Sunday, July 11, 2004

More Things a Libertarian Can Believe In

In two earlier posts (here and here), I staked out a number of positions on foreign and defense policy that are not au courant in libertarian circles. Here are some possibly heterodox positions on other matters:

• Sure punishment for crime, administered swiftly and evenhandedly, fosters mutual trust in a socially fragmented society. The only necessary justification for capital punishment, therefore, is that it has broad support.

• Religious scruples aside, it's possible that many pro-life advocates see abortion as a step down the slippery slope toward legalized, involuntary euthanasia. And perhaps they're right.

• Religious scruples aside, it's possible that many opponents of gay marriage see it as step toward undermining the importance of the traditional nuclear family, which -- in spite of its many problems -- remains a cornerstone of societal stability. And perhaps the opponents are right, at least insofar as the proponents of gay marriage tend to demean heterosexual marriage. The issue would be far less salient if the state would go out of the marriage business and let society sort itself out.

• Opposing Bush because he's a "big spender" or "soft on civil liberties" or a "war-monger" or a "protectionist" makes no sense when his opponent is a bigger spender, a proponent of the regulatory state, a knee-jerk multilateralist, and a candidate of the labor-union party.

• Economists who advocate free-market capitalism because of its economic efficiency are often mistaken for libertarians. (Some of them are, some of them aren't, and some of them -- being too "rational" for such ethereal concerns -- don't care whether they are or aren't.) But libertarianism is more than a belief in the superiority of free-market capitalism over other economic systems. It is a belief in political freedom, that is, freedom from the shackles of the state in matters intellectual, religious, social, and -- yes -- economic. Political freedom offers the best assurance of free markets and secure property rights, as long as the political system prevents encroachments on markets and property rights.

• Environmentalism is, in part, a defense of property rights. Environmentalism often goes beyond a defense of property rights into pure silliness (e.g., no species should ever die, no tree should ever be cut down). There is, however, a positive case to be made for certain forms of environmentalism. Libertarians should advance a positive version of environmentalism and tone down their negative rhetoric about environmental silliness.