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Michael Kinsley on the Rise of the Libertarians

See also Jesse Walker, The Kinsley Retort.

Re: The Rise of the Libertarians

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on October 19, 2007 04:46 PM

Lew, Kinsley’s article is interesting and insightful, and frustrating and dishonest or confused at the same time. I like that he sees there is little difference between the Republicans and Democrats and identifies the real tension as between libertarians and communitarians–this axis makes much more sense than left/right. I also like that he admits that “Communitarians tend to be bossy, boring and self-important, if they’re not being oversweetened and touchy-feely” and that “Libertarians, by contrast, are not the selfish monsters you might expect.” He also recognizes that libertarians are more tolerant of dissent than communitarians.

He also makes an interesting and subtle point that the fascism that libertarians see as their opposite is represented in America by communitarianism (though it is not “infinitely” milder). And it’s good that he acknowledges explicitly that “communitarians … believe that group responsibilities (to family, community, nation, the globe) should trump individual rights.” Bravo. I wish more (mild) fascists would be so honest about their anti-individualism.On the other hand, as you note that Rune Østgård comments, Kinsley smears Paul or his supporters as being rich, smart, complacently Darwinian loners, who are opposed to “society.” Kinsley is too smart to believe this; so this seems, unfortunately, to be simply his dishonest attempt to smear and frame the debate.

Take also these comments: “To oversimplify somewhat less, Democrats aren’t always for Big Government, and Republicans aren’t always against it.” The latter is true, but when are Demonrats ever against big government?

And this: “Democrats treasure civil liberties, whereas Republicans are more tolerant of government censorship to protect children from pornography, or of wiretapping to catch a criminal, or of torture in the war against terrorism.” Demrats do not treasure civil liberties at all. Consider their support of the following policies, laws, or institutions, all of which stifle civil liberties or freedom of speech: government schools; affirmative action; anti-discrimination laws; campus speech codes; related double standards; restrictions on commercial speech; high taxation. As for Republicans being “more tolerant” of censorship, wiretapping, and torture, I don’t buy it. They are all a bunch of fascists.

He also says: “War in general and Iraq in particular–certainly Big Government exercises–are projects Republicans tend to be more enthusiastic about.” Except for the War Between the States (I count Lincoln as a Demonrat, since they claim him), World War I, World War II, Viet Nam… and even the Iraq War (Hillary and her ilk supported it too, and you can bet that if it had gone “well,” they’d be crowing about it; I even suspect that had Bush not invaded Iraq, the members of the Democrat Party would now be attacking him for not doing anything about Saddam).

Our boy goes on: “Likewise the criminal process: Republicans tend to want to make more things illegal and to send more people to jail for longer.” Oh really? I don’t hear Demonrats out there promoting drug legalization, or makign tax evasion a merely civil offense.

And: “Republicans also consider themselves more concerned about the moral tone of the country, and they are more disposed toward using the government in trying to improve it.” Except for those bossy, statist, self-important, smug, moralizing communitarians, right, Kinsley?

Further: “In particular, Republicans think religion needs more help from society, through the government, while Democrats are touchier about the separation of church and state.” Sure, because for them, the State is their religion.

“… Republicans have a clearer vision of what constitutes a good society and a well-run planet and are quicker to try to impose this vision on the rest of us.” Excuse me? How about the Kyoto Treaty, affirmative action, CAFE standards, government school taxes and compulsory education?

Continues our RP smearer-in-chief: “Very few Democrats self-identify as libertarians, but they are in fact much more likely to have a live-and-let-live attitude toward the lesbian couple next door or the Islamofascist dictator halfway around the world.” There is a grain of truth in the latter (except, of course, for the Demonrat support for the Iraq invasion, but let’s forget that). But I don’t think Demonrats are significantly more tolerant of the lesbian couple next door than the typical Republican is, unless by “tolerance” you mean support for including homosexuals in the class of people protected by anti-discrimination laws.

One final comment: he ridicules “earnest and impractical” libertarians for being “eager to corner you with their plan for using old refrigerators to reverse global warming…” I don’t know what addled libertarians he’s hanging out with, but this is a new one to me; most libertarians thing global warming is not a problem in the first place.

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