Not the Murray Rothbard Book Club

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar RTod says:

    Excellent points, all – and I find that I agree. A few minor responses, though, since it may be that we may be on the save wave length but one of us is a far clearer writer.*

    Regarding this: “That’s because there already is a major ideology telling people “the government is working with the gays/Muslims/govt. class/whoever and they’re out to get you, but [this ideology] will save you.” And people are already lapping it up. But that ideology isn’t libertarianism.” I agree in theory, but in the same way I agree that in theory that this ideology isn’t really conservatism, or liberalism. The point I had tried to make there was that when a good idea picks up speed and gains a following that eventually comes to view it as not being true so much as being The Truth. Once that happens, some version of this is always the end result.

    Also, a minor point, but while I agree with this:

    “Everyone could (and should) learn to be skeptical about the latest big scary thing that the state needs to control.”,

    I also think libertarians need to remember that their ideology often results in people not being skeptical about the latest big scary thing that government is trying to do *to* you.

    *(hint: not me)Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I was harsh, I admit. I do think though that the danger of smart, modestly conceived ideologies getting swamped by vulgar popular movements is not one peculiar to libertarianism; it’s one that happens everywhere to all ideologies, and indeed is happening right this moment. Seldom in any discipline are “theory” and “practice” as far removed from one another as they are in politics.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:

        I should also address the thread that start this way: “What I’d like to see is actually not libertarianism as a giant book club. ”

        I should be clear that my comments that triggered this were not condescending eye-rolling intended to tell you and yours what you thought.

        I was trying to say that after having witness folks here discuss libertarianism in a measured, thoughtful and rational salon, I have decided that this libertarian dynamic is what *I* would really like to see be a tea-party sized political force. I really do; I think the country would be infinitely better off for it. I just think that when ideology becomes a movement… well, you already know what I think there.Report

        • Avatar rj says:

          If a book club is all you want, you have it.

          The LP stays true to itself and members debate the finer points of theory with one another and is rewarded with a fraction of a percent of the popular vote every four years.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      RTod, you gave up this fight too quickly. There is no ideological movement in the US that has ever attained power without significant compromises to their underlying principles. That, I would submit, is a necessary fact about democratic governance – that ideological purity is diluted (intentionally!) by the structure of our political institutions.

      At least, that’s the point I thought you were making.Report

  2. Avatar patrick says:

    I didn’t think that bit was about libertarianism at all, myself. I didn’t read RTod’s bit that way.

    I read that as an observation of the characteristics of anything going mainstream.

    > The point I had tried to make there was that when a good
    > idea picks up speed and gains a following that eventually
    > comes to view it as not being true so much as being The
    > Truth. Once that happens, some version of this is always
    > the end result.

    Mostly that.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    This isn’t an original idea with RTod. Murray Rothbard and Lew Riockwell thought that the path to libertarianism was scaring white people: hence the filth in the Ron Paul newsletters.Report

  4. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    I wouldn’t call libertarianism unflappable. It merely gets flapped about different things (for instance, the inevitable descent into tyranny once we can’t buy incandescent bulbs) [which, for the record, are still available]. Forgive my peevishness, I’m on the Internet instead of outside on a gorgeous afternoon.Report

  5. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Hey, at least it’s not the Stephan Kinsella Book Club.Report

  6. Avatar Anderson says:

    I feel like libertarians will eventually become a more prominent wing of the Republican party, much like how the New Democrats and Blue Dogs have become a much stronger force in the Dems over the last 30 years. I’m picturing people in the Rand Paul, maybe even a more extreme Mitch Daniels, mold- as in they recognize that being legitimately anti-big government means getting the feds out of marriage, drugs, and excessive foriegn conflicts, in addition to the general economy- popping up more frequently as issues like gay marriage, immigration, and the war on drugs naturally become less divisive. It will cause a schism with neoconservatives and social conservatives (neither of which seems to be on the rise now), of course, but I think the GOP recognizes it will have to have a bigger tent in order to get full control of the government; I feel like they know they have a strong rallying point with regulations, taxes, and spending. Sorry to those that believe a third Libertarian party is possible, it’s just not plausible under our electoral system. As for the liberaltarian movement taking over a wing of the Dems…I’d say their sentiment already reflects the views of a number of moderate, civil-liberties-conscience Dems already. Their is still room for libertarianesque views to grow into both parties- not to mention that more and more people in the country believe themselves to be libertarian in the most basic sense- but it’s hard to say how much is a response to recent events vs a significant trend.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      Anderson:

      ” I feel like libertarians will eventually become a more prominent wing of the Republican party, much like how the New Democrats and Blue Dogs have become a much stronger force in the Dems over the last 30 years.”

      Please note that in terms of the government getting into people’s lives, the GOP has shifted far, far to the right. It’s now the party of surveillance, continual war (frequently secret wars), torture, secret prisons, etc. The only reason that the Executive doesn’t have arbitrary powers of Nacht und Nebel right now is that some justices looked into the Abyss and decided not to go there.

      ” I’m picturing people in the Rand Paul, maybe even a more extreme Mitch Daniels, mold- as in they recognize that being legitimately anti-big government means getting the feds out of marriage, drugs, and excessive foriegn conflicts, ”

      Rand Paul ran to authoritarian big government as soon as he had a shot at actual power. Mitch Daniels eagerly helped Bush II trash the budget, having no problem when it was his guys.

      As for excessive foreign conflicts, that’s a core plank of the party, from the base to the elites. They *like* the War State.

      “in addition to the general economy”

      Did you ever notice who trashed the economy, and who is continuing to trash it? This is a party who’s done quite well by looting and destruction.

      “- popping up more frequently as issues like gay marriage, immigration, and the war on drugs naturally become less divisive. ”

      This is at best a forty-years-down-the-road thing; right now the GOP loves them some immigrant-bashing, gay bashing and the War on Drugs.

      “It will cause a schism with neoconservatives and social conservatives (neither of which seems to be on the rise now), ”

      The only reason that they’re not on the rise is that the’ve got so much power.

      “…of course, but I think the GOP recognizes it will have to have a bigger tent in order to get full control of the government; I feel like they know they have a strong rallying point with regulations, taxes, and spending. ”

      They went to a smaller tent in ’10, and won. As for taxes and spending – first, BUSH II ADMINISTRATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and second – when has the right ever stopped spending money on the elites and cronies?Report

      • Avatar Anderson says:

        Sure, the Republican party of the Bush II years was about as un-libertarian as one could possibly get, but I think, in the wake of the financial crisis, TARP, the stimulus, health care reform, the tea party etc, the Repub party has shifted hard libertarian on economic issues. Maybe not as much on foriegn policy or social issues (i’ve given up on both parties on civil liberties by this point), but the fact that many newly-elected ’10 reps are for cutting defense spending, ending interventions in Afghanistan/ Libya, and, to be honest, not really pushing social issues, strikes me that the GOP is going to be in for some serious changes over the next couple of decades. I’m not saying we’re going to see the Cato Institute procure an office in the white house, but merely that a new libertarian-esque wing will become a staple of the party; Ron Paul has never been more loved in his own party as he is now. Granted, many of these folks just have libertarian rhetoric and we will see if anything changes when they control all levers of the government…Not that I want to see that happen anytime soon…Anyhow, my main point is that libertarians have gained a lot more leverage in the political debate in the last few years and, if they want to have a say on policy, their best hope will be from a small, but growing, segment of the GOP. Say what you will about Rand Paul, but I don’t ever recall seeing any Republian senators threatening to fillibuster a renewal of the PATRIOT Act until him.Report

  7. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I’m pretty sure that, in 1964, it was inconceivable to the average Democrat that one day his party would be consider pro-homosexuality, pro-drug use, strongly in favor of support for blacks and hispanics (and strongly dismissive of poor whites)…

    Hell, as late as 1972, “Acid Amnesty Abortion” was considered an effective smear. These days they’re practically party planks!Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      You mean, the Democratic administration that has continued DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, increased rates of deportation, and signed a bill that objectively made it more expensive for a woman to get an abortion? That part of acid, amnesty, and abortion.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Of the two major political parties, which one would the average voter say was more likely to be in favor of drug legalization?

        Yes, I know “but but but but but but they did THIS and THAT and THIS OTHER THING”.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          If they’re actually being honest, neither party has any form of drug legalization in their actual party platform. Obama laughs at twitter questions about legalizing marijuana. Believe me, this site has written quite a bit about the pro-drug war stance of the current day DNC. 🙂Report

  8. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I agree with your goals- I’m just not sure what libertarianism is going to ‘win’ in your last sentence. This sounds more like a cultural than a political project. Otherwise, you’d just have a third party warning the public that the other two parties are trying to scare them in order to gain political power, and, in the process, scaring them in order to gain political power. Now winning back the culture from the scaremongers and thus, ultimately depoliticizing the culture- that’s a goal to get behind! And, I’d argue it’s a serious precondition of individual liberty.Report

  9. Avatar Barry says:

    Jason: “There’s something condescending here — I know your project better by far than you do, it says, and it’s not even my project. I know where you’re headed, and you’re doomed. Not just doomed in the “I think bad things will happen” sense, but doomed in the “Bad things will certainly happen, try as you may; I’ve foretold them with an air of mysteriously final prophecy” sense.”

    No, it’s ‘I’ve watched your project, and have noticed that what the intellectuals discuss has limited relevance to the cultural and political world, where the leaders and masses have zero problem taking what they want and need, and leaving the rest, and also no problem with talking up principle X in one minute and talking it down the next.’.

    Or, in other words ‘I’ve seen what’s happened over the past few decades’.Report