Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Irish Times needs a political lesson. Libertarians are not another version of conservative.

The Irish Times has an article on Jason Reitman and his new film Thank You for Smoking. Reporter Donald Clarke seems to have a problem, and some confusion as well, regarding libertarians. Reitman says that the author of the story on which the film is based, Christopher Buckley, has "a libertarian mind, which I have learnt means something a little different in Europe to what it means in America."

Clarke writes: "Yes, indeed. Many here libertarians as Republicans without the Creationist, fundamentalist baggage."

Certainly such a comment reveals an amazing lack of knowledge regarding libertarianism. It isn't as if the only difference between a libertarian and today's Republican is "Creationist, fundamentalist baggage." If one just spoke in terms of the three main areas of public policy the differences are apparent. Republicans are interventionists in foreign policy libertarians are not. Republicans are not inclined toward civil liberties and libertarians are. And Republicans say they support free enterprise while libertarians actually mean it.

So perhaps Clarke would have been right if he had said 'libertarians are Republicans without the Creationist, fundamentalist baggage, without the war in Iraq, without the war on drugs, without the Patriot Act, without federal control of education, without the big penalities for "indecency", without the federal marriage amendment, without the banning of flag burning, without the antiabortion views, without spying on the public, without the homophobia, without the anti-immigrant rancor, without Guantanamo, without the massive deficits, without the huge spending increases..." well you get my drift. Of course the sentence wouldn't make much sense if you actually list the huge number of differences between a libertarian and a Republican. So if one wants to slam a libertarian by associating them with Republicans it is best to deny the facts and pretend there is really only one point where they differ and not the dozens that in fact exist.

I would bet that in some important ways that Mr. Clarke has more in common with Bush and the Republicans than any libertarian, properly labeled, would.

I am aware that some conservatives, shamed by the antics of the clown in the White House, are now trying to call themselves "libertarians" as a rebranding exercise. But when they define their terms they are still as far from being libertarians as they have been for decades. Libertarians are not "more Right" conservatives. In fact libertarians are not on the Right. The Right is a wasteland. Which is not to say the Left is much better. Libertarians reject both and support freedom across the board. Of course there are some Republicans who lean libertarian but in my experience they are a tiny percentage of those who pretend they do. Ditto for libertarian Democrats.