Friday, September 02, 2011

Paul and Johnson and Cafeteria Libertarianism

I had been meaning to write a comment on the competing libertarianisms  of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, following up on the American Conservative's careful profile of the two.  Now I also have Will Wilkinson's far more entertaining bitch-slap of Paul in the New Republic (and don't overlook the excellent bit of contextualizing over at Reason).  I am tempted to dismiss Wilkinson with my favorite canard about how see!  Nobody's a libertarian!  It's all a thicket of value choices!  I could but those who know that don't need me to remind them, and those who don't are unlikely to be persuaded by a random jibe.  And Wilkinson certainly does an admirable job of just how crude and unsophisticated Paul's self-concept can be (even if he fails to notice how much this kind of criticism will inevitably also fall on himself).   And why Paul (no matter what they say at Reason) is not likely to appeal to beltway libertarians than Obama (currently) appeals to beltway liberals.

Unless I missed something, Wilkinson doesn't mention Johnson (although he gets a walk-on secondary role at Reason).  But it brings me back to the point I intended to make a few days ago.  Push comes to shove, Johnson is far more likely to appeal to sophisticated, eastern, beltway libertarians than Paul with his (as a commentator called it) paleo-paleo-conservatism.  It's partly a matter of issues (Johnson is--or has been--soft on immigration and trade, soft on drugs, at least semi-sometimes-pro-choice). But it's more a matter of style: Johnson's libertarianism, as the AC observes, is more pragmatic, more instrumental.

Which is, I suspect, about the only reason that Johnson's name even persists in the discussion.  So far as I can tell, he is about the only candidate in the race with less traction than Jon Huntsman (another who, I suspect, could muster support in the beltway even if nowhere else).  No wonder, then, that Wilkinson neglected to mention him.

1 comment:

dilbert dogbert said...

How did you pass up the opportunity to quote the two following passages?:
1.) "...libertarianism is a morally dubious ideology of privilege poorly disguised as a doctrine of liberation"...
"...the widespread suspicion that theirs is a uselessly abstract ideology of privilege for socially obtuse adolescent white guys.