Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Apologies for another defensive libertarian post, but there seems to be a meme going around that libertarians don’t care or aren’t talking about what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri. And like most things mainstream left/right pundits say about libertarians, it has almost zero relation to the truth. “Why aren’t libertarians talking about Ferguson?” The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman asks. Why, indeed?


Radley Balko, a libertarian writing for the same paper as Waldman (and who literally wrote the book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization), reported on Ferguson in the paper and has been tweeting nonstop about it. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Blanks of the Cato Institute from the day of the shooting. Here’s Reason, where I work, covering the shooting and its aftermath this whole time.  Here’s Conor Friedersdorf covering it at The Atlantic. Here’s some more of the ample, ongoing commentary from libertarians on Twitter:

If you don’t think libertarians are talking about (and outraged over) Ferguson, you’re clearly not reading or talking to many libertarians.

To make his case that libertarians were being silent on this, Waldman cited two Republican politicians and one libertarian journalist that only writes a weekly column. (He does note at the bottom of the article that Reason was, in fact, covering Ferguson.) Leaving aside the fact that two-thirds of this sample of libertarians does not consist of libertarians, it’s still an absurd premise. One could easily pick three GOP or Democrat politicians and writers not talking about Ferguson and conjure up a similar storyline.

Waldman et al clearly want to give the impression that libertarians “believe that when somebody’s grandson has to pay taxes on their inheritance, it’s a horrifying injustice that demands redress, but when somebody else’s grandson gets shot walking down the street, that’s just how things go sometimes,” as he wrote at the Post. But this is a lie, or at least self-deception. Cato’s Jason Kuznicki sums up the mindset nicely:

People like Waldman and Pollitt try to claim the moral high-ground on these issues. But in times that matter, they would rather waste time and space on making libertarians look bad than come together with us on a serious issue on which we all agree.