In a comment on my thread on the O’Reilly-Donahue deathmatch, rishi gajria says:
What surprises me the most however is Andrew Sullivan’s (I came via his website) assertion that you are a liberatarian. I have yet to get a sense of that in your posts.
Andrew, who very kindly mentioned my blog at andrewsullivan.com, does call me a libertarian. And I do have libertarian affiliations, with Reason magazine and with the Cato Institute. It’s a label that fits me better than “conservative” or “liberal.” But what do labels mean, anyway? Here’s what I say in the intro to my website:
One of my goals in my writing is to cut through left/right stereotypes and focus
on the issues from an independent perspective. My politics can be described as libertarian/conservative — leaning more libertarian on some issues and more conservative on others.
I am a strong believer in individual rights and limited government. I believe in judging people as individuals, not on the basis of membership in a group. I believe that reality trumps ideology, left or right. I believe Western democracy, flawed through it is, is worth defending. Perhaps most important, I believe that it should
be possible for honest and intelligent people to disagree on political issues and respect each other.
What does this mean with regard to specific political issues? I believe that generally, more markets and less government interference is good, though I’m willing to be persuaded by evidence that this is not so in specific cases. (I still believe that the failure to reform Social Security and to move toward partial privatization is going to bite us in the butt someday, perhaps sooner rather than later.) I believe in a safety net, but I also think that government programs have a way of degenerating all too easily into morale- and responsibility-sapping entitlements. I dislike corporate welfare as much as any other kind. I believe the government should stay out of adult men and women’s consensual sexual relationships, reading and viewing choices, and end-of-life care decisions. I oppose race and sex discrimination even when it comes in the guise of “affirmative action,” and attempts to regulate speech in the academy in the name of protecting “the oppressed.” I dislike right-moralism about sex and left-wing moralism about greed (though I don’t think that either unbridled sexuality or unbridled greed is a good thing). I don’t believe that the government should impose religious values on citizens, or offiically favor religion over irreligion. I think this principle should also extend to secular left-wing religions such as “Earth first” environmentalism or radical feminism.
As for foreign policy: unlike many libertarians, I was a strong proponent of U.S. military strength during the Cold War, and today I strongly believe in the importance of the War on Terror. I think the Islamofascists are not a movement with legitimate grievances but the enemy of modern democracy and civilization. As for the war in Iraq: I have very mixed feelings about it. I believe we were drawn into the war through misinformation; I think it has been badly conducted, and has been a true disaster in some respects (the credible reports of torture condoned by superiors are particularly distressing). But I cannot, in good faith, say at this point that it was wrong to topple one of the most brutal entrenched dictatorships in the Middle East, and create at least the possibility of a democracy (however imperfect by our standards). I think we must hold the administration accountable for the conduct of this war, and I would like to see an exit strategy that would allow us to withdraw without letting Iraq fall into the terrorists’ hands. But I reject many of the arguments of the antiwar movement — for instance, that freedom cannot be exported by means of war. (Tell that to the Germans and the Japanese. Or to African-Americans.)
So, what does all this make me? A libertarian? A classical liberal? A libertarian-conservative? A maverick? I’m not sure. To tell the truth, I haven’t yet found a label I’d be fully comfortable wearing. And maybe that’s just as well, because to me, ideas matter far more than labels.