These inconsistencies seem to reflect elite biases. The things that liberal-minded city residents like and want to do — eat from hip food trucks, smoke dope and other “bourgeois bohemian” pursuits — should be left as free as possible, consequences be damned. Those that they consider declasse — Big Gulps, cigarettes, Wal-Mart — should be restricted or even shut down. It’s regulation for thee but not for me.
Libertarians of Convenience may argue that there’s no real contradiction here, that they have no problem with regulation in theory, just with stupid regulation; that they only favor laws regulating genuinely harmful activities, and liberalization in all other cases. But that claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Consider raw milk, which some progressives think should be sold freely along with pasteurized milk: From 2007 to 2012, 26 states reported 81 bacterial-infection outbreaks to the Centers for Disease Control. These outbreaks caused almost 1,000 illnesses and close to 100 hospitalizations.
Or, on the other side of the spectrum, consider e-cigarettes, which many liberals want to see regulated as tightly as traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain no tobacco and produce no smoke. There’s no evidence that they’re linked to cancer.