The Two Libertarians

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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180 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Just as the the excesses and troubles of the 1960s made liberal a dirty word, so did the excesses and troubles of Bush II and the modern shenanigans of the Republican Party make conservative or at least is in the process of making conservative a dirty word. Many standard members of the GOP are politically astute enough to realize this and are adopting the word libertarian as a replacement for conservative just as liberals did with progressive. Its not going to work any better.Report

    • morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I’d imagine that’s a huge chunk of it.

      Liberals, when they snagged ‘progressive’ didn’t have the same problem. if there was already a ‘progressive’ ideology out there, they’re so small no one noticed. (I’m sure if they exist, they’re very angry about progressives who don’t believe progressive things). Admittedly, liberals did run into people taking the ideologies of the last major group to use progressive (sometime in the 20s, I think) and acting like modern progressives believed the same thing….

      I feel for libertarians. Your name is being snagged and rebranded to mean ‘conservative’ without any real idealogy changes. It’s literally “Same as it was, but without the stench of failure”. (It’s not like ‘conservative’ could really emphasize smaller government and lower taxes any more than they already had).Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to morat20 says:

        Liberal and progressive have basically been interchangible for the same school of thought since the early 20th century. Its just that sometimes one word was more popular than an other. Before 1920, progressive was the monicker of choice. After FDR was elected to the Presidency till Nixon’s election, liberal was the monicker of choice.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    Hayek always had an interesting relationship with large portions his American fanbase durign his life. He loved that at least some people were taking his ideas, as all intellectuals do, but thought that many of them really weren’t quite behind everything he stood for. Considering that he was a cosmopolitan continental type and many of his Americans were the near opposite, he might have at a point.Report

  3. Glyph says:

    There are actually two different librarian movements in this country

    Give me Dewey Decimal or give me death!Report

    • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

      Microfiche! Microfiche!Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        [charges @chris with a wheeled media cart and a war whoop]Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Anarchists prefer Recent Periodicals, which has no real organizational scheme.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:


      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Chris says:


        That’s an interesting thought. Usually, archivists try to maintain what’s called the “original order” in which a collection was organized. If there’s no obvious order, then we impose one. I’ve never had to process an anarchist’s papers, but if I did, and there were no obvious order (not even the “spontaneous” kind that anarchists seem to like) and the collection was big enough to require some sort of order,* that could be kind of a paradox.

        *If a collection is only 2 or 3 boxes of stuff, the archivist can probably get away with just keeping everything as is. But if it’s large, we do like to make things “discoverable” to researchers.

        /day jobReport

      • veronica d in reply to Chris says:

        @gabriel-conroy — I shall lead us waaaay off topic: how much does digitizing, scanning, and modern ML backed search change this?

        (Maybe a guest post?)Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Chris says:

        Anarchists prefer toddler board books. That is true chaos.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Chris says:


        I’m not sure I understand your question, especially “and modern ML backed search.” Here I’m going to show my (embarrassing) ignorance: is “ML backed” a technical term, or are you relating your question to Movement Libertarianism?

        Now, to start answering what I think your question might be–but please lead me back to what you were asking if I’m grokking your question wrong–original order seems, in my opinion, to be more a fiction or perhaps an ideal. I don’t think I’ve ever processed a more than small-sized collection in which the original order was completely or even adequately clear.

        But assuming original order can be reasonably discerned, my sense of digitizing is that it will and does and has done a number on original order (and on a related concept, “provenance,” or keeping the source/creator of an item/container/collection clear). Things are now more linked and cross-referenced than before, and many of the digital servers that public institutions actually use have limitations when it comes to tracking things.

        Now, digitizing brings up a lot of other issues. There are privacy issues–both 3d person privacy and in matters related to secrecy of personnel, student, and medical records, and sometimes attorney-client privilege issues. There are also copyright concerns. (If one digitizes a letter written from x to y, where y is the one who donated the collection, x might have a copyright claim of some sort.) Not to mention the labor and time involved. There’s also, paradoxically, a preservation issue. We scan and save something on one format, and that format becomes obsolete in 10 years or fewer.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Chris says:

        @gabriel-conroy — “ML” is (in this context) “machine learning,” by which I mean using statistical methods to cluster and classify documents.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Chris says:


        Well, that’s probably something I should’ve known, but didn’t/don’t. I do think that’ll create a big challenge, and since I still have one foot in the paper + microfilm era, I think it’s potentially a bad thing and could mean the erosion of one way of understanding the world and understanding history. (Incidentally, it also might mean I don’t have the skills to advance in my profession., but that’s another story.) But it’s definitely not wholly bad, and in some ways it’s just a different way of sorting knowledge and learning that has its own virtues.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        Free the Bound Periodicals!

        Seriously, I used to have a sweatshirt with that on it. My daughter liberated it from my closet during her smart-ass junior-high phase…Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

      The Library of Congress system is the way that all libraries should be organized. It is systematic and modern and what our nation needs. Dewey Decimal is for old school romantics and it should go the way of imperial measurements.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Glyph says:

      I was just about to point this out. (It’s in the summary of the post that you see on the main page.)Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to Glyph says:

      Also worth noting that apparently libertinism is getting a bad rap in the last paragraph there. A fairly Dreher-esque typo.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to Glyph says:

      I thought it was interesting how in school we learned about the Dewey Decimal System EVERY year, and no one thought to mention that it didn’t exist in college.Report

  4. Patrick says:

    This is rather like the True Scientist and Mass Market Scientist divide I’m moaning about on the sidebar, really.


    Okay, I give up giving up.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Patrick says:

      This is why I think that a limited degree of state paternalism is necessary to run modern mass societies. Sometimes you really do need to save people from their own choices for the greater good. Not nearly as much as authoritarians think but on public health issues yes.Report

  5. James Hanley says:

    Honestly, I just have no idea what to do.Report

  6. KatherineMW says:

    Still, I think it’s worth asking why is it that so many people in America are of the opinion that libertarians are so closely aligned with the religious right, or that libertarians would be so staunchly defending the police in the deadly shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

    Because, in my experience the large majority of self-identified libertarians one runs across online and in the media are 1) Republicans and 2) white guys without a strong comprehension of any problems faced by non-white-guys, and generally dismissive of such problems. The average person’s encounter with the libertarian ideology is likely to involve the Randroid variant.

    This site was the first place that gave me the idea that perhaps libertarian was not inherently synonymous with “asshole”.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to KatherineMW says:

      @katherinemw “This site was the first place that gave me the idea that perhaps libertarian was not inherently synonymous with “asshole”.”

      Yeah, me too.Report

    • j r in reply to KatherineMW says:

      The average person’s encounter with the libertarian ideology is likely to involve the Randroid variant.

      I don’t buy that. I don’t know how many actual Randroids there are in this country (as in people who are self-proclaimed Objectivists and not just people who read The Fountainhead in high school and kind of sort of agreed with some of it), but I’m guessing that it’s less than the number of Marxists, for instance. And we can all agree that it is hyperbole when conservatives accuse everyone from Hilary Clinton on leftward of being socialists.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        they pay them, you know. Someone gets paid to start Objectivist clubs in college and crap. Not sure why.

        Do they even have Marxist clubs? If so, i’ll bet dollars to donuts someone’s giving them a bit of cash.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to j r says:

        I don’t know how many serious objectivists there are, but guys who read Atlas Shrugged in high school or college and though “hey, so I can not give a shit about anyone but myself and call it an ideology? And it’s just because I’m smarter than all those plebes? Sweet!“? They’re easy to run across in online political fora, comments sections, and the like.

        You’re likely right that they’re not numerous in the overall population. Libertarians of all stripes, both decent and asshole, are highly overrepresented in online political discussions relative to their proportion in the overall population.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to j r says:

        Kim – There are Marxist clubs in some universities. They’re generally small, and I don’t think anyone’s funding them (except in cases where all clubs get a baseline level of funding from the student society).Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        Here’s the difference. You can go to any number of accredited, top-tier colleges and universities and find faculty members who self-identify as Marxists. You can find them in philosophy departments, economics departments, sociology, Comparative Literature, etc. Search those same departments for an Objectivist and see how many you find.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to j r says:

        That’s because Marxism is a method of analysis, and an effective one, which can be employed without supporting all of Marx’s economic prescriptions.

        Objectivism’s economic philosophy is “markets fix everything”. That’s one that’s taught by many economics profs, so you can hardly say it’s unrepresented.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        Objectivism’s economic philosophy is “markets fix everything”.

        Yeah. I’m pretty sure that is a direct quote.Report

      • Patrick in reply to j r says:

        Here’s the difference. You can go to any number of accredited, top-tier colleges and universities and find faculty members who self-identify as Marxists. You can find them in philosophy departments, economics departments, sociology, Comparative Literature, etc. Search those same departments for an Objectivist and see how many you find.

        I don’t think that there’s really compelling evidence that Marxism is particularly well-represented in academia.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to j r says:

        Not to defend objectivism, or to pretend I’m any kind of expert in it, but there’s actually rather more to it than just markets. And the part that is about markets actually derives from its (flawed, imo) approach to understanding human nature.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to j r says:


        If you look at the standard types of books published in labor history, you’ll find plenty of marxism represented.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        I don’t think that there’s really compelling evidence that Marxism is particularly well-represented in academia.

        I don’t know what the metric is for well-represented, but I do know that Marxists’s are more well-represented in academia than Objectivists are.

        Like @james-hanley, I don’t have a whole lot of love for Rand or her acolytes, so I have no desire to spend anytime weighing the relative merits of two deeply flawed ideologies. The point I am making is that the number of actual Objectivists out in the real world, as opposed to people who read some or all of The Fountainhead and maybe sorta liked it, makes it unlikely that people’s opinions of libertarians are actually shaped by interactions with them.

        If people hold negative stereotypes of libertarians as Randroids, it’s for the usual reasons that people hold negative stereotypes. It is much easier to construct an all-purpose caricature, then it is to actually invest the time and energy in understanding another point of view.

        This is perhaps one of the reasons that progressives are very bad at the ideological Turing Test for libertarianism.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to j r says:


        “but I do know that Marxists’s are more well-represented in academia than Objectivists are.”

        That’s my impression, too, although not having read Rand, I’d be hard-pressed to define what Objectivism is or to identify its adherents. To echo what someone else (Katherine?) said here, Marxism is an analytical approach as well as a political commitment, and that approach can be useful, if still sometimes faulty. Classes do exist, they often have opposing interests, and they often struggle, and it can be really useful to look at state actions or culture as expressions of class struggle. My problem with Marxist approaches is that they tend to be totalizing and tautological–not necessarily a bad thing, but some of those who adopt the approaches edge too far for me into saying “this shall be all, and none other.”Report

      • Damon in reply to j r says:


        “Objectivism’s economic philosophy is “markets fix everything”. That’s one that’s taught by many economics profs, so you can hardly say it’s unrepresented.”

        Oh BS. EVERY econ and finance professor I had in both undergrad or grad school were Keynesians. The only time real markets came up was in “economic history and thought” when we talked about Adam Smith.Report

      • veronica d in reply to j r says:

        A small number of jerks can ruin things for some people, if they are given free rein.Report

    • Road Scholar in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Yep. I wandered around BHL for awhile before giving up on them. Fortunately this site was on their blog roll with an interesting name.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Road Scholar says:

        What was it that you didn’t like there?Report

      • Murali in reply to Road Scholar says:

        The comment section, which can be depressing or infuriating. Honestly, its not that all or even most of them are bad. Its that there are a handful of folks who are prolific commenters and try to play “obnoxious libertarians” on the internet. Among them are mike farmer who used to comment in these parts.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Road Scholar says:

        I’ve not read it regularly, although I like some of the folks there, like Munger. Curiously, I wandered over there after seeing Rod’s comment, and saw a Munger piece that led me to a Zwolinski piece talking about “marginal libertarianism.” The term “marginal libertarianism” had a link, and I thought, huh, that’s an unusual phrasing, I wonder what he’s linking to. Lo and behold, it was to my sadly neglected blog. I had no idea anyone beyond a few folks here and a couple friends were aware of my blog’s existence. So Zwolinski links to me seversl months after my most recent post. Timing is everything I guess.

        And I stole the phrase marginal libertarianism from James K. So if anyone saw that Zwolinski piece, James K’s handiwork was lurking unacknowledged in there.Report

      • j r in reply to Road Scholar says:

        I am a somewhat regular reader of BHL. I like it, but it is in large measure an analytic philosophy blog, which somewhat limits its appeal.Report

      • greginak in reply to Road Scholar says:

        I check BHL fairly regularly. It’s a bit to much in love with pure philosophy for my taste. Some of front page pieces are interesting although the comments are an echo chamber with a few people trying to out purity each other with a dollop of self-righteous superiority.Report

      • Murali in reply to Road Scholar says:

        @greginak, @j-r

        The reason why I like to read BHL is because of the pure philosophy. Its at the pure philosophy level where serious self criticism and serious theoretical development take place.Report

      • greginak in reply to Road Scholar says:

        @murali Oh yeah, philo has its purpose. The problem however is that something can be philosophically pure and logical and not work at all in the world. In fact i most things that work well are going to be somewhat of a melange of ideas.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Road Scholar says:

        philo has its purpose.

        Making baklava.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Road Scholar says:

        Making baklava.

        The one & truly divine purpose!Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Road Scholar says:

        BHL is in my feed, but I have to admit to not reading it as much as I’d like. Usually I need to have a good chunk of time available where I can read & then grok the topic at hand. Such time is few & far between.Report

  7. KatherineMW says:

    Incidentally, in the vein of “fringe political movements defending their identity and principles” – this is why I object strongly when mainstream liberalism or centrism and its adherents are described as “the left”. It’s the same thing on the opposite side of the political spectrum.Report

    • Murali in reply to KatherineMW says:

      “the left” is a different sort of term in that it seems broader. I don’t think it just refers to ideologies heavily influenced by Marxist socialism. We already have a good word for those ideologies: socialist, social democratic, fabian socialist, etc. Let’s take neoliberalism for example. There is left neo-liberalism and there is right neoliberalism. Although, there is a broad sense in which neoliberalism occupies the centre, there is a difference between the neoliberalisms of Yglesias, DeLong and Larry Summers and the neoliberalism of Tyler Cowen or Scott Sumner. The former are left neoliberals and the latter are right neoliberals. Of course the socialists are often willing to lump all neoliberals together and call themselves the authentic left, it seems that left neoliberals can play the same game.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Murali says:

        [trigger warning: random linguistic speculation]

        I think “left” was always meant as an umbrella term, since not everyone on (literally) the left side of the assembly agreed on every point. They just all agreed that they disagreed with those horrible people on the right side of the assembly. And vicy-versy.

        Anyway, given its semantic function as a relative direction depending on where you are standing, the terms seems cognitively primed to shift meanings according to the current political trends.

        Does that make sense?

        A term like “libertarian” seems more to stake out a region in the space of politics, so we are perhaps less keen to see its meaning shift.

        Which does not mean its meaning hasn’t shifted, won’t shift, or shouldn’t shift. But it perhaps feels less natural to those who have a stake in the word.Report

      • Murali in reply to Murali says:


        You said it better than I ever could.Report

    • Philip H in reply to KatherineMW says:

      My general problem with the use of the term “the Left” and/or things like “socialism” when discussing politics or policy these days is that its applied to what are classically understood as Centerist approaches. What passes for Left-wing or Classic Liberal doesn’t even get named in such discussions anymore.Report

  8. LeeEsq says:

    This might not necessarily be the first time this happened to the Libertarian movement. During the 1950s and early 1960s, the Birchers appropriated the work of Frederick Hayek even though what Hayek wanted didn’t really correspond to the paranoid ideology of the Birchers. Early libertarian thinkers found their writings hijacked by the racist supporters of segregation. The Christian Right grasping onto a veneer of libertarianism is just the latest incidence of the American Far Right using libertarianism as a cover.

    Libertarianism is an attractive cover for Far Right types because it allows them to indirectly argue for a worldview that many people find repulsive in the language of liberty necessary in American politics.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I’m not going to deny that for some groups–and I’m not convinced it’s just righties–libertarianism can be an ideology of convenience. And some of that recourse is just cynical ad hoc’ing.

      However, libertarianism is so convenient also because when some aspect of what you (universal you) wanted to do or enjoyed doing or benefited from is taken away from you, it often really is a denial of liberty. And when one suffers and injury to one’s liberty, that’s when one is most likely to adopt a “liberty” argument to address that injury.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        I don’t quite buy this argument and never really did. Why is it a denial of liberty when a discriminating and prejudice group no longer gets to be discriminatory. Is it a denial of liberty if there are still some white Afrikaans who miss Apartheid and minority rule in South Africa?

        I just can’t buy that argument.Report

      • @saul-degraw

        Well, first of all, I prefaced my comment by acknowledging that “for some groups…libertarianism can be an ideology of convenience. And some of that recourse is just cynical ad hoc’ing.” Since I wasn’t clear and since I suppose it’s possible to read the rest of my comment as a defense of segregationists, let me clarify: If a segregationist is going to appeal to libertarianism to justify segregation (which, by the way, is pretty anti-libertarian when we’re talking about state-enforced or state-mandated segregation), then they’re using libertarian tropes only because it’s convenient.

        But if we’re talking of businesses complaining of regulation, especially, for example, regulation that compels them to bargain with unions, then I’m open to considering them consistent when they’re appealing to “lost liberty.” That doesn’t mean I don’t support NLRA style laws, and I certainly don’t like business owners as a group (certain of them excepted). But it means that those laws do restrict a liberty and it’s not cynical for affected businesses to cry foul.Report

      • Saul,

        Now that I’ve calmed down a little bit, I’ll acknowledge a point where your critique of what I’ve said deserves more consideration. I’ve said, and believe, that libertarianism for segregationists is just cynical appropriation of tropes to anti-libertarian ends. There’s the harder case about anti-discrimination laws for employers, laws which I support by and large. I do think that is a denial of liberty to the employer to do something he or she would otherwise be allowed to do. And I think criticizing such laws on libertarian grounds does fit with at least the general scheme of what libertarianism is. Not that all libertarians believe, say, the 1964 Act is therefore a bad thing, but that it takes away a liberty that those to whom it applies otherwise had.

        Again, though, I support the 1964 act and most other laws to outlaw employment discrimination.Report

  9. zic says:

    Here’s the 2014 Libertarian Platform, and I’ll point out it’s changed recently, dropping the pro-life plank for one.

    Is that Libertarian, as self-proclaimed libertarians here envision it?

    Beyond; I think a lot of what we’re seeing is the same as the Liberal attempt to rebrand Progressive; put a different color of lipstick on the same old pig’s lips and claim it’s a different pig. People not liking your ideas? Try calling them Libertarian and see if they like them better, and screw that there might be people out there already using the name with different ideas.

    I never much liked the label ‘progressive’ for that reason; better to rehabilitate ideas and reclaim honor then to change the lipstick color but keep speaking the same old crap.

    And @katherinemw you’re right about the ‘fringe’ element identifiers, thank you.Report

    • Glyph in reply to zic says:

      Do you have a link to the old LP platform containing a pro-life plank? That would be news to me.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        The plank says “Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration” and it’s said that for as long as *I* can remember. Wikipedia says that it still said that in 2012.

        Googling what the history of the platform was, I didn’t find anything but Bernie Sanders’s excerpts from the 1980 platform.

        It doesn’t mention abortion one way or the other.Report

      • zic in reply to Glyph says:

        It did during the 2008 election, when Barr was their nominee. It surprised me; and as I recall, McArdle wrote a post (or responded to comments) criticizing it.

        Both Ron and Rand Paul are also pro-life.

        The logic here was that once conception occurred, the fetus had all the rights of full human.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        Oh, duh. I did a find on the page and I missed this:

        “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”

        So… is that Pro-Life? Or anti-Socialized Medicine?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        Digging some more:

        Government should be kept out of the matter of abortion
        Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
        Source: National platform adopted at Denver L.P. convention , May 30, 2008

        Abortion is a woman’s choice and does not concern the state
        Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that libertarians can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question. We condemn state-funded abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion. It is the right of the woman, not the state, to decide the desirability of prenatal testing, Caesarean births, fetal surgery, and/or home births.
        Source: National Platform of the Libertarian Party , Jul 2, 2000

        I can’t find evidence of an explicitly pro-life plank. I’ll keep digging.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        And here’s a link to a PDF of the 2008 platform.

        The abortion plank is the same one as above.

        And here’s a link (sorry to spam y’all) to 1972’s platform. Abortion isn’t mentioned, as far as I can tell (I did a find and everything).

      • zic in reply to Glyph says:

        @jaybird I could be wrong here; my memory is faulty.

        What I remember, if that’s of any use, is receiving the platform in an email, and being shocked that it included a pro-life statement, because the fetus deserved full human rights, too.

        This would have been before 2009, that’s when this computer dates to, and it was not in my archive. (I don’t delete that stuff.)

        Perhaps I’m misremembering; but I also remember discussions with McArdle, and her disgust with it, as well.

        So if I’ve misspoken, I beg forgiveness. But I’m not convinced I did. (And the language may not be pro-life/abortion, but from the perspective of the rights of the fetus; but it’s import was a total pro-life stance, not a ‘leave women alone,’ stance.)Report

      • Mo in reply to Glyph says:

        @zic It may be a state, rather than national, platform.Report

      • zic in reply to Glyph says:

        @jaybird I admit that I’m probably wrong about the platform; it’s the 2008 candidate, Bob Barr.

        Perhaps I’m remembering some communication from Barr, the candidate, as the platform.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Glyph says:

        @zic It’s possible that you’re thinking of the “Issues” section of Bob Barr’s campaign website, which I’m pretty sure would have taken a vehemently anti-abortion rights stand. McArdle was, like many libertarians*, definitely angry about the nomination of Barr and specifically about a number of the positions that he was emphasizing in his campaign.

        *I was not one of those libertarians, but for reasons having nothing to do with abortion, and everything to do with the fact that Barr was the highest profile candidate who was opposed to warrantless wiretaps/searches, the War on Drugs, and torture.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

        In 2008 it was the same as in 2014.

        In 2000, it said Abortion is a woman’s choice and does not concern the state.”

        In 1996 it makes no mention of the issue, at least in what seems to be a short version.

        In 1992 there is a longer statement.
        “Recognizing that each person must be the sole and absolute owner of his or her own body, we support the right of women to make a personal choice regarding the termination of pregnancy. We oppose the undermining of the right via laws requiring consent of the pregnant woman’s parents, consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, or compulsory provision of indoctrination on medical risks or fetal development.”

        In 1982, it said the same thing.

        1976, immediately post-Roe makes no reference to the issue.

        1972, pre-Roe, makes no reference to the issue.

        So I don’t see any evidence that the LP ever had a pro-life plank, much less recently.

        There are pro-life libertarians, though, which is a logical position for one who views the fetus as person. Here is an interesting exchange between a pro-life libertarian and a pro-choice libertarian.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        Zic, that’s totally cool. I have no doubt that you remember that. I do, however, seem to recall that the platform has usually been pro-choice.

        Doing a search of “1992 libertarian platform” and “1996 libertarian platform” takes me to and neither one of those platforms is explicitly pro-life either.

        Personally, I *DO* know that the libertarian position on abortion varies wildly depending on the libertarian… but I’ve not met many (and none come to mind right now) that argue that the government should be involved in banning it. They just argue the whole immoral vs. amoral thing.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

        The selection of Bob Barr as its nominee was an ugly demonstration of what an inchoate mess the LP is.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Glyph says:


        What did you think of his running mate, Wayne Allyn Root?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

        Honestly, I didn’t think of him at all. I couldn’t really say anything about him except that I didn’t like the company he kept.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Glyph says:


        For those who don’t know, Root was famous for running a tout service. In other words, he was a more-polished Jimmy the Greek who made his living handicapping sporting events and selling his selections to a naive public.

        As of now, Root is no longer a Libertarian. He plans on running against Harry Reid as a Republican in two years.

        He also claimed that Obama attended Columbia as a foreign-exchange student.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Glyph says:

        Ah, WAR. What was he good for? Absolutely nothing.Report

    • Damon in reply to zic says:

      Those topics are, generally, what I would consider Libertarian, and which I generally support. I self ID as TLReport

  10. j r says:

    I used to be somewhat mixed up in movement libertarianism, but that was a long time ago. I still now plenty of those folks personally, but I cannot claim to speak with any authority about what they might say to this. Some of them would likely be quite mad at the idea of the brand being tarnished, but others would likely feel that there is no such thing as bad press. I am sort of in the latter camp.

    If a bunch of people come to know libertarian and classical liberal ideas through Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, it’s not ideal, but when is anything ever idea? A certain number of these sorts of mass-market libertarians are just right-wing populists, but you know what? They’d be right-wing populists with or without ever discovering libertarianism.

    Some number of people who come in through Beck and the Tea Party will be curious enough to go to the source material. They will read Hayek, they will read Milton Friedman and those ideas will reach a larger audience. That’s not a bad thing.Report

  11. Citizen says:

    Socialism creep will soon erode Libertarianism as it has done to every other -ism.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Citizen says:

      Define “socialism” please.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Citizen says:

      That wasn’t meant as a “gotcha” — I’ve just found many, many, many people use the word ‘socialism’ to mean a variety of things. I’d like the definition of ‘socialism’ as you are using it here so I can grasp your meaning.Report

      • Citizen in reply to morat20 says:

        Sorry for the late reply.
        Socialism is depending on other people(or control structures) to provide the services of whatever is classified as freedom, liberty or rights.

        Most people only want the liberty to be comfortable in their life pursuits. It is the primary reason that anarchy fails.

        Socialism is easy, but doomed to repeated failure. Its a burdened, hollow promise from men/women looking for power.

        This is my vantage point, I could expand on it more, but this is the condensed version.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to morat20 says:

        That is a very unusual definition of socialism and way too expansive definition of socialism.* I’d also argue that everyone is always going to have to rely on others to provide freedom, liberty, or rights even in a limited government form because it is impossible for a person to to provide all services for themselves. Nobody is that self-sufficient.

        We have a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures according to the Constitution. We also know that police violate this right all the time and that legal action in the Courts is necessary to defend the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. If a person had to protect his or her right against unreasonable searches and seizures by him or herself than the result would simply be an increase of violence because how else would one resist the police? Even negative freedoms require positive action and a reliance on others sometimes. At very least you need others to respect your rights and not try to suppress them as often happened in American history.

        *For those wondering, I’d define socialism as various schools of thought that believes that economy should be run mainly or wholly on a cooperative rather than competitive basis. Capitalism are schools of thought that believes that the economy should be run mainly or wholly on a competitive basis.Report

      • Citizen in reply to morat20 says:

        Not expansive enough really.

        I don’t see how a cooperative majority at the wheel of economy lands us much different than where we are now.

        What is a Marxist analysis of a anarchist, capitalistic state that is devoid of rent seeking? Has that ever been done. What would it look like?Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    Eh. I’ve realized that going at it from the political party angle is masturbation. It feels good but it does not produce life.

    Nothing wrong with feeling good, of course. (I’ll still vote for them, assuming they don’t nominate Barr-types.)

    My main focus has switched to trying to get the two real parties to talk about the stuff that I care about. Maybe they’ll agree. Sure, they probably will. But one of them might sigh and say “you know what, maybe the government’s efforts could be better spent elsewise.”

    10 years ago, this meant gay marriage. Today, it means the War on Drugs and Police Militarization. I’ll worry about Tomorrow, tomorrow.Report

    • j r in reply to Jaybird says:

      This is pretty close to my own feelings. I’ve never had much interest in building the Libertarian brand or building Libertarianism into a large popular movement. It is hard for me to imagine a libertarianism that would have any sort of mass appeal and still be worth a damn (Beck and the Tea Party are cases in point).

      For me, the importance of the libertarian movement is to keep exposing people to ideas and keep offering an alternative to the dominant Red Team-Blue Team paradigm.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

        Well, to @j-r , @jaybird , and many of the other good folks here… consider me among those positively influenced by your ideas and methods. I skew libertarian on a number of issues as a result of “people like you”. I don’t know what that means in the grand scheme but, hey, you got Kazzy (partly) on your side.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to j r says:

        Just never stop thinking about it, that’s all I’d ask.

        And plant a seed, when it seems like the time and place to do so.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        Thanks, @kazzy. You are far too kind to be commenting about politics on the internets. I am pretty sure there is a rule about this somewhere.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

        @j-r @jaybird

        I’ve probably always been inclined towards libertarianism though I couldn’t necessarily attach a term or ideology to it. I’ve never been one for rules: live and let live, I’ve always espoused. I would say I’m not a hard libertarian (and don’t even assume the label at all except to say I have “libertarian leanings”) because I do believe in the government A) existing and B) performing certain basic functions for its citizenry (e.g., education, protection including military, police, and fire (though not necessarily in their current forms), probably basic health care). Ideally this is done with as minimum imposition on others as possible but some imposition is necessary and the cost of participating in society, I say.

        When I hear an idea proposed, I tend not to think: “As a [blank]*, how am I supposed to feel on this?” Rather, I think, “Is this right? Does this achieve or move us towards the proper goals?” And while obviously my determination of what is right is informed by my personal ideology, I try to think more along the lines of values than dogma. And this often — not always, but often — puts me in line with libertarians.

        * For any value of [blank]: “As a teacher…” “As someone who leans left…” “As a male…”Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      Compared to Murray Rothbard, Beck is at least mostly harmlessReport

  13. Factually, I agree with everything you’ve written here, but something’s not sitting right with me about your conclusion that the MLs are likely – or even able – to set the TLs back a generation. It increasingly seems likely to me that the opposite will turn out to be true, and that the MLs are necessary to the TLs accomplishing their policy goals.

    I’m struggling to put my thoughts as to why into a coherent comment – maybe I’ll try to flesh it out a bit more in a full-length post if I have time – but here are some scattered reasons why I think your conclusion may be wrong:

    1. The difference between what you call the TLs and the MLs fairly closely parallels the oft-times vicious split between “cosmopolitan libertarians” and “paleo-libertarians,” with the notable caveat that those who might be said to now represent the MLs are infinitely more hawkish on foreign policy than the historically anti-war-to-a-fault paleo-libertarians. Regardless, in this sense, the “two libertarians” have pretty much always existed, even if the populist variety suddenly has gotten much bigger.

    2. The Becks of the world are not so much leaders as they are conduits for a set of populist interest groups that have formed a rung of the three-legged stool of conservatism for the last 40 years. And “interest group” is the operative phrase here – I think we’re largely talking about a group of people who are coming to terms with the fact that what has operated under the banner of conservatism for really about the last 20 years has had basically no ideological consistency and has not been terribly successful at representing their particular interests as those interests have evolved. I don’t think they actually care much about how those interests are protected or advanced so long as they have representatives that are actively protecting or advancing those interests. I also don’t think, rhetoric aside, they actually care all that much about questions outside of their core interests.

    3.Populist and/or grassroots movements have long been what gets politicians elected, but only rarely do they take much interest in agenda setting or in the nuts and bolts of legislation once they get politicians elected. They tend to care only that their interests are being protected or advanced by those they elect.

    4. By contrast, wonks, intellectuals, and journalists care much less about getting the “right” politicians elected and much more about setting agendas and the nuts and bolts of policy in pursuit of an ultimate view of “The Good.” They are more concerned about pursuing this ultimate “Good” than they are about advancing their short-term personal interests. They still care about specific interests of various constituencies, but are particularly concerned with how those interests can be served by their long term vision. In other words, these folks are as or more concerned about the way in which interests are advanced as they are concerned with which interests are advanced. I’d wager that most of those you call “TLs” fit this description, as do most of those who you may have at one time or another called “true conservatives” or “true liberals.” Regardless, on their own, these types of folks rarely if ever represent an numerically significant electoral constituency, because to be in this group you have to be willing to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to thinking about big picture political issues.

    5. TLs – just like conservative and liberal intellectuals – can achieve their goals only by either gaining the trust of influential politicians or by rallying larger interest groups to a particular cause they support. And, really, they kind of need both of these to happen.

    6. That MLs exist at all in significant numbers is thus actually quite a hopeful development for TLs. MLs were responsible for electing several significant politicians who, while representing MLs, also have a good deal of trust for TLs. These politicians are able to communicate with the MLs who elected them and thereby mobilize popular support for elements of the TLs’ agenda. These politicians are also able to (and indeed need to) seek out other constituencies using other elements of the TLs’ agenda about which the MLs either care little or outright support. This, too, obviously helps advance the agenda of TLs.

    7. Increasingly the areas where the divide between TLs and MLs has traditionally been greatest are becoming irrelevant. The debate over SSM is close to being over, and TLs are frequently on board with religious exemptions to relevant anti-discrimination laws. While the MLs are on the whole more hawkish than their paleo-libertarian predecessors, they’re a lot more divided on the issue than other movement conservatives, and indeed Glenn Beck himself has acknowledged that the Iraq War was a mistake. MLs as compared to other aspects of movement conservatism also seem less interested in fighting the War on Drugs and more interested in criminal justice reform more generally.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that it matters less that MLs as a whole may hold a lot of views that TLs find noxious, and more that TLs will be able to find things that either advance portions of MLs agenda or at least that won’t keep MLs from supporting politicians willing to trust TLs. After all, politics has always made for strange bedfellows, and has always been the art of the possible.Report

    • Actually, there is one factual issue I have to dissent from – I don’t see where you’ve shown self-proclaimed libertarians defending the police actions in Ferguson. While you linked to the article claiming that libertarians had been silent on the issue, that article was quickly and thoroughly debunked, and wound up amounting to nothing more than “why haven’t Justin Amash and Rand Paul weighed in five days after the original protests began?” And, of course, it turned out that Amash weighed in before the WaPo article was published, and Rand Paul’s far-reaching piece was set to run in Time just a few hours later.Report

      • FWIW, the one relatively high-profile self-proclaimed libertarian who I know of that’s arguably been defending the police publicly is Kerik, who is in the video you posted. However, I’d be very cautious about reading too much into that – (1) while unacceptably critical of protesters and defensive of the police, he at least has been willing to acknowledge that militarization of the police has gone overboard; and (2) he’s an ex-cop, so I don’t think it would be appropriate to extrapolate from him, as he obviously has a personal interest in defending the police actions here.

        I’m not saying that there aren’t any others, just that I’m not familiar with others.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      I think this is a pretty fair analysis @mark-thompson, and it reminds me of the conversations that we get into regarding both the “mainstream” right and left, actually.

      I think the tricky part for TLs is the tradeoffs between policy goals, and the trade off between purity and power.

      First, You’re not gonna get everything you want. You may get something that is really important, but you might have to give up something that’s equally as important.

      Liberals gave up single payer to get PPACA. Getting something was more important than getting their ideal. For the folks just watching from over here, I think that was a huge gamble (whether or not it pays off, we won’t know probably for another 30 years, really).

      The GOP has plenty of examples.

      Second, getting power becomes its own goal. Practically, it needs to be; if you’re going to get more of those policy goals done, it’s not like this is as nefarious as everyone makes it out to be. There’s a couple of ways… you’re going to have to get more populist and rake in more votes, or you’re going to have to get more centrist in outcomes, giving up some things to get others, and you can always play a long game. Oh, and you can always try and change the rules.

      For a long time the libertarian movement has been playing the long game. To the extent that a lot of libertarian rhetoric has been adopted by the populist right, this been successful as a marketing tool, but it’s unclear whether or not it has resulted in more libertarianish outcomes. So far they’ve got tax rates pretty low, and… well, not much else.

      The more centrist possibility is right off the table right now, because the populist movement part of MLs is so far away from conceptually being to moderate anything to get anything else that it’s frankly high comedy, or would be if it weren’t so potentially devastating to actual operations of government.

      The rabble-rousing option is dangerous, as Rod’s posts on the GOP and the tiger tail illustrate.

      Me, I’m becoming convinced that the only way to really break all of the rhetorical logjams that we’ve ossified into our discourse is to demand a change in the rules. We need to break up the way Congress operates so that the same battles can’t be fought on the same ground. It wouldn’t take a Constitutional re-write to do this, but it *would* require a real movement to do it.

      But “we’re going to Washington to change committee rules and legislative processes!” isn’t exactly a populist battle cry.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Patrick says:

        the trade off between purity and power….getting power becomes its own goal. Practically, it needs to be; if you’re going to get more of those policy goals done, it’s not like this is as nefarious as everyone makes it out to be.

        But take the Bob Barr nomination 2 cycles ago. I can only assume he got the L nomination due to the hope that sheer name recognition might garner more votes, or siphon some R’s off to the L’s.

        But dude was a joke as an L, a transparently-opportunistic “former” drug warrior etc. and I imagine he cost the party votes too (cost them mine, anyway; no idea what the “net” effect was).

        In some crazy universe where he had somehow won, would that have been a good thing for L principles? I have a hard time believing that would be so.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Patrick says:

        In fairness, I can think of a number of other libertarian successes beyond tax rates and de-regulation – Milton Friedman’s input is one of the biggest reasons we don’t have a draft anymore, and while liberals have certainly been the more powerful force in the SSM movement, libertarians have played a key role there as well. Libertarians have also played a big role in blocking and undoing firearms prohibitions, and it was libertarians who were behind Heller. And of course the tide finally seems to be turning on significant portions of the War on Drugs. But on the whole, yeah, libertarian influence has been clearest on questions of tax rates and (unfortunately uneven) deregulation.

        This is mostly because of the nature of coalition politics – as with most elements of the two dominant political coalitions, libertarians wound up being largely integrated into the GOP coalition by virtue of something approaching an historical accident. What officially bound the GOP was anti-communism, and obviously the libertarian economic message dovetailed nicely with that. But more importantly, from the modern libertarian movement’s inception in the mid to late ’40s until the last 15-20 years, it had a huge amount of common ground with the Chamber of Commerce types who have traditionally formed the core of the GOP’s power base. Over-regulation of the economy really was a major problem back in the day – indeed, the totally screwed up health care system we have is largely a direct outcome of the over-regulation back then.

        The ties between the libertarian movement and the GOP thus actually predate the close ties between religious conservatives and the GOP.

        Anyhow, while I do think that institutional reform of Congress is a good idea in general, I don’t think it’s going to be necessary – or, if implemented, successful – in breaking the “rhetorical logjams that we’ve ossified into our discourse.” (I like that way of phrasing the problem, BTW). I think it could break legislative logjams, but I don’t think it would have much impact on polarization. In fact, it could actually make polarization worse if it was primarily aimed at reducing veto points, which would reduce incentives for cross-party compromise – there’s little reason to negotiate with the other party if you can just pass a bill that’s acceptable to all the elements of your party.

        But I do think that this “rhetorical logjam” will be broken at some point in the next few years under its own weight. I continue to maintain that the reason things are so incredibly polarized right now, and have been for the last several years, is that pretty much the only thing binding the GOP’s coalition together is reflexive opposition to Obama.

        Most importantly for our present discussion, there’s absolutely nothing other than opposition to Obamacare that still binds either TL or ML libertarians to the GOP’s traditional Northeastern business power structure. I mean, other than platitudes about small government, I really struggle to think of a significant issue where Rand Paul and Chris Christie are reasonably close to agreement – maybe some social issues that they don’t much care about but that particularly animate religious conservatives, and thus are good fodder for pandering. I can think of plenty of areas of agreement or potential agreement between Paul and religious conservatives, and between Christie and religious conservatives, but not between Paul and Christie.

        The GOP is messed up right now because, without any common primary interests, it has to act as if every secondary and tertiary interest of every one of its constituent groups is a litmus test matter of principle. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – if you have too many principles, you have none. When a party is healthy and has a common agenda that binds it, then its constituencies are free to try to advance their other issues outside of that agenda by negotiating and working with whoever is willing to discuss those issues, regardless of whether that means talking to members of the other party – and not just centrists from the other party, either.

        But when one party’s got nothing binding it together other than “we’re not them,” while simultaneously needing to insist that every issue is a binding litmus test issue, it becomes near-impossible to have any kind of cross-party coalitions – not just legislatively, but also even at a grassroots level.

        In the long run, of course, this is an untenable position – the purpose of politics is to govern, and you can’t govern if you can’t do anything affirmatively because you’re worried that literally anything you do will infuriate part of your coalition. At some point, you’ve just got to bite the bullet even if it means alienating a part of your coalition. What’s remarkable is that the GOP has been able to avoid biting the bullet for as long as it has, but the flipside to this is that for awhile it’s made the country more polarized than it’s been since the Civil War.* Still, I do think we’re finally reaching the point where the bullet is being forced into the GOP’s teeth whether it wants to bite it or not.

        *I don’t know enough about this to say so definitively, but it seems to me that the GOP’s present problems are not dissimilar from the problems that the Democrats faced in the run up to the Civil War, which led to the most ineffective Presidential administration in history, Buchanan, who I think may have failed so miserably largely because he was unwilling to do anything that would infuriate a sizable portion of his coalition. I suspect a President Romney would have been disastrous for similar reasons, albeit on a much less consequential scale.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

        The GOP is messed up right now because, without any common primary interests, it has to act as if every secondary and tertiary interest of every one of its constituent groups is a litmus test matter of principle.

        Awesome insight.

        (You may have just inspired a post)Report

      • morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

        You know, I can’t really figure out how to put it — but for all the grief Bush got (Bush the Younger), he at least seemed aware of it. Compassionate conservatism was, at least as best I can tell, him trying to basically saw off the more troublesome areas (say, the more hardcore immigration viewpoints, the more worrisome theocratic overtones) that were starting to worry the middle, and to try to at least re-market the core GOP ideas (tax cuts, deregulation, privatization — pretty much a very business friendly set of policies while reducing the sharper social issues to a more sedate, softer, less combative tone.

        At least softening the pitch.

        Pity that all went by the wayside. Whatever he tried to do, it’s pretty obvious that he gave up. Or was forced to.

        ‘course 9/11 put paid to a lot of plans. (ha! Remember when the Bush DoJ was gonna crack down on the real problems of America? Internet porn!). Touching the third rail with SS privatization didn’t help, and sadly for the GOP — doubling down on anti-gay rhetoric was a very brief, but potent, stimulus.

        Pity. Without 9/11, perhaps Bush might have been able to make something of it. Perhaps not — I honestly think he was able to sell “compassionate conservatism” because the social issue voters accepted him as ‘one of them’, were willing to extend him credit that they’ve become loathe to do with anyone else. Huckabee could probably pull it off, so could Santorum, but Bush had a better history — a good, connective story without any real background of deeply troublesome statements.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Patrick says:

        Love the comment. A question, though. When you say, “if you can’t do anything affirmatively”, does tearing down existing programs count as affirmative? My perception of the Right is that they want a system where everyone either negotiates their own health care arrangements with the doctors/hospitals/drug companies, or at most negotiates their own arrangements with the insurance companies. Towards that goal, they want to quickly dismantle (or radically change) first the PPACA, then Medicaid, and finally Medicare. I assume that they would get around to Tri-Care and the VA eventually. Is that doing something affirmatively?Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Patrick says:

        @morat20 Great points. I’ve wondered for awhile what would have happened under Bush without 9/11. For all of his problems – and they were myriad – he really did seem to be serious about his concept of “compassionate conservatism” and did really seem to understand that this would have required building a broader coalition. The other thing of course that killed him in that regard was the manner in which he became President, which both made broadening the coalition impossible and meant that he needed to tread with greater caution on issues that could irritate his base. What little capital he had in that regard was basically blown on Medicare Part D, which did not pay the political dividends he probably had hoped for. When he was finally able to pivot back to domestic issues in his second term, he didn’t have nearly the political capital he would have needed to privatize Social Security (but made the ill-advised decision to spend what he had on pursuing that right after his re-election), and then didn’t have any capital left at all to strongarm conservatives into signing on to his immigration reform packages.

        I think that Huckabee in 2008 presented himself as a potentially worthy candidate to restart those efforts, but you’re right that he’s now said too much as a commentator to gain any traction in that regard if he tries again.
        @michael-cain Dismantling programs certainly counts as something affirmative (though for our purposes, dismantling PPACA alone doesn’t since it’s still being implemented and in any event hasn’t yet become an established part of life). However, while your understanding probably describes a chunk of the “Right,” I don’t think you could reasonably say that there’d be anything close to unanimity on the Right to also dismantle Medicaid and Medicare. As I recall, the conservative health care proposals that actually had or have strong GOP support are/were basically just significantly limited versions of PPACA. The only additional elements, IIRC, are limited to permitting insurance sales across state lines and medical malpractice reform. The potential effects of permitting insurance sales across state lines may or may not be significant – the potential effectiveness of med mal reform is minimal – but if those are the only items of health care reform that you can get your coalition to agree on, then you’re not going to be able to treat the issue very seriously.Report

  14. kenB says:

    It’s not just the MMLs who are responsible for the perceptions of “libertarians” — it’s also liberals who are reflexively hostile to libertarianism and who thus tend to treat the least reasonable elements of that class as representative.

    This is not a slam on liberals in particular — it’s common enough among all sorts of ideological groupings. I see it with religion especially — some conservatives are happy to join with Muslim extremists in the claim that “true” Islam is naturally extremist, dogmatic atheists stand with the fundamentalist christians in considering literalism as the only proper way to read the Bible, etc.

    With this dynamic, the reasonable members of the class are dismissed as practically non-existent or as not “true” members of it at all, or they’re told that if they want the perceptions to be different then they should damn well speak up.Report

    • Patrick in reply to kenB says:

      Lots of intellectual liberals find Rand particularly odious. Like, in a popularity contest between Ayn and Rush, I’m not sure who would lose.

      Like it or not, as a movement in the political sphere, you have to figure out how to manage your perceived existence or you’re not going to get anywhere.

      We’ve spilled probably two hundred thousand gallons of digital ink about the Right Wing Media here on the blog and we didn’t get much of anywhere on the topic, but I stick with my contention that if the Right doesn’t figure out how to disavow Rush when Rush says or does things that make moderate GOP members an endangered species, then when the Left starts to define you by what Rush says, that’s kinda on you.

      By the way, I’m really not interested in getting into a BSDI conversation about who on the right or the left has how much perceived impact on the party by the other side vs. actual impact on the party. We’ve done that maypole a few times, and that doesn’t get very far either.

      There’s a lot of stuff posted on CATO’s web site. The stuff that winds up getting a CATO guy on the Sunday morning news shows isn’t the stuff that the left might sympathize with. Tax pieces, Fox eats that up. Militarization of police, hell, until Ferguson most people probably didn’t know that CATO even tracked that stuff.

      To some extent, this *is* on CATO. They’ve allowed themselves to become intellectual shock troopers, but only at behest of the Right Media, so the perception of them on the Left (and Center) is through the lens of what the Right Media shows.

      Libertarianism needs to expend a bit more energy on defining itself, and forcing both sides to see it as itself, rather than as a proxy for a very small subset of things that the Right talks about.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick says:


        Dude, what do you have against Rush? Is it 2112? Was that just too experimental 70’s for you? Is the newer stuff?

        Everybody is always slamming on Rush. Poor Geddy Lee, it’s not his fault he sounds like a Chipmunk on Meth, but he’s made it work for him.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick says:

        Seriously though, I actually give the WaPo props for putting two decidedly libertarian voices on their masthead, Balko & Volokh. That’s a pretty mainstream liberalish platformReport

      • Murali in reply to Patrick says:


        Balko is easy to digest by liberals because he doesn’t play up the economic policy aspects of his libertarianism. His beat happens to be the sort of things that liberals already agree with him about. The thing about Volokh is that he is one of the most intellectually honest American legal commentators on the net. You can’t tell from his legal opinions that he is actually a right libertarian. Of course it also helps that both are brilliant writers.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick says:


        All true, but still good on them for giving such writers a home. It’s mainstream exposure.

        Although I remember when Balko got picked up by Huffington Post, and then WaPo, and some on the left just went nuts. They just can not ever forgive him for writing for Reason & he is forever tainted by the money of the Kochtopus.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick says:

        The thing about Volokh is that he is one of the most intellectually honest American legal commentators on the net.

        Yet his honest, objective, closely reasoned opinions always echo the Republican line. Wotta coincidence.Report

      • Murali in reply to Patrick says:


        I may be misremembering, but the reason I said he was honest is because I remember that a lot of his conclusions did not echo the republican line. I may be mistaken about that, but that is how I remember it.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick says:

        Perhaps I was being unfair. I remembered (Hilary being ineligible for SecState even if she didn’t take the raise, because the time to challenge the traditional fix for that is when someone we hate appoints someone we dislike), but Volokh was just quoting it, not endorsing it.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Patrick says:

        Well said, Patrick.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

        Volokh himself is, as far as I can tell, quite intellectually honest. Not all of the people that post on his blog are quite as good. It’s easy to confuse some of the others with Volokh, given whose name is on the masthead.

        Orin Kerr is another worth reading on the Volokh Conspiracy.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Patrick says:


        The essay was not written by Volokh, he was just passing along a constitutional argument–his stock in trade–that he found interesting.

        The argument doesn’t precisely toe a Republican line. It’s not about HRC’s unfitness for the office, but about whether a rather obscure provision of the Constitution has technically been violated.

        Volokh’s own response to the argument is not very supportive of it. He suggests the Saxbe fix would resolve the problem, and he also questions whether we should read the ineligibility clause’s “increased emoluments” language to mean any increase in nominal pay, or whether we should limit it to increases in real pay, so cost-of-living increases don’t get counted against the nominee. He also states that he has “no position on Senator Clinton’s potential nomination other than my general view that a President should get the cabinet he or she wants.”Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Patrick says:

        “Libertarianism needs to expend a bit more energy on defining itself, and forcing both sides to see it as itself, rather than as a proxy for a very small subset of things that the Right talks about.”

        Over in your “I Give Up” post you were very, very angry with me for misunderstanding/not-understanding/incompletely-understanding/disagreeing-about-the-interpretation-of your post. And, you said, that was on me, that was my fault, it was my responsibility to understand you. If I didn’t see in your words what you intended me to see, that was my problem. If I saw things beyond what you intended, that was wrong and I needed to limit myself to only the actual words on the page. If I considered some parts of your argument not meaningful and discounted them, then that was my failure to properly engage your argument rather than your failure to properly make it.

        Why is that different for libertarianism?Report

      • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        Over in your “I Give Up” post you were very, very angry with me for misunderstanding/not-understanding/incompletely-understanding/disagreeing-about-the-interpretation-of your post.

        No, that’s not why I was angry with you.

        See, plenty of folks misunderstand what I write, and I don’t get angry with them, do I? (Well, not anywhere near as angry as I have recently been getting with you.)

        Perhaps that’s some indicator that “my response to people misunderstanding what I wrote” is only a partial contributor? Maybe part of this might actually be on you?


        And, you said, that was on me, that was my fault, it was my responsibility to understand you. If I didn’t see in your words what you intended me to see, that was my problem. If I saw things beyond what you intended, that was wrong and I needed to limit myself to only the actual words on the page. If I considered some parts of your argument not meaningful and discounted them, then that was my failure to properly engage your argument rather than your failure to properly make it.

        Actually, I didn’t say any of those things, Jim. Interesting that you read what I wrote that way, though. You really have this common tendency to infer a lot from what people say.

        What I said was that you were making declarative statements about me based upon you misunderstanding what I wrote, and that this was rude. Specifically, what I said was:

        “So either (a) get better telepathy; (b) stop assuming you understand a thing about me; (c) start adding uncertainty to your declarations of what a bastard I am and have better manners; or (d) get ready to have your ass handed to you.”

        or, the shorter version… you were being an asshole, and I told you to knock it off. The “being an asshole” part.

        I really don’t mind if you don’t understand what I write: ask me to clarify it. I don’t mind if after I clarify it you still disagree with me, the number of people who agree with me constantly on the blog is pretty close to zero, and often the folks who agree with me the most on some topics are the same ones who disagree with me the most on others.

        The fact that you appear to think it’s your personal mission here at Ordinary Times to show up and attempt to take the least-charitable interpretation of everybody’s writing and throw it back in their face is a really old schtick. It’s directly opposed to the spirit of the blog, which is “trying to read people charitably”.

        Ten percent of the time it’s actually an interesting point or it’s sufficiently funny, and if you did it only that ten percent of the time I wouldn’t care. The other ninety percent of the time it’s just derailing the conversation.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Patrick says:

        if you did it only that ten percent of the time I wouldn’t care. The other ninety percent of the time it’s just derailing the conversation.

        Given Sturgeon’s law, you should probably focus on absolute values instead of percentages.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick says:

        I think Morat and James have the truth of it; I’m conflating the Volkoh Conspiracy blog with Volkoh himself. Snark withdrawn.Report

  15. Saul Degraw says:

    Why do I always come to the good threads late?

    I think my brother is largely correct. Libertarian is largely being co-opted by people who realize that Republican and conservative are becoming damaged brands and it makes sense because libertarians made an early alliance with the Republicans and the right because of anti-communism and wanting to push for free market policies. There is also a history of some people on the right adopting property rights arguments as a clever ruse for opposing civil rights legislation.

    The MML are winning simply because there are more of them. I still think that the number of true libertarians is very small but they tend to have an outsized presence on the Internet and possibly in certain segments of media and policy. It is very easy to be “selectively libertarian”. You can argue that liberals are “selectively libertarian” on many social issues and Republicans are “selectively libertarian” on many economic issues.Report

  16. Kazzy says:

    Once upon a time, when I knew pretty much nothing of libertarianism, I asked the good folks over at Positive Liberty (at least, I’m pretty sure it was PL) what they thought of Bill Maher being the public face of libertarianism (at the time, Maher claimed to be a libertarian). The response was simple:

    “He’s not.”
    “Not the public face?”
    “Not a libertarian.”

    The good folks there (and I can’t say with any certainty but I have to assume that both Jason and @james-hanley were prominently involved) then went on to explain libertarianism to me and it quickly became apparent why their initial response was what it was: they were able to articulate a fairly principled ideology; Maher was a blowhard who loved the sound of his own voice.

    Why anyone prefers the latter remains lost on me.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Kazzy says:

      I have a good friend who is a straight up libertarian who has explained the philosophy to me as well. And he really tries to live it to the fullest. Unfortunately, it would be mentally (and probably physically) exhausting to do so, because you as an individual actually do have to act in your own best interest all the time, and you do actually have to spend real money to get what you need.

      Listening to blowhards doesn’t take nearly as much work.Report

    • Wardsmith in reply to Kazzy says:

      I asked months ago here about Stossel and was essentially shouted down that he was no true Scotsman. However he has been a consistent voice throughout of at least what he believes to be libertarianism and I have yet to see anyone specify where he isn’t toeing the line. Admittedly he left that other network to go to Fox so I can see the liberal true believers here deny him any air at all, but that doesn’t explain the libertarians.Report

  17. Damon says:

    I’d never call Glen Beck a Libertarian. Populist maybe.

    Tod talks about the divide between TL and ML. I don’t want to influence public policy directly. I want to influence people. Example: How do you convice an anti gunner that gun owners aren’t crazy rednecks wanting to shoot up a McDonalds to fulfill their “end times” fantasy? Direct engagement. Same with politics.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Damon says:

      I want to influence people too, but not being independently wealthy I find that political structures and groups have influence a lot more people then I can as an individual. I think the free market guys call that “leverage.”Report

      • Damon in reply to Philip H says:


        Hey, that’s cool and all..for you. You don’t equate politics with force and violence, which is exactly what voting to pass a certain law you support, and enforced on those who voted against it, is.Report

      • Philip H in reply to Philip H says:

        Then, respectfully, what mechanism would you use to 1) create a society, 2) develop social compacts (on pretty much anything from how is garbage collected to how are children educated to who builds roads) and then 3) ensure those social compacts are carried out? History shows us quite definitively that absent some sort of construct to do all this, aggregations of humans devolve into feudal or clannish.tribal groups who basically go to war constantly for resources. And such groups are not generally egalitarian towards their members – they are top down models where the “violence” used to suppress opposition is far and away greater then the “violence” you purport to arise from the democratic action of voting that I view as necessary to do the three things I see as basic to establishing and maintaining a society. Unless of course you happen to be a true anarchist hiding in libertarian’s clothing . . . then you and I really have no basis for discussion.

        And for the record – no I don’t equate the act of voting in a political arena with violence, though SOMETIMES violence is inappropriately used to enforce the outcomes of a voting scenario. I also don’t equate receiving my tax bill or an overdue library bill with violence either since no one is making an assault on my physical person to obtain those things.Report

      • Damon in reply to Philip H says:


        Well, of course it is. Every time you vote for a tax increase and win, the collection of that revenue is backstopped by violence. Don’t pay the tax increase. Find out what happens. You’ll be lucky if the swat team doesn’t show up.

        A lot of the questions you asked can be answered by a quick google search. The internet is your friend, and there are a myrid of answers depending upon how “libertarian” you are. That is, IF you’re really interested in getting answers.Report

      • Murali in reply to Philip H says:


        there is a sense in which taxes are backed by violence. But so is private property. If you trespass on my property, I either call the cops or in an anarchist society you get to feel my 9 iron to the back of your head if you fail to leave. If the mere fact of being backed by violence was sufficient to discredit taxes then it would be sufficient to discredit the enforcement of property rights. Something further must be said about property rights such that property rights can be legitimately backed by violence but even the smallest amount of taxes cannot.

        I don’t think that there is any good defence of property rights that does not also justify at least some taxationReport

      • Citizen in reply to Philip H says:

        “If the mere fact of being backed by violence was sufficient to discredit taxes then it would be sufficient to discredit the enforcement of property rights.”

        Where does this come from? Are you discussing property rights of individuals, or in a more global sense?Report

      • Philip H in reply to Philip H says:

        Ya know Damon, if you want people to listen to your arguments, then having enough respect for them to answer their comments in a blog thread is a good way to start. I wasn’t asking you for general libertarian thoughts on how to handle these issues – which yes, I can probably find on line somewhere.

        I was asking for YOUR thoughts as someone who has come here on this thread and engaged in a “conversation” with me. Clearly you don’t want to persuade me, which probably says something about the answer YOU would give (as, again, opposed to what Google might deliver to me).

        As to the Tax issue – find me one legitimately reported story on the internet where a SWAT team has hit anyone for unpaid taxes. One. That urban myth may be comforting to you, but its still a myth. The Feds take YEARS, sometimes decades to go after tax cheats, and local and county governments usually don’t do it at all because they lack the resources. Yes, there are property tax lien sales, but in nearly all those cases the tax owner has been given numerous opportunities to correct the violation and pay up.Report

      • Damon in reply to Philip H says:


        I never said that a swat team has actually done that, but given that we’ve seen swat teams break of minor league poker games in people’s houses, is it really inconceivable that they wouldn’t be used in this situation? Of course not. And I can guarantee that they would be used if you resisted any use of gov’t force to confiscate your property. If you don’t, well, you should wake up.

        I wasn’t aware that you wanted my specific thoughts, taking “you” as “you libertarians”. Given that there’s a lot of discussion about that even in those circles, and I wasn’t going to take an hour writing my thoughts down. A suggestion to use the interweb seemed more productive, however, I heavily lean towards voluntarism vs coercion, so that pretty much puts me on the border with anarchism.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Philip H says:

        @philip-h @damon

        Unpaid taxes & police:

        Edward & Elaine Brown of NH (2006 or 2007?). More of a siege than a raid, as the police basically just waited them out.

        Cliven Bundy – Arguably all about taxes. Again, cooler heads prevailed.

        Those are the only two I can think of.

        Still, Damon has a point regarding the use of heavy handed police tactics & violence with regard to non-violent offenses. At some point, every law is enforced at the point of a gun held by agents of the state who are inconsistently supervised. When you want to pass a law against something, you should seriously consider if it is something you are morally OK with using violence to prevent.Report

      • Philip H in reply to Philip H says:

        The Cliven Bundy case isn’t actually about taxes – its about abbrogation of contracts – namely that if you are a private cattle rancher and want to graze on public lands – which at least theoretically belong to everyone – you have to pay a fee to cover the common costs of the grazing of the livestock. Mr. Bundy apparently signed such a contract and then grazed for two decades without paying. The government apparently tried years worth of non-violent remedies . . . which Mr. Bundy ignored. Call me nuts, but if we can’t even use the threat of force as a backstop to CONTRACTS . . . then I can’t see how we compel an economy.

        The tax case in question is roughly the same . . . years of failure to respond/pay, and then a failure to leave when the property was legally (if immorally) forfeit. What do you want government to do in those cases – turn and cough? My point very consistently has been that any human society and its attached economy has to have a set of rules to proceed, and those rules have to have some sort of enforcement mechanism. do I personally support the use of violence in most of these instances – no, though in the Bundy case since a non-governmental militia intervened and drove the feds out I would have sanctioned some additional force. History is not kind to idea that humans will do the best for themselves while at the same time doing the best for everyone around them. And I conclude that if we are going to have a society, and an economy that functions to deliver goods and service to people, that society has to have rules and those rules have to be enforced. And if we are going to call voting an act of violence because of its potential to require rules enforcement at some distant point (though that is not how violence is used as a common term by many people), then yes I guess we will continue to have state-sponsored violence.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Philip H says:


        I wasn’t arguing with you. I just pointed out that in recent history, those are the only two cases I could think of where police were used to essentially enforce a tax/fee issue, and in both cases, violence was actually avoided.

        My point was not to abhor state violence in the pursuit of enforcement, merely to remind that every law comes with the implicit possibility of violent enforcement. Usually such violence is only employed as a last resort, because the citizen(s) in question refused to work within the system. However, as we are seeing more & more, violence on behalf of the state is becoming the first resort, which should give us all pause.Report

    • Damon in reply to Damon says:


      Ah but there is a difference between state backed coercive force contrary to free exchange and individual force to defend one’s self or property.Report

  18. Jim Heffman says:

    The problem with libertarians as a political movement is that no matter who you are, there’s a libertarian position to which you are die-before-surrender single-issue-voter opposed. Libertarians think that people should be allowed to have both drugs and guns, as many as they like of either. Libertarians think that both abortion and discrimination should be legal. How could anyone take such a weirdo political philosophy seriously?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      If you think that the government should meddle domestically but not internationally, you’re a Democrat.
      If you think that the government should meddle internationally but not domestically, you’re a Republican.
      If you think that the government should meddle both domestically and internationally, you’re a moderate.
      If you don’t think that the government should meddle either domestically or internationally, you’re an extremist.Report

  19. j r says:

    After reading other comments, I’ve got a few random thoughts:

    – If you want to call the Beck/Tea Party crowd some form of libertarian, that’s fine with me. I’ve never cared that much about policing brands and identities. The more accurate description of these people, however, are right wing populists. And there is nothing new about right wing populism. It has always been here and it has always tried to use the rhetoric of individual liberty to justify decidedly illiberal policies.

    – In the same manner, left wing populism has always been here and has always tried to use the rhetoric of justice and equality to justify decidedly illiberal policies. That is the nature of populism.

    – There is a definite historical link between the libertarian movement and the conservative/traditionalist/reactionary/whatever you want to call it movement. There is even a name for it: Fusionism. You can read about it here:

    – Because of that link, lots of people, for lots of reasons, are happy just to dismiss libertarianism as reactionary. Again, that’s fine. Go for it. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have any great insight. You are essentially choosing an intellectual shortcut.Report

  20. Kolohe says:


    I don’t think branding is an obstacle for getting small l libertarian policy preferences passed. The small victories for libertarian policies, like for example, beer home brewing, have been the result of idiosyncratic legislative and/or executive action when most people were looking at other things. The larger policies, like gay marriage, gun rights and maybe couldbe the beginning of the end on the war on some drugs, have come about from the consistent, almost multi-generation long pressure of single issue activists until one of the main political parties finally got onboard (and made it close to a litmus test for their own True members).

    Branding is important to the big L Libertarian Party, but third parties in the US system simply don’t matter, outside of of the occasional sui generis single election cycle. (and the Libertarian Party has particular problems, as the central organizing principle of political parties is organization, whereas “Libertarian Party organization” is an oxymoron on perhaps as many as three different levels”)Report

  21. zic says:

    This story, which I found via a tweet by Jason K., seems a real-life demo of the twins @tod-kelly speaks of in this post. Please read.

  22. Jesse Ewiak says:

    Spoiler Alert : All the young libertarians are voting for Republican’s already, anyway.

    T]he vast majority of young libertarians in 2012 were already voting for Republican candidates: 76% of younger libertarians, along with 82% of older libertarians, reported voting for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. In addition, young libertarians overwhelmingly identified with the Republican Party and favored Republican House and Senate candidates by wide margins. Among libertarians under the age of 30, those who identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party outnumbered those who identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party by 74% to 17%. Of these young libertarians, 75% reported voting for a Republican House candidate in 2012 and 81% reported voting for a Republican Senate candidate.Report