Conservative Magazines and Liberty

Tyler Cowen points us to this working paper investigating the presumption of liberty in conservative magazines. Here’s the abstract:

Conservatives say they are for small government and individual liberty, but a content analysis of leading conservative magazines shows that most have preponderantly failed to take pro-liberty positions on sex, gambling, and drugs. Besides many anti-liberty commissions, the magazines may be criticized for anti-liberty omission—that is, failing to oppose anti-liberty policies. Magazines investigated include National Review, The Weekly Standard, The American Enterprise, and The American Spectator. We find that National Review has had the strongest record on liberty on the issues treated, while the others have preponderantly failed to be pro-liberty or have even been anti-liberty.

That sounds about right to me, but the question also seems a little silly. Basically, it’s asking whether conservative magazines are, in fact, libertarian. Turns out, go figure, they’re not. Reason, on the other hand, would likely come out vigorously pro-liberty under this definition, but would, as an institution, probably resent being called “conservative.” It’s also probably worth noting that just because conservative say, in shorthand, that they’re “for small government and individual liberty” does not necessarily mean they’re for maximizing either of those things at every given opportunity.