The GOP Civil War Over Libertarianism: Matt Welch at Reason Weekend 2013

"This battle for the soul of the Republican Party [is] between people who are actually interested in cutting the size of government and...an establishment that is more scared," says Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch. "I think, right now, this is the national political story that is the most interesting." 

At Reason Weekend 2013, the annual donor event for the nonprofit that publishes this website, Welch discussed the GOP infighting during the 2012 convention, how the Tea Party and more liberty-minded factions are upsetting the old guard, and the policy implications that could come out of this fight. 

"The quality of conversation is changing in a way that is grounds for at least slight optimism in the Republican party."

About 23 minutes.

Filmed by Alex Manning and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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  • John||

    It isn't much of a war. When was the last time an establishment libertarian hating Republican won an election? Fatso in New Jersey maybe? Every other Republican I see who wins, seems to at least pretend they are of the libertarian wing of the party. The only other side I can see in that war are professional concern trolls like David Frum and losers like McCain.

  • SugarFree||

    I'd say that every Republican that voted for the online sales taxes is at war with libertarianism.

  • space junk||

    agreed. they are part of the 'find more money so government can spend more' crew.

  • Tony||

    It's the libertarian position to subsidize online sellers?

  • Nazdrakke||

    It's the libertarian position to subsidize online sellers?

    I bet you thought you were being clever when you posted this.

  • Tony||

    Whereas I can't fathom what goes through the heads of people who think government playing favorites is OK while having an entire economic philosophy built around the opposite claim.

  • ||

    Don't respond to it. It's just a sockpuppet. Like Tulpa has become. The only proper response is to just utterly ignore them all. There is nothing that would hurt them more than that.

  • sarcasmic||

    When you do not take money away in taxes, you are actually giving money to the person you didn't take money from.

    Then when you do not give tax money to someone who feels entitled to it, you're actually stealing from that person and giving to the person you didn't tax.

    See?

    Not taking is giving, and not giving is taking.

  • tarran||

    That Castro fellow in Cleveland showed favoritism to all those girls he didn't kidnap and lock up in his dungeon!

  • Tony||

    Taxing brick-and-mortar retailers at a different rate than online retailers is to effectively subsidized the less taxed.

    You really want to argue that it doesn't matter how arbitrarily unfair the tax system is, as long as no new taxes are ever added? That's your big idea?

  • sarcasmic||

    They're not taxing the retailers.
    They're forcing the retailers to be tax collectors for whatever district in which the customer happens to live.
    Not that that matters to you since you are a dishonest piece of shit.

  • ||

    Why can't you see that that is the exact same thing as subsidizing (giving money to them)? Why sarcasmic!!!!?!!

  • space junk||

    and last I read, it is mandatory even if that district or state doesn't want to collect the taxes.

  • Sealand Utility Authority||

    What if you are in London, purchasing a product made in Oregon, and your credit card (where you were before you moved to London, in this hypothetical) has a billing address in South Carolina? Do you now have to pay South Carolina state taxes on an item that never touched the state, a state in which you no longer reside? Is that how all this fairness works? Serious question.

  • Unindicted Co-conspirator||

    Retailers aren't taxed. Customers are.

    Fuck off, sockpuppet.

  • Tony||

    Just not online customers, giving online retailers an advantage in the marketplace, courtesy of the government.

    Freedom!

  • Unindicted Co-conspirator||

    Online customers are taxed.

    The problem is that the states can't collect that tax revenue efficiently, because of online customers' noncompliance. So they want to turn the retailers into tax collectors, despite those retailers having no physical presence in their jurisdictions.

  • Samshile||

    Nope.
    Democrat: What is wrong with leveling the playing field?
    Leveling the playing field means: less taxes for your local bookstores and more left in the pockets of the tax payers to buy books. Then the bookstore can offer someone a job to keep up with the volume. Hence, more tax payers and less unemployed.

  • GLK||

    This is just sad. Probably due to the lack of critical thinking and poor educational system. More taxes do not create employment. You want to level the playing field? Remove sales taxes from all retail businesses. I owned a retail business for 15 years. Businesses aren't taxed fairly. They're taxed to death. Joe Lunchbucket's got no idea, no clue as he collects his ever-shrinking paycheck and spends it on goods and services. The only good thing that's happening today is Government greed, largesse and mismanagement is finally starting to show cracks in the foundation. The cradle will fall as it should. What worries me is the clueless will be picking up the pieces.

  • Alan||

    Taxes are not the primary reason why online retailers are out-competing brick-and-mortar locations. They are winning because they can offer some products more efficiently than brick-and-mortar retail can.

    Consider how much excess stock traditional retailers order, and then have to mark down when it doesn't sell quickly enough? Online retailers may have the same problem, but not at the same scale. A traditional chain needs that stock in every store, the online retailer just needs to have enough onhand to meet immediate needs - and sometimes doesn't even need to have it in stock in order to sell it.

    Traditional retailers still have lots of advantages. I don't see restaurants or hair salons getting much competition from online retailers, and even grocery stores, home supply and hardware stores, and other suppliers of bulk goods that need to be replenished frequently won't see much competition from their virtual cousins, except for specialty items. This is because there remains a huge advantage in having products available to customers when they want it.

    (continued)

  • Alan||

    (continued)

    The traditional retailers that cannot compete are those that sell a large variety of small items that most customers will only want one or a few of. This is especially true if the product can be delivered electronically. Books, music, and movies all fit these criteria, and some collectibles, hobby products, and custom or rare products in all categories meet most of those criteria.

    Finally, the taxes saved by online retail are often offset or exceeded by the shipping costs incurred.

    Thus, the problem for traditional retail is not that their online competitors are not taxed enough. Their problem is that technology has made much traditional retail comparatively inefficient and therefore obsolete.

  • Old Dave||

    Bingo!

  • ||

    Exactly...

  • ||

    "You really want to argue that it doesn't matter how arbitrarily unfair the tax system is, as long as no new taxes are ever added? "

    You are the only one who said that shit-for-brains. as usual, Tony and the straw man. Hey...Tony and the Straw Man....sounds like a TV show. God knows we have seen enough episodes of it to make 100 seasons worth.

  • Paul.||

    Taxing brick-and-mortar retailers at a different rate than online retailers is to effectively subsidized the less taxed.

    I have a question: We've had mail order business since the 1900s (earlier). How did we tax them then?

  • Sam Grove||

    Tony, B&M retailers actually benefit from various local government services such as fire protection, police, usually water and sewer, street maintenance, etc.

    Why should retailers in other states have to subsidize local retailers?

  • Samshile||

    I do not know who agrees with your narrative. lame logical fallacy

  • Intn'l House of Badass||

    You're an ass. We all know that. Now we know that you're an ass shilling for Amazon and Walmart. Go back to the corner and let the adults talk.

  • Samshile||

    You have captured the Democrat mindset well.

  • ||

    No.

  • ||

    $

  • Lord Humungus||

    It just doesn't boil down to elections - look at McCain's comments about Rand Paul.

    Or Amash getting kicked out of a committee for not towing the lion.

  • robc||

    And if so many "libertarian" GOP candidates won in 2012, how come they had the numbers to boot Amash.

    The establishment libertarian-hating Republicans are a strong majority of the GOP House members.

    I mean, Boehner?

  • sam the man||

    It was kind of just Boehner kicking out the people who wanted to actually cut spending. More than just Amash got kicked out.

  • Thomas O.||

    Still, the GOP had the majority vote, and they could've kicked Boneless out and put ANYONE else in, and they would've been better. But of course, that didn't happen. Until I see some positive changes, the GOP is dead to me.

  • Samshile||

    How long has Boehner been in office?
    It is going to take longer than four years to flip the party. Way too much money on the table.

  • robc||

    Lots of House and Senate races.

    Boehner won in 2012, for example.

  • sam the man||

    After that fiscal cliff fuckery, there's no way he's getting re-elected.

  • ||

    Just look at the 2012 GOP presidential primaries.

  • entropy||

    McCain won re-election and even got nominated.

    His illegitimate gender-confused spawn Lindsay has won re-election, and is probably going to win re-election next time around too.

  • sam the man||

    There is 0 chance that McCain and Graham won't get primaried.

  • semout16||

    up to I looked at the bank draft that said $5552, I be certain that my mom in-law truley making money parttime at there labtop.. there brothers friend has been doing this 4 only about 17 months and just now paid for the morgage on there mini mansion and got a great Volkswagen Golf GTI. read more at wow65.com
    (Go to site and open "Home" for details)

  • ||

    Hmmm. There was Romney - who won and did so by kicking the Ron Paul people in the teeth, all with the active support of the vast majority of Rs at the convention.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    We seem to be losing sight of the issue here. Did my webathon contribution in any way help pay to send Welch to Las Vegas? How much were the muffins?

  • Almanian!||

    I hear they had $16 muffins at that event.

  • Almanian!||

    That was a nice try, John!

    My comment is a little different: "The 'battle for the soul of the Republican Party' was lost years ago. The Statists won, and are increasing their hold on the party locally and nationally, every day. The odd, few breaths of fresh air (see Paul, Amash) are suffocated in their cribs as soon as possible. Those who survive Infant Death Syndrome (Ron Paul) are scoffed at, marginalized and driven to the edge of the very small SoCon/BigGovt tent. Meet the new boss...."

    And this is why I've never declared myself to be a member of any political party - cause they all suck balls and want to rule. Fuck you, All Teams.

  • John||

    The odd, few breaths of fresh air (see Paul, Amash) are suffocated in their cribs as soon as possible.

    that will come as a hell of a surprise to Rand Paul, who last I looked was America's most popular Republican.

    Ever occur to you that maybe you have a bit of a persecution complex?

  • robc||

    last I looked was America's most popular Republican.

    Not with other Senate republicans.

  • John||

    He is with Republican voters. As I said, losers and concern trolls.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    *Sigh*

    You're both right! Go to a conservative site. Half the comments echo what you hear on these threads. The only difference is that, rather than complaining about Republicans, they're complaining about "RINOS" or the Establishment.

  • DarrenM||

    I finally got a definition of what a "RINO" was. If you don't adhere 0 to the Republic Party platform, a device used to throw crumbs to the rabble, you are a RINO. I think the majority of the Republican Party are RINOs.

  • Thomas O.||

    Yeah, that really sucks. You're totally on board with the conservative mindset, for less taxes, smaller government, a strong military, pro-2nd Amendment, hell, you're even pro-life. But make one crack about how you support gay marriage, now all of a sudden you're a liberal, a RINO, a traitor.

  • Samshile||

    Some purists get upset Libertarians or Conservatives. I dont think you have framed it correctly.
    Purist: The right turns on Rubio because of immigration reform. They turn on Ryan because of this. They turn on Christie because of Sandy. I'm just going to sit quietly and wait until the right turns on Ted Cruz.

    I think you are looking at this backwards. Many feel they are turning away from us and selling us out. Since the right is not made up of collectivists there will be more disagreement. However, since effectively there are too many taxes, just one more seems like a retreat and a betrayal.

  • ||

    Here we go again . . . big splash and large talk about Rand (like Ron), then millions sunk to promote him, all sucked away from the LP, and Rand will get kicked hard in the teeth like his father, who spent decades accomplishing nothing because his libertarian ideas are simply rejected by the vast majority of Republicans. I am watching with interest how long libertarians will keep throwing money into losing the primary simply because they don't want to lose in the general election with the LP.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Am I the only one who thinks that the constaint complaints about this mysterious "Republican establishment" that somehow keeps getting elected despite no one ever apparently voting for them is just a psychological projection the Republican base uses to avoid having to deal with their own cognitive disonance?

  • ||

    Yes.

  • Spokanite||

    What about the Libertarian Civil War over Republicanism? The Republicans are hostile to libertarian values on drug use, reproductive choice, foreign policy, freedom from religion, and all sort of lifestyle choice issues.

    Libertarianism does not sit well with either political party, without making huge compromises in libertarian philosophy. The current attempt by some to merge the libertarian movement with the Republican Party is having a far greater impact on the former than it is on the latter.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Simple question then. How many Democrats go on to become libertarians? How many Republicans?

  • David Emami||

    Since Republicans favor capitalism (or at least, lean towards it), and everything eventually boils down to property rights in some way or other (via self-ownership), I can always get a Republican to at least stop and think by pointing out that their unlibertarian positions violate their professed capitalist principles.

    For example, when discussing drugs, I can ask them "if you're in favor one willing adult being able to buy a product from another willing adult, why do you toss away your principles when the product is cannabis?" I can speak using the language they use, and at least cause them some cognitive dissonance. Now, how exactly would I argue that way with a "progressive" about, say, an "assault weapons" ban?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Precisely my point. I'm reminded of a quote, "Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." Yes, plenty of conservatives are hypocrites about the principles they share with libertarians. But, they do share those principles. For the left, riding over your rights and liberties isn't a fundamental violation of principle. They can do so with a clean conscience.

  • ||

    Six Ds and four Republicans.

  • sam the man||

    Libertarians do not have the same beliefs about drug use, abortion, and religion. In fact, one could be an anti-drug, pro-life Christian fundamentalist and still be a libertarian. Being against something personally doesn't mean that one thinks it should be illegal. You are conflating private beliefs with public policy positions.

  • David Emami||

    What about the Libertarian Civil War over Republicanism? The Republicans are hostile to libertarian values on drug use, reproductive choice, foreign policy, freedom from religion, and all sort of lifestyle choice issues.

    Abortion - While plenty of conservatives would like to outlaw it, that's not where the arguments are now. It's about late-term abortions (when the fetus would otherwise be viable), parental notification for abortions by minors, and government funding.

    Foreign policy - You're conflating "non-interventionist" with "libertarian."

    Religion - This issue would almost completely go away if government was removed from places it doesn't belong. "Prayer in public schools", isn't even a question once all the schools are privatized, for instance.

    Drugs - A few decades ago, there was a distinction here, but now Democrats are just as bad as Republicans on this, and if you look at the general question of "should the government ban stuff that it thinks are bad for you?", drugs are the odd man out on both sides.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    The Republican Electoral Cycle
    1. The Republicans get their butts kicked.
    2. Amidst soul-searching, they begin to realize that they sound pretty good arguing libertarian themes like limited government, free markets and a dynamic society.
    3. The Republican party written off for dead makes a dramatic comeback.
    4. Having acquired power, the Republican party proceeds to ignore the libertarian themes that got them elected.
    5. Realizing no one will take them seriously sounding libertarian themes, they resort to ginning up the public with threats of gay, atheist, Muslim, Satan-worshipers.
    6. This lets them hold on for a while.
    7. When confronted about their utter hypocrisy on the libertarian issues that let them get into office, they explain that they have to do this to stay in office. And besides the Democrats are worse.
    8. Eventually, the public, realizing that free shit is more fun than worrying about gay, atheist, Muslim, Satan-worshipers, decide Republicans suck.
    9. Go to step one.

  • Paul.||

    Matt, you refer to David Brooks as a "great old friend of yours".

    Is that sarcasm? While I certainly don't know you personally, I would find it very difficult to imagine you sitting in a room with Brooks and agreeing on anything.

    You know that I refer to E.J. Dionne and David Brooks as NPRs itinerate liberal minstrels? I've always believed they picked David Brooks to (hold on while I laugh) counterpoint Dionne's points is because Brooks as as 'safe' a conservative as NPR can have in their studio space without bursting into flames.

  • Robert||

    Don't you have friends you disagree with on "everything" in the same way as David Brooks & Matt Welch?

  • Paul.||

    No. I have friends I don't agree with much on politics, but we agree with stuff on non-political issues which allow us to be friends.

    David Brooks strikes me as the kind of guy who one couldn't agree with on what movie to watch.

  • Robert||

    What they agree on is the most important point: that it's cool to be a pundit.

  • Raymond Luxury Yach-t||

    And baseball

  • Paul.||

    We like our solitude.

  • sam the man||

    Allowing people to move from a place they like to a place they don't like is "suicidal"?

  • sam the man||

    Fuck, switch that around a bit and it will make sense.

  • Paul.||

    I liked it the other way.

  • Sevo||

    Alt text: Matt plays air guitar.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 5.8.13 @ 3:27PM |#
    "It's the libertarian position to subsidize online sellers?"

    Didn't take shithead long to whine about people keeping some of their own property, did it?

  • sam the man||

    He's being intellectually dishonest about the whole thing too. He knows the difference but is oversimplifying it in order to make it seem like libertarians are hypocrites. I miss Tony with spaces.

  • Sevo||

    sam the man| 5.8.13 @ 8:59PM |#
    "He's being intellectually dishonest about the whole thing too."

    Shithead seems incapable of being otherwise.
    If there is an honest response that might actually support his POV and one that requires dishonesty, shithead will chose dishonesty.
    Shithead is not called shithead for nothing; there are few assholes who comment anywhere who are less capable on an honest response.

  • Raymond Luxury Yach-t||

    I support Tony by not actively seeking him out and killing him.

  • entropy||

    That's 1 life (and possibly 1 part time job) 'saved or created' during Obama's time in office.

    So... you didn't do that.

  • Health Care||

    Enjoy the Party

  • eyeroller||

    This battle for the soul of the Republican Party [is] between people who are actually interested in cutting the size of government and...an establishment that is more scared

    Wrong, wrong. It's between people who want to blow a lot of hot air about cutting government, and people who don't want to bother.

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