Libertarians Have Not Been Silent About Ferguson


Aside from the illuminating conversations on police militarization, race, and civil liberties that have come from the horrible police shooting tragedy in Ferguson, Mo., a peculiar narrative has taken hold: Libertarians have supposedly been “silent” on this story.

That’s the story being told by people like Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman, who accurately described Ferguson as “a story about race, but it’s also become a story about the power of the state and how it’s wielded, and against whom,” before asking: “Where are the libertarians?”

There has been a near-total silence from prominent libertarians on this issue. Senator Rand Paul, right now America’s most prominent libertarian (yes, I know, some don’t consider him a real libertarian), hasn’t said anything about the case […] I contacted his office just to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything, and a press staffer told me they have no statement at this time. I also called the office of Rep. Justin Amash, known as the purest libertarian in the House, and got the same answer: he hasn’t said anything about it, and they have no statement to make. How about mustachioed libertarian TV personality John Stossel? Just a couple of weeks ago he was writing about the militarization of the police. He hasn’t said a peep about Ferguson.

What Waldman really meant to ask was “Where are these two libertarian-leaning Republicans and a once-weekly FBN host?” because the reality is that libertarians have been incredibly outspoken about police militarization and Michael Brown‘s death.

Yes, Sen. Paul has been silent.** That’s disappointing, but also unsurprising, considering he’s attempting to make himself appeal to libertarians and conservatives — two groups largely at odds over Ferguson.

Hours after Waldman’s article, Amash did tweet this:

And Stossel’s eponymous FBN show (full disclosure: he’s my former boss) is pre-taped and airs every Thursday evening, focusing more on evergreen subjects and long-form debates. His syndicated column follows a similar structure, and he’s not very active on Twitter in a way that most other advocacy journalists might be.

But if Waldman’s ultimate point was that prominent libertarian-leaning politicians have been “silent,” then even that seems a bit disingenuous. Are we supposed to come away thinking that the silence of two (now just one) members of Congress speaks for an entire movement of people?

And if so, then by that logic, we can deduce that progressives have actually been uncannily silent as a movement because Elizabeth Warren (UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive), Keith Ellison, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus have all yet to say a word. Why are progressives silent on Ferguson, am I right?

Save for its media-nominated mouthpiece, the libertarian movement itself has been quite vocal.

Radley Balko, for instance, is a prominent libertarian who writes for the very same paper as Waldman. He has spent a serious amount of time writing and talking about Ferguson. And yet, despite having authored Rise of the Warrior Cop and written daily about police abuse for the past decade, his work went overlooked in Waldman’s broad generalization on how “politicians and conservative media figures [Ed. note: Wait, now he’s talking about conservatives?] who claim to be the most fervent advocates of individual freedom and to care the most about misuse of government power have been silent.”

You can add to Balko the writers at Reason magazine (which Waldman acknowledged), Cato Institute stalwarts like Walter Olson, Fox News personality Andy Levy, members of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Atlantic columnist Conor Friedersdorf, VICE columnist Lucy Steigerwald, and yours truly.

Need more? Here are some other libertarians with visible platforms who’ve been vocal about Ferguson.

Oh, and there’s also a nightly libertarian show on FBN called The Independents. As co-host Kmele Foster pointed out, they’ve covered it a bunch as well.

While we’re at it, there are also writers from conservative publications who’ve been vocal about police militarization vis-à-vis Ferguson: The National Review’s Charles Cooke and HotAir’s Mary Katharine Ham immediately come to mind.

Nevertheless, former Ebony editor Brooke Obie tweeted this:

And News One Now host Roland Martin asked a similar question:

Either everyone making this claim is being deliberately obtuse — perhaps to further an easily-debunked narrative about libertarians not caring for minorities — or they just don’t know many libertarians.

*UPDATE — 12:29 p.m. ET: Rand Paul is expected to address the Ferguson story today. According to D.C. reporter Dave Weigel, the senator intends to “go large” by running an op-ed and not just a brief statement. Very good.

**UPDATE — 12:33 p.m. ET: And here it is. A Time op-ed from Rand Paul.

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