Libertarians – Join or Die

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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116 Responses

  1. Philip H says:

    Straight truth: a whole lot of people are ready to burn it all down (and I can’t half-blame them) and toss the Constitution into the paper shredder. The “eat the poor” attitude that emanates from far too many libertarians/conservatives does nothing but push people towards the wildly undulating arms of Bernie Sanders who makes promises he cannot keep but at least he hates the right people. Personally, I am a libertarian BECAUSE it is better for the poor than the Corporate States of America. I could elucidate that fact quite eloquently if only I could get a word in edgewise. But having gobs of other people standing beside me saying “I’m a libertarian because poor people disgust me, how dare you suggest any changes that might make welfare work better because welfare MUST BE the first thing to go even though it’s only a small portion of government spending” kinda drowns me out.

    The few libertarians I interact with don’t usually make this statement – they do lament that social welfare programs don’t seem to be reaching their desired objectives, and that people free to pursue their economic destinies would be way better. There is truth to that morally, except history keeps showing us that 1) humans prefer higherarchical socialites of some type; and 2) private enterprise doesn’t actually step in a cover the things government now covers (nor does it price effectively for common resources like water, or carbon or fish). Thus from the left, I have always concluded that if we are to have a cohesive society, we have to have some government regulation of private enterprise. Whether that’s done at the county, state or federal level is an open question that I’m happy to debate, though frankly in our internet interconnected world you get more of that elusive certainty businesses claim to be looking for at higher levels. Plus, us oceanographers really only have three caree roptions, an dthe first two rely on robust government spending of one type or another 😉Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Philip H says:

      The problem in a modern and large economy is that one sector going off the rails can cause a lot of pain to people who had nothing to do with that sector. One of the reasons I think a lot of young people are attracted to Sanders is that they were royally fucked by the Great Recession. These are people who would have been college students at oldest when the recession occurred. Lots of them did what they were told, they studied, went to college, and instead of being giving the rewards that were promised for such studiousness, are now stuck in jobs without great wages, without benefits, and often without real prospects for growth and security.

      Is the Housing Crisis their fault? No. Nor is the current income inequality which gives huge amounts of money to finance and tech and very little to other sectors. The tech bubble looks like it is starting to burst too. But the bankers who profited during the subprime mortgage years recovered and are making tons of money. Meanwhile someone who was 14 during the crisis has student loan debt and a dead-end job.

      Sanders is not my first choice but I can see why people are skeptical of capitalism and libertarianism. The hopes offered by libertarians in odes and sonnets of the free market are not trickling down. I can also see why younger voters are not impressed with Amy Klobuchar type moderates because she shits on the idea of free college because we need more home health aides and nursing assistants. The second part is true but people still attend college to learn those trades and the reasons those trades are not doing well is because the pay is shit, the benefits non-existent, and the hours long and brutal. Yet Klobuchar has no plan or even acknowledgement of that reality.

      If people were better at self-reflecting, the rise of Sanders would cause moderates in the Democratic Party to reflect on why moderate third wayism is being rejected. Instead we getting people shitting their pants over socialism and wondering if they can dissolve the electorate and elect another.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Amy Klobuchar dumps on the idea of free College because colleges are bloated sprawling administrative kludges that suck up endlessly increasing quantities of funding into their own fiefdoms without doing anything to produce more or better educated college grads. Who in their right mind would want to pump more funds into that cesspit?

        Likewise college grads are, by and large, people from and or poised to join the largest affluent cohorts in our society. Why should the voting masses, most of whom make considerably less than college grads, be expected to shell out funds to pay the college debts of those people?

        As for Sanders success? He’s not so much winning as he is holding steady with his partisans while the moderates (and the billionaire vanity candidates- damn em to hell) divide up the moderate majority between into ineffective fragments.

        Amy is more right than she is wrong about those things, but she still probably needs to drop out of the contest in favor of one of the other candidates- alas.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

          Here is the problem. Home health aides get paid little. The average wage is under 12 dollars an hour. The hours are long and the benefits non existent. My general understanding of economics is that supply and demand are linked. If people are not signing up to be home health aides and you need them, you need to do something to make the position more attractive like pay them more.

          How many times during the last few years have business executives complained about not having enough qualified applicants but also they never seem to want to raise wages. It is like they want special pleading and exceptions on their beloved laws of economics.

          Yes we have ah aging population and maybe we do need more home health aides and nursing assistants but it would be nice if the talking point came with an acknowledgement that in order to make those jobs attractive, you need to make them provide living wages and benefits.

          And then you have libertarians complaining “well actually….”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            The libertarians don’t complain. They explain that more immigration from 3rd World Countries would help reduce labor prices.Report

          • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I’m not carrying any brief for low paid home health aids Saul. Pay em more if no one wants to be them, I have utterly zero sympathy for the whimpers of businesses in a low unemployment economy. Fish em. Nor do any centrist Democrats feel differently.

            But the iron triangle of Higher education has been tackled by better politicians than shouty Bernie Sanders and they haven’t been able to bend it. You ration higher ed by either qualifications, cost or quality. The Europeans and Asians ration it by qualifications (if you don’t pass certain tests or make certain benchmarks, poof, you’re off to vocational school), the third world just makes the schools shitty and in the US (and Canada) they make you pay for it yourself.

            And paying off the loans of a generation of people poised to become the next eras wealthy by taking that money from people who aren’t is, frankly, grotesque.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to North says:

              I’d suggest that we establish a system of government run universities and colleges, where the administrators and tuition are set by a board which is answerable to elected governors.

              But then I’m a radical.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

              Except it doesn’t solve the problem that Amy Klobuchar seems to relish being the candidate of “No, we can’t have nice things” and if she talks about how we need more Nursing Assistants, she should probably also have policies that help raise benefits and wages for said position.

              Instead, she offers nothing but I guess some Democrats stll want to chin chin at Davos and triangulate like it is 1992.Report

              • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Whereas most leftists, it seems, would rather be pure as the left wing snow and impotently inveigling out of power while Trump wins a second term.

                All this stuff about Amy being the Senator of “No” is projection. She has plenty of affirmative proposals- they’re simply insufficient to leftists and look modest compared to Uncle Bernie’s promises of the moon. Pointing out that Bernie (and to a lesser degree Warren’s) proposals are wildly expensive, wildly difficult to do and very likely to be wildly unpopular with voters is being realistic, not relishing saying no. Do you honestly think that Trump and the GOP will abstain from tearing Bernie’s lunatic proposals to shreds once he’s nominated?Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

                Being a snail paced walker wielding “moderate” is not going to ensure Trump’s defeat. When is the time for change and reform if not now?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                When is the time for change and reform if not now?

                2016 would have been a good time for it.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to North says:

              Asians make you pay for it yourself, too. Here’s data on the share of tertiary education costs paid by households, government (“public”), and other private entities (private scholarships, etc.). Japan, Korea, and Australia are up there with the US in terms of share paid by households.


        • Kristin Devine in reply to North says:

          Where I’m at right now is this overwhelming sense of frustration that the Dems cannot suggest any reform other than “more money” into systems that are obviously corrupt and in need of actual reform.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Nor is the current income inequality which gives huge amounts of money to finance and tech and very little to other sectors.

        You make it sound like there’s some income inequality czar arbitrarily deciding to give a bunch of money to tech. That’s backwards. Income inequality is a pattern that arises from some workers having higher marginal product than others. Tech has a bunch of workers with high marginal product, and that’s giving rise to income inequality. Finance is a mixed bag. It’s legitimately important to the economy, but there is an element of rent-seeking there. There’s also plenty of money in medicine and education. Really, people in many different sectors are doing just fine. This idea that anyone who’s not in tech or finance is just barely hanging on is nonsense.

        Meanwhile someone who was 14 during the crisis has student loan debt and a dead-end job.

        Someone who was 14 in 2009 graduated from high school in 2013 or so. You say this hypothetical person has student loan debt, so he must have gone to college, graduating in 2017 or so and emerging from the recession entirely unscathed due to having been in school the whole time.

        IIRC you graduated from law school right at the beginning of the Great Lawyer Glut. You got a bum deal. People who graduated deep into the recovery are doing fine.

        I can also see why younger voters are not impressed with Amy Klobuchar type moderates because she shits on the idea of free college because we need more home health aides and nursing assistants. The second part is true but people still attend college to learn those trades and the reasons those trades are not doing well is because the pay is shit, the benefits non-existent, and the hours long and brutal.

        You’re thinking of RNs. Neither home health aides nor nursing assistants require a bachelor’s or even associate’s degree. This is why they don’t pay very well; pretty much anyone can do them after a short training and certification program.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          “You make it sound like there’s some income inequality czar arbitrarily deciding to give a bunch of money to tech.”

          Well…in a sense, there is.

          And it is libertarians who are the ones pointing out that private interests gameify the system to assign rents to things as disparate as medical licenses and patents and copyrights and leases to public lands.

          Certainly the Income Czar didn’t write a check to the CEO of Weyerhauser corporation. But the government did and does give preferential treatment to logging companies which steers wealth towards them which otherwise might not have.

          Everything from say, below market leases, to publicly funded roads which primarily serve their activities, to socializing the costs and externalities of their operations.

          There are a million political decisions which were made, and are made every day, which affect the distribution of wealth, wholly apart from the random workings of the market.Report

    • Great take, thanks for reading!Report

  2. Brandon Berg says:

    And may I humbly point out that if the vision you, as a self-proclaimed libertarian, have in your mind about working within the system is that first thing you’re gonna do is get all those lazy beeyotches off welfare, you’re a huge part of why people are flocking to Bernie. If you are happy to see trillions of dollars flowing to Halliburton and the Corn Syrup Manufacturers of America and Big Pharma and say nothing yet call yourself “libertarian” because you want to end welfare and make those whiny little pieces of Millennial crap pay back their student loans, again, sorry, but you’re an idiot.

    As I pointed out in that libertarian-for-Sanders post a couple of days ago, you really need to look at the actual numbers instead of just saying, “Well, the government spends money on this thing, but it also spends money on this other thing, so they must be equally important.” Social spending utterly dwarfs everything else.

    Corporate welfare is bad, but it’s a comparatively small piece of the overall budget. In 2012, Cato really dug into the Federal budget and found about $100 billion in spending that could reasonably be labeled as corporate welfare (PDF). That same year there was $3.5 trillion in federal spending and over $6 trillion in total government spending. And honestly, I love Cato, but I think they were reaching a bit in labeling some of this stuff as corporate welfare. Much of it at least ostensibly serves a public purpose (renewable energy subsidies, medical R&D) or is basically individual welfare administered by private companies (FHA loans).

    I think a lot of these are bad programs and should be killed, but the problem is that they come in little tiny pieces, and they’re everywhere. When total government spending is $8 trillion a year, it’s hard to get really psyched up about killing a $700 million per year program. And then doing it a hundred more times. A lot of these programs have at least a few Congresscritters who are deeply in love with them and will hate you forever if you vote to kill them.

    Also, corporate welfare is popular. Yeah, everyone hates it if you call it “corporate welfare,” but everyone loves farmers. And renewable energy. And home ownership. And scientific research. And exports. And rural development. And subsidized broadband. And electric cars. And “creating jobs.” That’s what corporate welfare is.

    TL;DR: I want to kill it, but it’s really hard, and there’s just not that much money there. Meanwhile Sanders is pushing for new spending equal to forty to fifty times the total of all corporate welfare spending, even under a very liberal definition of the term.

    Also, again, seriously, there is no student loan crisis. It’s a hoax. The vast majority of recent college graduates have either no debt, or a totally manageable amount of debt. For the minority who for some reason have an unmanageable amount of debt, there’s income-based repayment. For people who can’t pay any debt because they have no jobs despite a 2% unemployment rate for college graduates…sure, we can relax the restriction on discharging student loan debts in bankruptcy. But it’s totally reasonable to expect the majority of college graduates to pay back their loans. Blanket debt forgiveness for the upper middle class is blatant pandering and terrible policy.Report

    • I agree the reality is more complicated than I’m making it but my overall point was there’s a lot to be cut that could be cut before going after the littlest people. Including farmers, who where I live are all very very rich.Report

  3. Damon says:

    Kristin, nice article.

    But….fuck it..I’m in my 50s. I’m done. I got no kids, no family that will live after me (that I really care about). I just can’t get stoked about pouring my heart and soul into something that I’ll never see come about. Now, after the shitstorm that’s coming, maybe then, but I doubt 1) it’ll come in my lifetime, 2) that’d I’d live through it….

    So…humanity…had some nice things going for it. But I prefer to watch and laugh while I point at the fools and quislings who will burn when they realize the error of their ways.Report

  4. This was awesome. I’ve been on a similar journey. I was once hard-core libertarian. But then I drifted to more moderate views of favoring candidates who could get elected and then do something for liberty. And I’ve accepted that there are some issues — global warming for examples — that need a government response (although not GND-style socialism).

    Also echoing what you said about getting involved in local govt. My wife has been doing a bit of that lately and I’m starting to move in that direction. You can make a big difference!Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    “Capitalism can’t fail, it can only be failed!” is the new “Conservatism can’t fail, it can only be failed.”

    I see no evidence that millions upon millions of people are going to become libertarian anyday now. I see very little evidence that most libertarians are anything but Republicans with some window dressing and kinks like smoking weed and not being too church-going. There are exceptions but they are few and far between and seem to have zero influence within the movement.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I see very little evidence that most libertarians are anything but Republicans with some window dressing and kinks like smoking weed and not being too church-going.

      Imagine someone saying that all the evidence that they’ve seen shows that the difference between Judaism and Christianity is nothing more than belief that the Messiah showed up.

      Would you say that this indicates a familiarity with the evidence?Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      It should be noted, though, that even when capitalism is failed, it delivers the goods. The US leads the world in material standard of living as measured by household net adjusted disposable income, which is the fullest measure of resources available to households after taxes and transfers.

      Now, that is mean and not median, but although after-tax income equality is somewhat higher in the US than in most European countries, the difference in the shape of distributions is not so substantial as to make it plausible that the median net adjusted disposable income is as high in countries like Sweden, Denmark, France, and Canada (~$30,000 mean) as in the US (~$45,000 mean).

      This idea that liberal capitalism has somehow failed to deliver the goods is simply not compatible with the facts on the ground.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Without disagreeing with what you wrote, I wanna try to articulate why people disagree with the framing of the problem, Brandon.

        Early in that comment you wrote “The US leads the world in material standard of living as measured by household net adjusted disposable income”. Later in the comment you wrote “This idea that liberal capitalism has somehow failed to deliver the goods is simply not compatible with the facts on the ground.”

        I think the disconnect is sliding from “material” standard of living to “delivering the goods” *as if* the only goods to deliver are material ones. I think, and you probably don’t disagree, that Democratic Socialism is driven to a large extent by according people a level of security in their own economic (ie., material) lives which isn’t easily measurable except via political means.

        It’s not a failure of capitalism that some people are under-insured or that our healthcare delivery systems are FUBAR. It’s not a failure of any *thing* at all, really, other than various preferences being expressed in policy, leading to outcomes which prioritize some stakeholders interests above others.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

          It’s very, very difficult to discuss preference for non-material goods without veering into arguments about morality.

          A Schelling “mild preference” iterated a handful of times, for example.

          Say what you will about capitalism, but it’s at least possible to have a purely utilitarian discussion about it for a minute or two before the deontologists roll in and start screaming about how people should be better than they are.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

            Well, that’s just it, Jaybird. The arguments for increased socialization of healthcare aren’t deontological. They’re practical and pragmatic. They start with recognizing that the US has the highest per-capita spending on healthcare for usually middling but often terrible results.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:


              And there are things that we could do to change things. But the problem is chronic and the only solutions we seem to be able to implement are solutions best suited for acute problems.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

              I don’t think utilitarian and deontological are separated.

              The underlying premise of a utilitarian argument- What are the goals- are themselves subjective and deontological.

              Euthanizing the sick and elderly is a very utilitarian solution to health care.
              Then again, so is socializing health care. Even accounting for wait times and bureaucratic rationing, the average citizen living with socialized health care leads a healthier life than those who don’t.

              It isn’t possible to say “We will put moral concerns aside in order to solve this problem”. Because the mere act of saying we need to solve a problem is itself a moral choice based on postulates.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Ehh, I don’t think that’s quite right. Irrespective of the moral arguments there’s a list of things people expect from healthcare. Metrics by which various systems can be evaluated. Learning that one system has worse results in those categories and a higher cost per-capita than other systems isn’t a moral argument. It’s an efficiency argument.

                “But isn’t efficiency a moral value?”

                Now we’ve completely lost our way…Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                Lost our way, why?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:


                You’re asking me to criticize why it’s wrong to equate efficiency with a moral value when no one on the left, so far as I know, is doing so other than *you right now*?

                I threw that line in at the end to *stop* lefties from running down that rabbit hole. You seem to want to dive right in.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                Why shouldn’t we acknowledge the unquestioned assumptions which are baked into “efficiency”?

                For example: “Lets discuss the most efficient way to distribute healthcare to all persons” assumes that we should do such a thing.

                It also assumes that certain options are off the table such as removing the word “all” and replacing it with “consumers”.

                But we know from experience that these options are not assumed by everyone even on this blog.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                You’re trying to make me vote for Trump to win an argument at Ordinary TImes, aren’t you?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’ve always been skeptical of “the liberals turned me into a white nationalist!” arguments, but the way you and Saul and Lee deal with political discourse it’s hard to *not* conclude that you want folks to vote against your own stated interests.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                I don’t understand your comment.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                OF course you don’t!

                Not sure how to explain it to you, Chip. You *already* know that I’m an old-school Dem voter who’s aligned with lots of liberal causes ideologically, yet you want to *get into it with me* about effieciency as a moral value.

                To be honest here, it pisses me off. Not because you think I don’t know the economic meaning of the term *OR* that righties corrupt the economic meaning of the term into a morally significant one, but because you’re using me – an ally in terms of votes – to make a point which I have no interest in making.

                It’s the same type of shit that Saul and Lee spew on the daily. It’s so incredulously naive or willfully ignorant that it only pisses people off, people who actually know some of the complexity and nuance about why we’re at the political event horizon that we are. But you f***ers can’t let go of your whips for even a single goddamn second…Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well sorry, I didn’t realize you’d take it that way.

                I was really responding to the idea, implicit in Jaybird’s comment and your response, that we can have a purely utilitarian conversation, absent any moral priors.

                In my experience, this tends to bias any argument in favor of whoever can control the framing.

                You’ve heard that theory that the Republicans are the “Daddy” party- Responsible, practical, hard headed and utilitarian- versus the Democrats as the “Mommy” party- empathetic, emotional, nurturing and morally based?

                This surfaces itself in the different responses to proposals: Republican proposals are assumed to be rational, objective and aimed at an unquestioned good while Democratic proposals are assumed to be frivolous and in need of justification.

                In economic terms, “efficiency” is assumed to mean the allocation of resources most beneficial to buyers and sellers.
                Maybe that’s not what you meant by the term; but its the way it’s used most commonly, especially by conservatives and libertarians.

                But “market efficiency” is itself a moral assumption. The reason the toaster market has little “waste” is because it by definition excludes anyone who possesses neither a toaster or cash.

                In this view, the Daddy proposal to satisfy the buyers and sellers is unquestioned, while the Mommy proposal to satisfy the holders of neither demands justification, preferably one which doesn’t inconvenience anyone.

                It is especially the libertarians who are the boldest in challenging the deontological priors behind utilitarian proposals.Report

              • Stillwaterw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I was really responding to the idea, implicit in Jaybird’s comment and your response, that we can have a purely utilitarian conversation, absent any moral priors.

                Yeah, that’s the problem.Going back to the top of the thread, I made a comment limited to *accounting*. Jaybird responded that it’s impossible to disconnect accounting from deontology because yada. I responded to that comment Chip! I said it’s a problem *revealed* by accounting and not by moral philosophy. (You know how Jaybird loves to muddy things up by talking about moral philosophy? I blocked him from that option!) Then you wrote that we were both fucked up because efficiency is a moral value or some such shit.

                Christ man. Get your head in the f***ing game.

                The problem I mentioned was about accounting given a set of metrics *we already have*. I didn’t propose any new metrics, Chip!

                They’re the mertics we already accept!Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwaterw says:

                I didn’t even realize a game was occurring. I was just walking across the field and kicked a ball I saw rolling by.

                Carry on.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                The game is to get people to agree with you on political issues you care abvout Chip.

                Or, alternately, another game is to try piss off the most people possible wrt to your the political views you care about. (This seems to be the game you want to play.)

                I’m sure there are other games to be played than the ones mentioned, like cheating at elections and so on….Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I also gotta call Bullshit on this:

                I didn’t even realize a game was occurring.

                What you, more than Saul or Lee or greginak or any of the other reflexive Dem-defenders at this site understand, by example, that in the context of commenting this is a game. You’re motivated by one-upping your ‘competition’ in an unwavering and blatantly obvious commitment to winning.

                And that’s fine. I mean, Jaybird has made a career here at OT by trying to score points on his political “enemies”, and he’s doing fine. 🙂

                What isn’t fine is denying that *that’s* what you’re doing.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Stillwater says:

                In other words, this is a web forum where people argue about shit.Report

              • Urusigh in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                That’s a shame. That little digression of yours on deontological priors underlying utilitarian arguments was the most interesting concept in the comments thus far. I’d be interested in reading more on the topic if you’d care to develop your case further.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Urusigh says:

                Fear not, I rarely need encouragement to deliver a sermon.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Then change the terms for “utilitarian” and “deontological” for “talking about numbers” and “likely to talk about the motivations of people who want to talk about numbers instead of about how people are dying”.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                “Why are people making such a big deal about Covid-19 when so many more people die on our highways in car accidents?”Report

              • George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                Many years ago I was on an ultra-conservative blog watching a couple big-L libertarian Randian cultists debate our anarcho-communist “house troll” late into the night, thinking that he was one of our young arch-conservatives. As they battled back and forth late into the night, the anarcho-communist started arguing that if he wants to fill his yard with life-size Ron Jeremy posters, he should be able to. I’m not sure who won who over, because I had milk shooting out of my nose from the communist’s brilliant trolling, but they all came together and decided that everybody has an unlimited right to more Ron Jeremy.

                For me, that night may have formed the template through which I’ve viewed all subsequent progressive vs. libertarian moral debates. However it goes, wherever it leads, they will eventually end up at the Hedgehog.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

                Conservatives have a built-in advantage here. They always think they’re always right.

                “Invading Iraq? Wasn’t me dude. I was against it all along.”

                “Reagan and Iran contra? Not me. That’s why I support GWBush.”

                “Illegal Irag invasion? Not my thing. That’s why I support Trump.”

                “Illegally kidnapping children at the border? Heh, no way pal. That’s why I support …. uhh. Heh.”Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                ” the anarcho-communist started arguing that if he wants to fill his yard with life-size Ron Jeremy posters, he should be able to.”

                Worst Python routine ever.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater says:

          Honestly, I think a big part of the problem is just straight-up ignorance and misinformation. I’m kind of a nerd. I read econometric data for fun. This doesn’t make me terribly fun at parties, but it does give me an unusually powerful bullshit detector, which is constantly going off. Day in, day out, I see journalists, politicians, and people on social media confidently asserting the truth of a narrative that is demonstrably wrong.

          Most people have mental models of the US economy cobbled together from incompetent reporting in the pop media and even worse nonsense on social media. Their minds are full of “facts” that aren’t true, and occasionally true facts that they don’t have the background needed to correctly interpret. If you tell people that middle-class wages are falling, young people are having their lives ruined by student debt, rich people don’t pay taxes, etc., then a lot of them are going to listen to what a left-populist demagogue has to say. None of that is true, but if they don’t know, it doesn’t matter. Moreover, people generally don’t understand just how much higher the material standard of living is in the US than in even relatively wealthy European economies.

          The main legitimate grievances are that health care, education, and housing in some places are more expensive than they should be. And that’s due to the government having pursued a consistent policy of restricting supply and subsidizing demand for these things, which has the predictable consequence of driving up prices. We can pinpoint the places where capitalism isn’t delivering, and it’s—surprise!—the places where there’s an explicit policy of not allowing it to.

          Also, the idea that the US economy has been uniquely bad at delivering stability is questionable. France has 8% unemployment on a good day. In Sweden, full employment seems to be about 6-7% unemployment. Italy’s doing even worse. There are European countries with unemployment comparable to or lower than the US (Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Iceland) but given our political culture, I think an attempt to emulate Northern European economies would probably end up giving us results more like the Mediterranean economies.Report

    • I see more exceptions than you do. Perhaps that’s because you and I are each using the term “libertarian” differently.

      Big-L Libertarians (i.e., Libertarian Party members) probably match your description more often than not, though I’d still suggest that you might not necessarily have done the serious, systematic research into the issue that would justify the generalization you’re making. (That’s okay, neither have I. I guess we’re both anti-intellectual in that way.)

      But….there’s also small-l libertarians. Most of us, probably all of us, are at least sometimes small-l libertarians. Some of us strive for more consistency than others do and therefore might acknowledge that they’re endorsing a libertarian argument, whereas others use the libertarian argument without acknowledging the ways in which it’s compatible with, and maybe even owes something to, small-l libertarians and libertarianism. The ones who strive for consistency might sometimes adopt the label “libertarian,” but can be distinguished from big-L libertarians.

      Maybe, perhaps, possibly I’m indulging in no-true-Scotsmanship. I actually don’t think so. I’m not saying big-L Libertarians aren’t really libertarians while the small-l libertarians are. I’m suggesting they’re both libertarians, but that libertarianism comes in many flavors, shapes, and sizes.

      I do agree with you that if there is a big-L Libertarian movement, the small-l libertarians seem to have little (but I wouldn’t say “zero”) influence.Report

    • So you’re basically reframing my argument in your comment?

      Thanks for reading, I guess, though I’m not too sure you did.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    My realization was that Libertarianism is only possible within a very small and tight framework and it makes little sense outside of that framework. I then spent some time attempting to figure out how we could improve, enlarge, and replicate that framework elsewhere.

    And now I’m just reading The Gods of the Copybook Headings again.Report

  7. Chip Daniels says:

    One of the standard jabs that liberals make about libertarians is that they are just Republicans who want legal weed and abortion.
    And a lot of libertarians take umbrage at that, preferring to see themselves as wholly different than standard Republicans, something unorthodox and revolutionary.

    But maybe its worth considering that “Weed and Abortion Republicans” isn’t such a bad thing, in fact might be a very good thing.

    I say this thinking of my own experience with leftists who very very badly want to be revolutionaries, and shun the conventional liberal label in favor of vast sweeping ideology which seeks to fundamentally reorder society.

    The trouble with these sorts of things is that they lack the complexity to handle the diversity and discord that is a natural part of human society; They really want to eliminate politics which turns everything into a negotiated kludge in favor of a creed which leaves everything pure and pristine.
    Kind of like that meme you’ve no doubt seen of the exchange of two guys arguing:
    “Socialism never works!”
    “Norway has socialism and it works!”
    “Norway is a fundamentally capitalist system with a robust social welfare system!”
    “OK lets have a robust social welfare system!”
    “No, that’s socialism!”

    Socialists dislike the fact that the most workable form of it is based on a capitalist chassis and is essentially “Free Health Care Democratic Party”.

    All political ideologies face the task of resolving the tension between order and liberty. Conventional conservatism and liberalism conjure up heuristics and tests and theories of why order should trump liberty here, but vice versa over there.

    When libertarians move beyond the simple creed (e.g. “All engagements should be voluntary”) into the messy complexities of why some engagements should be involuntary, or why coercive taxation must happen, or how state charity is to occur it inevitably becomes less and less revolutionary, and sounds more and more like standard politics.

    Which again, would be a very good thing. Within the Democratic party are millions of people who, were it not for the rabid theocratic dogma and racism of the Republican Party, would be Weed And Abortion Republicans.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      One of the standard jabs that liberals make about libertarians is that they are just Republicans who want legal weed and abortion.

      This is how the jab makes sense to them.

      If you say something like “Libertarians are just Republicans who believe that the government shouldn’t have jurisdiction over the bodies of individuals”, it gets closer to how libertarians understand the distinction.

      Both Democrats and Republicans believe that the government’s limits to its own jurisdiction are significantly higher so they can work together in ways that neither could possibly work with libertarians.

      All Democrats can do with Libertarians is say “yes! the government should make marijuana available!” in response to the marijuana debate. “We should help set up minorities with marijuana businesses!”

      All Republicans can do with Libertarians is say “we understand that you don’t like Wickard and we don’t like it either but it’s settled precedent and smoking reefer is wrong.”

      And so here we are.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Jaybird says:

        Wickard presents an interesting contrast when looked at alongside the 2nd amendment debate. It all comes down to differing schools of thought wrt to constitutional interpretation: original intent vs. strict textualism.

        The original intent (as I understand it) behind the Commerce Clause was to prevent trade wars between the States. The text did so by reserving the power to regulate trade between the states to the Federal government. As well, the original intent (again, as I understand it) behind 2A was to prevent the formation of a standing army by eliminating the need for one. That’s what the militia clause is about.

        So a reading of the Commerce clause using original intent would NOT lead to decisions like Wickard, whereas a reading by strict textualism does (and has). On the other hand, a reading of 2A by strict textualism yields an individual right to bear arms whereas a reading by original intent would give that over to the state militia, practically speaking, the National Guard.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      “Socialism never works!”
      “Norway has socialism and it works!”
      “Norway is a fundamentally capitalist system with a robust social welfare system!”
      “OK lets have a robust social welfare system!”
      “No, that’s socialism!”

      Dammit I’ve had this conversation too many times.

      Myself, I’m not a “socialist” in the strong sense of the term. I’m a social democrat. I want single payer and free-ish education and a robust safety net. I want strong unions. I want a much smaller income gap.

      I have no interest in state ownership of everything. That wouldn’t be any better than what we have now.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to veronica d says:

        “I’m disappointed in Obama’s solution to healthcare.”
        “It’s too socialist.”
        “Really. What would you have preferred?”
        “Something like Medicare, or the VA.”

        Add: This was an *actual conversation* !!!Report

      • Scandinavian-style socialism is not gonna work in America for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into.

        But let me say, as someone who has intimate knowledge of how patients are treated in socialist medical systems, Norway doesn’t even work in Norway.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Kristin Devine says:

          The question is, would it be better or worse than what we have now, which is a significant number of people uninsured, and even among those with insurance, a fair number have a shitty HMO that will routinely deny necessary care, or make finding a doctor who will see them a hellish experience with long waits?

          Which is exactly what people warn us about regarding single payer. But we already have shitty and/or nonexistent healthcare for a large percentage of Americans.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Oh, there was also the conversation about whether the American FDA should be more like the European Medicines Agency.

      Which was weird because the consensus seemed to be that we had no way of being able to measure whether the EMA was better or worse or equal to the FDA.Report

  8. Saul Degraw says:

    My big problem with libertarianism is that it avoids tricky and complicated issues by working on implications, implied consent, and looking at conclusions and just assuming they are natural and walking away.

    The complicated questions are ones of a broader morality and ethics that do not necessarily lend themselves to being graphed so easily.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Lefties: Those stupid libertarians believe in implied consent.

      Also Lefties: Taxation isn’t coercive because you agreed to the social contract by being born.

      Seriously, though, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not saying you’re definitely wrong; I mean I literally cannot figure out what concrete issues those phrases might be referring to.Report

  9. North says:

    Erik Cain, another OT Alum (though not himself a libertarian), used to say that libertarians would be much better served by going after the chains before they went after the crutches. I think your mantra could be joined to that one and probably be pretty sound advice Kristin- great article.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

      Problem there is the number of people whose first question is “do you think the crutches are needed” and if you answer “no” they won’t talk to you anymore, even if they agree that the chains are bad.Report

      • North in reply to DensityDuck says:

        So you don’t talk about the crutches at all. Leave the fishing crutches alone. Just go after the chains and the fat cats. Then, maybe, in a generation when you’ve both improved things and built credibility as a movement that is something other than the pampered tax cutting poodle of the plutocrats, people will give you a fair hearing when you wanna talk about your ideas regarding the crutches.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

          “So you don’t talk about the crutches at all.”

          Thing is, I’m not the one who brought them up.Report

          • North in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Sure, but if we’re talking about my quote then I’m talking about Erik who was offering advice to libertarians about how to, maybe, make progress on their priorities. Because a libertarian movement that rolled back corporate welfare, onerous licensing & housing regulations and military spending (which is just corporate welfare in fatigues) would be a historically successful movement without having laid even a finger on safety nets. And that’d be a huge improvement on libertarianism as it’s viewed by the masses today which is, at best, a bunch of kooks shouting at clouds who wanna take away Gramma’s Social Security check or, at worst, as pets of the wealthy who wag their tails and deliver deficit financed tax cuts on command.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

              I say again: I’m not the one who BROUGHT. THEM. UP.

              You have this idea, cribbed from Eric, that libertarians turn people off because they just can’t stop gibbering about cutting social safety nets. And, y’know, I’d be happy not to talk about them. I’d prefer not to talk about them. But the people we talk about our ideas with really, really do want to talk about them, and they won’t take “no” for an answer.Report

              • Jesse in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Except all the libertarians who actually become prominent, win elections, become popular among libertarians, etc. all want to cut the social safety net. All it would take is some libertarians on TV to start saying, “no, I don’t want to cut thing x,” when asked.

                Reason and Cato are full of articles on how to cut the social safety net. Ron Paul was the prominent libertarian in America (even though I’ll be fair to libertarians and say he was in reality, just a socially conservative isolationist Goldbug that libertarian’s glommed on too) for decades and he sure wanted to cut the social safety net.

                True or false – if you were able to do a national poll of people who’d describe them as libertarian, what percentage do you think would agree to the statement, “we should not cut any social safety net to benefits, tighten up eligibility requirements, or privatize large portion of the social safety net?”Report

              • I completely feel you on this but the thing is, this piece was triggered by an actual encounter with a libertarian attacking me online for not being a good libertarian, when I agreed with a suggestion Will made about welfare reform.

                While there are definitely a lot of people who hear libertarian and respond with “you want to defund Unicef!” there are also plenty of libertarians who hear welfare and respond with “cut it immediately”.

                I’d prefer not to talk about them either but it’s hard when the people who are ostensibly on your side are shooting off their mouths about it.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Kristin Devine says:

                The situation with doctrinaire libertarians reminds me of a previous encounter I had with an agnostic lady on a Star Trek board who insisted that her fellow agnostics needed to codify their beliefs so everyone would be on the same page. I said I had doubts about that idea. ^_^

                I’ve met far to libertarians who don’t seem to think other libertarians should have the liberty to disagree about libertarianism. It might merit an amusing Venn diagram to illustrate the irony of it.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to North says:

              Because a libertarian movement that rolled back corporate welfare, onerous licensing & housing regulations and military spending (which is just corporate welfare in fatigues) would be a historically successful movement without having laid even a finger on safety nets.

              That sounds like the libertarian movement we actually have. Early libertarians, especially Milton Friedman, played a key role in getting the draft ended. The Institute for Justice has been leading the fight against excessive licensing restrictions since long before it was cool. Libertarians were pushing for zoning deregulation before that was cool, too. The LP was way ahead of the curve in endorsing gay rights, too.

              None of that matters, though, because the only issue that the left actually cares about is expansion of the welfare state. If you oppose that, you are the enemy. Period.Report

              • North in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Yeah well libertarians were also for privatizing social security and eliminating other safety nets and have never met a tax cut they didn’t like. I would never deny that libertarians are in favor of the policies I outlined but when those policies are wrapped around the turd sandwich of slashing safety nets to give plutocrats a tax cut (and then giving plutocrats a tax cut even without slashing the safety nets) then they’re still a turd sandwich.
                You wrap quality lettuce and an artisinal bun around a shit patty then you shouldn’t be surprised when people focus on the shit patty.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

                Democrats like themselves a lot of gun control, and Republicans love outlawing abortion.

                Everybody has planks in the platform that are shitty, why are Libertarians held to a different standard?Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Because libertarians don’t have a mass constituency but want one.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                (COUGH!)Special Pleading(COUGH!)Report

              • North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                *shrugs* I think libertarianism is a fine ideology; is very useful as a mental razor to apply to other governing postures and if it remains merely that- a useful mental practice and otherwise merely a quaint fringe movement (at best) or conservatism’s powerless branding hat (at worst) I won’t fret over much as I’m not a libertarian myself.
                Outlawing abortion has a lot of support in the electorate… a really big plurality overall and an overwhelming majority in the GOP electorate with a similar passionate constituency opposed in the opposite party. The exact exists same in reverse between the parties with gun control. Balancing the powerful competing opinions on those issues is what governing ideologies and democracies are supposed to sort out.
                Libertarianism with safety net slashing foremost or even equal with other libertarian principles is nothing like gun control or abortion outlawing; the populace is, like, 95% opposed to it and maybe, what 2% for? You can juice that up to double digits if you bring David Duke on board and make the safety net slashing only for “other people” but the moment you do it ceases to be libertarian. That is the political reality. Maybe if libertarians yell about it enough on the internet the political reality will change. For a shining couple years in the aughts libertarians thought they were making progress but, no, it turned out to be a mirage. I don’t know if libertarianism has ever been more marginalized or feeble in my 40 year old life than it is now.
                Now I’m not saying that libertarians should suddenly embrace expanding the safety nets but I think they should say something like “We don’t approve of safety nets but there are other government policies that are much more destructive with much fewer upsides than the safety nets so we are leaving discussion of safety nets off the table to focus on those other issues” that might just be a vector they could use to build a constituency that is both politically significant and still compatible with libertarian principles. Probably the bleeding heart libertarians already have gone there and, of course, all caveats granted about the ability to herd any large political movement (especially libertarians) in a given direction.
                But Lord(lady?) knows libertarians don’t have to. The paymasters who feather the nests of the big libertarian organizations on the right have no interest in that- they want tax cuts not smaller government- so they probably wouldn’t smile warmly on such a movement. As a liberal I’m happier with libertarians powerless and marginal so then I can crib their notes on housing policy, military spending and corporate welfare with abandon without trading away other liberal priorities.Report

              • InMD in reply to North says:

                The paymasters do a lot to limit it as the movement’s priorities become that of its financiers. I’m probably about as sympathetic to libertarianism as planet blue gets, primarily because I think journalists like Radley Balko, or coming from the other direction, Glenn Greenwald, and similar folks serve an important purpose that the progressive press and broader left in the US just plain suck at. There’s so much reflexive statism and naive sympathy towards the establishment. At the very least its a valuable gut check we ignore at our peril.

                But in terms of a mass movement in a 2 party system? I agree with you that its limitations are built in.Report

              • North in reply to InMD says:

                Yeah I think our inclinations and positions are pretty similar InMD. Agreed entirely.

                And it isn’t like this is unique to libertarian-ism; every ideology has its entrenched interests; but libertarian-ism is so small electorally that the entrenched interests are basically the only game in town.Report

              • The way people view libertarians reminds me of how people judge homeschoolers. The public schools have plenty of kids who are so-so students, flunk gym, are anti-social freaks, whatever, but the homeschoolers have to be perfect at everything all the time, outstanding in every subject and also the most charming and polite kid you ever met.

                I think it comes with the notion of wanting to do something that is different from how most people want to do things.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Kristin Devine says:

                Same goes for charter schools, for-profit higher ed, churches, etc.

                Basically, anything the leftentariat dislikes.Report

  10. LeeEsq says:

    Based on articles I’ve seen posted on social media, libertrians are going out and trying to convince others of their ideology. My guess is that many libertarians don’t understand the political marketplace because they fundamentally don’t see politics as a marketplace since they believe the market is better than government. Having to go out and convince people to enact a limtied government via politics strikes them as kind of dirty.

    Many but not all libertarians also like to see themselves as the smartest people in the room. They often make fun of people who believe that government can solve problems or be a source of good, etc. So trying to go out and convince others seems to be below them. Much easier to just speak among like minded intelligent company. This problem exists on the Far Left in America to. The Green Party is more of a coffee house debating society than a real political party.Report

  11. Aaron David says:

    As a wise man once said, its a vector. Libertarians aren’t going to take over gov’t, ration everything by cost, and laugh maniacally. We, much like your husband, are trying to bend the arc in a way that results in what we (individual we) feel most important. It is why you will see some communities of Libertarians’ happy with Trump and others horrified by him.

    I was a Democrat for much of my life, and came from a very liberal family, so when I was first really getting into politics it was the horrors of Ed Meese were what really concerned me. But fast forward until a little over a decade ago, and I turn around and see the D’s acting in the same manner as the R’s had in my youth. And it was all predicated with a “you have to understand…” And that is the moment of epiphany. It isn’t a groups politics that was the problem, it was their position to power. Power of gov’t, schools, media, corporations, etc. And that is what moved me to become a libertarian. To embrace individual liberty. To learn about economics. To think through issues as opposed to emote. And to do this in light of living in a nation that is fairly equally split in politics, left and right. Because both of those politics matter, as they are held by citizens.

    Right now the left is in a position of cultural hegemony, and I find that most destructive. Indeed, I find them Infinitely more destructive than the right regarding the things I care about; freedom of speech, due process, the size and scope of the gov’t, and treating people equally under the law. That worm will turn, but right now it is the left I worry about.

    In the end, I am going to vote for what I feel has the greatest chance of keeping the ship of liberty upright. I will vote for more liberty.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    One thing that may help in the short term. Don’t see Libertarianism as a goal but as a prion disease. You want to get your assumptions into the automatic nervous systems of others. Figure out your audience and know what conclusions they’ve reached and show them that it’s possible for other people to reach it as well using Liberty as the way to get there.

    For the Left, Gay Marriage was a fairly easy thing to agree on. The government shouldn’t have the jurisdiction to tell two adults in a life partnership that they cannot get married. My argument was that the government actually DIDN’T have that jurisdiction. I made that argument about ten years ago and I still stand by it. It’s a good argument, I think.

    You can easily use similar discussions on similar topics with people on the right. Find out where you agree on a conclusion and use Liberty as the way to get there.

    They’ll change the way they think about things after they absorb your argument because, let’s face it, you’ve got the right of it. Just know where you started, where you’re finishing, and how you got there. This will help them clarify where they started and how they got to the same conclusion as you.

    Warning: sometimes you’ll encounter ideas that get into your DNA.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

      For the Left, Gay Marriage was a fairly easy thing to agree on. The government shouldn’t have the jurisdiction to tell two adults in a life partnership that they cannot get married. My argument was that the government actually DIDN’T have that jurisdiction. I made that argument about ten years ago and I still stand by it. It’s a good argument, I think.

      And we had the discussions back then, that libertarians (and lefty-liberals, I guess) would *still* disagree on the policy because of the premises of the argument getting them there. As I remember it, the libertarians were the ones who opposed “the left”, on the grounds that marriage – DAMNIT! – shouldn’t be an extension of governmental power, but a repeal of it.

      Ayeyieyieyie those were some great old days.

      Talk about realism!

      Add: And then Papa Bear Mark T wrote a post about marriage in the context of law from a libertarian framework and suddenly – suddenly! – the argument dissipated.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Ie., Libertarians were appropriately chastened. It was a good post. A really great post. I wish I could remember it to cite it. His argument was that marriage, as an official title, is necessary for the state to adjudicate various potential disputes regarding estates, visitation rights, taxation, and so on, which are – so the argument goes – legitimate functions of the state.

        Oh, well. Libertarianism or die is the theme of the day so don’t let me rain on the parade.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

          “Visitation rights are theft!”Report

        • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

          Oh lordy. Frame marriage as a type of contract and all of sudden some people don’t believe in contracts or know how they work.

          Marriage is, among other things, a contract.Report

          • Road Scholar in reply to greginak says:

            Marriage is, among other things, a contract.

            Not really. Show me a marriage contract. I’ve been married twice and have signed as a witness to my daughter’s marriage. In none of those cases did there exist a contract. What you had was a certificate of marriage, a document signed by a duly appointed authority — judge or clergy, generally — that Bobby and Janet are now Husband Bobby and Wife Janet (Or Larry and Steve or Cindy and Susy, whatever). My marriage certificate from the state of Missouri doesn’t have our signatures on it, just the judge and the two witnesses, and there’s no language about us agreeing to anything. That’s entirely contained in the verbal vows to have and to hold yadda yadda blah blah.

            It’s akin to a birth or adoption certificate in that way and neither of those documents could be construed as a contract between the parents and the child. It establishes a legal relationship between the parties that has various legal ramifications, duties, obligations, etc. It’s like the difference between the bill of sale and the title on your car.

            The difference between the libertarian and liberal views wrt to ssm derived precisely from the (mistaken) libertarian view of marriage as a private contract. Therefore, libertarians view the ssm debate as a question of the individual liberty to enter into private contract versus the liberal’s view of ssm as a matter of equality before the law.

            On one level you can say the liberal and libertarian just arrive at the same result along different paths, and that’s great! But the implications of those paths differ significantly. The libertarian path immediately opens the door to stuff like incestuous or poly marriages in a way the liberal path does not.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Jaybird says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting as always, JayB!Report

  13. May I remind you, there is no available option where we suddenly wake up and find ourselves living in a Robert Heinlein novel.

    But if libertarians ran on a platform of getting sexy young things to fancy middle-aged men a la late Heinlein, they could go way over 5%.Report

  14. Stillwater says:

    I don’t think a lot of people on OT realize how big into libertarianism I actually am.

    Not me. I understood it in your second post at this site. 🙂

    Above all else, I’m a realist.

    If that were true you wouldn’t be a libertarian.

    Well, I want to succeed.

    Succeed at what?Report

  15. I wanted to comment before reading the other comments (but I’ll read them).

    I really liked this post. Even though, for a lot of reasons, I can’t sign on to libertarianism tout court (and even though, I endorse, in my own way and with a mountain of reservations, a certain kind of statism and even pro-corporation-ism), I’m sympathetic to many, many libertarian ideas. One important reason I am is thanks to people like you (and James K, James Aitch, Jon Roew, and others).

    Are you familiar with the idea of “marginal libertarianism”? (I think James K might have come up with it, but I’m not sure.) If I understand it right, it meshes with (but isn’t exactly the same as) your preference to opt for 30% more liberty instead of insisting on 100% liberty right away. The idea, as I understand it, is to address any one situation and inquire how to make it a little better in terms of liberty (i.e., usually meaning in terms of expanding choice). So, for example, if the food stamp program limits food stamp recipients’ choices, maybe a “marginal libertarian” move would be to expand those choice.

    Again, I really liked this post. Thanks for writing it!Report

  16. Road Scholar says:

    Excellent piece, Kristin, a really good rant.

    As you may or may not know, I spent the decade of the nineties self-identifying as a libertarian. Spent a lot of time online in discussions with libertarians, voted libertarian, etc. Why am I no longer? In a nutshell because I found libertarians and the LP to be worse than useless.

    I was attracted to libertarians and the LP for one big reason. When I was much younger I got busted for weed. It didn’t totally ruin my life or anything (mostly because I was a white kid, tbh) but it was a serious inconvenience and seemed like a terrible injustice. While there existed a progressive caucus in the Dem party it wasn’t the mainstream and the mainstream of both parties at the time (’80s) was decidedly “tough on crime”, including drugs. The LP was the only half-way major political movement/philosophy talking the right way on that issue.

    But tbh I was never totally convinced on the economic side of things. And I quickly noticed that given the choice, which was perpetually given in our political system, libertarians would always side with Republicans over Democrats. Every. Single. Time. The rank and file would overwhelmingly vote for Republicans over Democrats and if a libertarian decided to enter the political fray with intent to actually win they would always do so as a Republican. And this was a problem for me, because while I was lukewarm at best toward the economics of libertarianism I was strongly committed to the civil liberty side of things. But while the Democratic party was only lukewarm to civil liberties the Republicans were friggin’ awful. And that’s why I say that the libertarians were worse than useless for me. While they would talk a good game wrt to civil liberties they would constantly without fail side with the major party that was decidedly worse in that regard. You offered me stuff I didn’t care about or actively opposed while failing to support the things that originally attracted me to you in the first place.Report

  17. Urusigh says:

    “…we’re sitting on a powder keg and now is probably not the time to start playing with the matches of class warfare….
    “we have got to proceed with compassion in our hearts and get rid of the scum-sucking soul-sucking money-sucking fat cats FIRST before we go after the trailer trash, most of whom are good-hearted people just doing their best. We need to go after the fat cats FIRST before we go after the kids who can’t pay the loans they got tricked into taking out by a corporatized public school system that was and is thoroughly corrupt, the purpose of which is to create brain dead drones to clack on computers all day and then buy cheap plastic products all night.”

    Interesting article and I’m libertarian-leaning enough to largely agree with the main thesis of the article that incremental progress toward Liberty (properly understood) is better than no progress, insomuch as that argument doesn’t degenerate into “the ends justify the means”. So please take the rest of this mostly as a well-intentioned bit of Devil’s Advocacy:

    I find the above quotes, coming within a paragraph of each other, quite contradictory. Railing against “scum-sucking soul-sucking money-sucking fat cats” IS class warfare and would fit quite comfortably in a campaign speech from precisely the would-be SOCIALIST PRESIDENT currently running to remake the entire US into yet another case study in The Road to Serfdom. It may be short, but you’ve literally posted a prioritized “List of Enemies” that reads: FIRST we go for the rich, THEN we go for the poor. That practically begs for an opposing argument that starts with “First they came for x, and I said nothing because I was not x,…then they came for me and no one was left to speak for me”. If you were looking to give the poor a self-interest reason to defend the rich, there it is: Capitalism and profits net BENEFIT the poor more than any alternate system.

    That whole tirade of moral grandstanding also undercuts your supposed Libertarian cred. When you say, “most of whom are good-hearted people just doing their best” about “trailer trash”, but call fat cats “scum-sucking soul-sucking money-sucking”, you seem to have left any objective standard of equality before the law (and thereby equality in Liberty) by the wayside. Yours is seemingly only a “Liberty for me and my favored groups, but not for those I disfavor”. There are political parties supporting that position, but “Libertarian” isn’t usually among them.

    That’s even if I granted your characterization of those two groups, which I don’t. The poor and the rich both include a proportion of each, but given that criminality tends to make one poor far more often than it makes one rich, the share of welfare recipients who are “scum-sucking soul-sucking money-sucking” almost certainly is larger than that of the fat cats. Likewise, I’d say that the prevalence of charitable foundations and other social initiatives with big money donors making them possible strongly implies that “good-hearted people just doing their best” describes a larger share of the fat cats than you seem to recognize. If we’re going to stereotype groups, you have your moral associations backwards: those who produce wealth are more good than bad and those who merely take wealth are more bad than good. Personal morality is not inversely related to personal wealth. If you’re just aiming to curtail rent-seeking behavior, you need to define it in a way that applies regardless of class, otherwise you’re just on yet another moral crusade. I’m fine with reading and debating moral crusaders who are upfront about it and there are many and varied interesting positions possible on which liberties should and should not be held by different favored and disfavored groups if one is going to reject individual equality, but none of them are particularly consistent with “Don’t Tread on Anyone”.

    And while we’re on the topic of contradictions… “at least he (Bernie Sanders) hates the right people. Personally, I am a libertarian BECAUSE it is better for the poor than the Corporate States of America. vs “and get rid of the scum-sucking soul-sucking money-sucking fat cats”. Do please explain how one can be pro-capitalism AND anti-capitalist. Bernie Sanders, despite being a millionaire himself, hates ALL rich people and wants to effectively outlaw or tax into oblivion any degree of Capitalism that can create rich people. Perhaps you differentiate somewhere outside this article between “Good Capitalists” and “Bad Capitalists” but I don’t see it here and BS certainly doesn’t. Yet Capitalism has done more to lift people out of poverty than any other economic system ever devised so we both know perfectly well that his plans will massively increase poverty. Clearly he does NOT “hate the right people” and “The socialists are right about one thing, and that is that we should value people over profits” is a contradiction in terms: if they truly cared more about helping the poor than about hurting the rich, they wouldn’t be defined by policies that inevitably hurt both.

    You also spend several paragraphs discussing how it’s better to mange welfare incrementally better, but jump straight to “get rid of” the rich “fat cats”. Given that contrary to your apparent assumptions, social spending drastically outweighs ALL corporate welfare by several magnitudes (and military spending for that matter, the Federal Gov spends more yearly on kidney disease treatment alone than it does on the entire Department of Homeland Security and at least 70 Billion dollars more on welfare than it does on the entire Department of Defense), you’d have a stronger case for drastic reform of welfare and incremental reform regarding the fat cats and corporatism (which seems to be pretty much the existing Republican-Libertarian political overlap anyway).

    I WANT reduced (though not eliminated) gov social welfare spending AND stronger anti-trust oversight of abusive corporations and am generally positive toward the Libertarian brand and arguments, so I should be a relatively easy voter to persuade in your direction, but too much of this article makes you sound more like a class warfare Socialist than an equal rights Libertarian. The negatives outweigh the positives. As is, this article can be summarized as “Libertarians hate both the poor and the rich, but I disagree with some other Libertarians because they hate the poor more than I do and I hate the rich more than they do and I think we would get more done together if we all just talked less about hating the poor and more about hating the rich, then we might get enough power to implement our hate on both (rich first, then the poor)”. I sincerely hope that wasn’t your intended message, but I’m not seeing anything here to contradict it.Report

  1. September 20, 2020

    […] As I’ve said in the past, when a person is bleeding to death from a severed jugular vein – possibly from being run over by a trolley – there are plenty of people who fear the ramifications of taking action, who stand around loudly saying “severed jugular veins, I’m against it” while doing absolutely nothing, and plenty more who stand around arguing about the best way to put pressure on a wound using anecdotes that date back to the time of Hippocrates. These folks would prefer instead to bitch and moan about how the way the sole individual who has dived in to try to solve the problem, is wrong, achtually, while the patient bleeds to death before everyone’s eyes.Then the blowhards and achtually-ers, with the help of the court of public opinion, will demand that the guy or gal who dared to take action be punished for the things they might possibly have done wrong in the heat of the moment, when really they were the only ones trying to fix the issue at hand. They were the only ones willing to do something when something needed to be done (in many cases, of course, this manifests itself as NOT doing something that shouldn’t have been done, like not pulling a lever to save Drew Barrymore because it would kill five people in the process). And yet the person who laid it on the line and made the call is held solely responsible for what went wrong. […]Report

  2. October 9, 2020

    […] I don’t feel good about doing that in this election. Over the course of the past few years it’s dawned on me that while the lesser of two evils may still be evil, standing by and allowing the greater of two […]Report