Some Interesting WSJ Stuff:

In case you missed it, some interesting stuff at the Wall Street Journal today.

John McGinnis has a review of Ralph Rossum's new book Antonin Scalia's Jurisprudence on Opinionjournal (free link).

And David Boaz of the Cato Institute weighs in on the Journal's editorial page (this is not available on Opinionjournal, so I believe is subscriber only) inquiring about the absence of libertarian voices in the popular media, juxtaposing that underrepresentativeness with Gallup poll data finding that among the population at large libertarians (and populists) are about as common as the "big two":

The Gallup Poll's annual survey on government found that 27% of Americans are conservative; 24% are liberal, up sharply because the poll was taken after Katrina, which boosted support for the proposition that "government should do more to solve our country's problems." Gallup also found — this year as in others — that 20% are neither liberal nor conservative but libertarian, opposing the use of government either to "promote traditional values" or to "do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses." Another 20% are "populist" (supporting government action in both areas), with 10% undefined. Libertarian support, spread across demographic groups, is strongest among well-educated voters.

I haven't been able to locate the underlying Gallup poll on-line (and the site is subscriber only) to look at the data myself. So if anyone knows where the actual poll data is available, please post it in the comments or email it to me and I'll post the link as an update.


A Commenter notes that the Boaz column is also posted in full on the Cato Institute's website here.

I take it that people did not self-identify, but instead chose one of those statements? If so, then the poll doesn't mean much. The definition of libertarian is so vague that even though I consider myself a socialist, I agree that the government should not "promote traditional values" and "do too many things that should be left to the individuals and businesses." Who thinks that the government should do too many thing that should be left to individuals and businesses? The rub, of course, is in how flexible the "should" is. But if I had to choose, I think the libertarian definition is closest to my beliefs.
1.31.2006 2:10pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Maybe the nonrepresentation of libertarians is due to the media's inclination to be balanced b/w the 2 parties rather than objective. (This is a common complaint of liberals). And if you're a libertarian, good luck deciding which party to vote for these days.
1.31.2006 2:11pm
The reason for the absence of big-L Libertarian voices from the popular media could be that they are insane.

If we identified columnist's libertarian leanings using the same method that the Gallup poll used to identify libertarian individuals, I suspect we'd turn up a decent number of small-l libertarians.

I haven't seen the Boaz piece--by what standard does he claim there aren't any libertarian voices in the public media?
1.31.2006 2:40pm
Bob, in the media's defense, some conservatives (including bloggers here) do the same thing: the fact that law professors give substantially more money to democrats is supposed to prove that there is no intellectual diversity among law professors. The implicit assumption, of course, is that if you vote democrat, you must think one way on the issues of the day; if you vote republican, you think another.
1.31.2006 2:40pm
frankcross (mail):
It's a little ironic that this was on the WSJ opinion page. Or maybe not. I think of that page as being distinctly libertarian, but it does not infrequently bow to the religious right. Perhaps it illustrates how the media puts political affiliation over principle in some circumstances.
1.31.2006 3:16pm
Wintermute (www):
David Boaz article:
1.31.2006 4:21pm
Moral Hazard (mail):

the fact that law professors give substantially more money to democrats is supposed to prove that there is no intellectual diversity among law professors.

Are you suggesting that if polling was done on an individual issue basis we'd see more diversity? I'm thinking that that if you polled law professors you would find they're almost all pro-abortion, pro-racial preferences and anti-Iraq war to name a few. Do you disagree?
1.31.2006 4:59pm

I always think the sensible choice for libertarians is to simply vote for the major party with the least amount of power at any given moment, and to generally favor mixed government.
1.31.2006 5:08pm
Moral Hazard, perhaps with those three specific issues, there would be a fair amount of agreement. But then of course Al Qaeda and the Republican party probably agree on abortion, gay rights, and prayer in school -- also all hot topic issues in the United States. (Obviously, what they disagree on vastly outnumbers what they do agree on.)

If you look at a broader range of issues, you'd start to see substantial disagreement among law professors who have donated money to democrats primarily because academics are more willing to hold out-of-the-mainstream opinions. At some level, moderate democrats, socialists, and Marxists agree on many issues, but that just masks their numerous fundamental disagreements. Yet, they'd all be more likely to give money to democrats than republicans.

I'm sure socialists, Marxists, and libertarians are way overrepresented in academia, whereas moderate democrats and republicans are way underrepresented. I think that's indicative of the fact that it's socially stigmatizing for your average joe to hold out-of-the-mainstream opinions; they'd rather support democrats and republicans, and disagree on the narrow band of issues that those parties find it acceptable to be disagreeable about.
1.31.2006 5:29pm
anonymous coward:
I'm not sure Marxists are overrepresented in legal academia. At least not for faculty under 65.

Personally I'm not sure why faculty politics and demographics are supposed to resemble those of general population anyway. (And does diversity really produce better scholarship or education?)
1.31.2006 6:59pm
anonymous coward #2:
Speaking of underrepresented voices, how about those 20% who the article notes are accurately depicted as populists? How many "Sam's Club Republicans" or blue-collar Huey Long or FDR-style class-warfare Democrats are in the popular media? I'd guess a figure in the neighborhood of zero. I don't hear too many voices out there railing against liberal elite culture and corrupt conservative big business interests at the same time. It's probably not too popular among the haughty libertarian scenesters here, but it's a sorely underrepresented viewpoint in modern American media.
2.1.2006 1:29am
eddie (mail):
Why was there a comment, i.e. "explanation", appended to the stats on liberals? This is an opinion masquerading as a fact.

The poll itself is not really enlightening, unless those that answered actually define what "conservative", "liberal", etc. actually means.

It is extremely ironic, however, that the underlying complaint is under-representation of libertarians in the media. I don't think a true libertarian would (a) look to polls to find the answer to anything and (b) complain about how a free society works. Should economic boycots be launched against the media (which media) until parity has been reached? And does the concept of parity have any meaning to any libertarian? Isn't that affirmative action by another name?

Or is it simply the cry of a victim?
2.1.2006 10:51am
jallgor (mail):
I agree that the poll seems essentially meaningless since those questions seem way too vague and broad to really get to a person political beliefs.

Bobbie- I am curious as to how you would define socialism. I think that socialism and libertarianism are generally anathema to each other. For instance, wouldn't their views of property rights be polar opposites? I would think that most libertarians would severely limit the governments ability to take one person's property for the benefit of another (in the form of taxes or otherwise). Isn't that the essence of socialism?
2.1.2006 5:32pm
Dracs Spago (mail):
"I think that socialism and libertarianism are generally anathema to each other."

I agree.
2.1.2006 10:37pm