Sunday, January 19, 2003

Mutatis Mutandis

Mark Kleiman makes a plea to libertarians and libertarian-leaning folk to flee the Republicans and join forces with the Democrats: "And when Glenn Reynolds … figures out that, while most Democrats take anti-libertarian positions with some discomfort, and largely out of perceived political necessity, the current Republican crew is deeply and abidingly anti-libertarian in the personal sphere and not really opposed to corporatism in the economic sphere, I'll be happy to welcome him as well."

Aye, but here's the rub: the current Democratic crew is deeply and abidingly anti-libertarian in the economic sphere and not really opposed to paternalism in the personal sphere. Much as I like Mark, he himself provides a nice example of the latter point - consider, for example, his opposition to the notion that "the blamelessness of the tempter follows from the responsibility of the tempted." Summary version: I persuade you to eat one more jelly doughnut, and you do so, to the detriment of your waistline. According to Mark's theory, I may be partially to blame for your eventual heart attack, especially if I'm a big bad corporation. Mark is not a politician, of course, but we all know how this kind of position gets translated into policy when the Democrats have their way.

Not that the Republicans are any great shakes. Fact is, neither party is abidingly libertarian, and neither can be relied upon to defend liberty even in the areas where we expect them to. Republicans are supposed to be for free enterprise, and then Bush supports the steel tariff. Democrats are supposed to be for freedom of expression, and then Bill Clinton signs the Communications Decency Act. Mr. Hobson, what horses do you have for rent today?

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