Friday, November 28, 2008

Liberals versus the Nolan Chart

To those who followed the link here from Rational Review, I did not suggest there is an economic relationship between conservatives and libertarians. One of the links goes to an entry called "Conservatives versus the Nolan Chart" which argues that the relationship does not exist. References to that relationship in this article are meant to be used as "that one was false, what about this one?"

It's often assumed that libertarians share a civil outlook with the liberals and an economic outlook with conservatives. The economic differences between conservatives and libertarians have been documented several times here and here. That leaves the question of whether or not libertarians share a civil outlook with liberals, or if that is as accurate a representation as the economic relationship between libertarians and conservatives has proven to be.

The problem is both camps do appear to be talking about different things when the subject of civil liberty is mentioned. When California Proposition 98 was put on the ballot to oppose eminent domain, the ACLU of Southern California opposed it while the Libertarian Party of California supported it. Liberals do not seem to regard surety of property as a civil liberty, but only an economic one.

That’s the first difference. Libertarians believe you cannot have civil liberty without private property, but liberals believe the two to be entirely different and, in some cases, antithetical.

But if it were possible to separate out the economic from the civil are there differences remaining? Indeed there are, and both sides consider themselves to be on the correct side of each divide because both define the matter differently.

The biggest area of difference is freedom of association. Libertarians would not restrict distasteful choices people make. Liberals would. Both sides say that by doing so they are advancing civil liberty. For the greater good liberals are willing to eliminate freedom of association and call it racial justice, or gender justice, or some other group justice. Affirmative action programs and other similar programs will force individuals to act in ways that the liberal feels with expand civil liberty.

The libertarian feels that there is no civil liberty unless it is on the individual level, that there is no such thing as civil liberty for groups, that groups do not have rights. Libertarians feel that if the rights of the individual are diminished for the sake of any group right then the rights of all individuals are diminished.

Much like when the conservative is unable to differentiate between a libertarian and a libertine, accusing a libertarian who would never touch drugs of being a druggie since he supports drug legalization, a liberal is unable to differentiate between a libertarian and a bigot due to the libertarian's objection to the entire concept of group rights. In both cases the libertarian's position has been either misunderstood or is being distorted.

Both the conservative and the liberal in that example are ascribing to libertarians a sort of legal positivism, an ideology that is as far removed from libertarianism as it is possible to be. The legal positivist believes something good because the law says so. From a legal positivist point of view, the libertarian call to legalize drugs is the same as the libertine call to do drugs, and the libertarian call to end group rights is the same as the bigot's call to discriminate against those groups.

It’s a straw man.

1 comment:

The Mudslinger said...

Excellent analysis. The progliberal view of civil liberties is a collective view, while the libertarian/clasliberal view is an individual view, and that is where the huge difference lies. Progliberals tend to overlook the obvious fact that if a right belongs to a collective group, then it belongs to all of the individual members of that group as well (from where it originates), but the opposite does not necessarily hold, either (a "corporation" is NOT a "person", or has the rights of a "person", for example).

That's one of the main reasons progliberal groups like the ACLU don;t support RKBA and ED reform--they don't see, or refuse to see or accept, the individual angle.

Me, I tend to reject group rights in general. But that's just me.