The Spectacle Blog

The Anti-Liberty Spectator

By on 2.25.09 | 1:17PM

Via Tyler Cowen, I see that Daniel Klein and Jason Briggeman, two George Mason economists, have published a paper (pdf) claiming that conservative magazines, including The American Spectator, are not pro-liberty.

They review the records of the Spectator, National Review, The American Enterprise, and the Weekly Standard on pro-liberty stances regarding sex, gambling and drugs. They find that National Review is generally the most pro-liberty on these issues, but that overall all the conservative magazines lean anti-liberty. They conclude:

This investigation underscores that nowadays the menu of major public philosophies offers three options: conservatism, social democracy, and classical liberalism/libertarianism. Only the third upholds the presumption of liberty.

This is a sweeping, sweeping generalization. This conclusion reduces all kinds of arguments about the nature of liberty and the role of government in upholding liberty to grossly oversimplified terms.

In reaching such a conclusion, Klein and Briggeman employ big and questionable assumptions about which positions in policy debates about sex, gambling, and drugs are the pro-liberty positions. In fact, they don't even make it clear what exactly they consider the ideal pro-liberty position to be But to state outright that, for example, advocating regulation on prostitution or pornography is a clear violation of liberty (as they seem to do) requires an intellectual defense. I would have thought it obvious that there are conservatives who espouse those "anti-liberty" positions because they believe they are the true pro-liberty positions. For example, although I am personally anti-drug war, it is not apparent to me that any conservatives who argue for the drug war are secretly authoritarians. I know of plenty of folks who could provide an intellectually honest pro-liberty defense of all the positions Klein and Briggeman consider anti-liberty as a given.

So in short I experience no cognitive dissonance when I label myself both conservative and pro-liberty, nor for that matter when I write for The American Spectator.

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