Democrats and Republicans Oppose Liberty

Tyler Cowen passes along a “study” by Daniel Klein and Jason Briggeman which “finds” that conservative magazines are anti-liberty:

Conservatives say they are for small government and individual liberty, but a content analysis of leading conservative magazines shows that most have preponderantly failed to take pro-liberty positions on sex, gambling, and drugs. Besides many anti-liberty commissions, the magazines may be criticized for anti-liberty omission—that is, failing to oppose anti-liberty policies. Magazines investigated include National Review, The Weekly Standard, The American Enterprise, and The American Spectator. We find that National Review has had the strongest record on liberty on the issues treated, while the others have preponderantly failed to be pro-liberty or have even been anti-liberty.

Matt Yglesias piles on:

On the other hand, conservative do take the freedom of business enterprises to have a negative impact on the quality of the air you breath, the quality of the water you drink, and the stability of the climate you live in very seriously. They’re also pretty keen on the freedom of employers to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. These are important freedoms to many Americans.

Meanwhile, of course, liberal magazines like The American Prospect, Washington Monthly, and Mother Jones are all about teh freedom.  Unless we’re talking about, say, gun ownership, private property rights, school choice, free expression on radio, and a host of other issues where the left is anti-progress and anti-liberty.

Of course, neither conservatives nor liberals would couch their policy preferences in terms of limiting freedom but rather in terms of protecting some higher value.  But if your solution to a problem is “There Oughta Be a Law,” then you’re against liberty in that instance almost by definition.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dantheman says:

    BREAKING — Neither Democrats nor Republicans follow Libertarian positions on all issues. Film at 11.

  2. Raoul says:

    This is delusional: “Unless we’re talking about, say, gun ownership, private property rights, school choice, free expression on radio.” Let’s take the issues:
    Gun ownership and radio- who is advocting what? The USSC ruled pretty squarely on 2d amendment rights- does one argue that reasonable licensing provisions is anti-liberty? Radio-I supposed this refers to the Fairness Doctrine- and again the issue is buried (I think automation had something to do with that).
    School choice? The way I read this is that some individuals want to use my tax dollars to pay for their Islamist or Protestant or Catholic education- choice it ain’t.
    Property rights- here I am not sure what this means- does one claim the right to shoot the last of an endangered species because the animal is in his or her property? (Amazingly two sitting Supreme Court judges do). Does one claim the right to rent as many rooms in their household to as many strangers as the want? What specific property rights are we talking about? What’s next? Are we going to argue for separate but equal laws or foul mouthing the airwaves? In truth, you did not mention any real contemporary issues and the comment is antidiluvian and embarrasing.

  3. It’s surprising that Young Mr. Yglesias hasn’t begun advocating reeducation camps for Conservatives. They seem like dreadful people.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    Gun ownership and radio- who is advocting what? The USSC ruled pretty squarely on 2d amendment rights- does one argue that reasonable licensing provisions is anti-liberty?

    Strictly speaking, yes. Licensing reduces people’s set of choices. If you are a utilitarian you could make some sort of “greater good” argument, but it is anti-liberty.

    School choice? The way I read this is that some individuals want to use my tax dollars to pay for their Islamist or Protestant or Catholic education- choice it ain’t.

    Yes it is choice, it is just a choice you disagree with.

    Property rights- here I am not sure what this means-

    Color me shocked that Raoul doesn’t grasp the concept of private property and the right to do with it as one pleases.

    In short, as soon as you start passing laws, regulations, etc. you are reducing liberty. You can argue it is an issue of trade-offs, but to try and pretend your side is the true champions of liberty when it clearly not the case is laughable.

    I’d say that the only group who could claim to be true champions of liberty are the anarcho-capitalists. Even most libertarians acknowledge that there should be some form of government and hence some reduction in liberties.

  5. sam says:

    I’d say that the only group who could claim to be true champions of liberty are the anarcho-capitalists.

    I agree with that. Of course, the AC society would resemble something like Deadwood. Not sure any of us would like to live there.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    I agree with that. Of course, the AC society would resemble something like Deadwood. Not sure any of us would like to live there.

    I dunno, the Old West wasn’t as bad as fictional television accounts make it out to be, IMO.

  7. sam says:

    I dunno, the Old West wasn’t as bad as fictional television accounts make it out to be, IMO.

    Yeah, but was it anarcho-capitalist like Deadwood?

  8. sam says:

    As an aside, I thought Deadwood was the greatest television I’d ever seen–and I’ve been watching TV since the Dumont network was around. Whatever possessed HBO to drop it in favor of John from Effing Cincinatti is something I’ll never understand.

  9. markm says:

    Meanwhile, of course, liberal magazines like The American Prospect, Washington Monthly, and Mother Jones are all about teh freedom.

    hahahah…teh freedom.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    I think James is right to put “study” in quotes.

    Pro-liberalization of sex according to the study is a reflection on the “right to pornography.” Not only does porn appear to be a decreasing topic of interest in conservative magazines since 2001, the impression is that the concern focuses on shielding children from porn.

    The issue of gambling appears to be tied up with a double standard on how conservative magazines view state-run gambling versus private gambling.

    On drugs, the study finds that National Review has moved towards pro-liberalization views, American Spectator has been pretty even, while AE and Weekly Standard have tended towards supporting drug prohibition. Like porn, this issue is discussed less since 2001.

    All in all, the “study” dings the magazines for not only their positions, but failing to take up these causes regularly. I think that’s unfair; many of these issues have become less relevant as culture and technology has changed. Also, the Conservative Movement, particularly mags like Weekly Standard, has been more identified with “War on Terror” issues since 9/11.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    Amusing bit: The “study” rates American Spectator as having an evenly mixed record on drug liberalization, but its most recent substantive article was considered anti-liberalization. That piece was written by Libertarian Bob Barr.

  12. Franklin says:

    What I get out of all of this is: don’t claim the other side is against freedom.

  13. sam, I think the producer had some issues which led him or HBO to stop. I can’t recall the exact story but it wasn’t stopped because people weren’t watching.

    FWIW, I’m not sure that capitalism, whether anarchic or otherwise is a correct description of what existed in Deadwood. Without splitting too many hairs, capitalist systems usually require functioning courts, which just didn’t exist for Deadwood. Deadwood certainly was anarchic, but capitalistic? Not so much. The absence of a government to impose socialism or any other statism cannot be taken to mean that the default system is therefore capitalistic.

  14. tom p says:

    Gun ownership and radio- who is advocting what? The USSC ruled pretty squarely on 2d amendment rights- does one argue that reasonable licensing provisions is anti-liberty?

    Strictly speaking, yes. Licensing reduces people’s set of choices. If you are a utilitarian you could make some sort of “greater good” argument, but it is anti-liberty.

    Steve, a point of clarification: Surely you aren’t arguing that mentally disturbed persons and those convicted of violent felonies should retain these rights?

    School choice? The way I read this is that some individuals want to use my tax dollars to pay for their Islamist or Protestant or Catholic education- choice it ain’t.

    Yes it is choice, it is just a choice you disagree with.

    Again, Surely you are not arguing that we, the American people, should underwrite other peoples choices? (I admit, there is a fine line here… We, the American people, have agreed to underwrite the education of all our children. Does that mean we agree to underwrite their religous education?)

    Property rights- here I am not sure what this means-

    Color me shocked that Raoul doesn’t grasp the concept of private property and the right to do with it as one pleases.

    Property Rights are a difficult situation. There are many contrary principles at play and Gov’t comes in many sizes. I am presently involved in a situation where a land owner I am associated with had 1 & 1/2 acres taken from them by the County Road Commission (totally in contravention of all existing law, there was no condemnation proceeding, they just took it) but at the same point, nobody “owns” an endangered species.

    You can argue it is an issue of trade-offs, but to try and pretend your side is the true champions of liberty when it clearly not the case is laughable.

    Steve, there are always trade-offs. I am about to buy some land in Arkansas (assuming I get a job again soon), if one of my neighbors decides to clear cut their property, and that negatively impacts my property thru run-off…. who’s property rights trumps who’s?

  15. Steve Verdon says:

    Yeah, but was it anarcho-capitalist like Deadwood?

    Some anarcho-capitalists have argued it was.

    tom p.,

    Steve, a point of clarification: Surely you aren’t arguing that mentally disturbed persons and those convicted of violent felonies should retain these rights?

    No, but it is a reduction in liberty. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, basically.

    Again, Surely you are not arguing that we, the American people, should underwrite other peoples choices?

    We already do that to a large extent. We underwrite the decision to have children by making those who don’t have children pay to help educate them as well as help cloth, feed, and house them. Those who pay for them are not invovled in issues like how to discipline said children, what views to instill in them, and so forth. Why is religion worthy of being singled out?

    Property Rights are a difficult situation.

    I know, you must understand I’m poking fun at Raoul who wants to have it both ways. He wants to be a pro-liberty person while at the same time restricting liberties.

    Steve, there are always trade-offs.

    Yes I know, my point is similar to Franklin’s but actually turned upside down. Both sides tend to be anti-liberty at least in some form or another. To point the finger at the other team while excusing one’s own side from their anti-liberty views marks one as not being truely honest about the situation.

    Case in point: Raoul.

  16. tom p says:

    No, but it is a reduction in liberty. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, basically.

    I thought so…

    Why is religion worthy of being singled out?

    Perhaps, because it is specifically singled out within the constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” or, but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
    my point here is that the founders thought it was important.

    I know, you must understand I’m poking fun at Raoul who wants to have it both ways.

    Again, I thought so…

    Steve, there are always trade-offs.

    Yes I know, my point is similar to Franklin’s but actually turned upside down. Both sides tend to be anti-liberty at least in some form or another.

    And again, I thought so… but here we come to the nut of the problem… Who’s right’s trump who’s?

  17. Joe R. says:

    Why is religion worthy of being singled out?

    Perhaps, because it is specifically singled out within the constitution

    1) Sending children to a religion-affiliated school in no way “make[s] [a] law respecting an establishment of religion”. You wouldn’t be forced to adhere to it, or forfeit any privileges, would you? Other than those tax dollars that you’re already forfeiting, of course. In other words, nothing would change.

    2) What does the constitution have to do with defining liberty? Slavery was constitutional. Jim Crow was constitutional, for a while. Preventing women from voting was constitutional. The draft was (is?) constitutional.

    Steve’s point is that limiting school choice limits liberty. Also, having non-parents pay for education limits liberty. Just because you think they’re good ideas doesn’t change that.

    Signed,
    OTB’s unofficial anarcho-capitalist