David R. Henderson  

David Gordon Responds

Reflections on The Name of ... Economics Everywhere...

In a comment on my recent post on the debate between Nick Gillespie/Matt Welch and David Gordon, I challenged David Gordon to give instances where Gillespie and Welch have claimed that one must have certain tastes or attitudes in order to be libertarian. Recall that that was Gordon's original charge.

In a comment responding to my comment, David gives what I would guess is his best shot. Read the comment for yourself.

Notice that his first two paragraphs are quotes in which Gillespie and Welch appear to be talking about their own tastes and values. There is no evidence in those quotes that they think people who don't share their particular tastes or values are somehow less libertarian.

In the third paragraph is their empirical claim that more mixing of races and of various other categories makes it harder for some to impose on others. That may be true or false--I think it's true--but there is no evidence in that quote that people who think it's false are less libertarian.

So my original claim--so far, at least--stands. In nothing that David Gordon has quoted is there any sign that his claim about Gillespie and Welch is correct.

David does make one good point, though, not in response to me, but in response to Bryan. Bryan writes in both of his posts (here and here) as if he thinks someone who doesn't share someone else's tastes or who dislikes someone else's tastes hates that person or wants that person to disappear. David Gordon answers elegantly, "But there is a great deal of space between approval and hatred, and there is nothing incongruous in thinking that libertarians can occupy various points within that space."

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COMMENTS (2 to date)
David Gordon writes:

Thanks---I see more clearly what you were asking me. G and W say, "Though there are a thousand different intralibertarian debates over what qualifies one to claim the L-word, for the purposes of our discussion here (and elsewhere) there will be no dogmatic checklist of qualifying policy preferences. Rather, we see libertarianism as more of a tendency: Does a particular person, politician, policy, social development, or technology increase the scope of individual freedom and expression? If so, then it deserves to be considered libertarian." (pp.52-3)This strongly suggests to me that they consider libertarianism to be more than a political philosophy: it is part of a more general movement toward personal freedom.

Also, consider what Matt Welch says, and does not say, in his response to me. He says, "I basically take the [Kerry] Howley view that freedom is about more than just the absence of government". He does not say, "I personally think that the increased acceptance of interracial marriage is a good thing, because it has helped end anti-libertarian laws that forbid such marriages. But if you don't like interracial marriage, all right; you can be just as good a libertarian if you don't share my social preferences." (If it is of any interest,by the way, I don't myself dislike interracial marriage.) It seems to me clear that when G and W advance as part of the "simplest understanding" of libertarianism that "tolerance is the most important social value", (p.34) they mean much more than that one ought not to interfere forcibly with other people's behavior.

On one matter, I think my emphasis was misplaced. The key issue I take to be that they have an overly extended conception of libertarianism. But it doesn't follow, if I am right, that they would say that someone who doesn't meet all the terms of their definition doesn't count as a libertarian at all. That is a separate issue, and arises even on the more narrow definition that I favor.

Finally, though I appreciate your kind remarks about my response to Bryan, I doubt that he thinks that people who dislike other people's tastes hate those people or want them to disappear

David Gordon writes:

Here is a much less wordy way to see the problem with the view of G and W that you suggest isn't excluded by the evidence. On the interpretation you suggest, their view is, or at least might be for all that I have claimed to the contrary, that they have personal tastes and preferences and empirical claims about what promotes less government intervention, but one can reject these tastes and claims and still count as no less a libertarian. If this is their view, what is the philosophical dispute between them and me to which Welch refers in his response? It can't be that I don't share their tastes, preferences, and empirical hypotheses, because I didn't advance any opinions of my own about these in my review.

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