So there’s a running debate in libertarian circles about whether Randy Barnett’s a libertarian or not, and it’s getting old. This is a superficially free country; Barnett and his buddies can employ any nomenclature they like. Barnett does seem to be true blue on all the issues critical to neolibertarians — some pot for every chickenhawk and a meth lab in every garage — and perhaps anyone who bats above .500 on a given list of public policies should be called a libertarian. Hmm, he’s for a liberal application of the biggest, most destructive government program around — but he’s really solid on a toddler’s right to pornography, so we’ll call it even. Whatever floats your boat, dude.
What bothers me is the notion that Barnett’s recent Wall Street Journal piece credibly represents anything like libertarianism. Even putting philosophical matters to the side, I defy anyone who doesn’t watch Fox News 24/7 to read Barnett’s op-ed without wincing. At this moment, when most Americans have finally pulled their heads out of their hindquarters to oppose the Iraq war and occupation, Barnett counsels libertarians, the vast majority of whom have opposed the war all along, to jump on the pro-war bandwagon! For practical political reasons, no less!
It would be a shame if this misinterpretation [that libertarians uniformly oppose the war on libertarian grounds] inhibited a wider acceptance of the libertarian principles that would promote the general welfare of the American people.
Yes, it sure would suck if the majority of Americans suspected us of sharing their thoughts on a matter of great import.
And try holding down your breakfast as you witness the lap dance Barnett gives Rudy Giuliani:
During that debate, the riveting exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul about whether American foreign policy provoked the 9/11 attack raised the visibility of both candidates. When Mr. Paul, a libertarian, said that the 9/11 attack happened “because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years,” Mr. Giuliani’s retort–that this was the first time he had heard that “we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. . . . and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11”–sparked a spontaneous ovation from the audience. It was an electrifying moment that allowed one to imagine Mr. Giuliani as a forceful, articulate president.
Articulate? That thuggish, ignorant non-response was articulate?
If I were in my teens or early twenties and searching for a political identity, and I had a typical young person’s knowledge of political theory, this would send me running in disgust from libertarianism. Barnett’s op-ed merely confirms the left-right caricature of libertarianism as a trivia-obsessed offshoot of the GOP — and places support for a stupid, immoral, unpopular war front and center! What’s not to hate?