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Damned with faint praise

January 20, 2008

Re "Libertarians' likable lunacy," Opinion, Jan. 12

Michael Kinsley's examination of libertarianism damns it with faint praise while characterizing it with the usual wackiness. The same smug patronization was evident at the Republican presidential debates, where candidates treated Ron Paul as if he were a loon allowed onto the pond with the swans. Such condescension is symptomatic of how far America has drifted from its founding principals of individual freedom and minimal government. Thankfully, Jefferson, Madison and the other founding fathers were just loony enough.

Kinsley's argument that "externalities" justify government's restrictions on personal freedom ignores the evidence that once government is allowed to decide what is best for you, it never stops doing so. One price of freedom is that people will make personal choices that you may not like. They may pursue their idea of happiness in a manner with which you disagree.

Occasionally, that might cause you some inconvenient externalities, but that is a small price to pay.

Randy Alcorn

Santa Barbara

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As a person with a libertarian bent, I found Kinsley's article refreshing. When it comes to such dramatic rights as the right to die, I agree with Kinsley that libertarians are on much firmer ground.

But he displays a typical liberal's arrogance when he assumes that the comfort gained by driving without a seat belt can't match the societal concerns of having to watch worse accidents, suffer the traffic and possibly foot the hospital bills.

But even these questions should be debated rather than assumed. Perhaps people rarely have to watch worse accidents, suffer worse traffic or cover medical costs. Perhaps those people with good driving records and proper insurance should have the right not to wear seat belts.

It is not surprising to find that Kinsley adheres to that liberal tenet that often seeks to rob the rights of the good citizen to prevent abuse by a small minority.

Lloyd Eric Cotsen

Los Angeles

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