Nick Gillespie is the Reason editor known to readers of Balloon Juice as "the Fonzie of Freedom," for obvious reasons:
He was given some column inches in The Washington Post yesterday for an op-ed titled "Five Myths About Libertarians." Now, if he really wanted to reassure assure us that libertarianism isn't dangerous -- in fact, a menace to society -- he would have reassured us that libertarians don't really seek to eliminate any and all aspects of government that enforce the social contract. He would have told us that in the libertarians' ideal America, we really wouldn't get rid of, for starters, Medicare and Social Security, child labor laws, the minimum wage, and food safety laws.
But he can't do that because, as you'll see if you check the links in that last sentence, Nick Gillespie actually opposes all of those things and actually does want them eliminated.
So instead, the "myths" he reassures are untrue are mostly trivial surface aspects of libertarianism. And he doesn't even handle that debunking effectively.
1. Libertarians are a fringe band of "hippies of the right."Who cares? Oh, I forgot: the Republican establishment cares. That's why this op-ed is running in The Washington Post: The elders of the party that's dominated the D.C. zeitgeist since 1980, regardless of who was nominally in power, need reassurance that the Paulites aren't seeking to take their phony-baloney jobs. Well, not to worry, Gillespie says: we're going to be a pain in the ass to the Democrats, too.
... Libertarians are often dismissed as a mutant subspecies of conservatives: pot smokers who are soft on defense and support marriage equality. But depending on their views, libertarians often match up equally well with right- and left-wingers....
2. Libertarians don't care about minorities or the poor.This, at least, concerns substance. However, Gillespie's rebuttal is not very convincing:
... But at least two of the libertarian movement's signature causes, school choice and drug legalization, are aimed at creating a better life for poor people, who disproportionately are also minorities....No, they are not "aimed at creating a better life for poor people." They're "aimed at" drastically reducing the reach of government. Any impact on poor people is a side effect, as far as libertarians are concerned, except to thr extent that the benefits, real or imagined, can be used as a selling point for libertarianism.
Libertarians believe that economic deregulation helps the poor because it ultimately reduces costs and barriers to start new businesses....But again, the consequences of deregulation are irrelevant. For libertarians, deregulation is a sacrament. Libertarians would regard it as necessary no matter who was helped or hurt by it.
3. Libertarianism is a boys' club.More trivia -- and, again, not convincingly debunked:
While the stereotype of a libertarian as a male engineer sporting a plastic pocket protector and a slide rule once had more truth to it than most libertarians would care to admit, the movement is in many ways the creation of three female intellectuals.So this argument is on the same intellectual plane as "Republicans in 2013 aren't racist because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican in the mid-nineteenth century." Bzzzzt! Next!
... the modern libertarian movement was hugely influenced by best-selling novelist and writer [Ayn] Rand; writer and critic Isabel Paterson; and author Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose work she edited.
4. Libertarians are pro-drug, pro-abortion and anti-religion.Well, a bunch of male engineers with pocket protectors whose only female companions have been dead for a century aren't likely to be up to much hanky-panky, or at least not much that could end in abortion. But I digress.
Charges of libertinism are, alas, exaggerated....
From my perspective, the biggest problem is that libertarians aren't libertarian enough on the subject of reproductive rights -- a concern Gillespie attempts to dispel unconvincingly:
About 30 percent of libertarians -- including many libertarian-minded politicians such as Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) -- are staunchly pro-life. But most believe that the best way to change behavior is through moral suasion, not versions of prohibition that don't work.Er, yeah -- except that one of the libertarians who is very much in favor of "prohibition" is the one who really, really wants to be president of the United States. From Rand Paul's Senate Web site:
I am 100% pro life. I believe abortion is taking the life of an innocent human being.Um, that's a bit beyond "moral suasion."
I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life.
I will always vote for any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion. I support a Human Life Amendment and have co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue. In addition, I support a Sanctity of Life Amendment, establishing the principle that life begins at conception. This legislation would define life at conception in law, as a scientific statement.
5. Libertarians are destroying the Republican Party.If only.
The fact that this is running in The Washington Post reminds us that that Hillary Clinton is not inevitably going to be elected president in 2016. The Beltway insiders would prefer a fresh new teen idol. A lot of them would really like this new pinup boy or girl to be a Republican. They're perfectly happy for it to be the radically right-wing Rand Paul -- but there is the nasty problem that neocons and social conservatives on the Georgetown cocktail party circuit might not be too pleased. This op-ed won't ease all their fears, but it's a start. Libertarianism is being mainstreamed.
(Gillespie link via Memeorandum.)