I’m loath to disagree with Virginia Postrel–she’s extremely bright and a great writer, as well as putting out the best issues Reason has ever seen–plus she is a total babe…but I digress. In this post questioning the motives of Kerry-leaning libertarians, she falls down hard, and unfortunately I have to take issue:
I have a sneaking suspicion that Kerry-leaning libertarian hawks (now that’s a small demographic!) are simply kidding themselves in order to stay on the fashionable side of politics.
The thrust of her argument is that Kerry is indeed a classic Massachusetts liberal who wants to socialize this, raise taxes on that, and basically had his economic understanding frozen at the height of Eugene V. Debs’s influence on the Left. So electing him is dangerous compared to Bush. As evidence she quotes his focus on nationalizing health care through providing federal insurance.
Errr…Kerry is no Clinton, but then Clinton had a certain, more far-reaching health-care proposal that went nowhere against the Republican congress. The fact of the matter is that we would talk less about Clinton’s centrism were he saddled with the 98th Congress instead of the 104th or later. So the gridlock argument is not one to be brushed aside lightly.
The upshot of it is that both Bushes put Clinton to shame in the social spending and federal regulation realm…liberals ought to be in love with the Bush family. If only it weren’t for that pesky war and religious superstition dictating social policy!
With regard to the Iraq war, I’m not in the libertarian hawk set that Postrel mentions–though I was not against the war before it happened, neither did I think it a good idea at that time. And now I think it was a lousy idea and events have proven war opponents right and hawks wrong, even assuming coverage of the war and its aftermath has been skewed.
But I certainly do have problems–big problems–with Bush’s domestic policy. He embodies everything I hate about conservatives and liberals (ironically my take on Al Gore as well). So I’l be voting for Kerry to get Bush out of office. I don’t pretend it will be a positive good, but at this point less bad is a much better option.
And as far as the specious argument that being anti-Bush is cool: come on, if libertarians wanted to be cool, they would stop being libertarians. Being an anti-Bush libertarian wins you few if any friends–more like toleration from the Left, and condemnation as a traitor from the Right. It would be much cooler to be some sort of granola Peace Corps hippy–and I’d find more social acceptance as an unthinking Christian evangelical.
In short, nobody becomes libertarian because it’s cool, so once they’ve made the leap to libertarianism, you have a large burden of proof to show before you can claim that any other policy position they take is due to fashion rather than an honest assessment that it’s right. Move from Dallas to here in the DC area and see just how cool you feel as any sort of libertarian, pro- or anti-Bush.