Libertarians, Conservatives Part On Animal Cruelty Laws
By STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE
Monday, Sep. 10, 2007
American conservatism is an exceptional movement with few global parallels. As the late National Review Senior Editor Frank Meyer famously argued, American conservatism fuses Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill to combine tradition, moral virtue and ordered liberty with classical liberalism's libertarianism.
Hence, for example, Meyer believed it consistent to oppose state control of the economy and limited government, as well as a belief in an objective moral order that properly finds expression in morals legislation.
Every once in a while, however, a political issue arises that tests the delicate balance between conservatism and libertarianism. Oddly enough, the latest spat was triggered by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's guilty plea in his now infamous dogfighting case.
The center-right blogosphere has been ablaze in recent days, as a number of prominent libertarian bloggers have criticized animal cruelty laws. Alex Tabbarok of MarginalRevolution.com quipped:
"After attending dogfights it's rumored that on some nights Michael Vick would continue his bloody activities by dining on cow's flesh. No word yet on whether prosecutors will be seeking additional prison time."
Julian Sanchez of the Eponymous blog tentatively suggested that "animal cruelty laws are less a function of high principle than of the fact that we like both burgers and cute doggies," although he later withdrew that claim for further consideration.
All of which prompted Ted Frank of OverLawyered.com to ask: "I'm happy to have dog fighting outlawed. I'd prefer not to outlaw foie gras. Do I have any argument for the distinction besides my personal preference?"
As someone who has been known to slip bits of pâté de foie gras to his dogs when his wife wasn't looking, this strikes too close to home to be ignored.
Libertarian purists likely would tell us that animals are property and...