things I don’t get
One thing that continues to surprise me is the continued application of the belief that libertarians are some sort of neutral party when it comes to partisan politics. See, for example Megan McArdle, who very frequently posts about these little analytic posts about partisan politics where she speaks as though we should expect some sort of balance or partisan neutrality. The problem with that pose is that Megan hates Democrats. And that’s okay! She’s entitled. It just doesn’t suit her to post ostensibly neutral political pieces. She’s a committed and philosophical libertarian but she really, really doesn’t like Democrats. I trust her neutrality on partisan issues about as much as I trust a lot of writers at the Corner– capable of being honest about bad news for Republicans but far from a disinterested party.
This is a piece with a larger aspect of libertarianism that, I think, is a little frustrating and leads to that “glibertarian” tag. A lot of libertarians– not Megan, incidentally– really are just functionally anti-leftist. In what they argue about, how passionately they argue about it, what hills they decide to die on, many libertarians care far more about resisting what they perceive to be a dogmatic or empty liberal agenda far more than they care about implementing their own agenda. There are tons of libertarians who aren’t like this, of course. Will Wilkinson and Brink Lyndsey and our own Mark Thompson and commenter Jaybird, to name a few. But this is a phenomenon that seems to me to occur more on the libertarian side than anywhere else. When you see Reason magazine and its assorted blogs going all-in on support of the Tea Parties, I think you can see why someone like myself would think that there is an aspect of larger libertarianism that is not intellectually mature or responsible. Writing hagiography about the Tea Parties is, among other things, saying, “That whole gay rights thing– we’re just not THAT into it.” It’s saying that the social side of your agenda, which supposedly balances your economic disagreements with liberals, just isn’t that important. I assure you, most of the 20 and 30-something libertine urbanites who write and work for the Reason foundation would not like living in a Tea Party America. But the social freedoms and civil liberties that both liberals and libertarians espouse seem to drain from many libertarians’ message when an opportunity to really give it to the lefties pops up.
I imagine that sometimes this is a result of the College Republican syndrome, where people become anti- the culturally liberal mainstream and back into political beliefs out of a conviction of what they are not. When you presume that a certain kind of social engagement going on around you is ideologically situated, and when it annoys you, it becomes natural to defy that environment with a loudly antagonistic political philosophy. But even for those who have a more intellectually grounded basis for their beliefs make themselves vulnerable when they become oppositional before they are constructive. The problem is that being anti- anything leaves you with a remarkably credulous attitude to anyone else who is anti- that thing.