The Libertarian Dodge

Claremont Review of Books, September 2003; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).


There is a question as to why the Beacon Press would choose to publish this collection of Wendy Kaminer’s essays. It is not enough to say, as she does in a prefatory note, that “civil liberties are always in jeopardy and always require attention.” Fair enough, but she and her libertarian colleagues have made a career of saying just that. So why say it again? There is nothing new in these essays, all of them previously published and none of them distinguished in any way.

Numbering about 50, they deal with such topics as sexual freedom, abortion rights, “gay” marriage, assisted suicide, and the medical use of marijuana, all of which she supports; as well as racial profiling, the death penalty, the war on drugs, “flag worship,” and censorship, all of which she opposes. In still others—”An Imperial Presidency,” for example, and “Safety and Freedom”—she comes to grips (so to speak) with the exigencies of our present situation. While written before September 11, 2001, all the essays were “updated” later; she makes a point of this, presumably, to assure us that she appreciates the greater relevance, after 9/11, of national security considerations. In the event, this appreciation amounts to very little.

Claremont Review of Books