “anti-war”) libertarians like Julian Sanchez, Jim Henley, and (never explicitly stated, perhaps because he actually says nice things about capitalism) Radley Balko. My general view is that expressed by Guy Herbert:

I was under the impression that libertarianism is a political orientation (opposite: authoritarianism) rather than a coherent ideological position.

Granted, I think there are people (Objectivists, for example, or the Libertarian Party) who conceive of libertarianism as a “pure” ideology, untainted by concerns motivated by the real world, but I don’t think most self-identified libertarians are among them. Of course, when the primary goal of one’s posting on libertarianism isn’t to analyze that political orientation, but rather to delegitimize it, I can see why one would want to hold it up to higher standards of conformity than liberalism or conservatism would be subjected to.


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You’ve hit on a pet peeve of mine lately. I’ve been having trouble self-assigning a label these days. I’ve used the term libertarian in the past, but with less frequency as time passes. I’ve considered the word conservative because it generally describes me, but it has too much social conservatism entangled with it.

I would prefer using the term classical liberal since it’s large enough to encompass those that would oppose Nazism, even through force of arms, but it’s out of vogue.


Seems to me offhand (as a very casual observer) that part of the problem you decry is a blurring of the distinction between lower case “libertarianism” (the antonym of authoritarianism) and upper case “Libertarianism”, which is not entirely coextensive with the Party Of The Same Name…. In all of the “political compass” surveys I’ve taken I’ve always scored very high on the “libertarian” end of that axis, but the last thing on Earth I’d ever want to be is a “Libertarian”.

[Permalink] 3. mungowitz wrote @ Wed, 29 Sep 2004, 8:52 pm CDT:

The problem is that, at some point, voting and organizing a team matters for policy. Would Len want to be a Democrat? A Republican?

I often congratulate myself on how clever and disconnected I am. But I still registered Libertarian (that’s with a big “L”). The people who favor Authoritarianism do it by using grown up letters, too.

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