The Disutility of Leaning

In the article In the Tea Party Era, Which Way Should Libertarians Lean?, three writers provide advice to libertarians. The article is a summary and discussion of the views presented in the Reason article, Where Do Libertarians Belong?.

The discussion has a number of comical elements. The idea that libertarians need to lean in any particular direction is one of the comical elements. The makeup of the panel of debaters provides other reasons for mirth. The three participants were:

* Brink Lindsey, who I have written about before, at least concentrates on a number of libertarian issues. However, Mr. Lindsey also spends considerable time criticizing the right for social conservative tendencies, and other troglodyte transgressions. If these were the only problems with the right, libertarians would be much more comfortable with the right. It is in areas of war and civil liberties, and the conservatives penchant for pressing their desires via political means, that libertarians have significant differences with the right. In any event, Mr. Lindsey, who in the past has espoused liberaltarianism(i.e., using libertarianism to further liberal goals), wants libertarians to align with the middle, and employ liberal language in doing so. Note that Mr. Lindsey supported the invasion of Iraq.

* Jonah Goldberg, neoconservative writer for National Review, wants the libertarians to align with the conservatives mostly based on economic issues. Mr. Goldberg defends the conservatives as being no worse than the centralists on civil liberties issues. Mr. Goldberg lauds the conservative for their decentralism. Mr. Goldberg somewhat disingenuously mostly sidesteps issues of war. The question of how you can have a libertarian society while supporting ongoing wars all over the world is not something within the neoconservative purview.

* Matt Kibbe wants the libertarians to align with the Tea Party movement. Mr. Kibbe emphasizes the issues where libertarians agree with the Tea Party movement: TARP, Obamacare, and some economic issues. Mr. Kibbe, like Mr. Goldberg, carefully skirts issues of war and peace. Mr. Kibbe also does not address civil liberties. Mr. Kibbe does not seem to often publicly express opinions on anything except Austrian economics, and a rather narrow range of topics favored by the Tea Party. Nothing wrong with that, but it does not provide a very good idea of Mr. Kibbe’s overall ideology.

These three gentlemen have dubious credentials as libertarians. At least two of the three supported the Iraq war. Consequently, they end up trying to sell libertarians whatever horse they are currently riding. If they can rope in a few voters, and a few dollars, so much to the good. The question is, what would the libertarians get out of aligning with any of these groups?

In basketball, a defender will sometimes employ the pull the chair trick on an offensive player that leans too much. If the defender pulls back rapidly, the offensive player may fall on the floor. A similar thing will happen to libertarians that lean too much on political groups. When the chair gets pulled, the libertarians will end up being blamed for the sins of the group they have advocated. Politicians are masters at the pull the chair trick.

It is much better to concentrate on issues than it is to worry about broad political groups. If someone commits some outrage against liberty, criticize them. If someone defends liberty, defend that person in turn. The more specific the issue and the individual, the more efficacious it is to get involved.

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Posted August 27, 2010 by Brian Cantin in Uncategorized

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