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[Editor’s note: Originally posted at Ricochet.com.]
One of the reasons that American libertarians as a political movement never amount to anything is that they can be incredibly intolerant people. This may seem counterintuitive, but while a great many fiscal and social conservatives are willing to seek compromise in common purpose, libertarians are forever in search of hills to die on for their noble and incorruptible principles, particularly when it comes to locally grown produce or which is the best Von Mises book (Human Actionyou say? Poseur!). Libertarians form factions within factions, cliques within cliques, and the more libertine they are, the more oppressively dull.
Consider the response of some of the more urban libertarians to the Tea Party, which obviously contains many libertarian minded individuals. But survey data also indicates that much of the Tea Party is opposed to abortion and generally traditionalist in perspective on marriage – they are and were disaffected small-government conservatives, not just fiscal ones.
Upon discovering this, some big city libertarians became strongly anti-Tea Party, including certain ones, like David Boaz of the Cato Institute, who took to lambasting Sarah Palin and other Tea Party figures as dull-witted country mice. Where’s the evangelism, folks? If churches took such attitudes toward theological questions, no religious body would exist beyond one or two people.
See this rant from Boaz for a measure of the fault lines between the vast majority of the right and the tiny minority of true libertarians. Boaz argues that conservatives are awful because they have a bad record on personal freedom. Allow me a bit of devil’s advocate: “Conservatives, like National Review, supported state-imposed racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.” Does Boaz support the Civil Rights Act, which included government mandates over the behavior of private businesses regarding segregation? Forget whether that’s right or wrong: how exactly is that libertarian? “Conservatives opposed legal and social equality for women.” Does Boaz support the Equal Rights Amendment? Why not? Was Barry Goldwater wrong to oppose it?
“Conservatives supported laws banning homosexual acts among consenting adults… Conservatives still oppose equal marriage rights for gay couples.” Is Boaz not a federalist? Does he disagree with Justice Thomas’s opinion on the matter that this is not an item for the federal purview? Does he believe in a living constitution? “Conservatives (and plenty of liberals) support the policy of drug prohibition, which results in nearly a million arrests a year for marijuana use.” Sure, but what about crack and heroin? And any libertarian who supports drug legalization prior to the end of the welfare state is not really thinking this through.
Prior to that happening, isn’t legalization (as opposed to lighter sentencing) just an act of redistribution and subsidization? “Conservatives support state-imposed prayers and other endorsements of religion in public schools.” I’m not sure about that; I can’t recall the last “state-imposed” prayer law. They do support, however, I must admit, that short ecumenical (but Christian) prayer that is offered in the halls of the U.S. Capitol prior to every day of Congressional action. For Boaz, this is evidently a bridge too far toward the impurities of socialism. Get out of the tent, you blasted liberty haters! There is only room enough here for the truly pure of heart. The ideal libertarian political party, you see, is a party of one.