The One Way Conservative Students Are More Libertarian Than Libertarian Students
By Bryan Caplan
Cato’s Conservative-Libertarian Debate exit survey is fascinating throughout. The most striking result is on the following question:
Q23. Do you favor or oppose a law in your state that would allow businesses to refuse service to customers for religious reasons?
The standard libertarian position here, of course, is, “If a merchant turns you away on religious grounds, just take your business elsewhere.” Why would over a quarter of libertarian students think otherwise? It’s tempting to say they’re just “pandering to the left.” But if the question were “Should racial discrimination in employment be legal?,” I’m confident libertarians would express more agreement than conservatives (though less than 50%, I fear). My explanation is that many libertarian students let their friendly attitude toward gays and chilly feelings for Christian fundamentalists color their judgment. Even if individual rights are the foundation of your political philosophy, “Who has the right?” is a far less appealing question than “Who do I like?”