Mind you, Matt Welch is not surprised that it has; otherwise, his fairly comprehensive evisceration of this Salon article whining about the maturity level of libertarianism would have been a good deal more, ah, exercised. I imagine that being editor-in-chief for Reason generally means that one gets used fairly quickly to the pander-then-minimize cycle that libertarians get from both Democrats and Republicans – I say this as a Republican, mind you. I’m not even apologetic about it: my only regret is that we pander too little and minimize too much. Why? Because of paragraphs like this:
The “worldview” of libertarianism suggested, back in the early 1970s, that if you got the government out of the business of setting all airline ticket prices and composing all in-flight menus, then just maybe Americans who were not rich could soon enjoy air travel. At the time, people with much more imagination and pull than Gabriel Winant has now dismissed the idea as unrealistic, out-of-touch fantasia. They were wrong then, they continue to be wrong now about a thousand similar things, and history does not judge them harsh enough.
The differences between libertarians, liberals, and conservatives can be handily seen with this paragraph. When asked whether the government should be involved in something, the libertarian will default to “No;” the liberal, to “Yes;” and the conservative to “I don’t think so.” What a lot of conservatives forget is that their answer and the libertarian answer is not quite the same; once a conservative is convinced that government intervention is acceptable or even laudable he will enthusiastically support it*. And what a lot of libertarians forget is that while “No” and “Probably not” are not quite the same, “No” and “Yes” will never be the same; even in places where the results would be the same the process is significantly different**. In other words: to a libertarian, a conservative is an ultimately unreliable ally (and vice versa). But a liberal’s just going to be somebody who’s only right by accident.
What? What do liberals forget? That conservatives and libertarians have triple-digit IQs, of course; and that they can read. Hence, absurdities like the Salon article that sparked Matt’s ire.
*The interstate highway system. The US military as a mechanism for enforcing American foreign policy positions. A federal banking system. Sure, they’re not particularly controversial now (and online protestations to the contrary, they’re not particularly controversial). But at the time…
**Let’s take, say, same-sex marriage. A libertarian thinks that two people should be able to enter into whatever contracts that they like; a liberal thinks that it’s not fair that two people in love shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Same goal, right? …up until the point where the liberal cheerfully introduces a law making it illegal for private organizations to refuse services to same-sex couples on moral grounds, and the libertarian starts blinking.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.