Can a 'Libertarian Moment' in Politics Be Very Libertarian?

David Brat, Rand Paul, and the limits of electoral libertarianism in a two-party world

Yesterday's primary defeat of crony capitalist House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) by an unknown economics professor, David Brat, with a professed admiration for free markets, a yen for Ayn Rand, and a campaign manager who identifies himself as an "Austrian Economics geek" raises anew a constant dilemma: How libertarian can a libertarian be in electoral politics, and is the Republican Party where a "serious" libertarian must go if he wants to be involved in such politics?

Brat seems really solid on some things, like surveillance (against it), the Second Amendment (for it), spending (for balancing budget), and Obamacare (against). He's bad on immigration and ambiguous, which generally means bad, on a sane foreign policy. And if Virginians want an actual capital-L Libertarian Party candidate to vote for in Cantor's old House seat, they have James Carr, part of the team assembled in that state where Robert Sarvis did amazingly well in his governor's race last year and is trying to repeat history in his federal Senate race this year.

Brat is not across-the-board libertarian in any way a typical Reason reader would recognize. And, as Salon made fun of him for, when a reporter tried to press him to say radically libertarian things about killing the minimum wage, he wouldn't play, though the implications of what he did say as a free-market leaning economics professor are that he ought to be against a legal minimum wage.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also complained to me about the press playing the "say something crazily libertarian!" game with him. It certainly pleases a libertarian to see a politician who is willing to stand up hardcore for the principles of liberty, all the way. Likewise, it makes most libertarians a little peeved or disappointed when a politician won't do so. But it isn't always going to win you enough votes to win an election.

It is every libertarian's—nay, every American's—God-given right to avoid supporting, financing, or even voting for any candidate, ever. One can do so with the good conscience knowledge that one's personal choice to vote or not will not change the outcome.

Some libertarians do want to play that game, or at least the possibly more effective game of advocating how thousands of others should vote. Many of libertarian leanings do believe—based in both the belief that radical libertarianism cannot yet work in mass popular elections in America (given too few radical libertarians), and an apparent valorization of (at least lip service toward) the low-tax, low-spending end of the liberty message over other concerns like peace, civil liberties, the drug war, and the like—that a libertarian must when it comes to voting be a Republican.

For example, Randy Barnett is a true blue, Lysander Spooner-loving anarchist, the product of the libertarian movement machine of the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Institute for Humane Studies in the 1970s and '80s. He has also, unusually for such a radical libertarian, become an important public intellectual—recognized by The New York Times as one of the most influential legal thinkers and activists of his time due to his work fighting in the Supreme Court for getting the feds out of state-level medical marijuana and for undercutting the legal argument for Obamacare. Barnett managed to both write the best modern defense of an anarchist legal order and be the darling of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society for his explication of the libertarian roots of the Constitution.

Barnett also thinks, and recently tweeted, that when it comes to politics, "a 'libertarian moment' does not entail across-the-board libertarianism." Barnett has long insisted that libertarians really ought to vote for Republicans over Libertarians (even as polled public support for the idea of a third major party opposed to Democrats and Republicans reached a record high 60 percent last year). As Barnett told me this week, "to move in a libertarian direction doesn't require a politician to agree with" the entire consistent body of libertarian thought. Besides, by definition, he points out, a Libertarian Party makes the other two major parties less libertarian than they would otherwise be by siphoning libertarians toward that third party. (He doesn't put a lot of credence in the "making a major party lose will make that party embrace libertarianism" idea.)

Because of our two-party political reality, it is almost certainly the case, Barnett says, that the politician who does the most to advance libertarian causes in Washington will not be a hardcore libertarian. Major parties are by necessity coalitions. Any politician who can hope to advance libertarian ideas in office must also win the support of many, many non-libertarians. Thus, in a nation where we don't all read Murray Rothbard at the beach, this likely means that more hardcore the libertarian, for now, the less likelihood of success. Paradoxically, a politician who isn't really very libertarian at all might do more to advance libertarian causes than the most hardcore non-aggressive activist or educator.

Many libertarians have an understandable revulsion for reasons of cultural signaling to have any of the stink of the Republican Party on them, because of how bad that party is on issues like peace, civil liberties, and applying old religious prejudices to policy. Inchoate but very real questions of culture and identity are at play—many libertarians just feel icky being seen as "that kind of person" no matter how much their views on economics, say, vibe with those held by many Republicans.

That's understandable. But the less on-the-surface "nice" aspects of libertarianism (letting people live their lives free of officious or violent intervention) also need defenders in politics and media. Someone needs to be nationally advocating limited spending, lower tax rates, lighter and more sensible regulation in industry, finance, and medicine, the possibility of reining in the entitlement state, and the like. The Republican Party seems to be the only national home for that right now with the chance of winning elections.

The right strategy to get the "right" politicians elected, or how to shift the acceptable range of ideas within the larger coalition of any party that can actually win, is subject to endless testing and certainly no libertarian can be sure they know the can't-fail path to actuating libertarian policies in government. In political science we must make conjectures and prepare to have them refuted by empirical experience.

But as an Austrian economics geek might understand, perhaps something axiomatic underlies this whole political change game.

We might call it the Leonard Read principle, after the founder of the first modern libertarian education institution, the Foundation for Economic Education. Namely, it's the principle that sincere and skilled education about economics and ethics can help people understand the richness and rightness of human liberty. One thing the libertarian movement's experiences since the 1940s has proved is that such education can work, mind to mind, individual by individual. (The very effective Randy Barnett is an example, both as a teacher and someone taught.)

How that plays out in the bigger world of culture and government is still uncertain. But such education in libertarian principles is a solid base to build on. Sometimes that educational process intersects with electoral politics. Ron Paul's two presidential runs were great examples of ideological education via candidate. Rand Paul shows some promise to do the same—even if, paradoxically, he might do more good for libertarianism by being less libertarian, as Randy Barnett thinks.

Those who saw something in Rand Paul they loved and who will doubtless get heartburn at many steps along his path striving for the GOP presidential nomination might want to remember this—or, as is their right, they might want to damn him as a useless sellout non-libertarian. One of the things that I think made Ron Paul such a force for good was he was willing to be a spokesman for the rawer, wilder end of libertarian attitudes toward the state without giving a damn about political reality. This made him a great public influence on the many people attracted to consistency and radicalism and a fresh approach. But it didn't make him president.

Supporting a politician or a political party is a blunt instrument. They likely will never advocate or work for everything you want. They can't be relied on to even mean what they say, much less act on what they say. But it will always pay off—even if slowly—to work to convince your fellow Americans in every marketplace of ideas, from media to academia to the arts, that it is both just and on the whole enriching to allow the free play of markets, ideas, and life choices. If that works, the rest will follow.

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  • ace_m82||

    I realized in late 2011, God help us if Rand isn't President in 2016. I could already see Ron losing the nomination, Romney winning it, and Obama trouncing him in the general election.

    I'm not sure how much more the dollar, economy, and red-blooded American gun owner can take without some move toward Liberty. I hope that history shows I'm just a "scare-monger" who underestimated how strong the economy and American individualist was... But I don't think I am.

  • Mauser||

    I don't think, unfortunately, that you are guilty of being a "scare-monger"- The petrodollar is in free fall, in the process of being replaced by the renminbi as the reserve currency,
    Scary times indeed.....

  • MSimon||

    US Oil output is now greater than Saudi. Your fears (hopes?) are unlikely to be realized any time soon.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Rand would be the final nail in the GOP coffin, and the libertarian movement. Goldwater warned that extreme social conservatives were the biggest threat to his party. We now see he was correct, so we should support an extreme social conservative to head the GOP ticket???

    How about somebody who -- at the minimum -- understands our Constitution?

  • Cytotoxic||

    STFU

  • Michael Hihn||

    God will forgive your self-righteous wrath, and help slay the demons which now possess your soul. Praise the Lord!

  • Black&Yellow||

    "Rand would be the final nail in the GOP coffin"

    Oh, I hope so.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Here's what I REALLY said. "Rand would be the final nail on the GOP coffin, and for three libertarian movement."

    If he runs as a libertarian Republican, which he not even is ....

  • craiginmass||

    Seriously, are you kidding?

    Or did you just return from the Bundy Ranch and have conversations with those nutcases?

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    Things were far, far worse under Wilson and FDR when the classical liberals nearly died out and men who openly admired fascism occupied the oval office.

    We may have to keep our heads down and suffer through Europe-style stagnant economies and a continued soft police state for the next generation, but that's far better than what our ancestors endured in every era. The ethical ideology of libertarianism is what's important, and as long as political speech is protected, we'll continue to grow on the strength of our moral arguments.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    "Things were far, far worse under Wilson and FDR when the classical liberals nearly died out and men who openly admired fascism occupied the oval office."

    No so different for our socialist friends these days. They certainly don't like your false equivalents. Who cares if you call it free speech?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    FDR literally sent hundreds of thousands of Japs to concentration camps. His modern successors couldn't even stop the building of a mosque near the WTC ruins. So yeah, the fascists are not anywhere near as strong now as the were 70 years abo.

  • craiginmass||

    Is one of the moral arguments the right to pollute the commons and extract as many resources as lie under our feet as we can?

    If so, yes, you are right. Greed is timeless and certainly appeals to many.

  • ||

    I don't know about scare-monger, but Jeebus freak/gun nutter fits the bill.

  • jay_dubya||

    Im more concerned about the mass domestic surveillance, drug war, police militarization, assassinations and torture. Wealth is meaningless (and perhaps counter-productive) when it comes from rent-seeking and not from a system of free exchange.
    More and more often I find myself wondering: has it always been this bad? Ours is the country whose Constitution of liberty allowed slavery. Perhaps it was that original hypocritical sin that damns us still.
    What needs to happen to build a society where one can be free from violence; can be left alone? Is a life without chains and boots on faces such an unbelievable fantasy?
    What is it about us that is so hopelessly polluted that we crave to own another person, either as chattel, suspect, combatant or tenant?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Another important piece to the puzzle is the media. It's hard for the typical voter to take even a very likeable and charismatic libertarian-leaning politician seriously when there are so many popular voices on both sides lining up to attack and misrepresent.

    A libertarian version of John Stewart and Rush Limbaugh would do a lot of good.

  • DenverJay||

    Penn Jillette is your man.

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    So when Randy Barnett talks about a libertarian "moment", he's talking in terms of force, not time. A moment of force is synonymous with torque, having a force and a distance. To complete the analogy, the greater the force we use and the further we get from the pivot point of American politics, the greater the moment of force. But too far from the pivot and we risk snapping the instrument of effectuation, and we go nowhere. So we need to find the ideal distance from the political fulcrum.

  • Nicholas Sarwark||

    Supporting a politician or a political party is a blunt instrument. They likely will never advocate or work for everything you want. They can't be relied on to even mean what they say, much less act on what they say.

    This may hold true for the Democrats or Republicans, but it is not the case for the Libertarian Party. As a party and as candidates, actual Libertarians support all of your freedoms, all of the time. Republicans and Democrats pay lip service to some stuff around the edges, but how they govern is not and has not been libertarian.

  • anon||

    Republicans and Democrats pay lip service to some stuff around the edges, but how they govern is not and has not been libertarian.

    Nor have their actions actually differed.

  • MarioLanza||

    What is the libertarian position for immigration? Open border chaos like that which is going on now? Measles outbreaks, housing the kids in army barracks, passing out condoms to the kids because they are apparently all copulating,...is this helpful?

  • Cytotoxic||

    WTF are even talking about?

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    Check out the immigration section in Myth of the Rational Voter and then revisit your admittedly exciting vision of a post-apocalyptic America in which people who want to work on a particular side of an imaginary political line are permitted to work to their benefit and their employers'.

  • DenverJay||

    open borders is the area where I disagree with the party line. Its great in theory, but as long as one side of the border is an over-regulated 2nd world shit-hole... oh wait, as long as both sides of the border are over-regulated 2nd world shit-holes... I mean... Oh hell, supply and demand and shit!

  • Black&Yellow||

    I think you broke the record in strawmans in one post.

  • Michael Hihn||

    (laughing) Not a single word on abortion or gay marriage. Doherty is the primary apologist for the crony libertarianism of Ron and Rand Paul (both stalking horses for the religious right).

    There are TWO ways to measure HOW libertarian on is --depth and breadth. If we use breadth, the entire range of economic and social issues, then Reagan was 10x the libertarian than either Paul could ever hope to be. Reagan was strongly defending gay school teachers in the 1970s, and never tried to put his VERY Christian beliefs into law -- which is the very definition of a libertarian Christian.

    If we use depth, and lie about Reagan's proposed massive spending cuts and position on social issues, then Ron and Rand are more libertarian -- and there's no difference at all between libertarians and solid conservatives.

    Maybe one has to be an old fart, like me, with a vivid memory of WHY the libertarian movement was both needed and launched. And what the term even means (or used to mean).

  • Cytotoxic||

    You are one verbose idiot. Please hurry up and die.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Spoken like a true Santorum Christian.
    God will forgive you. Praise the Lord.

  • anon||

    Goddamnit Almanian, quit trolling.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Anything of substance to contribute? Anything at all?

  • ||

    This entire board is nothing but disgruntled social-cons pretending to be libertarians. They would gladly torpedo the entire movement just to have the satisfaction of picking on gay people and women who have goals for their lives beside "brood mare".

  • Michael Hihn||

    Geez, Audrey, that's pretty good from a liberal :-)
    As payback, this traces to the 50s.

    "Mass Movements don't need a god, but they do need a devil. Hatred unifies the True Believers."
    -Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

    Throughout human history, the greatest moral delusions have been promoted by those who convince themselves they are following a "higher cause" - the Fatherland, the Master Race, the Collective, a God or the Party.

  • gaoxiaen||

    And wipe that Dirty Sanchez off your face.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Most of us stopped saying silly things and giggling at about the age if 12.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Clearly you don't hang out here often.

  • Michael Hihn||

    I've been with Reason since it began (as a magazine). And your point is valid. Frustrating, eh?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Why would I be frustrated that you said my point is valid?

  • Michael Hihn||

    Sorry. I meant frustrating because of the comments here. You may not agree on the larger picture -- I've been frustrated for 30 years by the libertarian failure to do something, anything.

    We old farts have waited 40 years for an opportunity like this -- both parties on the ropes -- but we're not near ready to Seize The Day.

    Oh, I launched and won a large school tax revolt (large for my city), drove the board into state receivership because they refused to seek a smaller tax increase, and formed a complete slate that controlled the school board for a while. All while watching the libertarian movement go nowhere.

  • american socialist||

    And the people voted the libertarian slate out of office? Why would they do that? There were probably a lot of minorities in your district who we're missing out on free shit. Wink.

  • Michael Hihn||

    And the people voted the libertarian slate out of office?

    Ummm, read it again. I won the tax revolt, was elected to the school board, led a slate which took over the board, forced the layoff of teachers and fired the Superintendent.

    I was probably the best-known libertarian in Greater Cleveland at time, for which I was constantly attacked,

    But when the liberal assholes accused me of "hating children" ... I had coached youth baseball for 8 years, knew almost every parent personally, and spent the summers teaching the kids that I hated. (lol)

    They tried a recall, but it fell apart when the suburban daily described it as a "witch hunt" in the headline.

    Libertarians need to crawl out of the Ivory Tower, stop babbling about Austrian economics, get with the people and kick some ass. It's actually simple.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Reagan? You mean the guy who only balanced a budget one year out of eight? The guy who built a 600 ship Navy? The guy who jacked up the War on Drugs (while the CIA was smuggling cocaine into the USA)to cover his ass for Iran-Contra? The Christian that never went to church until the press noticed? The guy who used an astrologer to advise him? Oh yeah. I think he used the word "libertarian" in a speech once.

  • Michael Hihn||

    See? I predicted ignorance of his proposed massive spending cuts. Google the Grace Commission, and see how badly you've been manipulated.

    Tell us his views on gays (in the 1970s), how he caused the collapse of the nationwide anti-gay Anita Bryan Crusade, and why the Moral Majority constantly criticized him for declining to ban abortion.

    Actually, what he said was that libertarianism was "the heart and soul of conservatism." That was Reason.

    In this video clip he states that "Libertarianism is the heart of my philosophy." When Buckley says that's the fashionable word these days, Reagan disagreed, "That's always been true."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HaOYOyDftc#t=16

    Milton Friedman stated that he, Goldwater and Reagan were libertarians, not conservatives, but they choose to work within the Republican Party.

    That's it. Friedman vs you. Hmmmm

  • Robert||

    Not a single word about abortion or same sex marriage, but not a single word about ferrets or food trucks either; so what?

    Abortion is so hemmed in by judicial decisions, there's not a lot politicians can do about it, so why bring it up? Same sex marriage affects such a small no. of people compared to other issues, why bring that up? How many policy matters did Brian Doherty raise above? And you want those to have priority?!

  • Michael Hihn||

    Read the Constitution. Politicians NEVER had any power to deal with abortion ...or gay marriage. Ninth Amendment.

  • RAHeinlein||

    Limited government, limited government, limited government..most of the other so-called "social" issues are trial unless goverment/spending are under control

  • Michael Hihn||

    That's a disgrace to libertarian author Robert A. Heinlein. Legitimate governments are created for the sole purpose of defending the liberties you deny. Thus, clearly the only way to achieve limited government.

    are trial unless government/spending are under control

    Is that justification for abusing the power of limited government? Do you even know what "limited government" means?

  • DenverJay||

    And, despite his other faults, I can't imagine Reagan letting the intelligence agencies spy on us. Of course, during the Cold War, we were the Freedom Guys, and I can't imagine a Cold War president since FDR allowing it. (FDR would love it, I think. Oh, and maybe Nixon, but he would have used the info for personal gain, not the empowerment of the State.)

  • craiginmass||

    Yeah, little faults like giving many millions amnesty, trading with our sworn enemies and supporting genocidal death squads in central america.

    Little faults like the entire buildup of the war on drugs with the tens of millions of victims.

    Little faults such as the shuttering of America's industrial might and midlands in favor of whatever corporation could outsource them cheaper (he ignored all anti-trust law as well as protectionism measures).

    Sure, RR had "little faults".....

    If you think that the RR admin would not have done similar the GW's NSA, Patriot Act, etc. if they had been hit with 9/11, I want some of what you are smoking.

  • Michael Hihn||

    craigmass, you've been brainwashed. Here aee the facts, fully documented.

    ---- Reagan vs Obama

    Reagan's stock market was still crashing to 70%. Obama's had fallen 65% and already rebounded to -46%.

    hihn.us/1n8Tpgl

    Reagan tax policy began with 10.8% unemployment. Obama's was milder there also.

    hihn.us/1njgKAt

    Reagan saw blacks reach record lows below the poverty rate. Obama, record highs.

    Reagan inherited the highest prime-rate ever at 21.5% Obama had 3.25%

    hihn.us/1n8Tyk3

    Reagan started with a far worse recession, but at the end of his first term real GDP had increased 12.6% in four years combined. Obama's first four years saw only 3.3% total.

    hihn.us/1n8TaBP

    Any questions?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Go away dickweed.

  • american socialist||

    Ahahahahahaha... That's a a good one, Brian. Vote for the party of abortion restrictions, the Iraq war, the patriot act, the drug war, gay bigotry, and neocons. You got me. Know any good dirty jokes? Maybe you should strive to write the captions for the Friday Funnies. Those are always clever-- in a cultish sort of way.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Wait are you talking about anti-choice Dems? Too ambiguous.

  • Michael Hihn||

    The ones that are as wacko as the extreme pro-lifers. One side denies the fetal child's unalienable right to Liberty. The other denies the woman's right to Liberty.

    And if you believe fundamental human rights are "God given" where does God say a woman loses her God-given rights? Are there any other instances where God takes away the rights He endowed to us.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Go away dickweed.

  • Michael Hihn||

    When you typed that did you have to stop sucking your thumb? How often do you take breaks to have your diaper changed?

  • craiginmass||

    Here's is the perfect example of this new breed of "God Fearing" Libertarians, who make the Frankenstein monster look good (actually, he was somewhat good).

    This dude says he's "mostly libertarian", but just like the guy who whipped Cantor, he's into the God thing....

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new.....-1.1826308

    "“I think we would be totally in the right to do it. That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss,” Esk reportedly wrote"

    We are really going to be fu*cked if these bible thumpers ever get more power. Just look back to GW for a slight taste - although that will look good compared to some of these asses.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Can't get any more fucked than with the socialist currently in the office.

    Just remember, you didn't build that.

  • Michael Hihn||

    True. We're fucked either way, especially since Reason became a stalking horse for the extreme social conservatives.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Oh those scary SoCons. They hide under your bed, you know. The reality is that this country continues it's random walk towards more social freedom, but economically things are not nearly so nice.

    Worried about abortion? There are plenty of blue state strongholds throughout the country. It's only a matter of time until gay marriage is recognized everywhere. Tell me where I can go in the country to escape Obamacare, punitive taxation, and an out of control regulatory apparatus. And no matter how high taxes go, it is never enough.

  • Michael Hihn||

    They hide under your bed, you know

    They defy the Will of God in the Name of God.

    I can go in the country to escape Obamacare, punitive taxation, and an out of control regulatory apparatus. And no matter how high taxes go, it is never enough

    1) There's nowhere you can go.

    2) It's impossible for Rand Paul to change that, because he'll be "crucified" for his social conservatism.

    3)In blue states they deny the fetal child's unalienable right to Liberty -- just as the Red states deny the woman's unalineable right to Liberty.

    As you learn more about individual liberty and our Constitution, this will all make more sense.

  • LynchPin1477||

    If you were a true libertarian you would want to throw the Constitution out.

  • Michael Hihn||

    I'd have to be a dictator. Are you a thug? That's an attitude that has kept the libertarian movement so meaningless for all this time.

    Any real libertarian would puke at what we now call libertopia.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Um, hello??? *We* the people? Collectivism!!!!

  • Michael Hihn||

    Ummmmm,
    1) That ain't collectivism!!
    2) Are you aware how a free society can see harbor and support ... communism (gasp)
    3) STILL no answer on how to do it and not be a dictatorship.

    Perhaps you're incapable of living in a society, and might consider a cabin in the woods.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Too easy.

  • Michael Hihn||

    STILL no answer!! No surprise from you people.

  • craiginmass||

    Ah, so you think pols that want to Stone The Gays are better than the current situation?

    Fantastic. Gimme some more wisdom!

    I think I finally figured out Libertarianism 4.0
    It's like "the sound of one hand clapping"
    or
    "If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?"..

    Basically, in other words, it only exists in thought and the second it gets on the stage and utters more than a talking point, it turns into the same old Republican in disguise.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Fantastic. Gimme some more wisdom!

    I'll try! :-)

    Don't confuse the libertarian establishment with the libertarian rank-and-file, which has been a majority of Americans for about 40 years (WSPQ)

    The libertarian LABEL is toxic, as CATO leaned (but denied) is a 2005 Zogby Poll they commissioned

  • Cytotoxic||

    This thread sure did bring the derp.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Do you have anything of substance to say, or will you just run across the page dropping insults on anyone who disagrees with ... whatever you are?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Go away dickweed.

  • Michael Hihn||

    That answers my question. (snicker)

  • JPyrate||

  • JoeS54||

    The biggest obstacle to libertarianism is that so many people calling themselves libertarians are intellectually unserious, and childish. As a starting point, "socially liberal, economically conservative" is not libertarianism. Yet many who latch onto the label seem to think that's what it means.

    So let's run down the list of areas where conservatives supposedly clash with libertarians:

    1. Abortion. Libertarians should all be "pro choice", right? Wrong. The issue depends entirely upon whether or not an unborn child is a human being with rights, or an appendage of the mother which she can do with as she pleases. How you answer that question determines the "correct" libertarian position on the issue. Since libertarians supposedly err on the side of human rights and human liberty, and life (scientifically speaking) begins at conception, I would argue that being "pro choice" is the tougher sell as libertarianism.

    2. Gay marriage. Not in any way, shape or form a libertarian issue. Doing away with sodomy laws? Libertarian. Having the government license, regulate and subsidize homosexual relationships? Not remotely libertarian. The argument for gay marriage is pure egalitarianism, and radical egalitarianism at that. Not libertarianism. And in fact this movement has now shown clearly that it is a threat to freedom of speech and religious liberty, which are things that legitimate, intellectually consistent libertarians strongly support.

  • JoeS54||

    3. Immigration. I would argue that people who believe in open borders are not libertarians, but rather anarchists. If government should exist at all, one of its first responsibilities should be to protect the nation's territorial boundaries. Being for open borders is the equivalent of being for the complete abolition of the military and police forces. To call it radical is an understatement. It should not be a mainstream libertarian position.

    4. War. This is a legitimate issue with the Republican Party. But there is a long history of conservative non-interventionism (what militarists and internationalists always call "isolationism"). This is an area where libertarians can make (and are making) major inroads in pulling conservatives in their direction.

    5. Drugs. This is probably the most legitimately libertarian objection to conservative views. But it's a ridiculously immature hill to die on when there are so many larger things to worry about. Conservatives are not likely to embrace legalization. But reform of drug laws is entirely doable. That's a realistic goal.

    It used to be that libertarians were written off for being in favor of legalizing drugs, gambling and prostitution. At least those were legitimate libertarian positions. If someone calls themselves a libertarian and then starts spouting left wing positions on abortion and gay marriage, that person has no understanding whatsoever of the intellectual foundations of libertarianism.

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    3. Immigration. I would argue that people who believe in open borders are not libertarians, but rather anarchists. If government should exist at all, one of its first responsibilities should be to protect the nation's territorial boundaries. Being for open borders is the equivalent of being for the complete abolition of the military and police forces. To call it radical is an understatement. It should not be a mainstream libertarian position.

    So private property owners don't get to choose whom they admit to their lands if they happen to be along arbitrary boundaries that states call borders, and anarchism isn't real libertarianism because it's scary and "radical." Got it.

    For someone who wants to lecture us on who is and isn't a libertarian you certainly do fail to understand an awful lot of Libertarianism 101 material, in which absolute property rights are foundational to ethical social conduct.

  • JoeS54||

    As it happens, private property owners don't get to choose whom they admit to their lands, because they're likely to be prosecuted if they use force to prevent it. And when they organize privately to secure their lands (i.e. the Minutemen), they're condemned and legally harassed.

    As for anarchism, surely you know that anarchists (generally speaking) don't believe in private property. They're Utopian communists who believe said Utopia will spontaneously emerge after they violently overthrow the government, and loot and pillage privately held wealth.

  • Black&Yellow||

    "As it happens, private property owners don't get to choose whom they admit to their lands, because they're likely to be prosecuted if they use force to prevent it."

    Which is not libertarian at all.

    "surely you know that anarchists (generally speaking) don't believe in private property."

    um sure, you have no idea of what is anarchism.

    Anarchism means self rule. Because the commies call themselves anarchist does not mean they are not anarchist.

  • Black&Yellow||

    *mean they are anarchist

  • Robert||

    Sorry, but there has to be some limit on property holders' authority to exclude persons, because you have to allow for freedom of movement. It's not a profound limitation, but if all property is owned and nobody has to allow anyone else to cross their property, then you see the problem. In some cases the crossing may require a structure, as for utility lines or roads.

  • JParker||

    There is no problem; having the right to prohibit others to cross one's property does not mean that one will not grant others permission to cross one's property.

  • american socialist||

    LOL. You are ridiculous. Are you a block captain in the GOP trying to get libertarians to come to your next meeting?

    Yes, libertarians should be for mandating that a women who does not want to have a child to go through the grueling and dangerous process (ever seen or been involved with a women giving birth) to satisfy your delicate sensibilities about how they should act when they get pregnant. I get it, mr. GOP.

  • JoeS54||

    Your post makes my point for me quite well when it comes to where the "pro choice" position falls on the political spectrum. You being a socialist and all. Which raises the question of why you're here, other than to troll those with views diametrically opposed to yours.

  • XM||

    Giving birth is one of the most biological and natural process of, well, nature. Women have been doing that for millenia.

    If giving birth is dangerous and grueling, why doesn't the government just ban the practice? Mountain climbing and hang gliding is dangerous too. So is boxing and wresting. Grueling and dangerous!

    Your argument is beyond stupid.

  • Nyarlarrythotep||

    As long as the government is going to keep itself involved in marriage, then gay marriage is a libertarian issue.

  • JoeS54||

    If you don't understand the difference between "libertarianism" and "egalitarianism", maybe I can simplify it for you. One is a philosophy that has liberty as the primary goal, and the other is a philosophy that has equality as its primary goal.

    Libertarians are primarily concerned with reducing government involvement in private affairs. Pushing for government involvement in same sex relationships is therefore not merely non-libertarian, it is anti-libertarian.

  • Michael Hihn||

    (laughing) Government has been involved in marriage for over 200 years -- and that's just in this country. You may also learn about equal and unalienable rights.

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    In the sense that the state shouldn't be involved in licensing, forbidding, or privileging private contracts, marriage is a libertarian issue. But as usual when the mainstream right butts heads with the mainstream left, participants in the debate over marriage equality spend all of their time asking the wrong questions.

    The libertarian split on the issue of marriage equality recalls the old Friedman/Rothbard divide--one takes the world as it is and then tries to fiddle with the margins to effect a slightly better outcome, while the other focuses on foundational ethics rather than a political process that's pathetic, dumb, and disappointing.

  • JoeS54||

    A libertarian advocating government-sanctioned same sex marriage is the equivalent of a libertarian saying they don't like welfare programs, but since they exist they should be open to everyone, regardless of income.

  • ||

    Actually, since people who pay taxes are the ones paying for these programs why SHOULDN'T they be eligible to "benefit" from them as well? They are PAYING for them aren't they?

  • JoeS54||

    That's a fine mentality if your goal is socialism. If your goal is liberty, it leads in the opposite direction.

  • Robert||

    Since marriage is a legal matter, and law resides in gov't, how could gov't not be involved in marriage? One could have marriage without the state, but not without gov't.

  • Michael Hihn||

    As a starting point, "socially liberal, economically conservative" is not libertarianism

    (OMG) Tens of millions of people have taken the World's Smallest Political Quiz for over 30 year. Next is even wackier!

    Abortion. Libertarians should all be "pro choice", right? Wrong. The issue depends entirely upon whether or not an unborn child is a human being with rights, or an appendage of the mother

    Bzzt, wrong again. How dare you deny the woman's unalienable right to Liberty???? They BOTH have unalienable rights -- and unalienable means their rights are precisely equal.

    The rest is also bilge.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Maybe the perfect is the enemy of the good!

    "Many libertarians have an understandable revulsion for reasons of cultural signaling to have any of the stink of the Republican Party on them, because..."

    ...Many liberatarians are dyed-in-the-wool Culture Warriors who will throw everything else under the bus to be on the progressive side of social issues.

  • ||

    Culture warriors? War implies the use of violence. I would never use violence to force to men to get married or force someone to smoke marijuana.

  • Hyperion||

    This is the most derptastic thread I have seen here at H&R, since the pre-registration days. Is the Salon site down, or is crayon back with 6 different posting names?

  • ||

    “But it isn't always going to win you enough votes to win an election.”

    This is one of the strongest reasons to support run-off elections (coupled with a mandatory NOTA option in every race).

  • eyeroller||

    Besides, by definition, he points out, a Libertarian Party makes the other two major parties less libertarian than they would otherwise be by siphoning libertarians toward that third party.

    I didn't realize Barnett was that stupid.

    The way to put pressure on a big party is to leave it and start voting for someone else. That creates pressure. If you just keep voting for the big party, that's what is called "enabling."

  • ||

    Run-off elections would eliminate that argument altogether. If the two major parties see a Gary Johnson or Ron Paul get 11% of the vote and force them into a run-off they would work like hell to appeal to them. Ignoring them would not be an option in any case.

  • Robert||

    Why? If the run-off is going to be between other candidates, that's the only one they need to win. Why should they particularly appeal to the voters of a candidate who's going to be eliminated? Or, in the run-off, already been eliminated?

  • ||

    There would be more people WILLING to vote for Third Party Candidates or Independent candidates because it would be obvious that the "Throwing One's Vote Away" argument would not hold water. You would still get a chance to vote for the "lesser of two evils" if third party / indy votes cause a plurality rather than majority outcome.

  • Robert||

    The votes for "someone else" are the easiest to ignore. If there's a bloc of voters who don't affect who gets elected, why should politicians pay any att'n to them, any more than they do to non-voters?

  • ||

    If we keep listening to people like this, we will keep getting raped in the ass by Republicans.

  • MSimon||

    I take it you prefer the job be done by Democrats? No accounting for personal taste.

    Me? I prefer it to be consensual and I'm no fan of Republicans, Democrats, or buggery (forced or otherwise).

  • Billybobjoe||

    Vote for me, your favorite Livejournal Libertarian troll.

    All birthers, truthers, and young-earth creationists are cast out of my party.

    My Libertarian party is not for the Jerome Corsis.

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