Thoughts on Liberty

By skepticlawyer

… An announcement.

Starting this Friday (give or take time-zone issues thanks to the blog in question being located in the US, me being in the UK, and skepticlawyer being located in Australia), I’ll be writing once a week for Thoughts on Liberty. You’ll be pleased to know I won’t be leaving here, and that all my TOL posts will be brief – go over 750 words there and they’ll split the post in two. Since ‘splitting’ should be left to atoms and Monty Python, you will never see anything from me that exceeds 750 words. Brevity is a virtue 🙂

500 word posts also take about 30 minutes to write.

Why Thoughts on Liberty?

In very large part, because it’s like here. Gina Luttrell (the editor) has invested considerable time in creating an environment where the Greater Internet Dickwad Theory almost never happens. This means the comments threads are civil. TOL — as skepticlawyer once was — is also deliberately all female in its writer composition (sorry, Lorenzo!), and has this (in part) as its Mission Statement:

If you look at the membership, readership, or donor base of just about any organization promoting freedom, you’ll find some discouraging ratios: 70-to-30; 60-to-40. These are the proportions of men to women. Walk into any libertarian gathering and you’ll see the disparity first hand. For whatever reason, women don’t seem to be “into” liberty.

This is unacceptable. Why don’t women like freedom? Women have gained more from classical liberalism than from any other ideology in the history of our species: Reproductive rights, suffrage, the choice in who to marry (or not)—all of these are rooted in the idea that women are individuals and have the right to self-determination. These, too, are the fundamental principles of classical liberalism. Women should be the first champions of liberty, not the last.

We here at Thoughts on Liberty are wanting to change that.

While — superficially — the authors at TOL may appear to be all politically similar (this is where skepticlawyer really is different from every other current affairs blog), there is considerable difference between a British classical liberal and an American libertarian, starting with the name (the latter is almost a ‘don’t use’ word in the UK, thanks to its misappropriation by anti-immigration, anti same-sex marriage UKIP). Likewise, if there are libertarian anarchists in the UK, I don’t know any and find the idea of anarcho-capitalism frankly absurd. Anarchists are far commoner in the US, however. I am also an empiricist: if it turns out that the state does a better job than the private sector (private prisons, anyone?), then I am not going to die in a ditch for a principle. Along the same lines, I think rights are contingent, not universal — the common sense position among both English and Scots lawyers, with our tradition of legal positivism — and have their roots in the doctrine of precedent and its relationship with a sovereign parliament. Many Americans disagree — some of them intensely — on both issues.

Of course, I don’t know in any detail the individual political and cultural views of TOL’s other writers, but I can identify instances where all of them have managed difficult topics with dignity and good grace, including one that’s on this blog’s ‘banned’ list. In no particular order, here’s Elizabeth Robinson on abortion, Gina Luttrell on why many women find classical liberalism off-putting, Rachel Burger on same-sex marriage, Cathy Reisenwitz on the fraught relationship between some schools of feminism, freedom of speech, and property rights (especially in the UK), and Chrissy Brown on why Rand Paul is just another politician (so sorry to disappoint you). There are plenty of other pieces worth reading, all of them short and thought-provoking: this is just a small selection. There are also a couple of threads o’ doom (as always). I’ll leave you to find those yourselves…

Anyway, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, swing by and like TOL on Facebook (we all post lots of good stuff separate from the blog) and look out for my Friday posts (the time zone part will work itself out eventually). In the meantime (rather than just include a graphic from the TOL webpage), here’s a video of the editor that goes some small way to explaining the demented madness of the US War on Drugs, and how it manages to intersect–horribly–with both abortion and poverty (produced by ‘Learn Liberty’, who are no doubt responsible for the background music). It explains better than I can why the war on drugs is the signature issue for US libertarians in a way that it isn’t for people in Australia or Britain.


  1. kvd
    Posted June 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Hi SL. I’m very sorry (self interest, I really am sorry – because I expect to be quite rightly slammed for this) but having browsed that site, and read each of your approved links – one of which is wrong btw – I think it’s a little below your level of discourse, expertise. Anyway I wish you well, and will be interested to read what you post on TOL – all the while, expecting that this is some sort of interim step you are taking.

    With hopes and wishes, but far (much!) greater expectations of/for you.

  2. Mr T
    Posted June 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I see you are going to post under your name, not a nom de plume. You may wish to share that as it is not immediately obvious in this blog.

  3. Posted June 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Who is the hot blonde that’s taken the place of the dog?
    just kidding.
    All the best with the new venture SL

  4. Mel
    Posted June 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    The internet offers a very cold means of communication that is pretty much guaranteed to generate lots of heat but very little light in debates between strangers on things that really matter to them. It is a great achievement by Helen, Legal Eagle, DEM and Lorenzo that they’ve been able to reverse the ratio of heat to light on this blog.

    I hope Helen one day writes a book on her politics and philosophy. I’ll probably disagree with half of it but I know that I would have my own cherished beliefs put through a rigorous test and those that remained in tact at the end would be stronger for the experience.

  5. Posted June 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    ok, have been around a bit. Am male but love (?) this blog/internet site/contribution – to thought and ideas. Please remember – or understand – that “television” was not part of my childhood, nor ‘comprehension’. Yep, have “been around a bit” in this extraordinary country/nation that we call “Australia” …. seems to me that it remains a “work in progress” … (whatever that means).

    However, at this point, would suggest that “republicanism” – or anyone who wants to divert there – needs to have serious thought as to where the notion and ‘politics’ might lead.

  6. Posted June 12, 2013 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Seriously, am, at this point, living within 200 k of the Sydney CBD,, “Internet” access is a joke.

  7. Posted June 17, 2013 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    First piece up:

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