Saturday, December 30, 2006

Althouse Vs. Libertarians

Ann Althouse couldn't handle being trapped in a conference with true-believing Libertarians. To her horror, she found at that Liberty Fund Conference in Chicago that Libertarians don't share her ideas on civil rights. Libertarians don't believe in government coercion against private businesses that discriminate. That makes them racists! Yes, the Libertarians said they would support boycotts and similar private voluntary actions against discrimination, but Althouse knows better. They wouldn't denounce racism the way she wanted to. Here's her account of the cruel attitude Libertarians had toward her at that conference:

"They utterly failed to respond to my need that they show that they cared about the terrible history of racism in the United States and the reality of human suffering. I wish you could see a videotape of the insolent attitude they displayed. They made it utterly clear over the course of two hours that they had no intention of showing any concern for what I cared about."

So because of this Libertarian indifference to what she cared about, this failure to respond to her need, Althouse walked out of the conference in tears. Of course, the Libertarians, including Ron Bailey of Reason magazine, told a somewhat different story.

Not having been there, I can't say whether Bailey was "grumpy" to her, or a young female Libertarian was smirking at Althouse. But I'm astonished by Althouse's astonishment about Libertarians. I learned about Libertarianism while at San Diego State University a quarter-century ago. It wasn't difficult: Libertarians don't keep their inner doctrines secret. And as their critics will say, Libertarians aren't exactly shy about spreading their gospel. (I'm still a Libertarian, although a bit more careful not to annoy people with evangelizing).

Today, you don't even need to talk to an actual Libertarian (although it would help). You can just go to the Web and learn all about Libertarianism.

Althouse is a law professor and blogger who speaks out on political issues all the time. She's supposed to be well-read. How could she not have known about these well-propagated Libertarian beliefs? My guess is that Althouse's personal circle is rather limited by her academic milieu in Madison, Wisconsin, as Althouse appears to admit.

I visited Madison a few years ago, and loved the city, the food and drinking from a "boot" of beer at a funky bar. It's also a bustling college town. One thing that the academic environment is supposed to offer is a wide range of exposure to different ways of thinking and points of view. I certainly encountered that at SDSU, where I not only met Libertarians, but College Republicans, Democrats, socialists, and a couple of Communist groups. That was 25 years ago. Could the University of Wisconsin - Madison be less open to political diversity? Of course not. Liberterians can be found in Madison, perhaps on the UW faculty, and certainly among her students. Althouse didn't have to travel to Chicago to get her tearful awakening about those heartless Libertarians.

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