They're said to only care about themselves. So why do they toil for other people's freedom?
With the U.S. waging multiple wars, the federal government bigger in size and scope than ever before, and civil liberties under unprecedented attack from the surveillance state, Stephen Metcalf has written a jeremiad against libertarianism, which he singles out as a force that ails America. It isn't that his whole critique is without merit. My own "pragmatic libertarian" sensibility is offended by some excesses he mentions. But there is a lot more wrong with his argument than right.
I'll address just one small part of it. He writes, as an aside, that libertarianism is the same thing as caring for nothing beyond one's own "naked self-interest." Let's devise an empirical test to see if this accurately characterizes the ideology. Over at Reason, America's leading libertarian magazine, I see that the story atop the Web site asks, "Why is the government doing so little to end sexual assault in prisons?" It's part of their July issue, dedicated to the criminal justice system, which it labels America's "national disgrace." On Reason's June cover is Sen. Rand Paul, who has recently tried to end America's war in Libya and to add civil liberties protections to the Patriot Act. The magazine's May cover story is about teachers' unions as an impediment to reform of public schools.