Arizona senator Jeff Flake (R) is touted by some to be “libertarian-leaning”. See here, here and here. Libertarians know, of course, that this means virtually nothing. Especially when it comes to defending libertarianism on principle rather than utility.
One of the most important staples of the libertarian philosophy is private property rights, without which most other staples would fall. So if you do not have a right to freedom of association, one can basically say that: (a) one is not allowed to associate, or dissociate, oneself with or from whomever one wishes, and (b) one does not actually own one’s property, if the state can decide who you should do business with.
Without freedom of association, there simply cannot be private property rights. If someone else can dictate the terms under which your business, or any other property you own for that matter, operates, then you simply do not truly own that property.
Jeff Flake, held by many to be a “libertarian leaning” conservative Republican, is against freedom of association by wanting to see an “anti-gay” bill, which would allow businesses to choose not to do business with gay people, vetoed. In other words, he wants the state to dictate terms to businesses on whom they should be forced to do business with. This not only violates private property rights and freedom of association rights; it is also an anti-free market position period. These are three extremely important staples of libertarian philosophy without which many other libertarian positions cannot hold.
It should be said that it may very well be true that the motive behind this anti-gay bill is precisely that; it is anti-gay and therefore discriminatory. But libertarianism does not deal with motives. It does not matter for which reason you wish to have liberty. It merely states you ought to have it and that neither the government, nor anyone else, ought to have the right to take it from you. So as revolting as someone’s motives may be to exercise his decision-making over his own property, he should have the right to exercise it. Flake’s reasoning is based in legislating morality over supporting individual liberty. The only proper libertarian response from a pro-gay standpoint would be to boycott these businesses and spread the word on their business conduct to impel others to also boycott them.
Also, Flake argues that this bill would be bad for Arizona’s economy. You know what we call someone who puts money over individual liberty? We call that a corporatist; not a libertarian.
So Flake proves to be another one of those examples of politicians that is regarded in a moderately favorable light for having some positions that are good and thus held to be “libertarian leaning”, while being an utter failure on others. It is high time to get rid of this meaningless phrase “libertarian leaning” as it is too often applied to those who would alternate some good positions for other ones that just cement the state’s coercive power in matters that should be personal business.