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libertarians and women


Will Wilkinson approvingly directs me to Jason Kuznicki’s half-hearted defense of Peter Thiel’s unfortunate musings about the tragic consequences of women’s suffrage. Kuznicki basically admits that by publishing Thiel CATO was essentially trolling their own magazine:

This issue of Cato Unbound was motivated solely by my desire to see one particularly radical branch of libertarianism publicly confront its critics. I wanted to see how well it could hold up. Whether it stood or fell, the issue would have served its purpose.

But even after this admission, he offers a narrow defense of Thiel’s essay:

Yet Thiel’s claim is not that women should be denied the vote. He writes only that women have tended to favor policies and candidates he opposes, and which he thinks are bad for the country. This seems — to my mind at least — regrettable, but also generally true. Thiel might have chosen his words more carefully, but it’s still quite a logical leap from what he actually wrote to demanding the end of women’s suffrage.

This defense-through-exceedingly-narrow-reading technique is obviously kind of silly; it’s rather hard to imagine, as a thought experiment, Wilkinson and Kuznicki defending a similar column in which the statist voting habits of African-Americans are grounds for a jeremiad about the emancipation proclamation (leave that for Byron York!). But even as a narrow defense, it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Thinking as a libertarian for a moment, it seems to me one could rather easily construct a model of male policy preferences and voting tendencies that are hostile to libertarianism and libertarian outcomes. Which, for example, has contributed more to the growth of the oppressive power of the state–wars or welfare benefits? And which gender is easier to sucker into supporting the life-and-liberty destroying miracle gro-for-the-state practice we call war?

Furthermore, men are more likely to support anti-liberty socially conservative policy initiatives and goals than women. But you could play this game with any major voting bloc in the United States, becuase although many people are enamored with libertarian logic and/or rhetoric from time to time, at the end of the day they’re not particularly libertarian at all. It’s not that Thiel is wrong, it’s that his singling out of women is utterly arbitary, and his column could be repeated for any other group. Under such circumstances, why does Thiel focus on women? I can think of a few possible answers, and none of them speak particularly well of Thiel.

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