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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Libertarian Is The ACLU?

Let's take a tour through the ACLU's own list of issue areas:
  • Criminal Justice: Excellent.  I happen to agree that there should be a tax-financed guarantee of assistance of counsel, but many Libertarians would disagree.
  • Death Penalty: Many Libertarians disagree that it should be abolished.
  • Disability Rights: The ACLU is unlibertarian to say that individuals do not have a right to decline to engage in commerce with the disabled.
  • Drug Policy: Generally good, but the ACLU is unlibertarian to oppose the right of private employers to drug-test their employees.
  • Free Speech: Generally excellent, even on campaign finance "reform", but is unlibertarian to support public financing of campaigns.
  • HIV/Aids: The ACLU generally opposes freedom of association in this area.
  • Human Rights: ACLU's advocacy is thoroughly tainted with demands for positive rights e.g. to education.
  • Immigrants' Rights: Excellent.
  • Lesbian & Gay Rights: Good on government discrimination, unlibertarian on private freedom of association.
  • National Security: Excellent.
  • Police Practices: Excellent.
  • Prisoners' Rights: Very good, but many Libertarians would not go as far as the ACLU in health benefits and accommodations for the disabled.
  • Privacy & Technology: Excellent on free speech, but unlibertarian on privacy laws that outlaw non-coercive technologies and voluntary relationships that they don't like.
  • Racial Justice: Good on government discrimination, unlibertarian on private freedom of association and on an alleged positive right to tax-financed education etc.
  • Religion & Belief: Excellent.
  • Reproductive Freedom: Generally good, but unlibertarian in opposing the freedom of pharmacists to decline to sell birth control.
  • Rights of the Poor: Generally unlibertarian in asserting broad positive rights to education, health care, and housing.
  • Voting Rights: Generally good, but many Libertarians disagree that felons convicted of victimful crimes should always be allowed to vote when not incarcerated.
  • Women's Rights: Good on government discrimination, unlibertarian on private freedom of association and on alleged positive rights to tax-financed charity, education and health care.
Thus the ACLU is fully libertarian on only 4-6 of its 19 policy areas.  (Their site lists 21 areas, but one is a duplicate, and one is just a link to a youth outreach page.)  I'm extremely grateful for all the wonderful libertarian work that the ACLU does, but their positions are thoroughly infected with a systematic denial of economic freedom of association and a positing of a broad range of coercively-financed positive rights.  I'd love to donate to the many ACLU efforts that I agree with, but I can't abide the likelihood that my donations would be used instead to restrict liberty.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment, but not your analysis. The ACLU is definitely a bit economically "progressive" in many areas, as you noted. But there's simply no other organization that consistently and effectively advocates for immigration liberalization, freedom of speech, drug liberalization and the abolition of the death penalty like the ACLU does.

Like you, I disagree with a pretty substantial number of the ACLU's policies. But I see joining them as a necessary evil. Like you pointed out, as a general rule, they're going in the right direction and, quite frankly, no one else has their muscle power.

Anonymous said...

The CATO Institute and the Koch brothers both donated heavily to the ACLU to oppose the War on Terror and support the National Security Project.

Michael Lagoy said...

Why join them? Isn't choosing the lesser of two or more evils what has caused us to get into the mess we're in as a nation today? Isn't showing support for the ACLU on one policy a silent endorsement of anti-liberty policies, such as their view of the 2nd Amendment? I think true libertarians, those who stand for true liberty, need to make our voice louder rather than joining with civil libertarians like the ACLU who meet us half-way and then break away into anti-libertarian nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Your assessment lacks quantitative analysis. How much are they doing in each area - there are various ways to measure this.
Beyond this the issues themselves are not equal, however this would be difficult to measure. Still I can easily say that being forced into public school as a child is not nearly as great of an infringement on my liberties as being imprisoned for exercising free speech.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention its second amendment position, which is actually more authoritarian than even the current state of the Supreme Court's authority on the issues.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you forget guns?