The Anti-libertarian Conservative Right

Lots of people try to dismiss libertarians as political right wing fringe. That is about as wrong as it can be. For one thing, that sort of thinking is too narrow. It presumes all political opinion can be plotted on a line with two ends and a middle. The folks over at Advocates for Self-Government have developed a political map, basically a diamond grid, that plots not just conservative and liberal, but also libertarian, centrist and statist (favoring strong central government). They have an easy ten question quiz they use to show you where you are on the political map. (Go on, take the quiz. I’ll be here when you get back.) The map is far more accurate than the one dimensional left-right spectrum.

Anyway, plenty of liberals and (so-called) progressives try to say libertarians are just extreme right-wingers. I submit we are nothing of the sort. As evidence, I could present the words of any number of conservative commentators. For now I shall present the words of Cliff Kincade, the Editor of Accuracy in Media’s “AIM Report.” Specifically, I present the words Mr. Kincade wrote in a column headlined “Beck Should Probe the Progressive Libertarians.”

Kincade starts by talking about Glenn Beck’s “documentary” about progressives. Kincade then says Beck should turn his attention to libertarianism. Why? Because libertarianism, according to Kincade, “is a disease.” More specifically:

In general, however, libertarianism is known for an isolationist view in foreign policy, which benefits America’s enemies and adversaries. But the worst aspects of libertarianism are evident in social policy. Here, libertarianism is compatible with the “progressivism” that people like Glenn Beck rightly abhor.

Just look at that a moment. Maybe the problems of an isolationist foreign policy are discussed elsewhere on AIM’s site, but no where in the editorial does Kincade offer any substance to support the claim that an isolationist foreign policy benefits America’s enemies. He just says it as if it is unquestionably true. Which, of course, it is not. But anyway, notice that Kincade, clearly speaking from a conservative/right-wing perspective is connecting libertarianism with left-wing progressivism.

Why does he say this? Well, he complains that in 1969 some libertarians participated in a “Left and Right” seminar held by the Institute for Policy Studies. And then in 1970, apparently a guy who now works for Cato and a guy who now works for George Soros then participated in some other IPS seminar. Pay attention to the mention of Soros. He is very important to Kincade’s silly theory argument. Then Kincade gets down to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band… er, no. He starts to get to his real complaints about libertarians.

He starts this part of his explanation with a really silly sentence. “The left-right collaboration is most apparent in the field of ‘drug policy reform,’ as they call it.” Is it called something else? But look at that “left-right collaboration” bit. He seems to be trying to imply there is some sort of deliberate cooperation between libertarians and progressives. As if somehow they had a meeting about it. His column is already starting to look like a weird sort of conspiracy theory. Then Kincade starts complaining about the Hot Air blog. The folks who run the blog not only posted a Reason.tv video about reasons to legalize marijuana but, Kincade claims, have also

[…] taken a turn to the left. First, Hot Air attacked Ryan Sorba for speaking on behalf of traditional values at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and against the inclusion of a homosexual rights group in the event. Then, Morrissey was quoted as saying that Republicans should “get over their issues with homosexuality.” Taking note of this and other posts on the site, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said that Hot Air had “suddenly become an advocate for all things gay” and asked, “What in the world is up with that?”

Notice the clear implication that conservatism and homosexuality are somehow mutually exclusive. Anyway, the answer to Mr. Fischer’s question, says Kincade, “is libertarianism.” Now he is trying to link libertarianism to “all things gay”, and make no mistake, he clearly thinks that link is deleterious to libertarianism. But Kincade does not stop with Hot Air. He goes after Fox News Channel for having Andrew “the Judge” Napolitano and John Stossel on their station. Why? They “both promote legalization of dangerous drugs.” Not just any kind of drugs mind you, but dangerous drugs. I can only guess that Kincade expects you, the reader, will gasp in shock at that revelation. But a few paragraphs later, comes the real shocker. Who supports pro-drug legislation? Why the not-libertarian-but-progressive George Soros and Peter Lewis, another wealthy guy. Dun dun DUN!

Kincade, however, quickly jumps back to complaining about libertarians. Reason magazine, he complains, writes articles in support of drug use and the legalization of drugs. And eventually he gets around to this amusing paragraph:

Reason claims to be a monthly magazine of “free minds and free markets.” But the minds have been clouded by dope and the concept of “free markets” has been expanded to include practically any and all forms of destructive human behavior. This is not conservative in any sense, and may not even be, strictly speaking, libertarian. It is more like libertinism or hedonism. Soros, who proposes to transform America into an “open society,” has the same vision.

Got that? Support drug legalization, and ipso facto, you must be addled by drug use. You may not use drugs at all, but maybe it is all that second hand marijuana smoke you must have inhaled from hanging out with all your dope fiend friends. The next part of Kincade’s run-on sentence mentions “practically any and all forms of destructive human behavior.” I find amusing how he throws out this vague notion of destructive human behavior and lets the reader’s mind fill in the blanks. Anyway, getting back to the topic I (sort of) started this post with, notice that Kincade assures the intoxicated reprobate advocacy of the folks at Reason is “not conservative in any sense.” And he should know, right? Though oddly he says it “may not even be, strictly speaking, libertarian.” Though it seems like what he has been defining as libertarian all through his column.

Kincade seems to be rather confused, but quick with the propaganda. Were I a betting man, I would lay good odds that Kincade is one of those folks who worries about the “purity” of conservatism and about who is and is not a “true” conservative. End up on the wrong side of that, and he will label you a defender of “destructive human behavior” and other ungood things.

Libertarianism is not a form of conservatism. And thank God for that. Libertarianism is not right-wing. Libertarianism is not left-wing or progressive. Sometimes libertarians find their ideas align with liberal ideas. Sometimes liberals find their ideas align with conservative ideas. (Or at least what some conservatives say their ideas are.) But if the left-right line defines how you think about politics, you’re going to get confused, like Mr. Kincade, very quickly.

I should also mention acknowledgment to Radley Balko at the Reason Hit & Run blog for introducing me to Mr. Kincade’s column.

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