The State of Libertarianism, 2058

How the Rand Era gave way to the Surveillance Era—and what we can do about it. A speculative flight into the future.

As we consider the current condition of libertarianism, here in the middle of the 21st century, we might pause to reflect upon the bleak fate that befell the last flowering of personal freedom. That period of liberalism and liberation blossomed in the late 20th century, before coming to a disastrous end in the first decade of this new millennium. We can call that happy period the Rand Era, in honor of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged, a book still intensely and tragically relevant 101 years after its publication.

But let's look back before we look to the present—and to the future. The Randian libertarianism that emerged in the 1950s was a fierce critique of planning and centralization, manifested in its minor (New Deal), major (Swedish), and malignant (Soviet) forms. The school of anti-statist criticism, reinforced by émigré economists, was further strengthened by the obvious failures of American "Big Government" in the 1960s, from the war in Vietnam to the "War on Poverty." Interestingly, during that same decade of the '60s, libertarianism received a major boost from the so-called New Left. These leftists were ostensibly socialist, or even communist, but, in fact, they were more typically, in practice, anarchists and libertarians. Indeed, by the decade of the 1970s, it became clear that radicals and counter-culturalists were mostly interested in "doing their own thing," an attitude leading them toward an insistence on personal freedom-or, as they put it, not being hassled in their "personal space." Thus the New Left helped spawn the New Age, producing a generation of intensely capitalist music producers, natural food entrepreneurs, and then, most portentously, computer geeks and software developers. But of course, in their private moments, these folks retained their youthful predilections for drugs, sex, and rock and roll.

By the 1980s, these libertarian Boomers were in alliance, conscious and unconscious, with President Ronald Reagan. That is, even if yuppies looked down their nose at Reagan over matters of partisan style, they remained in tune with the pro-business substance of the Gipper's "supply side" ideology. The result was a robust consensus for lower taxes and freer trade, in both political parties. And of course, at the end of the '80s came the end of Communism, inspiring some to proclaim that a full-scale "end of history" was dawning—the permanent and decisive victory of liberal capitalist democracy.

Moreover, in the 1990s, the Internet seemed to bring with it the promise of libertarian nirvana, connecting everyone all across the cyber-flattened "borderless world" in a win-win capitalist nexus. Finally, in that same decade, the failed effort by right-wingers to impeach President Bill Clinton—a libertarian Boomer if there ever was one—was seen by many as the high-water mark of censorious "social" conservatism.



Click above to watch Jim Pinkerton discuss the state of libertarianism in the year 2058.


But then came the Big Shift, from the Rand Era to the Surveillance Era. We can point to five events in particular that heralded this repressive shift:

First, the 9/11 attacks brought a new sense of terrible danger to the world. After that Tuesday morning, normal travel and normal life took on a new menace, to be alleviated, seemingly, only by monitors, security guards, and checkpoints. "The twilight of sovereignty" didn't seem like such a slam-dunk good idea anymore, as nations instead redoubled their surveillance of borders, airports, and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Iraq and Afghan wars had a paradoxical effect on American politics. On the one hand, those disappointing conflicts demonstrated the incompetence of civilian planners and would-be nation-builders and democratizers. But on the other hand, the two wars rekindled patriotic ardor in many, engendering a sense of social solidarity and government generosity. An old phrase from the end of the First World War, "a nation fit for heroes," was heard again. As defined by politicians with the power of the purse, such a nation proved, of course, massively expensive.

Second, the long stock market slump at the turn of the century shook people's faith in "shareholder capitalism." The bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000 and some notorious corporate bankruptcies led to the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation in 2002—a bill producing unforeseen legal consequences that echo down to this day. But even before the passage of "Sarbox" white-collar prosecutions spiked; ambitious DAs knew that juries had little sympathy for millionaire and billionaire defendants. So when the subprime mortgage market started melting down in 2007, the legal and political climate was ripe for a long siege of regulation and enforcement. A string of spectacular trials and spectacularly long prison sentences for well-heeled defendants permanently changed the business climate on Wall Street. And there was no escape; from the City of London to the Caribbean to Cyprus to Moscow, prosecution (some called it persecution) ratcheted upward. Yet at the same time, the federal government took on new responsibility on behalf of the property-owning middle class; Uncle Sam would, in effect, guarantee both high stock prices and high home prices. A falling dollar, and rising inflation, be damned.

Third, the disgrace of Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2008 underscored the expansion of state power into areas thought to be mostly private and thus off-limits to government snoops. Spitzer's fall was ironic, because, as the Empire State's attorney general, he had been a zealous proponent of white-collar prosecutions. And so the business class had no sympathy for Spitzer when he was snared on a prostitution rap. But what was little discussed at the time was the ease with which the federal government had nailed this particular defendant. Spitzer was caught on the basis of cash transactions totaling just $80,000—that is, an $80,000 minnow inside the ocean of the then-$14 trillion economy. That the government could be so effective at threshing out Spitzer's activity should have been a red flag to libertarians, but in the scandalous heat of the moment, few bothered to reflect coolly upon what state power had been able to enforce. (And even fewer paused to think about what it meant for the future of personal freedom if all Americans—indeed, all humans—were on the same easily-searchable Google grid. Only too late did "organizing all the world's information" come to seem like more of a threat than a promise.)

Fourth, the 2008 Beijing Olympics taught a bitter lesson: Capitalism and personal freedom do not march forward together. To be sure, China in 2008 was infinitely freer than China of the Maoist era, but the government's tough tactics against Tibetan protestors was proof that the PRC was not moving in a democratic direction, but rather reverting back to Confucianism, albeit with capitalist-mercantilist characteristics. And speaking of mercantilism, the emergence of a whole new work force in tariff heavy and immigrant-proofed Japan—a huge class of mostly subservient robot-helots—did nothing to advance the idea of personal freedom.

Fifth, and finally in our sad saga, that same year, 2008, saw the election of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as the 44th President, spelling the final end of the Rand Era. In retrospect, we can see that the political triumph of a military leader, carrying his stern message of national service and sacrifice, was made inevitable by the continuation of the Iraq and Afghan wars; in times of severe crisis, democratic electorates naturally turn to the Strong Man. A few lonely figures, notably Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), argued that McCain-style policies were not the solution to America's problems, but rather the cause of the problems. But despite big fundraising totals, Paul's argument was little regarded during the 2008 Republican primary. And in the general election, McCain swept to victory against the Democrats, who, interestingly enough, seemed actually to be more libertarian than McCain. And as president, as we all know, McCain was supremely eager to stride manfully in the Progressive footsteps of his activist-interventionist idol, Theodore Roosevelt.

But America's strenuous efforts in the Middle East proved unsustainable. Even substantial tax increases, as well as the enactment of a "voluntary draft," were not sufficient to maintain the tempo of operations as the fighting dragged across decades. And so most Americans breathed a sigh of relief when Saudi Arabia, engorged with profits from Euro-denominated oil, engineered what was effectively a buyout of U.S. Central Command.

And by then, of course, America faced many other national security challenges closer to home. After Venezuela, and then Mexico, exploded their atomic bombs in the 2020s, Americans concluded, once and for all, that border security needed to be a top priority.

But the biggest shock came in East Asia. The Chinese takeover of Taiwan was a masterpiece of patient and subtle Go-like positioning, followed by a sudden cyber-strike that left Taiwanese and American defense planners blinded and befuddled—until, of course, it was too late to thwart the People's Liberation Army. Only then did it become clear that America's policy toward China had to change.

For a painful and perilous decade, America feverishly worked to rebuild its military computer systems, all of which had to be completely replaced and redesigned, since the turn-of-the-century equipment had been so honeycombed by Chinese viruses and spyware. During that period of American rebuilding, only America's nuclear arsenal kept the homeland safe; in the meantime, China was able to consolidate its hegemony in Asia, regaining its historic position as The Central Kingdom.

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  • Jason||

    Sarbanes-Oxley is abbreviated "SOX", not "SarBox." Sarbox sounds like UPS delivering deadly flu-like symptoms.

  • jj||

    These leftists [of the sixties] were ostensibly socialist, or even communist, but, in fact, they were more typically, in practice, anarchists and libertarians.

    How so?

  • jj||

    Then... Reagan's economics was libertarian

    ...then Clinton was a libertarian

    And on it goes. He left out Bill Maher, Jesse Jackson, and Mike Huckabee.

  • ||

    one of libertarians problems is they need to GET OVER the republican party. cut the cord, guys. i think libertarians have a history of supporting/voting/sorta liking/preferring in a lesser of 2 evils kinda way the republicans over the democrats. in certain cases it's understandable cause of the party's history of hating commies, at least claiming to be for lower taxes and the free market but social conservatives and big government neo-cons have NOT lost their control over the party just yet. the 2 most libertarian republicans in recent history: barry goldwater and ron paul got no where in their bids for the presidency. at least goldwater got the nomination. libertarians need to build the LIBERTARIAN PARTY. no south park republicans, no deadwood democrats. capital L libertarians.

  • ed||

    Won't work. Americans like big government.
    We complain and complain and keep electing the pork-pushers.
    We just love pork when it's ours.

  • Old Bull Lee||

    I've felt that way for a while, especially after I watched the Republicans pass the medicare drug bill. Both parties are now competing to see who can offer the most entitlement and false sense of security for your vote.

    Protection from immigrants, terrorists, corporations, and drug addicts. Cheap house, free health care for you and your children, computers in your children's schools, good job, just vote for us.

  • ||

    "Won't work. Americans like big government".


    yep. unfortunately.

  • ||

    Americans like big government

    Yeah, I've just about given up on ever seeing anything other than very marginal improvements on specific issues, while the 70-year trend toward mo bigga carries on.

  • ||

    Well, I don't agree with all of Mr. Pinkerton's predictions of the future, nor necessarily all his assessments of the past.

    But in a larger sense, we both have the same conception of practical libertarianism. That is, an understanding the liberty always has, and likely always will be, a luxury available only in relatively small enclaves. The practical result of more people is inevitably less freedom.

    This is typically a bone of contention between myself and the Reason/Cato crowd, who subscribe to a one-world, multi-culti, sit-around-the-campfire-singing-If-I-Had-A-Hammer style of libertarianism.

    A nice vision, but as Pinkerton pointed out, not everybody shares the same concept of freedom, nor even necessarily values freedom at all. If all the world was libertarian, it might work. But then, if everybody was willing to work unselfishly for the common good, communism would have been a smashing success. Except that it isn't, and they aren't.

    More Pinkerton at Reason!

  • ed||

    Most Americans have come to accept as an axiom that the role of the government is to take care of us. Not simply to protect our rights as envisioned by the Founders, but to actually clothe and feed us and pay for our medicine and make personal choices for us. They really believe it. And every successive generation takes us farther away from the original concept of the United States. Hate to say it, but there's no turning back. There are simply too many Americans on the other side.

  • jj||

    If all the world was libertarian, it might work.

    If a single, defendable country was libertarian it would be so creative and prosperous it would force the rest of the world to liberalize after continually being beaten economically and innovatively.

    I say "defendable country" because I think a likely outcome would be the other countries "liberating" it to ensure their own stability and viability.

  • ||

    There will be more "libertarians" attending Burning Man this year than the LP convention in Denver.

    I worked in the Emerald City for Oracle for years - the problem with the post-hippy techie Libertarians (like myself) is that we can't fucking stand to be around Republicans.

  • Joel||

    "These leftists [of the sixties] were ostensibly socialist, or even communist, but, in fact, they were more typically, in practice, anarchists and libertarians."

    How so?


    Oh, I remember being young in the sixties. I and my friends knew virtually nothing true about communism, but what we thought we knew sounded really cool and a big improvement over The Establishment. Oh sure, we knew the USSR sucked, but that wasn't real communism. Now Mao, we figured he was the real deal. Had a little red book of aphorisms and everything.

    In short, we were politically and philosophically illiterate morons. I didn't lose those illusions until I actually learned something (beyond Americanism propaganda, which I didn't believe) about communism's inevitable outcome in practice. But looking back on it, what I really wanted then and what I still (old, cynical and utterly non-political) want now have barely changed at all. I wanted, and still want, to be left the hell alone by those who would ruleprotect me.

    So yeah, when I was young I called myself a communist. But what I really was, was an anarchist.

  • ||

    Jason,

    Actually, it's called SarBox all the time.

  • e||

    Listen to me people! The only way to save Libertarianism is to build an anti-public transportation coalition. Our streets are clogged with light rail vehicles and buses. In this time of high gas prices, we have to stop wasting money on boondoggles like public transportation that no one uses anyway. Libertarians should focus on tax credits so that every poor person can afford their own SUV.

  • ||

    In written usage, I typically see it as "SOX" (which I personally use), but verbally it is often shortened to "SarBox", since it seems a little silly to constantly talk about socks in the context of corporate fraud.

    As to the Pinkerton article, I like his thought experiment, but perhaps too dystopian for me. All cultural eras pass, and usually quicker than you expect. And humans are a notoriously stubborn and unmanageable species. Given our increasing numbers and close proximity, I expect communicable disease to be the biggest threat in the next 100 years. Much more so than Big Brother or cataclysmic war.

  • ||

    For a summary of this article, watch the first 15 seconds of any "Firefly" episode.

  • Kolohe||

    Pinkerton says his animating issue is the "single most remarkable phenomenon of our time: the collapse of faith in the future."

    Yet in Jan 08 he signed as a senior advisor to the *Huckabee* campaign - who's organizing principle was, well, collapse of faith in the future.

    He was a 'domestic policy advisor' under Reagan and Bush 1.

    So he was either an intergral part of, or at best, an idle observer, of the escalation in the war on drugs that was, and remains, the prime impetus to the surveillance state he decries.

    If libertarism will survive it will be despite of, not because of, people like Pinkerton.

  • Zombie Hayek||

    Libertarianism didn't survive the last century.

  • ||

    A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

    From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.


    Oh, man, I hope Tytler was wrong.

  • TallDave||

    In a transmission dated from the year 2058, the New America Foundation's James P. Pinkerton explains how the Rand Era gave way to the Surveillance Era.

    I don't see why we can't have both. Let private citizens record whatever they want -- esp public officials. Little Brother Is Watching!

    Anyways, the main threat to liberty is the pernicious attempt by socialists to redefine needs as "rights" thus eliminating the latter in service to the former.

  • ||

    Oh, man, I hope Tytler was wrong.

    Ha! I'd say based on the evidence, Tyler was an optimist!

  • ||

    Finally, in that same decade, the failed effort by right-wingers to impeach President Bill Clinton-a libertarian Boomer if there ever was one-was seen by many as the high-water mark of censorious "social" conservatism.



    WTF?!?! Clinton is a libertarian? Pardon me while I throw up on my keyboard...

    I know it's verboten to discuss the definition of libertarianism here at Reason, but I'm going to do it anyway! Libertarianism is the belief not just that small government is better, but that government needs to be significantly smaller than it was when the libertarian movement started in the 70's. Bill Clinton's actively worked for a government LARGER than his predecessors. Military intervertion was greater, regulations more expansive, taxes higher, increased the War on Drugs, etc. He tried to give us the V-Chip. He also wanted to give us higher spending as well, but in a brief spasm of sensibility, a Republican congress said no. He did slow down prosecutions for a tiny handful of sexually related victimless crimes, and he did manage to get an anemic reform of welfare through. But that was the extent of it.

    Yeah, he was pretty good at pretending to be a a "tolerant cosmopolitan". But contrary to Postrel, being a libertarian is much much more than that.

  • TallDave||

    A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

    No one actually knows for sure if Tytler wrote it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Tytler

    In any case, it probably stopped being true when we reached a GDP per capita so high the most wretchedly poor person lived better than 90% of those alive in Tytler's time.

  • ||

    Libertarianism didn't survive the last century.

    I would say it was still a legitimate force up until the FDR took the reins.

  • ||

    Don't worry, fellow libertarians, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! A time in which we will all be free of government intrusion:

    death.

  • ||

    But this time, the strikers were real enough-until, of course, they met their tragic end at the hands of bounty-hunting looters.

    Wait...wouldn't the bounty-hunter looters technically be free?

    Who hunts the freedoms of bounty-hunter looters?

  • Geoff Nathan||

    Ignore the rest, just read the latest posting on my IT blog (click on my name) for the real thing, right here, right now, as described in the current Rolling Stone.

  • Geoff Nathan||

    Err...I meant the rest of the stuff on my blog, not on this one... Think before clicking...

  • abc||

    I'm pretty sure Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, which puts you off by about 50 years. Anywhoo...

  • Winos Do Not March||

    Fix yer links, dude...

    https://blog.wayne.edu/facitblog/index?cms_page=index

    Why do I always have to clean up after you guys?

    Huh?

  • duster||

    I guess Libertarian doesn't mean civil libertarian. At least not to this guy.

  • MSC||

    Nicely written, makes me glad I decided to vote for Obama. Maybe he will win and fuck with the premise of this article.

  • Anonymoose.||

    I think this might have been a performance art piece about how we remember history wrong. Like, how in the future, because the government is so much more powerful and Libertarianism so much harder to find, we'll look back at the 70's or hippies or whatever as Libertarians.

    Err-sumtin'

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Er, wtf was this article about? I got lost somewhere, and it was before "Clinton" = "libertarian".

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    then came the Big Shift, from the Rand Era to the Surveillance Era

    There never was a "Rand era".

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Pinkerton misses (among many things) the fact that libertarians have always been politically irrelevant at their own insistence.

    Like, for example, Ron Paul, who just couldn't avoid taking stances that were sure political suicide.

    Can't do the politician thing and bash the stupidity of Iraq, which actually nets a big chunk of voting block, nosiree. Gotta stand up at the RNC and strongly imply that 9/11 was our own fault (or did he say it directly, I forget now). That was the first bullet he aimed at his own head, and it did not miss.

    And then, you can't just talk in vague politician-like terms about the problem of fiscal responsibility in government (a story that actually gets traction with many voters). No, gotta start babbling about the f'ing gold standard. Anyone who didn't already think RP was a kook, knew the answer for sure by this time.

    But I suppose we should give him some sort of credit. At least RP didn't go on the national stage and insist that gay rights and the WOD are the most important issues of the day.

    There is no "Libertarian Party" to "build". There's only a bunch of raving lunatics who find it amusing to prove to the nation what fools they are. End result is that we have no real idea how much traction classical liberal ideals might actually get on the national stage, because the closest anyone has come to that rhetoric in recent history was Reagan.

    Oh gosh I forgot, he was president, wasn't he?

    Unfortunately the "Libertarian" Party either didn't get the clue, or -- perhaps more likely -- is not really interested in classical liberalism, nearly as much as it's into other BS.

    In which case I have no sympathy for its failure.

  • Kolohe||

    Ok I finally saw the video.

    He makes somewhat more sense than in the article, but still seems to be putting on the 'libertarian' hat when the conservative (fedora?) would fit him better - and I wouldn't criticize him for it.

    But he is awfully ahistorical and has an awfully big blind spot about his pet cause. (space exploration)

    '9/11 affected the libertarian consensus' - like Eberneezer above, this is a past that doesn't exist in our dimension - or to be charitable was maybe for about two weeks in 1998.

    'globalization is inevitable' - again, if such a consensus ever existed, it wasn't until Fukuyama where it was given voice - and seattle WTO riots split it back up - so a period of less than a decade tops. His examples of Arafat and Khomeni were at a time where there was the complete opposite of a consensus on how the world should be organized - i.e. the Cold War.

    And yes technology can be used as a tool of oppression, but also as a tool for freedom. In fact, technology has been indefensible for securing and enabling freedom, everything from agricultural inventions that enables a freehold to be self sufficient, through the automobile that liberated people from the 'tyranny' of railroads and distance in general, to the selfsame internet which yes, makes its easier for Spitzer to be caught, but also for anyone to publish a dissenting viewpoint and everyone to read it.

    He stands on some firmer ground with the notion that an exit strategy is the key for growing and maintaining liberty, as the American example shows. But then loses it again when it extends that to his hobbyhorse, 'outer space' as an exit strategy, esp that is 'freer' than earth.

    The reason why america was so amenable to freedom and the 'exit strategy' is that abundent natural resources made it easy, almost trivial in some cases, to say 'fuck off' to the powers that be and blaze your own path. Space, in any timeline less than a millennium or two, does not have and will not have this. It will be far worse than the constitutional dictatorship that exists on a ship at sea due to even more extremes wrt a hostile environment and resource limitations.

    I cannot imagine any place that would be more susceptible to hydraulic despotism than a moon colony.

  • Kolohe||

    that should be:

    "technology has been indispensable for securing and enabling freedom,"

  • Andy||

    Wow, a lot of you guys are pretty cynical about the future of freedom. Have you ever heard of the Free State Project?

    Also, brainwashing children could help.

  • Andy||

    Oh and also, maybe his calling Clinton a "libertarian Boomer" was a clever way of hinting that in the future (where he's writing from) things have become so statist that the term libertarian is applied more generously. Like Krushchev being called moderate after Stalin. Maybe.

  • ||

    this article: outer space > taxes.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    I cannot imagine any place that would be more susceptible to hydraulic despotism than a moon colony.

    Now that's a really good point.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Oh and also, maybe his calling Clinton a "libertarian Boomer" was a clever way of hinting that in the future...

    ....we won't be seeing anything remotely like that rosy vision that Matt and Nick co-wrote a few months back?

    Maybe that's what he was saying, in some really clever sort of way. In which case I should give him credit for having at least been clever once. In an otherwise waste of time article.

  • ||

    In other news from 2058, Pinkerton gets discredited on libertarian blogs for shilling for big aerospace.

  • ||

    A minor correction, TallDave:

    Anyways, the main threat to liberty is the pernicious attempt by socialists to redefine needs wants as "rights" thus eliminating the latter in service to the former.

  • Ben||

    This article... What an incredible waste of time. We have real issues, right now, that need attention.

  • ||

    But Ben, people just loved "Starship Troopers", didn't they?
    I think that it's important when people waste time like this, because other folks jump all over it and point out its logic-flaws, historical inaccuracies, and so on.
    It's tutelary to people like me when people like you point out exactly *why* articles like this one are pointless. Yes, the man's delusional, but what can we *learn* from his crazy ideas?
    Also: hippies are totally anarchists, not socialists or (shudder) communists. At least, the ones who are really serious about political activism are. Plenty of people who lose their anti-culture edge become hipster safety-net types, resigned to incremental shifts in policy rather than weaving a whole new cloth. By nature, hippies (and other counter-culture types) require lots of social freedom in order to have *room* to pull away from mainstream society and scratch out a niche for themselves. Events like Burning Man are a literal manifestation of this.

  • coba||

    clinton screams sexism
    top 5
    why someone supports obama
    and two new online stores

    http://sensico.wordpress.com/

  • ||

    I hope those "new libertarian thinkers" of the mid 21-st century read Rothbard.

    Maybe the reason the libertarian revolution is yet to succeed is that Rand didn't go far enough.

  • ||

    If a single, defendable country was libertarian it would be so creative and prosperous it would force the rest of the world to liberalize after continually being beaten economically and innovatively.

    Didn't this already happen once? See the United States of America, from 1865-1913.

  • ||

    ...the closest anyone has come to that rhetoric in recent history was Reagan.

    Reagan's rhetoric wasn't as mild as people seem to remember it:

    "A people free to choose will always choose peace."

    "Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty."

    "Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves."

    "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

    "Man is not free unless government is limited."

    "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!"

    "Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing."

    "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

    "The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much."

    It's too bad he didn't live up to the tough talk.

  • ||

    If the era you speak of in the beginning of your piece was in fact Randian in nature, the history in 2058 would be much, much different than what you write.

    There is nothing Libertarian about Rand. That was your mistake.

  • ||

    Rand-style libertarianism and Marxism suffer from the same flaw. They both expect people to behave in ways that people do not behave in reality. The more I see, the more I recognize that the general philosophies of two parties have evolved logically. In order to maintain any kind of society that functions, there has to be some kind of restraint. The traditional American model, embodied (generally) by the Republicans was socially conservative and economically liberal. That was the "American Way" that predominated up until the 1930s. From that point on, the Democrats have offered an alternate philosophy (which they believe is "progress") based on European socialism, which is socially liberal and economically restrictive. They are therefore locked in a struggle with the Republicans trying to defend the American model while the Democrats try to overthrow it and turn it on its head. There is only one way any "libertarian-ization" of America can work. There would have to be a movement which advocates, at the same time and with equal force, the lessing of government restrictions on individual decisions, and (non-governmentally-imposed) social conservatism. The government would have to get out of people's business, and at the same time, the people would have to start governing themselves better, becoming more religious, and thereby more charitable, taking social services out of the realm of government and into the private sector. The closest we have come to that philosophy in modern times was during the Reagan Administration. Clinton destroyed that balance and set it on the course for disaster which ended on 9/11 by imposing "boomer values" on America, destroying the self-control, self-discipline, and self-sacrifice necessary to the maintenance of a free society.

  • ||

    The only one of those 5 events that truly affected libertarianism was the 9/11 attacks. The expanded surveillance and security that followed were a treatment of the symptoms, but not the cause. The US's aggressive foreign policy in the middle east has been ongoing and self-defeating. As a libertarian, I would say that such a doomsday scenario can be avoided if we just stop using our military for aggression.

    Libertarians cannot support the democratic party. While we may agree with them on some specific social issues, their economic policy is atrocious and far-reaching. Democrats in power leads to things like universal healthcare, the thought of which makes me sick to my stomach. What we need is a dovish Republican who will stop instigating in the middle east, allow the markets to rescue the US economy, and reign in government spending. Two out of three of those characteristics are embodied in John McCain, and as the saying goes "Two out of three ain't bad."

  • Claire M||

    A Democrat president will push us much further down the road to collectivism than a Republican one. When forced to choose between continuing the war in Iraq and national health care, remember that it will be much easier to end an unpopular war than it will be to rid people of their sense of entitlement to yet another government program. If we ever want the U.S. to return to a libertarian government, we should be very concerned with the effect of "progressive" policies on the character of the American people. Other issues are secondary, IMHO.

  • Robert||

    Oh, Tytler. I thought you meant Titler, the transvestite Hitler.

    Most Americans have come to accept as an axiom that the role of the government is to take care of us. Not simply to protect our rights as envisioned by the Founders, but to actually clothe and feed us and pay for our medicine and make personal choices for us. They really believe it. And every successive generation takes us farther away from the original concept of the United States. Hate to say it, but there's no turning back. There are simply too many Americans on the other side.


    Are you nuts? There've been so many examples in history around the world of countries with "too many people on the other side" turning back, that only a fool would make that statement.

  • ||

    i agree with much, but the claims of the leftists of the 60s as libertarians and the democratic candidates today as more libertarian than mccain(esp b obama a marxist in all but admittance). While mccain will stomp on personal freedoms that i will protest vehemently, he won't force us to live, he won't "heal our conscience", and most of all he won't expand the government as much as obama. Obama's programs all need funding and that can only come from increased taxes. Personal freedom comes from economic freedom, they are hand in hand, but without economic freedom personal freedom is worthless. unfortunately in this election, the top 2 candidates are big government a and big government b, but in all reality barack's government will be much larger than mccains.

  • DS||

    It's really sad that given the state of events in the last few years what the world needs is a strong libertarian alternative to the Repubicrats and the Demoplicans.

    Unfortunately, as it has been for most of its existence the "libertarian" movement is fragmented and too busy fighting amongst itself to bother to notice. This website's hostility to Ron Paul is a exhibit A of this phenomenon, while the United States will end up with one of 3 nightmares of statist expansionism GUARANTEED, any of whom will be ready to conspire with an already entrenched statist-big government left-wing congress.

    Unfortunately the 3 factions of the libertarian movement - the "lifestyle" libertrains, the "privatize garbage collection in Wichita" libertarians and the "anarchist utopian" libertarians - are at war with each other while the Big Government types march on.

    While all 3 factions have a contribution to make, curent world events with a global financial crisis that will likely destroy the fiat currency system, the "lifestyle" libertarians are completely useless, and the "privatize garbage collection in Wichita" libertarians do not have the braod perspective to present a real alternative, only he ability to politely suggest a slight modification to a completely broken system. That leaves only the "anarchist utopia" libertarians, the ones who play the least well to public at large, or with their peers in general.

    Too bad the LS and PGCIW libertarians can't take their blinders off an support Ron Paul.

  • Ron||

    I'm still trying to get "Bill Clinton as Libertarian" wrapped around my skull... and it's not working.

  • ||

    This article raises questions in my mind.

    Why the heck are libertarians so fatalistic?

    Why is there this almost-subconscious expectation of long-term dismal failure no matter what we do?

    Why does this article seem written like a propaganda piece from the Obama campaign, with its open implication that McCain would be the last nail in freedom's coffin, and its tacit corrollary that Obama would be much better?

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