Epstein's Continuing Debate with Dennis Prager

Libertarians on Citizenship and Self-Defense: More with Dennis Prager
Richard A. Epstein
Ricochet.com
April 8, 2013

I am grateful to Dennis Prager for answering my last post on his views of gay marriage. 

On the religious front, I think that it is dangerous to draw much inference from the credo, “In God we trust." It appears on American coinage and attracts much support from many people, but it runs this risk: There are many Americans who care much about what happens in this country who are not Theists, or even Deists. That choice should not be sufficient to silence their voices on matters of public debate or concern. The vision of a United States has to be inclusive and that can only happen if all citizens of the United States have equal rights under law—a proposition that both Prager and I endorse.

It is useful to remember the libertarian origins of that idea. The traditional law of persons was quite different and tolerated the emergence of a system of slavery. It also allowed for the inferior political and social status of women on issues from the vote (remember the suffragettes) to the ability of women to make contracts, own property, or testify in court without the approval of their husbands. That understanding was captured in the earlier, and now quaint phrase, “women’s libertarian,” which has been replaced by the more aggressive but less accurate term of "feminism," which is just as easily read to defend legally mandated preferences for women as equal rights under law. There is no fatal libertarian weakness on this issue.

Faculty: 
Richard A. Epstein