Michael Barone, whose journalism I admire, seems to make a common mistake on libertarianism and abortion in a piece titled “More freedom, fewer guardrails.” In that article, he points out that, “Young Americans, contrary to their libertarian leaning on same-sex marriage, are slightly less pro-abortion rights than their elders.” But at least Barone realizes the possible tension between liberty and abortion when a sentence later he writes: “from the point of view of the unborn child, abortion is the opposite of liberating.” I’ve written before on the relationship between libertarianism and abortion (see here and here). In short, there is nothing in libertarianism that demands a particular position on the issue of abortion policy.
If you read the Barone piece, you’ll see that he and others on the Right are (rightly) worried about a world of greater freedom without some of the social guardrails of the past. But perhaps rather than restricting (or keeping legal restrictions on) freedom today we need to build (or rebuild) more guardrails to go along with that freedom. Part of how we get from here to there is that libertarians have to be more accepting of “scolds” and elite shaming of bad/irresponsible uses of freedom. Indeed, they might be wise to participate in that guardrail building. Moreover, as we increase the realm of liberty, our freedom should naturally lead us to develop some of these guardrails on our own – assuming that the state doesn’t interfere with the internalization of costs! When the cost of too much drinking is a bad hangover, we soon learn to be more moderate in our consumption. Likewise for other decisions in our lives.