Pretending to be someone you’re not

Bryan Caplan has a new post up about why libertarians should be conservatives. Caplan is a self-described libertarian and not a conservative, but writes the post as if he were a conservative who is trying to show libertarians the error of their ways.

I applaud his efforts and I, too, think this is a useful exercise. When I hear that someone has come to a conclusion different from mine, I ask myself “Under what circumstances would I come to such a conclusion?” Then I try to explain to that person why I don’t think those circumstances have been met in this case.

For instance, I don’t favor much government intervention in the economy, but I’m not categorically opposed to it. When I encounter people who favor more intervention than I do, I think of the conditions that would have to be met in order for the intervention to make sense, and explain to them that those conditions have not been met. If, upon examination, I realize that I was wrong and the conditions have indeed been met, or that my conditions for success were too narrow to begin with, then I back off of my libertarian dogmatism and support the intervention.

In his post, Caplan does the best conservative-imitation he can muster on the issue of immigration:

Bryan “conservative-come-lately” Caplan: I’m very open to more cost-effective and humane ways to deal with the negative effects of immigration. But as long as immigrants are eligible for government benefits, hurt low-skilled native workers, and vote, the only people we should readily admit are the highly-educated and clear-cut humanitarian cases. I’d put Haitians in the latter category. Asking Mexicans to live on a $10,000 a year in Mexico is reasonable, but asking Haitians to starve in post-earthquake Haiti is a disgrace.

I’m not sure what Caplan was thinking of, but this is not the typical conservative position on immigration. This is the typical conservative position on immigration. Perhaps Caplan recognized that the typical conservative position is not defensible.


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