Five myths about libertarians

2. Libertarians don’t care about minorities or the poor.

As the recent discovery of neo-Confederate writings by a former senior aide to Sen. Paul shows, there sometimes is a connection between libertarians and creepy, racist elements in American politics. And given the influence of Ayn Rand among many libertarians, it’s easy to think that they care only about themselves. “I will never live for the sake of another man,” runs a characteristic line from Rand’s 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged.”

But at least two of the libertarian movement’s signature causes, school choice and drug legalization, are aimed at creating a better life for poor people, who disproportionately are also minorities. The primary goal of school choice — a movement essentially born out of a 1955 essay about vouchers by libertarian and Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman — is to give lower-income Americans better educational options. Friedman also persuasively argued that the drug war concentrates violence and law enforcement abuses in poor neighborhoods.

Libertarians believe that economic deregulation helps the poor because it ultimately reduces costs and barriers to start new businesses. The leading libertarian public-interest law firm, the Institute for Justice, which has argued Supreme Court cases for free speech and against eminent-domain abuse, got its start defending African American hair-braiders in Washington from licensing laws that shut down home businesses.