A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Liberaltariansim and Women

This cosmopolitan word that suggests a new alliance between leftists and libertarians has been floating around the libertarian blogosphere for the last few months (or since we all realized that the Democrats were going to clean up in the 2008 elections). Robin Hanson recently suggested that the reason this alliance won’t work is because the standard libetarian “heroes” more closely resemble those of conservatives rather than those of liberals:

Libertarians support low taxes because individuals should be free to choose how their money is spent, rather than being forced to accept collective choices.  Conservatives support low taxes so that those who have worked hard for their money can show off the fruits of their labor and earn full respect for it.

Libertarians support gay marriage because individuals should be free to have whatever consenting relations they want.  Liberals support gay marriage because they want us all to officially respect gays as much as straights; gay activists have earned their group more respect.

It seems to me that libertarian self-made heroes are more similar to conservative community pillars than to liberal subgroup activists.  Self-made men are mostly not made in the bedroom; their glory shows more in their income than in their subgroup identity.

An interesting theory, to be sure, but it raised a question for me: what about the heroines of libertariansim?

Isn’t the libertarian movement already dominated by men? The “self-made man” archetype seems pretty ingrained, across cultures even, and isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, I can’t think of many male American heroes who weren’t of the self-made ilk. And while the modern leftist movement may share roots with the  feminist movement, women have pretty much caught up to men in the most salient aspects of equality* (yes, I know, we’re not at “perfect equality,” but we’ve come a damn long way in the last century. Think of it like a logarithmic curve; we’re past the steep “knee of the curve” and are now on the gradual incline towards greater equality).

The libertariat would do well to attract more women, and “Liberaltarianism” is the perfect way to do this (confession: I’m a former liberal-turned-libertarian woman, so I’m either biased, or I have insight). Associating with stuffy church-y conservatives, philosophically-radical anarchocapitalists, or back-woods Ron Paul-tards isn’t going to score any points with modern, educated women. On the other hand, carrying the banner for free speech, religious freedom, gay rights (there’s definitely an over-representation of gay men in the movement), etc. while also carrying the message that the free market is the greatest humanitarian tool we have for helping the poor seems like a viable PR strategy.

Women are more educated than ever before. They are perfectly capable of understanding basic economic principles like the gains from trade, shortages and surpluses, and dead-weight losses. A compassionate woman who believes in free speech and individual liberty, and who is also educated enough to understand the role that market mechanisms play in wealth creation could be the new face of libertariansim. This is what “compassionate conservatism” should have been in the first place: fiscally conservative and socially tolerant.

Imagine if Hilary Clinton adhered to the economic theory of the Chicago school. She could have bitch-slapped (no pun intended) Barack Obama back to Chicago early in the primaries, and still beat the geezer-ly McCain on social issues. Oh, if only…

*Let’s not forget that here in the west, we’re leagues ahead of women in other parts of the world: we’re not stoned to death for being accused adultery, we can support ourselves if we need to leave a bad or abusive marriage, and we, uh, still have our clitorises.

Filed under: Economics, Politics, , , ,

4 Responses

  1. TD says:

    Please tell me you’re trying to launch a new catch-word that you’ve copyrighted and are trying to make a few bucks. I can tip my cap to that. Otherwise this kind of thing turns the stomach of most libertarians.

    We’d love to have more women on board and the smarter the better but “liberaltarianism” smells of the same non-speak that turned taxes into “contributions”, terrorist attacks into “overseas contingency operations”, and illegal aliens into “undocumented workers”. Please, Libby, words mean things!

    And many modern, educated women are “churchy conservatives”, “anarchocapitalists”, and “back-woods Ron Paul tards”. And we’re happy to have them, too!

  2. angela says:

    Lbby, you are on to something. I came from the same route. I think there’s definately a way to reach out to “liberaltarians” on the basic ideas of liberty and helping the poor using the concepts of the market. And as to the previous comment…yes words do mean things, and I’m personally offended everytime someone calls me a conservative after I tell them I’m a libertarian. There has to be an overhaul of the word.

  3. Libby says:

    I agree, the word “liberaltarian” is stupid, but the idea has value. Robin Hanson’s theory on why “liberaltarianism” will fail spoke about male archetypal heroes, leaving out the female perspective (presuming there’s only one – obvi there isn’t) altogether. As women have become more politically franchised in the last few decades, I merely suggest that educated female liberals could be tapped for membership into our cool VIP party. We’ve got a lot of what they want: we stand for personal freedom, privacy, gay rights, more local control over education, a non-aggressive foreign policy, etc. Plus, we’re the perfect mix of cosmopolitan and slightly radical. Chicks totally dig that. 😉

    Ftr, by “churchy conservatives” I meant activist fundamentalists, by “anarchocapitalists” I meant politically radical (even if only philosophically), and by “back-woods Paultards” I meant… well, back-woods Paultards.

    The Cato Institute has suggested the term “market liberal” (it’s somewhere on their “About” page), which I like, but may be counterproductive, given the intellectual backlash against free markets in the wake of the 2008 financial shitstorm.

    Try calling yourself a “libertine” instead. Then you certainly won’t be mistaken for a conservative. ;P

  4. Evan Lisull says:

    “An interesting theory, to be sure, but it raised a question for me: what about the heroines of libertariansim?”

    Dagny Taggart? Hazel Stone? Theodora Nathan? Virginia Postrel? Camille Paglia (granted, a stretch)? It’s often argued that libertarianism is a rich white man’s philosophy, but I’d like to see some numbers that control for socioeconomic status. I suspect that libertarianism is more prevalent among the wealthy and educated than other sectors, which accounts for a good deal of the disparity.

    Social tolerance cuts both ways – and to be frank, writing off a good portion of the libertarian-leaning constituency as hicks doesn’t do it. The way to bridge the gap between Crunchy Cons and Libertarians is via federalism, an agreed consensus that whatever your social views, they should not be imposed on a federal level, period – whether it be a ban on abortion or a forced implementation of gay marriage. I have less of a problem with dry counties than I do the Controlled Substances Act.

    Once I see those on the left agitating for greater local control and and increased states’ rights, I’ll give liberaltarianism a second look. For now, though, the Left’s adulatory stance towards the federal beast makes me leery.

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