No Presumption of Liberty in Conservative Magazines

by Don Boudreaux on October 15, 2009

in Media, Nanny State

My colleague Dan Klein and GMU econ doctoral student Jason Briggeman co-authored this new study, published in the current issue of The Independent Review, showing that conservative magazines are no true friends of liberty.

Be Sociable, Share!



33 comments    Share Share    Print    Email


Brian Garst October 15, 2009 at 5:41 pm

As a conservative I find nothing surprising here. I’m often frustrated by the inability of many fellow conservatives to apply the same liberty-based logic they use in other issues to things like gambling and drugs.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 6:14 am

They don’t arrive at it through logic. They find the logic to justify the positions of their fathers.

Jonathan Catalán October 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Well, naturally you’d assume that they’d follow the party line. And, as we all know, the Republican party line is far from liberty.

Anonymous October 15, 2009 at 5:55 pm

That would have been my feeling going into this based on my experience.

Anonymous October 15, 2009 at 6:04 pm

During the 1990s and up until around 2003, I did subscribe to the National Review, American Spectator, Weekly Standard, as well as Reason Magazine.

I did not necessarily keep a subscription to all of those at the same time, because I came to this same conclusion, they were not supporting liberty and freedom as I understand it, nor presenting a preferred government that I could support. So, I let the subscriptions run out. Now I just subscribe to Reason, and buy Liberty at the book store when I see a new issue.

This is not to say that I felt that they were the enemy that the publications like Time, Newsweek, Mother Jones, et. al. are. If stuck in the world’s longest deposition and in need of something to read I certainly would want a copy of the National Review and not a copy of Time or Newsweek.

That being said, I question whether those magazines, National Review, weekly Standard, and American Spectator can actually be correctly labeled as conservative. I think of them more as Republican Party publications, just as Time, Newsweek, and Mother Jones are socialist party publications.

I see more of conservative values, as I understand them to be, expressed in Reason and Liberty than I do in any others that I know of.

Sam Grove October 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Who said: The purpose of Democrats is to enact bad policies and the purpose of Republicans is to defend them once enacted.,..( or something like that)?

Methinks October 15, 2009 at 6:50 pm

In general, I think conservatives and conservative publications are more friendly toward liberty than the poorly named “liberal” publications. I find few liberal publications fighting for legalizing drugs and gambling, but plenty that want to control everything from family planning to income distribution. It’s not a question of which group is perfectly liberty friendly but which one is more pro-liberty than the other. I’ve been called crazy by plenty of “liberals” for advocating legalization of drugs and gambling. These people have never met a regulation they don’t instantly fall in love with.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 5:51 am

There’s an old saying that goes: liberals don’t care what you do, as long as it’s mandatory.

Methinks October 16, 2009 at 2:57 pm

I like that. Very accurate.

mark October 15, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I have only read the synopsis, but I find it to be true.

Nonetheless, I still vote republican because generally speaking, they are less bad than democrats.

Will Simpson October 15, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Drugs, seriously? Whatever the merits of the drug debate, is that seriously what we’re going to get hung up on? Forget the infringements on private enterprise in the financial sector or manufacturing; forget encroachments on second amendment rights; forget the expansions of federal authority on education; we’re more preoccupied with the “liberty” of someone to get stoned on LSD?

This seems like a joke of a “study.” It’s much more a statement to the effect of, “We are libertarians who don’t like conservatives, and we find little value in Frank Meyer’s ‘fusionism.’”

Anonymous October 15, 2009 at 7:23 pm

The drug war comes with all manner of abuses of human rights and civil liberties. And it feeds into other areas of government power and practice.

And of course the drug war has a lot to do with infringements on the right to defense and the Second Amendment for that matter as well as infringements on property rights.

Mike October 15, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Nice appeal to ridicule.

Nathan Scott October 15, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Tell that the the third of black inner city youths that end up in prison for drug crimes.

Anonymous October 15, 2009 at 7:24 pm

There really isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans on average when it comes to the issue of liberty.

Methinks October 15, 2009 at 7:32 pm

That’s because both parties are full of politicians.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 5:58 am

As long as the Republican Party continues to defend the Second Amendment, and the right of people to defend themselves from criminal attack – and the Democratic Party remains hostile to the Second Amendment, and self-defense; there is far more than a dime’s worth of difference between the two.

J Cortez October 15, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Their findings are of no surprise to me. I think the label conservative is meaningless, it is largely a synonym for the republican party. They suffer from the same disease as the progressive movement– For the most part, they are bad people with harmful ideas.

From a practical standpoint, I see no difference between the two parties, save for different campaign rhetoric. For some reason, republicans and democrats divide liberty into two, personal liberty and economic liberty, when they are one in the same. Sadly, what they both consider “freedom” is so far from ideal it would be funny if not so tragic.

The bloods (republicans) talk about free markets, and yet looking at their record, outside of lowing taxes, they’ve actually increased regulation and the size of government. The crips (democrats) talk about personal freedom and yet, have continually voted for the anti-civil liberty legislation like the current wars and the Patriot Act. My take is that these people are gang members in suits without any ethics. Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight.

TeeJaw October 15, 2009 at 10:52 pm

This is typical libertarian nonsense. Apparently, to a libertarian the only measure of liberty is sex, drugs and rock and roll. Protection of innocent life and common decency are not values that a libertarian can embrace.

Anonymous October 15, 2009 at 11:21 pm

I’m not sure what your point is – IMO it’s common decency to mind your own business and let people live their lives as they see fit as long as they’re not harming somebody else. Sex, gambling, drugs, and even rock and roll, all fall within that definition for most who partake of such activities.

I’m curious how you would define “common decency” and how you propose government would protect it.

Anonymous October 15, 2009 at 11:48 pm

This is typical Village Idiot nonsense such as we commonly see from the muirduck. According to Ken Willis, he doesn’t have a freaking clue as to what Libertarians believe or value.

Mike October 15, 2009 at 11:51 pm

I’m all for protection of innocent life and common decency, which is why I’m in favor of banning all guns. I assume you’re onboard?

Gil October 16, 2009 at 2:53 am

I agree in the sense that Libertarians prefer an X-rated society whilst Conservatives prefer a PG-rated society where they can comfortably raise children. Fortunately it would seems Conservatives tend to have larger families than Liberals and Libertarians so maybe it’s not all bad.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 5:44 am

And many children of conservative parents turn liberal and libertarian. How do you think the 1960s happened?

Frank October 16, 2009 at 2:05 am

Not really surprised. The conservative mags (esp The Weekly Standard) have, at best, a weak devotion to small government so I expect them to have even less libertarian views on so-called social issues.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 2:24 am

Perhaps it’s just a case of lowered expectations, but I came away from the study surprised at how pro-liberty the examined magazines came across. After all, we’re talking about regulation of sex, drugs, and gambling, and it’s not like conservatives have a reputation for being laissez faire on those issues. Yet contrary to the comments here that conservative is the same as Republican, the magazines had a mixed record on gambling and drugs, and National Review basically adopts the same line as Reason. Heck, there have apparently even been positive articles in conservative rags about pornography, something I never would have expected.

Terrence October 16, 2009 at 3:39 am

You guys would enjoy It fits your taste.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 5:27 am

Conservatives are just slaves to tradition. That’s where their consistency lies. It is only their dumb luck that tradition in the US includes a healthy serving of liberty.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 5:44 am

Liberals and conservatives are 2 sides of the same oppression coin. Only libertarians offer real freedom.

JohnK October 16, 2009 at 11:19 am

Liberals seem to want social freedom but they want to legislate economic affairs.
Conservatives seem to want economic freedom but they want to legislate social affairs.

Libertarians seem to be the only ones who support negative liberty in both economic and social affairs.

gappy October 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

In theory, it’s a known fact that libertarians are distinct from Progressives and Conservatives. At the very least, a libertarian is indifferent to conservation of tradition, the legislation of virtues, and the supposed evils of immigration. Also, is repulsed by the myths of progress and Utopia and the coercive means to attain them. In practice, pure libertarians like Boudreaux, Balko and Williamson are a tiny minority.

A good number of self-professed libertarians do read the Weekly Standard, and they call Democrats Socialists. They tweet under the hashtags of #tlot and #tcot (“top libertarians|conservatives of twitter”), and vote for mostly conservative candidates in their districts. Interestingly, some true socialists, like Chomsky, also like to call themselves libertarians.

There is nothing terribly wrong with that. Misnomers are commons in everyday life. Simply, it is fashionable to claim that one is a friend of liberty while advancing his own agenda.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 2:14 pm

There is a difference between ordered freedom and anarchy. Inherent Rights with which we were endowed, not by men who can be overruled, but by our Creator come with corresponding duties to one’s self, to other humans in society, to our Creator, and to the society itself. Some things are so toxic to the human spirit they should not be allowed anywhere near children. This and the Randian anti-religious bigotry is where some libertarians go off the road into the ditch. They think that having a house of prostitution that sells crystal meth across the street from an elementary school is fine. And they are usually the same ones who think there is no right to self defense or defense of one’s family or property, and that a baby in the womb is an rights-less interloper that can be killed and throw in the trash for the mother’s convenience.

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 4:28 pm

As Thomas Paine said, we establish society to fascilitate intercourse; we establish government to control our vices.

Previous post:

Next post: