Libertarians and Torture
Marty Lederman homes in on a strange silence these past few years in the commments section from this Volokh post:
The odd thing is figuring out why many of the Volokh Conspiracy bloggers have not been interested in becoming more informed about these questions, and about this legislative intiative -- not because they are bloggers or even legal bloggers (heaven knows we don't want every legal blog to pretend to be expert in such questions), but because many of them are committed libertarian bloggers who are obviously impassioned and informed about many other arrogations of state power and threats to individual liberty.
This bill, and all of the related issues surrounding torture and unchecked executive authority (whether constitutional or, now, statutory), implicate traditional libertarian concerns about as much as anything I can recall in my lifetime. Which is why, for instance, Andrew Sullivan has been so committed and eloquent on these matters. Andrew and I certainly do not share a common worldview on many important issues of the day, but these threats and questions have fallen smack dab at the intersection of our liberal and libertarian commitments.
Eugene has, in fact, not been silent on these matters. For several years before Hamdan was decided, he wrote posts in support of torture (recall the Iranian public torture example), in favor of extensive delegations of authority to the Executive in wartime, and against extending any statutory or constitutional rights to aliens detained in war...
If I didn't know better, I would have expected Eugene and other professed libertarians and skeptics of state power to have been front and center in the opposition to torture, executive aggrandizement, elimination of checks and balances, a vast detention power, etc. I regret that they haven't been. But more to the point, I wonder why they get far more exercised about, e.g., fairly trivial proposed gun regulations than they do about the profound challenges and questions raised by this set of issues. From where I sit, it sure looks like a case of fiddling while Rome burns.
Just to be clear: I do not think that Eugene, et al., are insincere when it comes to their libertarian impulses and commitments. I have every reason to believe they are heartfelt, not pretextual. Eugene and other libertarians at the VC and analogous sites are not typically party-line advocates willing to shill for whatever will advance the interests of the Republican Party or President Bush. This site is obviously (and thankfully) quite different from Power Line or LGF. Which is perhaps why we haven't seen much in the way of cheerleading here lately for torture or unbridled executive power.
But no apparent concern for it, either? What's the explanation?
One might ask the same of Glenn Reynolds, but I fear his cooptation by the administration is pretty near complete.