Though it's generally never a good idea I'd like to draw a distinction between my own views and Paul's when he writes:
...The point is that when you put pressure on thinking that is ostensibly "libertarian", you tend to find a hodge-podge of other philosophies being applied in selective ways. Sometimes it's strict constructionism, sometimes it's about negative liberty, sometimes it's about the inefficiency of government. That makes the arguments difficult to engage with and, I think, suggests that the philosophy itself is somewhat incoherent.Paul writes that since many libertarians don't seem to be applying their claimed precepts in a regular way that those individuals probably have an incoherent philosophy. I disagree. In the same way that a native English speaker can form coherent sentences without having to memorize thousands of grammatical rules, so to can people subscribe to and practice a coherent political philosophy without being consciously aware of which values they are applying and how. Indeed, I suspect that most politically aware people have very regular system of rules and values for making political decisions that they follow even if they are mistaken about the nature of their own political philosophy.
Allow me to be the first to plead guilty to being mistaken about my own beliefs. In rereading my previous post on liberalism I realize that it does a poor job of explaining what I believe. In fact, it seems that I defined liberalism so broadly that it could probably include most of conservatism. I guess this shouldn't be surprising. Both liberals and conservatives agree that the government should be used to make people's lives better - they just differ as to the best way. Liberals want to use government to create a high-speed rail system. Conservatives want to use it to stop people from drinking too much.
The only thing my definition does manage to do is distinguish my philosophy with the rights-based constricted ones like Communism and Libertarianism where rights based arguments - not efficiency ones - are used much more more often to define the role of the state in the economy.
But back to my crappy definition of liberalism. I first recognized this shortcoming when I started trying use the "more better options" business to explain why I support the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). It turns out it's pretty difficult. The "more, better options" doesn't include any concept of fairness which is pretty important. I think I ought to think about exactly how that figures in and if that can be used to distinguish conservatism from liberalism.