Political scientist Alan Wolfe, who penned a strikingly dishonest piece about libertarianism.
I know that libertarianism is not for everybody. A large percentage of the time, it's not for me. Although I tend to self-identify as a libertarian, I don't find the ideology terribly useful in discussing environmental issues, for example. Many libertarians are not very good at talking about the poor, or discussing issues that concern minorities. (There are quite a few honorable exceptions.)
This doesn't mean that I'm pleased with the seemingly endless parade of asinine critiques of libertarianism that appears in the American press.
I didn't think any publication in America could top Salon for shallow unfair hit pieces on libertarianism, but Commonweal, which describes itself as an "independent lay Catholic journal of opinion" which is "tolerant in tone," appears to have set a new standard. It's just published a piece called "Libertarianism's Iron Cage," by Alan Wolfe, a formerly Marxist political scientist who morphed into a Bill Clinton adviser.
Much of the criticism from libertarians has focused on this passage:
There is a libertarian way of riding a bicycle, of taking your medicine, finding a spouse, giving blood, and even calling a cab (can you say, “Uber?”).
And it certainly is a weird passage. I've gone to Libertarian Party gatherings subscribed to "Reason" magazine, followed libertarian blogs and read books by libertarian thinkers (not just Robert Anton Wilson, but also more mainstream libertarian authors). I've never heard of a libertarian method for riding a bike, or swallowing pills, or giving blood, or any of Wolfe's other examples.
I mean, really. What would the "big government" method be for swallowing an Ibuprofen?
But there's a much worse passage:
There are few pacifists among libertarian activists and thinkers; though the movement theoretically opposes force, it has no place in its ranks for those who reject war.
Here, weirdness shades over into outright dishonesty.
Where to begin?
Robert Anton Wilson, while not quite a pacifist (he could envision using force to defend his family) was antiwar. He participated in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War and strongly denounced the Persian Gulf War and Iraq War.
Jesse Walker, a Libertarian editor at "Reason" magazine and a RAW fan who has helped this blog many times, is a co-founder of the Come Home America antiwar group (whose blog runs on the side of this blog.)
OK, maybe RAW is a "weirdo" libertarian, and maybe Jesse read too much RAW. What about mainstream libertarians? Let's look at the main libertarian movements and organizations.
The Libertarian Party puts out official press releases on its web site; here is a release denouncing the Republican-controlled House for voting to "jack up military spending"; here is the release that calls for shutting down the CIA. And here is the open letter to Rand Paul, arguing that the U.S. should stay out out Mideast wars. Go ahead, look at the other releases. Find me all of the pro-war ones.
When the Kochs exercised a hostile takeover of the Cato Institute, the only big libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., there were fears that Cato's antiwar stance would be watered down and that it would be turned into an arm of the Republican Party. (I was one of the people who was worried.)
Well, all of my favorite Cato foreign policy pundits are still there. Was Doug Bandow purged? Nope, still there. Christopher Preble? Still there, too. You can view the Cato foreign policy and military affairs section, which says, "Cato’s foreign and defense policies are guided by the view that the United States is relatively secure, and so should engage the world, trade freely, and work with other countries on common concerns, but avoid trying to dominate it militarily. We should be an example of democracy and human rights, not their armed vindicator abroad." Sounds just like Dick Cheney, huh?
The Von Mises Institute has a very strong antiwar stance. The Center for a Stateless Society crowd, i.e. Kevin Carson, Roderick Long, Chad Nelson, etc.? There are to the left of other libertarians on certain issues, and solidly antiwar.
Antiwar.com, to whom I have given money, was founded and run by hardcore libertarians. Murray Rothbard, a very influential libertarian thinker, was solidly antiwar, to the point where he was willing to form somewhat odd coalitions in the hopes of keeping the antiwar movement alive. Ron Paul, easily the most popular and influential libertarian of the modern age, is solidly antiwar. Rand Paul's campaign for president has pretty much fallen apart, at least for now, largely because of a sense of betrayal fans of Ron Paul feel over Rand's stance on peace issues. The popular EconLog blog is strongly antiwar in sentiment, with contributions from David Henderson and Bryan Caplan.
Trust me, I could go on.
Yes, there are some libertarians who have been pro-war, at least for certain wars. As with other political movements, there are differing opinions, and people who think for themselves. But everywhere you look in the libertarian movement, at the official political party, for example, or all of the main think tanks, you can't help but notice that in general libertarians are strongly antiwar. It is hard to see how an honest political scientist, considering the evidence, could miss that.
Wolfe ends his piece with a cliched complaint about "Americans dismayed by political cynicism." Perhaps one reason why Americans are cynical about politics is that they are tired of the dominance in political discourse of propagandists like Wolfe.