The Spectacle Blog

Positive Libertarianism?

By on 12.22.06 | 5:21PM

Since my brief against "liberaltarianism" was based around the negative liberty/positive liberty distinction, I thought I ought to comment on Jonah Goldberg's argument that some libertarians have started to emphasize positive liberty, albeit not of the state-enforced variety. I think Jonah's more or less got Nick Gillespie's number. Here's Gene Healy summarizing a debate on the viability of libertarian-conservative marriage that the America's Future Foundation hosted last year:

Nor was there much agreement about what it means to be a libertarian among the libertarian panelists. Jeremy Lott saw no inconsistency between libertarianism and moderate social conservatism, so long as it's not enforced by the state. Nick Gillespie, on the other hand, argued that a monomaniacal focus on the state left out some important aspects of liberalism. He rejected the notion that libertarianism could be limited to the realm of political philosophy. At one point, he noted that we were dramatically freer than we had been decades ago, because, among other things, in 1970 it was difficult for an unmarried couple to check into a hotel together. Afterwards, I wondered what the hell that had to do with libertarianism, and a friend cracked that I must have skipped the part about hot-pillow joints in Locke's Second Treatise.
None of this means that a lib-lib alliance of the type that Brink Lindsey envisions is viable. It does mean that certain types of libertarians are uncomfortable with the libertarian-conservative alliance, but (as I mentioned in my podcast with Dave Weigel last week) that's always been true for various reasons.

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