Ramesh Ponnuru: Rand Paul and the Myth of the “Libertarian Moment” – The Corner

CK MacLeod

WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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119 Responses

  1. Christopher Carr says:

    i think Bernie is probably closer to libertarian for many people.Report

    • In their minds, perhaps: Their understanding of “libertarian” tends to be more social or concrete (I like bhong hits, sex, and cussing, and don’t want to kill anyone or be killed!) than ideological or theoretical.Report

      • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        There is more libertarian (ish) thought on the leftward side then people on the right want to see. I’d say a lot of True Libertarian thought is more social or tribal then purely intellectual so the difference isnt’ as big as people think.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

          There’s less on either side than I’d like to see.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

          In the Democratic Party, people with libertarian or market based economic inclinations tend to call themselves Neo-Liberals.Report

          • greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

            To some degree but not entirely. While lots of libertarians certainly seem most focused on Market, Markets and more Markets that isn’t the entirety of libertarian concern. To use the F word, there are libertarian leaners on the Left who care about Freedom. Not that the right leaners, who seem to be most Libertarians, want to see that though. Something like freedom of speech has a long and strong histoyr of being championed by the left along with breaking down social controls taht limited the freedoms of non-traditional or marginalized people.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

              I would say the big issue between the Left and the Right re Freedom is that the left and liberals believe that Government has a role and a good and positive one in making people free and equal. Hence SSM and anti-discrimination laws and civil rights laws which basically state that minorities have a right to full participate in economic and civil life without restriction. This is the Government guaranteeing freedom and liberty instead of hindering it.

              Since a lot of Libertarian government sees the government as an oppressor, it can’t work with those who believe government can be a force for good.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

              greginak: Something like freedom of speech has a long and strong histoyr of being championed by the left

              History, yes. At present, it’s not clear that the left is any better on free speech than the right.Report

              • History? What typifies the Left specifically, in history, is not special appreciation for “bourgeois” values like free speech. Even the original pre-Marxian “Left” – the original bourgeois republicans – were overtaken on their own left by believers in “public hygiene” interpreting wrong statements as wrong conduct.Report

              • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                And yet many on the left for a long time have championed free speech. Everybody on the left; no. It ‘s a pretty big group of peeps. It really shouldn’t be that controversial statement but i sort of knew someone would object.Report

              • j r in reply to greginak says:

                CK Macleod makes a good point in noting that the left’s history with free speech has largely been within the confines of a larger struggle for more explicitly progressive causes like labor, peace, civil rights, etc. That’s not a criticism, but it should be remembered within our contemporary conversation about speech and the false narrative of balancing rights.

                Conversely, much of the opposition to free speech on the right has been in the service of constraining debate on those other issues to privilege the status quo. Noting where the two sides have flip-flopped is part of understanding the contemporary terrain.Report

              • greginak in reply to j r says:

                The two sides haven’t flip flopped. There are different pushes and pulls on either side. People on the R and L have been for free speech. Full stop. For some it has been more conditional then other. For some it was part of other movements but many times issues are mixed together so i’m sure how important that is.Report

              • j r in reply to greginak says:

                The two sides haven’t flip flopped.

                I didn’t say that they did. I said that paying attention to the specific areas where they did is important to understanding the landscape.

                I start with the assumption that most people, right or left, have a circumstantial relationship with liberal values like free speech. They are happy to have them when it is beneficial or expedient, but less committed when they come into contact with other parts of their world view.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to j r says:

                j r: They are happy to have them when it is beneficial or expedient, but less committed when they come into contact with other parts of their world view.

                …which is to say that a primary commitment to “liberal values” is not typical of either “The Left” or “The Right” “historically.” It is, however, the defining primary commitment of American “libertarians,” whether in relation to “classical liberal economics” and “free markets” or in relation to the “free marketplace of ideas,” or in the social sphere in relation to the freedom of the individual from government interference in his or her pursuit of happiness.

                In other words, a commitment to “liberty” does not essentially distinguish “Left” from “Right” historically. It may, however, distinguish, however imperfectly, a constitutional order whose commitment to liberal values – or “liberty” – is embodied in its founding documents and in its traditions – giving a “conservative” defender of that order at least an argument for placing the liberty interest more distinctively on the American Right, and for generally distinguishing the latter from rightism or conservatism in other political cultures.

                The statement to which, surprisingly to me, Brandon Berg offered a concession, was this one, by greginak, which greginak now wants us to treat as “non-controversial”:

                Something like freedom of speech has a long and strong history of being championed by the left

                Who were the champions? What did their advocacy have to do with any principle distinctively of “the Left.”? These are serious questions. I really would like to know whom greginak means for us to recognize as Left champions of “something like freedom of speech.” I don’t deny the existence at all of people identified with the Left with philosophically coherent justifications for commitments to liberal values or “something like” them, but I question how much sense it makes to consider them typical of the Left, either “historically” or in the present.Report

              • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                This is incoherent CK. You ask how i can i say that “the left” has championed free speech then say that of course some people on the left have done so. Pretty much from the 50’s through th 70’s is was people on the left preaching the free speech truth since there was certainly some unpleasantness coming from the right especially in the 50’s.

                Was that typical of Left as whole across countries and philosophies over the last couple hundred years? Beats me and i dont’ care and neither should you. It is a silly question. The Left, at least the way i think you are saying it, encompasses multiple countries, eras, movements, etc etc. Trying to find some coherence across all that is a fools errand.

                Hell even conservatives thought it was a bad bad lefty thing to be pro ACLU for many years and some still do. Remember “he is a card carrying member of the ACLU” for a few presidential elections cycles ago. ACLU is still said with a hiss and venom by some on the right because it is a evil lefty org. ( i have a cousin who does this, but i’ve heard other conservatives also)Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to greginak says:

                Many baseball fans in Los Angeles are Giants fans. It is not, however, typical of baseball fans in Los Angeles to be Giants fans. Generally, though obviously not universally, we root, root, root for the home team, and consider it a shame if they don’t win.

                Unless there is some principle that binds “being on the Left” with support for “something like freedom of speech” or other liberal or quasi-liberal values, then the presence “on the Left” of people who support liberal or quasi-liberal values is strictly speaking accidental, a matter of contingency or random selection. I just so happen to be an Angeleno Giants fan or have a love of freedom of speech: It has nothing do with my being an Angeleno or being a leftist.

                The concept shouldn’t be so difficult to grasp, but you seem to believe that to seek consistency or a rational or logical relationship between being on the Left (or Right) team and arriving at any given political position is a “fool’s errand.” For you, to seek “coherence” is “incoherent.”

                And you still haven’t answered my questions. Who are the Left champions of “something like freedom of speech,” contributing to the “long and strong history” to which you referred? As for the second question, on what principles of Left thought provided a basis for being a champion of “something like freedom of speech,” your answer seems to be that you do not believe in a relationship of political principles to political action. I doubt that that is really your belief – it would be absurd for you to engage in political discussion at all on that basis – but that is what your statements imply.Report

              • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                It is typical of LA baseball fans to leave in the 6th inning regardless.

                You seek some underlying principle that means that The Left can truly support civil liberties. If not it is just accidental. I suppose anything i could offer would never be good enough. People on the left feel free speech and civil liberties are important to human flourishing, they enable participation in democracy and protect freedom. Are those not the right kind of underlying values. Are those not truly values of the Left. There sure as hell are.

                I’ll admit i don’t’ have a list of lefties for decades who championed free speech because, well, i have a life but also it seems like i don’t’ need to list wide swaths of the left from at least the 50’s on. Do you recall the mccarthy era; who was on the side of free speech and who were the persecutors? How about the 60’s?

                You are just dressing up in fancy words your own bias that even if people on the left support civil liberties it is just an accident and not “real” belief. Each person is different and i have no doubt for that anybody on the political spectrum their beliefs could be some kind of fender bender or a deep seated belief. I certainly couldn’t’ judge based on where they fall on the political spectrum. You can’t tell how deep a belief is based on their political label.Report

              • pillsy in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Unless there is some principle that binds “being on the Left” with support for “something like freedom of speech” or other liberal or quasi-liberal values, then the presence “on the Left” of people who support liberal or quasi-liberal values is strictly speaking accidental, a matter of contingency or random selection.

                Of course there is such a principle: free speech is essential in order for the left to organize and advocate for the kind of change it wants to see. The history of free speech activism in the US[1] is heavily entangled with the history of leftism because leftists were so often the people the government wanted to silence.

                This isn’t the only such principle that animates the left, of course, and it can be in tension with other leftist values. Campus speech codes are probably the clearest example of this in the contemporary US.[2] “Has other values that sometimes conflict,” though, shouldn’t really be disqualifying.

                Also, there are elements of how people on the right view free speech that conflict strongly with leftist values, because there it is rooted in a commitment to expansive property rights and unfettered commerce.

                Finally, though stuff like campus speech codes and pro-censorship anti-porn activism are things, I really believe a lot of the perception of the left as being anti-free-speech is being driven by a torrent of spurious “defenses” of free speech arguments mostly emanating from the right and center.

                [1] Not gonna touch the question of the global left vs. right, especially since I’m not even aware of anything that could be considered “global libertarianism”.

                [2] Anti-porn feminism from the ’80s came from a similar place.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to pillsy says:

                Thanks, @pillsy, for your thoughtful and articulate comment. I know that it’s an excellent comment because, if I had been more inclined to continue the conversation from the point prior to your intervention, I would have wanted to say something just like it!

                I wrote a longer reply that I am currently considering as a possible new post. For now, I’ll just say that your description – which, again, would not be too far from my own on the key questions (if I could manage to be as succinct) – is the description precisely of a secondary or contingent commitment, not a primary one – or not to freedom of speech as an end in itself or aspect of the freedom of the individual as end in itself. You write:

                Of course there is such a principle [binding the Left to liberal values]: free speech is essential in order for the left to organize and advocate for the kind of change it wants to see. The history of free speech activism in the US is heavily entangled with the history of leftism because leftists were so often the people the government wanted to silence.

                The Left, in your example, expressly does not favor freedom of speech as an end in itself, but as a practical necessity in relation to the Left’s actual primary interests, including its self-interest. To put the matter as both critics of the Left and central leftist theorists put it, the Left or the organized Left seeks to exploit the primary commitments of its enemies against them. In its organizing efforts on behalf of its true (social) commitments, it looks for and finds, in the famous phrase, the “useful idiots” who, pathetically, do take bourgeois individualist (or liberal or libertarian) values and institutions seriously as ends in themselves. Precisely because the Left’s primary commitment is not to those values and institutions, or to their underlying precepts, the Left can once in power, or once the organizing objective has been achieved, discover their utter dispensability.

                I’ll leave the further development of the argument to some other time, and just note in passing that, before someone accuses me of red-baiting or defines me as a libertarian ideologue, I certainly do not see the above as the “whole story.”Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to pillsy says:

                I’m not even aware of anything that could be considered “global libertarianism”.

                Look up “Somalia”.Report

              • dL in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                nope, the US govt claims jurisdiction there, too. In between the US military bombings, the secret renditions, the CIA and US intel organ meddling, I would say Somalia represents a product of typical progressive state imperialism.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to j r says:

                Do you think it is purely opportunistic or do you see the collective/individual divide between the left and rights support of free speech?Report

              • j r in reply to Joe Sal says:

                I think that CK is half right. There is a circle of people for whom the label civil libertarian is meaningful. That is, the group of people who actually care about free speech and other civil liberties even in cases where those liberties contradict other closely held believes. The circle of people who can broadly be referred to as the left, intersects with the civil libertarian circle as does the circle labeled “the right.”

                The degree to which these circles intersect is constantly changing in response to which issues are most implicated in any given discussion of civil liberties. When the topic is national security, the civil libertarian-right intersection shrinks. When the topic is so-called hate speech, the civil libertarian-left intersection gets smaller.

                The ultimate point is that free speech is an issue that is neither of the right nor of the left. It exists as either its own thing or often as a compromise between two groups who can’t decide on exactly which speech to prohibit.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to j r says:

                What’s the wrong half?Report

              • j r in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                My disagreement lies with this:

                It is, however, the defining primary commitment of American “libertarians…

                Your characterization of the American Libertarian movement is a bit too rosy in my estimation.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to j r says:

                j r: Your characterization of the American Libertarian movement is a bit too rosy in my estimation.

                The statement is not a characterization of the Libertarian Party or the libertarian movement – of “real existing libertarianism” or its prospects – but a description of libertarianism as ideology or belief system, of the commitments that, as I said, define being a libertarian for us, or what we mean by “libertarian” for purposes of political discussion. Such a description might be more or less accurate, but not more “rosy” or less “rosy.”Report

              • Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                This is, of course, why there is tension in discussing liberarians vs. liberarianism, the left vs leftists, the right vs rightists (or conservatives, or whatever we want to call people on the right), and why such discussions end up getting bogged down: some people want to talk about “libertarians” in reference to libertarianism, and others in reference to existing libertarians, and the two always end up pissing each other off. Same with the left or the right or liberals or conservatives or progressives or whoever.

                In this case, it is true that freedom of speech is a principle that is fundamental to the conception of libertarianism (even if it’s not fundamental to the actual beliefs of all existing libertarians), or peripatetically, it is an essential property of libertarianism, whereas it is an accidental property of the left (though not necessarily existing leftists) and the right (though not necessarily existing rightists). This is too vague, of course, because the left and the right are huge categories, even in America’s limited political space, and in some areas of each free speech is as essential as it is for libertarianism, and in others it is not even an accidental property, but some folks want to have this conversation at such a high level of abstraction that “too vague” is “just right.”Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to j r says:

                That’s a good take on it, and it’s a little difficult thinking of it in a pure sense, outside of the political agenda distortions.
                I appreciate your thoughtful response.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to j r says:

                I think this is exactly right, JR. Very good comment.Report

  2. North says:

    He’s right in general, we remember the period. Bush had just flopped out of office, the GOP was in disarray and everyone on the right was embaressed to be “Republican” or “Conservative” so they all put on Libertarian hats, it was like the dawn of the Tea Party. It’s passing now, it seems, I guess they’ve rehabilitated or forgotten enough of the background on Conservative now to move back in.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to North says:

      I think conservatism’s brief flirtation with economic libertarianism hasn’t panned out all that well. We got private prisons and charter schools outa the mess (ideologically, anyway), and both have been unqualified disasters, as well as other failed PPPs and the economic collapse under Bush (which … well, I’ll leave it there). But at the political level the GOP’s rhetorical appeal to libertarianism will persist purely outa expediency: everything that’s wrong in the US can be blamed on Big Gummint Liberal policies. (Effective!! Rage inducing!! Simple!!) All in all, the “libertarian moment” as embraced by conservatives was a construct embedded in pure politics and not policy.Report

      • North in reply to Stillwater says:

        I’d certainly agree that the GOP, during my own political consciousness at least, has used Libertarianism more as paint on their own corporatism* than as any true guiding light for their policy. It’s been icecream libertarianism; lots of the tax cuts they love and the assailing aid programs they don’t but no assailing the corporate subsidies they love, the social meddling they love or the militarism they are addicted to.

        *The Democratic Party is also rather corporate mind but they don’t really just try and justify and conceal it so much as shrug at it.Report

      • j r in reply to Stillwater says:

        We got private prisons and charter schools outa the mess (ideologically, anyway), and both have been unqualified disasters

        Huh? Pretty much ever study of charter schools that I’ve ever seen says that they get pretty much the same results as regular public schools, but sometimes cost less. How is that a disaster?

        And what is up with the left’s fascination with private prisons? You could shut down every private prison in America right now and release those inmates and the United States would still lead the world in incarceration rates by a very long measure.Report

        • greginak in reply to j r says:

          The concern about private prisons is its creates incentives to keep people in prison and imprison more people. Not that we have much rehabing in prison, but private prisons have even less incentive to do it. It creates an industry that lobbies for more prisoners. We don’t’ need that.

          Charter schools sometimes get better results and sometimes worse. On average they about the same but there is not necessarily any cost savings. Have they been a disaster: no, that doesn’t hold up. They appear to be better for some subgroups but they are far from a panacea. They are pretty much a different way of accomplishing the same results public schools get.Report

          • j r in reply to greginak says:

            It creates an industry that lobbies for more prisoners. We don’t’ need that.

            We already had that and still do completely aside from private prisons. Read up on the California Correction Peace Officer’s Association, who have done more to expand our prison system than any private prison company ever has. Politicians, police, prosecutors, victims rights groups, etc., there is a whole ecosystem of non-corporate actors actively lobbying for more prisoners. Focusing on one small part of this story is myopic at best.

            As for charter schools, I take it you see that your comment is much more a rebuke to Stillwater’s comment than it is to mine.Report

            • greginak in reply to j r says:

              Yes i’m well aware of Cali cop unions. They are truly unfortunate. That a cali union is a bunch of bad guys doesn’t remove the belief that private prisons are profiting off of something we want less of and also human suffering. Prisons are an unfortunate necessity. We shouldn’t be incentiveizing them. I’ll also note that Cali Prison Cop Unions are not the entirirty of the country. Even if their are other actors that doesn’t justify private prisons. Those other actors also have necessary parts of the criminal justice system ie prosecutors, cops.Report

              • j r in reply to greginak says:

                Do you notice the sort of contortions that you have to do to defend the position that there is something uniquely pernicious about private prisons apart from the rest of criminal justice ecosystem?Report

              • rmass in reply to j r says:

                Private prisons are bad because if the state wants to lock me they should bloody well do it themselves. That way if they fail to care for me while im their guest they are responsible, not some corporation that is driven by profit. Prison is not a profit centerReport

              • j r in reply to rmass says:

                Prison is not a profit center

                Prison is a profit center even in the absence of private prisons. You can pretend otherwise, but that just demonstrates that this argument is primarily about mood affiliation.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

                Even if their are other actors that doesn’t justify private prisons.

                Granted. But do you agree, then, that prison employees should be legally prohibited from unionizing? Actually, shouldn’t government employees in general be prohibited from unionizing, since it provides an incentive to lobby for increased government spending for private gain?Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I’ll agree to that the moment any corporation of business that receives any kind of contracts or funding from the government is banned from lobbying or donating to candidates. If labor can’t organize for better access to government funding, neither should capital.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                WHERE DO I SIGN

                Wait, wait, is this one of those things where it’ll be pointed out that the worker drinks Coca-Cola and since that contains HFCS he’s a beneficiary of government funding?Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    Libertarians was first used to describe leftists anarcho-syndicalists who hated capitalism and markets rather than what people writing on the Internet refer to as Libertarianism who love capitalism and markets. Outside of the Anglophone world, the word libertarian tends to still mean anarcho-syndicalist rather than American style libertarianism.Report

    • My illustration for how the meaning of “libertarian” has shifted within living memory is to point to Michael Moorcock’s 1978 essay “Starship Stormtroopers.” His use of the word is startling today. It also is a terrific example of polemic. For those who, like me, enjoy a good polemic:

      • aaron david in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        I just tried to read that Moorcock piece, using a Marxist/anarchist to get a good reading on Libertarianism is like asking a bicycle to give a good reading on fish.

        But it does give an interesting perspective on the Hugos…Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        Another confounding factor is that Moorcock is English, and the word doesn’t have the exact same connotations (in the UK, the word “liberal” didn’t drift from describing Adam Smith to describing Bernie Sanders).

        And as aaron david said, he’s an anarchist/pragmatist (basically the counterweight to Tolkien’s authoritarian/romantic). And as one of the drivers of the New Wave, he was definitely familiar with Marxist criticism.

        Combine that with the Science Fiction Marches On feel of meta-commentary from the 70s (I don’t want to re-read Illuminatus! for fear that the meta-level is no longer relevant), and the total effect is palpable.

        It’s a person we don’t have an analogue for using terms we don’t have analogues for to describe a time/place we don’t have an analogue for. It’s damned interesting, but I don’t think we can really comprehend it the way it deserves – it’s frozen in amber.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to El Muneco says:

          Except the word liberal did shift in the United Kingdom. During the late 19th century, many members of the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom began calling for a more activist government than the Liberal Party traditionally supported but not full on socialism. By 1909, the word Liberal was basically being used in the United Kingdom in a way not unlike how it is used in modern America. Much of the British welfare state enacted by the Atlee government originated from the work of a Liberal politician, William Beveridge.

          See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beveridge_Report

          On youtube I can find BBC sitcoms from the 1970s when the word Liberal was being used to describe a character with Bernie Sanders like policy preferences.Report

          • El Muneco in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Now that you mention it, I have to take that back – it’s received wisdom on my part, something I’ve always been told, and thinking back it’s not necessarily true. There’s even a Python sketch (one of the non-TV ones, I think) that uses it in the “progressive” sense.

            I still get the impression that the drift isn’t quite as severe, but it definitely no longer has the original meaning.

            It does kind of raise the question about the independent developments of the term “libertarian”, though – my google-fu can’t find anything definitive on the topic, and my go-to blog (Separated By A Common Language) doesn’t seem to ever have addressed the issue.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to El Muneco says:

              From what I heard, adopting the term libertarian was a deliberate choice made during the 1950s and 1960s by people who saw themselves as Classic Liberals but did not want to be associated with FDR and his fans.Report

        • aaron david in reply to El Muneco says:

          That comment was six kinds of awesome.

          “It’s a person we don’t have an analogue for using terms we don’t have analogues for to describe a time/place we don’t have an analogue for.” I am sooo stealing that!

          And the idea of rereading the Illuminatus trilogy is not something I could even consider.Report

          • El Muneco in reply to aaron david says:

            Heh. The later “Historical Illuminatus” series probably holds up better. For those not familiar, it’s by the same author, but instead of 1970s drug-fueled anarchism and counterculture, it’s the historical novels about Freemasonry that Dan Brown would have written if he had (a) actual talent, and (b) a real appreciation for the source material.

            It’s also much less well known, not least because each book after the first destroyed at least one publishing house before seeing the light of day.Report

          • Kim in reply to aaron david says:

            The Illuminatus Trilogy reads a lot more coherently when you realize it was the editors of Playboy stringing together stuff out of their slush pile.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    The “libertarian moment”, such as it was, was a “none of the above” moment.

    Trump provided one hell of a “EFF YOU” alternative to saying “none of the above”.

    That said, if Rand has a shot, it ain’t gonna be when Trump is on the same stage. Also, I’m pretty sure that, no matter what happens, Trump will not be running for the office in 2020. I still think that Rand could do well on a stage when there isn’t a buffoon running around honking a bicycle horn as loudly as he can…Report

    • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well Martin O’Mally would have been a great candidate for the D’s if Hills and Bernie weren’t there.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

        Not exactly my point, Greg. I was more talking about in relationship to the whole “libertarian moment”.

        If I wanted to say that the Democrats were experiencing a “progressive moment”, I would point to Bernie as evidence.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

      Evidence that The Nerds haven’t attained cultural status as The New Alphas.


      • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        I would never, ever, suggest that someone like Rand could get elected nationally.

        I *DO*, however, think that he could be a voice of reason on the debate stage and be the guy who yells about the importance of such things as getting a warrant. He can change the debate in the direction of a weird “maybe we should actually *READ* the Constitution” direction and maybe even change the mind of the guy/gal who will eventually get the nomination.

        But that ain’t gonna happen when Clown Shoes is on the stage farting as loudly as he can.

        Luckily, Trump appears to be in meltdown mode following Iowa.Report

        • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

          Trump’s success is more emblematic of where a lot of R’s are at then his many faults. Same with Cruz, he is where many R’s are. Since obviously only Paulista’s READ the constitution it might be nice if they had more voice, but it isn’t trumpy’s fault, it’s where the R’s are.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

          Luckily, Trump appears to be in meltdown mode following Iowa.

          “Trump’s Ted-Tantrum Terminates Trumpmentum!”

          Yeah, we’ve been down this road before… 🙂Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

          Rand or politicians with similar inclinations need to do a sort of dance on this issue because many Republican voters are very law and order. Talk about getting a warrant would read too much as being “soft on crime” for them even though crime is decreasing. Cruz once remarked that the only place Reagan invaded was Grenada. By invoking Reagan, Cruz was attempting to argue for a less hawkish foreign policy in a language acceptable to Republican voters. People with civil liberties inclinations need to do the same song and dance.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          Rand, the guy who explains that federalism is an important principle whenever you can’t win at the national level?Report

          • El Muneco in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Oh, come on… The legions of constitutional originalists supporting CO and WA against the DEA are almost uncountable. One of the big advantages of federalism is allowing the states to be little petri dishes experimenting with policies to see if they are worth applying on a national level. With a couple of experiments well into running their full course, the groundswell for removing MJ from Schedule 1 is certainly encouraging, no?

            What? You say that federalism is convenient when it supports one’s biases and inconvenient when it doesn’t? Cynic.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      Rand Paul is out Jay. Had to close shop to go home and defend his Kentucky seat.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        2020 might be his #3 in Iowa year!Report

        • North in reply to Jaybird says:

          He’s a young man; he has plenty of time. I’m sorry buddy.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to North says:

            Lucy Stag pointed out that he’s an ophthalmologist!

            20/20 with Rand!Report

            • rmass in reply to Jaybird says:

              Self certified ophthalmologist, let us remember.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to rmass says:

                Brother Russell Saunders wrote an essay about that!

                Brother Russell Saunders is insufficiently progressive on Rand Paul’s certification question.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

                Fun fact: My wife has delivered over 1000 babies and performed a couple hundred c-sections.

                She’s never been certified in obstetrics.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Will Truman says:

                In before Kim… Certification in a lot of professions is a scam to raise barriers to entry high enough to frustrate competition from independents.

                Hairdressers are topical as the current example of “pure scam”. Ophthalmologists would seem to me to be a good counterbalance near the other end of the scale. Obstetrics are somewhere in the gray area, more about how to handle the exceptions than the ordinary work (which women have been handling practically on their own for thousands of years).Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to El Muneco says:

                I don’t think hairdressing licenses are a pure scam. There are public health elements involved because of the need to keep razors, trimmers, and buzzers sanitary. There are the chemicals and somewhat dangerous equipment used.Report

              • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

                There are public health elements involved…

                Good point. I clipped my nails last night and shaved this morning, all without any explicit or implicit certification from the government. It’s a wonder that I am still alive. Or am I…Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                @j-r, thats nice but the equipment you used is only being used on yourself. Your clippers and trimmers aren’t being used on hundreds or thousands of other people.Report

              • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I seem to remember from a monograph I read on western US history in the 19th century that one concern was that hairdresser locations were fronts for prostitution, or it was feared that they were.

                I have no idea if those fears were legit or if they were even fears that people had. I don’t even remember the monograph I was reading, but at most it mentioned the issue only in passing.

                My takeaway: If any of that is true, than maybe current regulations and certification requirements for hairdressers have at least some of their roots in concerns about prostitution. I want to be clear that I’m just speculating.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yeah, and we’re all bloody glad of that. Because the hairdressers really want to be saying hi to DARPA because they cut someone’s fucking toenails.Report

              • Mo in reply to LeeEsq says:

                That just means that you need, at most, a workplace safety license. You don’t need to be a certified cook to work at a restaurant, you just need to keep your food prep area clean and food properly stored.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I’ve yet to meet a hairdresser who would do basic surgery to remove an infected ingrown toenail.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to El Muneco says:

                To clarify, as an MD with training in obstetrics, my wife is licensed to deliver babies. But she doesn’t have certification. My comment was more directed at the fact that there is a distinction between the two. And that ultimately, the fact that Rand Paul wasn’t certified doesn’t matter, because he was licensed as an MD.

                Anyway, a lot of people didn’t understand the difference at the time, so I was spending a lot of time saying “No, Rand Paul was not operating without a license or outside of the scope of his licensure.”

                (That he held himself out as being certified, though, is rightfully subject to criticism.)Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Will Truman says:

                OK, that makes sense. I do think that there’s some scope for uncertified midwifery, even unlicensed, as long as the backup plan is fully in place beforehand.

                As for unlicensed ophthalmology, the guy I saw before my current provider could hardly have been worse without actually damaging my eyes himself, so society is probably not gaining as much as it should.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

              Rand/Assad in 2020! (I know, but he’s as American as Cruz.)Report

  5. Joe Sal says:

    Rand snubbed some ‘freedom’ folks. (not that it would have hit any radar here, ha) That and the Pauls have quit a few too many times.Report

  6. KenB says:

    I think this bit following was interesting too:

    . The public’s shift on same-sex marriage was not a turn toward limited government as a political philosophy, which is why the movement for same-sex marriage did not have to pause for a moment to turn into a campaign to coerce bakers and florists.


    • North in reply to KenB says:

      Well if you look at the SSM movements history closely you’ll notice that it was when they stopped talking about things like equal rights, limited government and fairness and started emphasizing how “we are people too”; “we are people you know” and “this is how this policy hurts the people you know” that their success turned around. That elides the collapse of DADT which I personally had always thought would herald the deathknell of the SSM opposition (though I never dreamed it would come so swiftly).Report

    • Zac in reply to KenB says:

      TBH, that bit about “a campaign to coerce bakers and florists” made me roll my eyes. If it was bakers and florists refusing to serve, say, blacks or Jews, nobody would call it “coercion”. Well, except for the open (if not admitted) white supremacists.Report

      • KenB in reply to Zac says:

        Of course it’s coercion. Just because some or many people think a given case of coercion may be justifiable doesn’t mean it’s no longer coercion.

        Anyway the subject was the extent to which the shift on SSM reflected a libertarian sentiment — removing the freedom of association for said bakers and florists in this situation might be right and just, but it’s not libertarian per se.Report

        • Zac in reply to KenB says:

          I mean, yeah, in the bland technical sense it’s coercion, but he clearly meant it as a perjorative, not a description.

          As for the subject at hand, it may not have economically libertarian, but it was civil libertarianism. It’s just that most people who describe themselves with that label care a lot more about the former than the latter.

          That’s why I always feel like libertarianism is like the two-halves-of-the-heart locket of American politics; the left feels a lot of affinity for the civil liberties half, and the right feels the same for the economic liberties half, but there’s very little crossover. The fact that the libertarian movement largely aligns itself with the right rather than the left politically says a lot about where their primary concerns lie.Report

      • As a historical matter, the private accommodations section was what really drove opponents of the Civil Rights Act crazy. I think they have come to terms with it now. I don’t see even the people prone to saying the quiet parts out loud complaining about this now. But the SSM debate is the same argument with just some minor search-and-replace.

        That being said, I doubt that the bakers-and-florists complaint has much traction. Bakers and florists have since forever been happily supplying weddings that their churches would not recognize. You never heard stories about Catholic florists refusing to provide center pieces for weddings involving a divorced person. There came a moment when some found it expedient to discover a deep-seated moral objection to engaging in such commercial activity, but that moment seems to have already passed. At least I haven’t been hearing about it lately, and it’s not as if there is any underlying structural change. It was socio-political theater all along, and people have gotten bored with it and wandered off.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    Paul’s big issue is the issue for many libertarians. They are too closely identified by Red Tribe issues and mainly about business deregulation and markets and maybe a few other issues that interested white guys. Their responses to issues that face non-white people fell on deaf ears more often and not because the libertarian movement could not square the circle with people who wanted civil rights and government recognition for their existence. SSM is a good example here. The libertarian solution placed anti-government rhetoric first but the supporters of SSM wanted to be legally recognized by the states as human beings.

    The same stuff happens with Conor F at the Atlantic. He crushes hard on Rep Justin Amash as being part of a more libertarian GOP but as far as I can tell, Amash is still very socially conservative. I don’t know what is so libertarian about all these GOPers.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Then there are (well, used to be) P.J. O’Rourke’s “Republican Party Reptiles” who like government to be big when dealing with other governments (e.g. a big military) and small when dealing with individuals (i.e. not getting involved in sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll and the various consequences thereof).

      Nobody wants them in their coalition. I think that’s why they disappeared.Report

      • CK MacLeod in reply to El Muneco says:

        El Muneco: Nobody wants them in their coalition. I think that’s why they disappeared.

        I think that’s backward, or at best a story that’s always as false as it’s true in America.

        The underlying notion is highly pragmatic and also conforms to American ideology and practice historically, up to the present day: Government should be “big” where it makes sense for it to be big, or we like or need it to be big, and small where it ought to be small. In different epochs, the overall tendency has resulted in one or another minor tendency to dominate, but the counter-tendency never disappears and waits for the great wheel of political fortunes to turn again, while in the meantime we argue across the middle over the necessity or desirability of adjustments in particular “bignesses” or “smallnesses.”

        The reason that it seems no one wants PJ in their coalition is that a coalition forms around the particular impetus, not, usually, over an adequate but imperfect satisfaction with the mixed shape of things. At base, however, the majority of those dissatisfied to demand whatever action will have been already in PJ’s coalition, and destined to return to it.

        The further complication is the extent to which libertarianism as we know it is grounded in philosophical individualism. Republicanism, even when pursued under doctrinal exceptions for security (military and police powers), will offer an objectively more libertarian result than, if you will, Democraticism, because it at least moves the locus of power closer to the level of the individual, while introducing a check on the power of the federal (national) government. Localism will therefore appear to be in very concrete senses closer to individualism than nationalism. On the other hand, a given “locality” operating unchecked can be exponentially more oppressive than a distant “central power” – especially when those more closely connected individuals happen to share a consensus on mores that radically contradict ideal individualism – thus the Democratic liberal argument for a more powerful federal government as protector of individual rights.

        Republicans will also point out, with some justification, that, whatever the anti-military or pacifistic biases of the current left-liberal alignment, historically the State empowered on “domestic affairs” has been the same State discovering an ability to operate in relation to “foreign affairs,” from Wilson to LBJ at least. Some may choose to emphasize the movement in the opposite direction: The State that drone-assassinates its enemies (and provides universal health insurance) is also the State that collects meta-data without a warrant, and uses eminent domain to bulldoze your family home for Trump’s sake.

        What we seem to prefer, and need, is a stubborn refusal to decide or resolve the major contradiction as well as most or many of the lesser but more complicated ones. However, that’s a much larger topic than I’ll try to take on in a comment thread.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          “Government should be “big” where it makes sense for it to be big, or we like or need it to be big, and small where it ought to be small.”

          I’ve often thought that the only difference between Republicans and Democrats is which parts of the Bill of Rights need an expansive definition and which ones need a restrictive, re-interpretative one.Report

        • pillsy in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          I’ll hold off on a longer reply in case you post somethiing new, but I did want to respond to one thing:

          CK MacLeod: The Left, in your example, expressly does not favor freedom of speech as an end in itself, but as a practical necessity in relation to the Left’s actual primary interests, including its self-interest.

          This is an argument that proves too much. Many self-identified libertarians also will favor freedom of speech as an end in itself, for instance as a necessary condition for a robus “marketplace of ideas” to sort wheat from chaff. Some leftists view freedom of speech as purely instrumental, but for others it follows from their concern that the downtrodden have a voice. For the American left in particular, there’s such a strong bent towards anti-establishment sentiment, counter-culture and straight-up defeatism that I don’t think it’s particularly meaningful that it doesn’t address what would happen in some imagined future where the left has triumphed.Report

          • CK MacLeod in reply to pillsy says:

            @pillsy I have a post simmering right now, that will either get some suggestions from other editors while I’m running some errands, or that I will just go ahead and publish when I get back and can check it over. I’ll take a look at it again to see whether I have addressed the question of “freedom of speech as end in itself” as at least a jumping-off point for further discussion, as it’s a key question for ethics on the border of ethics and politics. For the same reason, I won’t pretend at any point to have given the problem a truly adequate treatment.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to El Muneco says:

        “P.J. O’Rourke’s “Republican Party Reptiles””…

        …are, these days, derided as “Republicans who want to smoke pot”.Report

  8. Damon says:

    Senator Rand Paul a libertarian?

    Please. You could make the case for Ron Paul, but his kid? Nah.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Damon says:

      That’s kind of my suspicion, but I’m not enough of a Rand follower to have any facts at my disposal. When I think of the senator, I think of two things:

      1. His (only recently disavowed) flirtation with neo-CSA apologists.

      2. His speech at the 2012 Republican Convention where other than saying (I paraphrase from memory) “we may not need every penny of money that’s been allocated for the military,” he stuck to GOP talking points.Report

  9. Tod Kelly says:

    I’ve argued for a while that the size of the Libertarian Movement — and the degree that it has had a ‘Moment’ — has been grossly inflated. This, I believe, is mostly because libertarians themselves have allowed themselves a rather high level of self-deception about their own movement. A lot of folks here will have read this argument from me before, but for those who haven’t, it goes like this:

    Libertarians tends discount any self-describing libertarian who is really a social conservative and uses the the moniker of “libertarian” as a reason for why they support things like the government shutting down mosques, making it illegal for GLTBs to do things they don’t like, or stop-and-frisk profiling. When these people are pointed out to them, they pretend their existence doesn’t matter because those people aren’t true libertarians. (I think of these non-true libertarians as mostly Fox/conservative radio-driven libertarians.)

    But then when they see upticks in the number of people who identify in polls as being pro-libertarian, they never bother to think about how many of those people are actual libertarians, and how many are the many who they wish to disavow.

    You can’t have it both ways, and their unwillingness to deal with either cleaning their own house or taking more accurate censuses of their own ranks has left them with the illusion that the number of believers was far greater than was actually ever the case.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @tod-kelly I think this is mostly right. I’d add to it, though, that there has been some momentum on liberal social issues that they see as their own (weed and criminal justice).

      So a combination of conservative voters and liberal issues.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The problem, as I’ve tried to examine in the past and I’m thinking I’ll try to summarize in these hereabouts, is that libertarianism is primarily an ethical, moral, and philosophical perspective that may influence political action (or other practical and social action), but is fundamentally anti-political. That means among other things that we can all be libertarian, are “born that way,” and at the same that few to none us will be or remain libertarians – and also that the destiny of every libertarian politician is to end up being an untrue libertarian, since becoming a politician is something that “no true libertarian” would or could ever do – or that a libertarian would undertake as a decision (consciously or not) to leave libertarianism behind.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      …and further to your argument, means that at any given “moment” libertarianism can seem to be our true majority or even overwhelming majority and consensus position… and the next “moment” can seem like a ridiculous irrelevancy.Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        A lot of things happen in the Y-axis of the right. Individualism brings with it the awareness that moral alignments don’t by default have to align. Libertarian can range anywhere from ultra anarchism to right progressivism and even a minor swath of conservatism. Where it starts falling off is towards the top in the boundaries between conservatism and facism.

        If there is enough pressure placed on the conservative, there are really only two ways to move and continue to stay on the right X-axis. Up towards facism or down toward libertarianism. Those wishing to grasp the control structures will move into fascism, those wishing to be less coerced and decentralize authoritarian power will move libertarian.

        In my own sketchy theory of the thing anyhow.

        Also what happens only in the quadrant of libertarianism is personal preference/moral agency and individualism occupy the same turf. Every other quadrant there has to be concessions made to the collective/group or to a compelling authoritarianism.Report

        • Joe Sal in reply to Joe Sal says:

          That second sentence maybe should read:

          individual moral agents don’t by default have to align.Report

          • CK MacLeod in reply to Joe Sal says:

            @joe-sal I think you isolate a typical problem for American conservative politicians, and really for all American politicians, but I’ll reserve further comments for later discussion, possibly under the post I’ve advertised above.Report

            • Joe Sal in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              Looking forward to it.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Joe Sal says:

                @joe-sal @pillsy

                Just wanted to say: I have somewhat obsessively-compulsively set to over-cooking that simmering post I mentioned, and then to making edible sense of the product if possible, and now we have to solve the abortion issue and define the human once and for all by I think this evening over on another thread… and tomorrow is the New Hampshire primary, and there’s also living to do and such… So I’m thinking to publish later this week, unless I impulsively hit the publish button between now and then, or the bombs fall: I say this just because I did make a promise, and promises should be kept, and because thoughtful interlocutors like yourselves should not be left hanging.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                No worriesReport

      • Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        When asked the question “How much jurisdiction should some random stranger have over your life?”, we find a surprising number of libertarians out there.

        When asked the question “How much jurisdiction should you have over some random stranger’s life”, suddenly all of the libertarians we found a moment ago evaporate.Report

        • Joe Sal in reply to Jaybird says:

          Considering approximate 65% of the political landscape starts at evaporative, this is a salient point.

          Screwing around with the thermostat boils off the last of Kolohes glue.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Jaybird says:

          If some “random stranger” is about to consume a lethal poison, possibly unwittingly, how much jurisdiction should you assume over his or her life?

          Since there are no truly random strangers, but rather people with whom you come into meaningful contact for a reason – because they are family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow citizens, guests, and so on – there will always be reasons to intervene, and reasons to consider the person who doesn’t or wouldn’t a monster.

          Determining the points at which uncertainty disappears in either direction from the blurry line between “your brother’s keeper” and “nobody’s business” will be a political question that will leave very few “pure” libertarians over.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            “Which is why I oppose vaccines made with mercury, a deadly poison.”Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              The thing that I constantly worry at is the whole tension between where moral responsibility/authority lies. Is it in the individual? Is it in the society? Is it in the culture?
              Added to that the whole tension that exists between the importance of scoring virtue points and the importance of scoring utility points, we get to even weirder places.
              And then when you notice that the people who choose this one over that one tend to benefit thereby, you’re stuck with another really irritating set of observations.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Sure. A valid worry. CK’s comment was pointing out the fluid nature of the relevant concepts, tho, and that perhaps it’s that fluidity which constitutes your worry. It’d be really nice to tease out a principle under which reactively preventing someone from ingesting a known poison doesn’t slide right into proactively preventing the possibility from arising.

                By saying that, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your view here but highlighting that your worry – at least as described by CK up there – arises outa the very nature of moral reasoning in a complex world. The tension is built right in. And – if I’m understanding CK correctly – moreorless unresolvable.Report