A Conservative-Libertarian Tiff in the Blogosphere

Tim Sandefur at Freespace objects to the implication that as a libertarian he is merely a “Republican without morals” and a “self-indulgent, narcissistic heathen,” who “pay[s] lip service to religion” — in the words of “Feddie” (Steve Dillard) at Southern Appeal. The proximate cause of Dillard’s first jibe was a post by sort-of-libertarian Will Baude at Crescat Sententia, in which Baude takes exception to an anti-abortion statement by Alan Keyes.

I’m not sure where Sandefur stands on abortion, but he implies that he’s for legal abortion when he says “I believe that it is immoral for one person to force others to do with their lives what he thinks is right.” If he’s talking about abortion, I must differ, on libertarian grounds. As a libertarian I can conscionably oppose abortion (and take a few other stands that don’t seem to be typical of libertarians), for reasons stated here and here.

In response to Sandefur’s objection, “Feddie” says,

And while many [l]ibertarians are thoughtful people who have carefully formed their views within the confines of respectable moral parameters (e.g., Sandefur, Crescast [sic], and Volokhs), it has been my experience that this is the exception rather than the rule. There is a cruder form of [l]ibertarianism bubbling up from our societal fabric, and it is not one premised on the writings of John Stuart Mill, but is instead anchored upon a radical individualism with no moral compass.

All thoughtful libertarians don’t premise their views on John Stuart Mill’s writings, but other than that, “Feddie” is right. I’ve come across many a so-called libertarian blog that is premised on unalloyed self-indulgence and is as rational as a toddler’s tantrums.

Sandefur, in an update, says in further reply to “Feddie”:

Objectivism, of which I believe I am the most prominent blogging practitoner [sic], imposes a remarkably severe moral code, which has earned us a reputation among many other libertarians as serious killjoys.

The link leads to a short piece by Ayn Rand, in which she summarizes Objectivism. She says, among other things,

The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders…[emphasis added].

I wonder what this “remarkably severe moral code” has to say about abortion and pre-emptive war. I don’t find abortion (and its companion, involuntary euthanasia) to be particularly moral, even by Rand’s stringent code, which claims to forgo physical force, except in self-defense. Nor do I find it particularly moral to acquiesce in the deaths of fellow citizens rather than trying (if not always successfully) to reach abroad and tear down the infrastructure of terrorism.