The libertarian non-moment (Kevin Williamson)

Kevin Williamson writes,

But “libertarian” often means little more than “a person with right-leaning sensibilities who is embarrassed to be associated with the Republican Party.” (Hardly, these days, an indefensible position.) Libertarian sensibilities are popular because they enable the posture of above-it-all nonpartisanship, but libertarian policies, as [Bryan] Caplan and others have noted at length, are not very popular at all. Americans broadly and strongly support a rising minimum wage and oppose entitlement reform with at least equal commitment, and they are far from reliable supporters of free speech and free association or enforcing limits on police powers.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen.

By the end of the essay, Williamson wonders whether the Democrats might make some overtures to libertarians. But I get the sense that he is stopping short of going full Niskanen Center. That is, he doesn’t seem to be bad-mouthing libertarians as a way of trying to curry status with the left.

OK, so I scheduled this post over a week ago, and subsequently Williamson was fired by the Atlantic. Nothing to do with the column I quoted; he apparently is anti-abortion and does not mince words in expressing his opinion on that, and the severity of the way he expressed his views was the reason given for the decision to let him go. I don’t know anything about the background to his hiring or firing, but my instinct is to assign a very low probability to the official explanation being the full story.

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9 Responses to The libertarian non-moment (Kevin Williamson)

  1. A Leap at the Wheel says:

    You may be interested to read Conor Friedersdorf’s A Dissent Concerning Kevin Williamson at the Atlantic.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/04/a-dissent-concerning-kevin-williamson/484052/

  2. EMichael says:

    It is not why he was fired, it was why he was hired.

    Man is sickening and offensive, and while he certainly has a right to speak anything he wants, that does not mean he has the right to write for a publication that finds his speech beyond offensive.

  3. edgar says:

    I quit giving voluntary clicks to The Atlantic long ago (I get plenty of exposure to leftist ideaology via The Guardian, The Jacobin, etc without make de facto campaign contributions in kind to the democrats) so will not comment on the Williamson controversy other than to decry the cult of celebrity that appears to consume what passes for an intellectual class in the US.

    Attention would be better spent addressing outrageous monstrosities like the horrendous politicization of the entry process to medical school by the American Association of Medical Colleges, the authoritarian and repressive code of ethics promulgated by the National Association of Social Workers and imposed upon individuals in that field by educational institions and government agencies, the opaque and highly politicized job applicant assessment process for entry level federal government jobs, etc, etc.

    Sorry, one man’s travails just don’t interest me when millions of ordinary Americans are being systematically discriminated against in a near genocidal campaign of intolerance.

  4. BT Reynolds says:

    If a writer needs to get some clicks, it seems that criticizing libertarians or Ayn Rand will do the trick.

  5. collin says:

    Isn’t libertarianism like Brazil, blockchain or the Seattle Marniers (last 3o years) where every 8 – 10 years they are the verge of the next big thing but never materializes? The left has Nadars or Sanders as well. The moment missed in 2012 because Ron Paul was able to gather the support of economic libertarians and community libertarians (think religious types, wannabe Benedict Option). He had a good handle of the economics but also had a great country doctor appeal to him. There was a successor, Rand Paul, but he was not ready for a Prime Time and failed to appeal to community libertarians as he appears to read Zero Hedge a little too much. (As well as being crappy neighbor it also appears.)

    Anyway, the biggest issue of libertarianism is they are an odd mix of imagines of Jon Galt and Laura Wilder when in reality the the Jon Galts, who become the Taggarts in a couple of years, are always throwing the Laura Wilders off their land.

    • T Boyle says:

      Libertarianism is invisible to westerners for the same reason water is invisible to fish: they can’t imagine a world without it. It’s increasingly the baseline against which everything else is measured.

      You can run down the beach when the waves recede, but this tide has been coming in for centuries, and still is. Don’t believe it? Try reading modern history. For example, you could be tried for sedition, First Amendment notwithstanding, just for criticizing the government, in the 1910s. You could be imprisoned in a concentration camp for nothing more than being born a certain race, not only in the 1800s but in the 1940s. The U.S. military employed slavery well into the 1970s. All now seem like statements about the Dark Ages, and rightly so.

      It’s not so much about the “libertarian moment”. Libertarianism is just the modern name for the Enlightenment, and it ain’t going away.

      • BC says:

        Agreed. The Declaration of Independence is basically a libertarian document, even if we don’t always faithfully adhere to it. There is near universal support for the libertarian position against curfews, so universal that we don’t bother calling it libertarian. We just take it for granted that, of course, we don’t have a curfew for adults every night, even if it could reduce crime. Libertarianism is basically a *relative* concept. If we reserve the libertarian label for the 10-15% most libertarian people, then it will always be a minority ideology with about 10-15% support.

  6. Tom G says:

    The good parts of the Lib movement will, eventually, be taken by one Big (gov’t) party or the other. That’s sort of the de facto purpose of all Third Parties — to provide extreme examples of policy and intellectual support for those policies, so that “small steps” (towards a much better world!) can be taken, after political discourse has widened the options.

    The anti-Lib Democrats do NOT want wider options. That’s a big part of what the “hate speech”, de facto censorship, is all about. NOT allowing a wider consideration of different ideas — indoctrination. And it’s very much happening in the US universities now — Arnold is pretty sure the mushy science Economics will follow the other mushy social sciences down the Dem PC-nag rathole.

    Sad sad funny is how wrong Kevin is on Trump results:
    Those who celebrated Trump the businessman clutch their heads as his preposterous economic policies produce terror in the stock markets and chaos for the blue-collar workers in construction firms and manufacturers scrambling to stay ahead of the coming tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Chinese retaliation is sure to fall hardest on the heartland farmers who were among Trump’s most dedicated supporters.

    Tax cuts & deregulation, two Lib-Chamber of Commerce supported policies, are great / GREAT for the economy. There might well be a Trump inspired trade war, but more likely not — most folk, including China, Mexico, and even Canada, realize that they have been taking advantage of, if not actually cheating, the USA. They want “fair trade” too, and if they’ve been getting a great deal (bad for US), and now it becomes only fair, they won’t be doing the increasing tariff war silliness the panty-clutching Trump haters claim Trump is instigating.

    When Trump gets better trade terms for the US, I don’t expect any of the Fake News pundits, like Kevin, to remember his confident but then-proven-wrong prediction of retaliation.

    On most policy, Trump has been good to great.

    He should have, and still should, go after HR Clinton and get her on trial before a judge, charged with the illegal actions she did. Letting her off the hook is a big part of why the FBI Deep State bureaucrat mucky muck wannabees are doing so much against Trump.

    Dem Deep State “suede denim” secret police are why Libs who think they can work with Dems are delusional.

    Finally, it might be that Kevin’s firing will bring up what really does happen in Western countries where abortion really is mostly illegal? It’s not the women who are punished, unlike the lies told by Dem Planned Parenthood. It’s those who supply and support the illegal abortions who are punished.

    Having abortion mostly illegal in Poland is not causing a huge problem. It wouldn’t cause a huge problem in the US — and the Lib / Constitution position should always have been that it’s a State issue, not a Federal one.

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