Sunday, March 24, 2013


Chris Dillow is strident:
Instead, I suspect what we see with her and with Ukip - and, one could argue, with some who support press regulation whilst favouring social liberalism in other contexts - is asymmetric libertarianism. People want freedom for themselves whilst seeking to deny it to others; this is why some Ukippers can claim to be libertarian whilst opposing immigration and gay marriage. This debased and egocentric form of libertarianism is more popular than the real thing.
But I think he might be on to something.  I have long wondered why Libertarians focus on certain positions (e.g. taxation) and not others (e.g. prisons).  I am not saying all Libertarians focus on taxes and no Libertarian is worried about the criminal justice system.  That would be a straw man version of the argument.

It is more that the attention to these issues seems to be rather selective.  Not all of them: I can find individuals with consistent positions on the hot button issues like drugs, criminal offense, personal freedoms and so forth.  But the focus on, for example, lowering taxes seems much stronger than the focus on reducing the prison population.  Or at least that is one outsiders view.


  1. It really frustrates and troubles me when I see people make comments like this about libertarianism, because it furthers massive misperception and makes me suspect that the writers don't actually read any libertarians. There are many prominent libertarian journalists and thinkers who write almost exclusively about prison and legal issues that otherwise have no benefit to them. see; Glenn Greenwald, Radley Balko, Gene Healy, Conor Friedersdorf, etc. Hell, Reason Magazine did an entire issue on just prison reform, not to mention numerous other articles on the war on drugs, civil asset forfeiture, police check points, etc. on their page.

    If you consider these writers a minority sect, then I'd really like to know what liberal/conservative bloc of pundits has devoted more attention to the issue. From my outsider perspective, prison reform, drug reform, and other legal reforms is a topic owned by libertarianism and selectively addressed by prominent liberal bloggers -- not the other way around.

  2. Radley Balko is really the one that I think of with respect to these types of issues. But I see a lot of liberal angst about this as well, albeit usually from different motives.

    But I am open to the notion that the popularized libertarianism (political label of convenience) may not map especially well with the real deal. Liberals have something of the same problem as well.