Surprisingly Limited Libertarian Writer’s Concept of Freedom

Patrick HowleyBack in December, Patrick Howley wrote an article in The Daily Caller, Liberals Want to Stop Men From Checking Out Women. It’s a very short article intended to offend, and it did. It’s also plain dumb. Just as conservatives have some mythical idea of “America” that doesn’t exist, hasn’t existed, and can’t exist, they have some weird idea of what “progressives” are.

Normally, I would not even bring him up. But last night, I came upon a 40 minute interview he did with Sam Seder on The Majority Report. I was just looking for something to listen to for a few minutes while I did some cleaning. But I was drawn in and I ended up listening to the whole thing. It was hypnotizing. It didn’t become better over time. It was just the same thing over and over again.

At first, I felt sorry for Howley. He sounded about as bad as I would if Rush Limbaugh invited me to debate on the show. The guy clearly has no experience in live media. He sounded nervous and, frankly, like a teenager. Seder was extremely nice to him until almost the very end. It wasn’t necessary to counter him. Seder just clarified what he was saying. And that was more than enough.

Howley is a very typical libertarian. By that I mean that he’s fairly smart (subgenius) but he has never thought outside the bounds of the Ayn Rand essays he’s read. The best example of this was his take on sexual harassment. Basically: he doesn’t think it exists. His opinion is that if your boss is hitting on you, you can just get another job. The boss will be punished by the market because he won’t get the best employees. This is the kind of theoretical notion of freedom that makes libertarianism so toxic. And coming from a conservative affirmative action case like Howley, it’s disgusting. What does he know about the economic problems of the working class? Being 25 years old and working his whole life in conservative media, I can safely answer: nothing.

But what was most striking was how mad this young man was about the things that he had decided that “progressives” were going to do to him. Soon, they were going to make it illegal to ogle women. How did he know that? Because that’s what progressives are always doing! How would such a law work? Because that’s what progressives are always doing! How would you define ogling? Because that’s what progressives are always doing! Really: it was hypnotizing.

His real complaint, although he won’t admit to this is that people complain about things he writes. He calls this “suppressing his free speech.” This is a common tactic of conservatives: when people don’t like what they say, conservatives claim liberals are trying to suppress them. What’s really going on is that liberals are having a debate and the conservatives generally do poorly. When Rush Limbaugh is one of the great thinkers of your movement, you are in trouble. Regardless, last year I attacked Howley in an article, Humor Attempt Turns Racist. Many other people attacked him too. But the article he wrote is still online. He was not fired, much less arrested. His free speech was not suppressed.

But this is his idea of freedom: he should be immune to any criticisms. But some woman who works at McDonald’s should have to put up with sexual harassment because she’s “free” to find another job. This is Rob Portman logic. You may remember that Portman had always been against same sex marriage. But then his gay son came out to him. And suddenly Portman was for same sex marriage. That was because it suddenly affected him. He didn’t like the idea of his son being discriminated against. It was fine as long as it was only other people’s sons.

It’s the same thing with Patrick Howley. (In general, it is the same thing with all conservatives, most especially libertarians.) He wants to maximize his freedom, which he assumes is freedom in a general sense. He can’t even understand what life is like for a woman whose best job prospect will only ever be a job at McDonald’s. I imagine Howley in a Marie Antoinette haze, “The poor are struggling with their jobs at fast food restaurants? Then let them work at The Daily Caller!” Meanwhile, Howley is out there fighting those “progressives” who are planning to do terrible things to “freedom.” Because that’s what progressives are always doing!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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