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Nat Hentoff Joins the Libertarian Cato Institute as a Senior Fellow:

Hentoff was let go by the Village Voice during its recent staff cuts. As the Cato press release report notes,

In 1980, [Hentoff] was awarded an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for his coverage of the law and criminal justice in his columns. In 1983, the American Library Association awarded him the Imroth Award for Intellectual Freedom. In 1995, he received the National Press Foundation Award for Distinguished Contributions to Journalism, and in 1999, he was a Pulitzer finalist for commentary. Hentoff has authored many books, including Living the Bill of Rights: How to be an Authentic American and Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee....

He serves on the Board of Advisors of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (F.I.R.E.) and is on the steering committee of the Reporters' Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

George Lyon (mail):
VV's loss is Cato's gain.
2.5.2009 2:56pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I greatly respect Hentoff's intellectual integrity--but I was under the distinct impression that he was a liberal, not a libertarian. (Liberal in the 1950s or 1960s sense--not in the current "progressive without the guts to admit it" sense.)
2.5.2009 3:50pm
A Law Dawg:
Good for Cato.
2.5.2009 3:50pm
A Law Dawg:
Liberal in the 1950s or 1960s sense--not in the current "progressive without the guts to admit it" sense.


No no! Liberals hide behind the talisman of progressivism!
2.5.2009 3:51pm
neurodoc:
Is being vehemently against abortion ("pro-life," if you will), decidedly not "pro-choice," as IIRC Hentoff was, "libertarian"? (Do I remember incorrectly about Hentoff's record in this regard?)

Btw, speaking of abortion as it does or doesn't comport with libertarian values, where does Ron Paul, that standard bearer of the libertarian movement, stand on abortion? I ask out of idle curiosity, since I am already persuaded in my opposition to Paul on so much else.
2.5.2009 4:00pm
Alexia:
Paul is a Christian Ob/Gyn, and he tells a story about making a decision about abortion when he was in his residency. Something about putting a live baby in a garbage can made him personally pro-life. As a politician, he believes it should be left up to the states, but I assume he would support a pro-life amendment without hesitation.

Libertarians are generally split on the issue, I have found.
2.5.2009 4:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
neuro.
I was not aware that Hentoff was pro-life. I know he got really annoyed at free-speech limitations applied to pro-lifers, but thought that was his free-speech near-absolutism.
2.5.2009 4:11pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Neurodoc: First, I'm pretty sure that Hentoff has never billed himself as a thoroughgoing libertarian.

Second, libertarianism doesn't give a definitive answer on abortion rights, just as it doesn't give a definitive answer on animal rights. My sense is that most libertarians are big on the rights of living humans, and not so much on the rights of fetuses or non-human animals; but that's a cultural matter, not one of logical consistency, it seems to me.

Doubtless many libertarians, both pro-life and pro-choice, have philosophical arguments for why they think rights vest at birth, or at viability, or at conception, or whenever else, and whether the rights should be enjoyed (in one form or another) by humans, or by mammals, or some other category. But my experience has been that all such arguments can coexist with other libertarian principles, because they deal with who is a rightsholder, a largely separate question for what rights people hold.
2.5.2009 5:24pm
whit:

Is being vehemently against abortion ("pro-life," if you will), decidedly not "pro-choice," as IIRC Hentoff was, "libertarian"? (Do I remember incorrectly about Hentoff's record in this regard?)

Btw, speaking of abortion as it does or doesn't comport with libertarian values, where does Ron Paul, that standard bearer of the libertarian movement, stand on abortion? I ask out of idle curiosity, since I am already persuaded in my opposition to Paul on so much else.


the abortion thang is simply not a litmus test for libertarianism.

libertarians essentially believe in enhancing individual liberty (and responsibility) and limiting state intrusion into private matters.

it really comes down to what status (if any) one gives to the fetus.

i happen to be a pro-choice libertarian, but that's because (at least with 1st trimester fetus') I think the fetus has no "right" to live at that stage, so the right of the woman to abort it is paramount.

but realizing that, in some sense, the fetus is a (dependant on its host) individual as well, a libertarian can be strongly pro-life, believing that the individual in the womb deserves protection, etc.

the problem is that many on the left buy into the (false) notion that those who are pro-life are "anti-woman" or into invading people's privacy. pro-life libertarians don't see the decision to end another's life without their consent as a matter of "privacy". despite the fact that i am pro-choice, fwiw, i find the justification of abortion by many as SOLELY an issue between a woman and her doctor as a ridiculous lie. there's a third party - the fetus.
2.5.2009 5:25pm
Ilya Somin:
Hentoff is indeed a liberal rather than a libertarian. However, much of his work has always been free speech and civil liberties issues on which libertarians and conservatives agree. And he has been consistent in criticizing infringements on these rights by both the left and the right.

So as a Cato adjunct scholar, I am happy to welcome Mr. Hentoff.
2.5.2009 5:26pm
David Warner:
I think this is where I do my "libertarian is a subset of liberal" comment. Prof. Somin, did you mean liberal when you wrote conservative above? The fact that the truth value of the statement could plausibly be the same shows how fuzzy these categories can be.
2.5.2009 5:46pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Henthoff is great. He's also been active on the board of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, which is a civil liberties organization that publicizes and litigates free speech abuses in the academic world.

On abortion, there may not be a correct libertarian answer, but the issue is more complicated than some make it out to be, because the questions for analysis are: 1) who has rights, 2) can rights conflict and 3) whose prevail if two rights of equal or unequal stature conflict (e.g. does a purported fetal right to life trump a woman's right to own and control her own body? what if bringing the child to term will harm or kill the pregnant woman?) These moral issues are distinct (for some) from the questions of how legal rights ought to be assigned and adjudicated.

Also, there are of course libertarians that happen not to believe in such things as moral or natural rights, including many in the Benthamite/Millian/utilitarian/neoclassical economics tradition.
2.5.2009 5:55pm
nj (mail):
Ilya,

When it comes to civil liberties conservatives and libertarians really don't agree on much.
2.5.2009 6:13pm
dorothy:
Hentoff is a left-leaning civil libertarian. So basically, an ACLU libertarian--exept for abortion. A libertarian on civil liberties issues but not one on economic issues.
2.5.2009 6:19pm
whit:

Ilya,

When it comes to civil liberties conservatives and libertarians really don't agree on much.



i would have to totally disagree. i think part of the problem is that people conflate republicans (who often betray conservative principles, just as democrats often betray liberal principles) with conservatives.

conservatives have historically been supporters of drug legalization (long before it became trendy e.g. National Review), and individual liberties.

conservatives have also been at the forefront of supporting 2nd amendment rights.

i find (as a conservative libertarian, or libertarian conservative... take your pick) that i have FAR FAR FAR more in common with the libertarians than i do with liberals.

as for hentoff, any liberal who is associated with FIRE gets big hugs from me. FIRE has done great work, to oppose the (mostly enforced and created by liberals) numerous violations of first amendment rights imposed on our college campuses.
2.5.2009 6:25pm
Fool the World:
I hope this isn't too un-civil, but most of Clayton Cramer's comments of late strike me as little more than trolling/screeding (including the one in this thread). Not to disparage him otherwise.
2.5.2009 6:32pm
Ilya Somin:
Hentoff is indeed a liberal rather than a libertarian. However, much of his work has always been free speech and civil liberties issues on which libertarians and conservatives agree. And he has been consistent in criticizing infringements on these rights by both the left and the right.

So as a Cato adjunct scholar, I am happy to welcome Mr. Hentoff.



I meant to say "libertarians and liberals agree," not conservatives.
2.5.2009 11:27pm
Bill McGonigle (www):
May I just throw in 'classical liberal' (Jefferson's self-described 'liberal' appellation) to muddy the waters?

This roughly describes me in ways that neither 'conservative' nor 'libertarian' do.
2.5.2009 11:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I hope this isn't too un-civil, but most of Clayton Cramer's comments of late strike me as little more than trolling/screeding (including the one in this thread). Not to disparage him otherwise.
No, I was making a genuine point. I greatly respect Hentoff's integrity as a liberal--something that many on the liberal end seem to have lost in their worship of governmental power. I also respect Hentoff's willingness to hold fast to his pro-life position in circles where this is tantamount to supporting witchcraft trials. But liberalism (even honest liberalism like Hentoff's) isn't libertarianism.

I am pleased that Cato would be willing to hire Hentoff to work in an area where liberals and libertarians have much in common. It means that perhaps some day, there might be a place for me to work for a libertarian institute, even though I am more conservative than libertarian these days.
2.6.2009 10:56am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

When it comes to civil liberties conservatives and libertarians really don't agree on much.
I would disagree. There is a lot more that they agree about than they disagree about. I'm speaking only for myself (a recovering libertarian), but most of where I disagree with libertarians on civil liberties isn't policy, but Constitutionality.

Sodomy laws are stupid, but Constitutional.

I don't generally see that laws banning obscenity are terribly useful (except for child pornography laws), but they are clearly Constitutional.

My opposition to the exclusionary rule is that I think police officers should be held civilly liable for their wrongdoing--something that was unlikely when the federal courts imposed the exclusionary rule on federal law enforcement early in the 20th century.

I do not find abortion to be a "civil liberty" in any conventional sense of that term. And neither does Hentoff.
2.6.2009 11:06am
whit:
as a libertarian conservative, the main difference i have with the libertarians is that so many of them (at least at reason.com) are totally into open borders.

which is just insane to me.
2.6.2009 3:36pm
neurodoc:
Eugene Volokh: ...libertarianism doesn't give a definitive answer on abortion rights
Perhaps no "definitve answer on abortion right," but do the percentages of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" among those who see themselves as libertarians roughly approximate the percentages of "pro-choice" and "pro-life" among the general population? If not in the general population, then how about in a sample matched for age, education, income, etc.? My guess, and it is no mor than a guess since I have no data to adduce here, is that those who count themselves libertarians would lean considerably more "pro-choice" than those who count themselves either Republican or conservatives.
2.6.2009 4:02pm
neurodoc:
whit: as a libertarian conservative, the main difference i have with the libertarians is that so many of them (at least at reason.com) are totally into open borders.

which is just insane to me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." I think "philosophers" can be understood to encompass ideologues of the libertarian persuasion (and others too); and if not, I would extend it to cover them. Of course, open borders for the United States would amount to insanity.
2.6.2009 4:15pm

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