Now at Reason.tv: Why You're Living in the Libertarian Moment—and what you can do to keep and expand your freedom

On Saturday, February 21, Reason.tv and Reason.com Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie addressed a crowd of 200-plus attending the second annual International Students for Liberty conference, held in Washington, D.C.

Titled "Why You're Living in the Libertarian Moment And What You Can Do to Keep and Expand Your Freedom" and featuring a slideshow set to Sid Vicious's version of "My Way," Gillespie's talk argued that we are more free than ever despite massive increases in government spending, regulation, and controls over the past several decades. Due to huge growth in wealth, technology, and social liberalization, more individuals are more free to pursue their lives on their own terms than ever before.

However, warned Gillespie, for these positive trends to continue it is imperative that the zero-sum game of politics be kept in as small and limited sphere as possible. In an age of bailouts and big spending, it is vitally important to stop thinking of politics in terms of right vs. left or conservative vs. liberal. The best way to analyze public policy and social organization is in terms of choice vs. control. Does a given idea expand the ability of people to pick and choose among various ways of living?

The future of freedom, argued Gillespie, rests upon the shoulders of today's libertarian-minded youth, who must convince their peers to reject the played-out politics of the past and embrace a vision of an open-ended future empowered by "free minds and free markets." And it is up to students to invent the next great, decentralizing, DIY technology like rock 'n' roll and the Internet.

It is important to engage politics, said Gillespie, but it is even more important to remember that real life exists far beyond the petty strictures of the next election or zoning board meeting. "Live your life as a work of art and an act of discovery. Create your own identity, your own community, and your own meaning."

Approximately 40 minutes. Shot and edited by Dan Hayes.

For an audio podcast, go here. For embed code, related articles, and links, go here.

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  • Taktix®||

    I'm going to wait to post something clever when they repost this tomorrow...

  • ..||

    This has been mentioned thousands of times, but dressing like a Stasi agent might not be helping the cause, Nick.

  • ||

    This has been mentioned thousands of times, but dressing like a Stasi agent might not be helping the cause, Nick.

    Yes, because so many people must look at Nick and say "I'm not going to listen to him, because he wears a leather jacket". I mean, who else does that?

  • Lefiti||

    Yeah, boys and girls, listen to this aging asshole wannabe guru, and forget duty, obligation, and community. It's all about your personal freedom. What a fucked up worldview!

  • Taktix®||

    Tee he...

    He said duty...

  • Lefiti||

    Oh, and don't forget to send some money because nobody can make a living selling the shit.

  • PETA||

    Leather is MURDER!

  • Lefiti||

    My aging asshole never forgets duty!

  • ||

    Yeah, boys and girls, listen to this aging asshole wannabe guru, and forget duty, obligation, and community. It's all about your personal freedom. What a fucked up worldview!

    Speaking of fascists.

  • Lefiti||

    Why does my ass hurt?

  • ||

    Why does my ass hurt?

    Cause your head is HUGE?

  • Xeones||

    It's all about your personal freedom.

    It's about EVERYBODY'S personal freedom, Lefiti, you ignorant slut.

  • Lefiti||

    That cat litter I ate is going to hurt on the way out, let me tell you. I really need to lay off the paint thinner.

  • TofuSushi||

    PETA,

    At least he is not wearing fur.

  • ||

    Due to huge growth in wealth, technology, and social liberalization, more individuals are more free to pursue their lives on their own terms than ever before.

    We're certainly experiencing a massive destruction of wealth, and looking at more and more confiscation of wealth and income by the State, if that affects the analysis at all.

    However, warned Gillespie, for these positive trends to continue it is imperative that the zero-sum game of politics be kept in as small and limited sphere as possible.

    And, of course, we are also experiencing an expansion of the political sphere that is unprecedented since at least the New Deal.

    If this is a libertarian moment, count me out. I see it as much more of a libertarian crisis, to tell you the truth.

  • TofuSushi||

    I thought the Libertarian Movement was espoused in the Democratic Party? Or is that a different web page?

  • Lefiti||

    Some scales have fallen from R C Dean's eyes. I bet he won't be making any donations.

  • Pirate Queen||

    Not to take away too much from your slideshow, Nick, but it sounds like you used the Gary Oldman cover of Sid Vicious' My Way from the movie Sid & Nancy as opposed to the real Sid Vicious version. (I could be wrong but it was the beginning few bars and the clarity of the voice/lyrics that clued me in - that, and I've played punk rock for years.)

    S'okay...lots of folks still believe that Sid Vicious was a great punk rock bass player, until it's pointed out to them that it was actually Glen Matlock who wrote and recorded the bass for the Sex Pistols. Hell, most of the time Vicious wasn't even plugged in.

  • creech||

    Students for Liberty, two years old, actually looks like it is going to revitalize the on-campus presence of libertarian ideas. Alex McCobin and the other dynamic founders of SFL, are impressive thinkers and doers. They are getting support from a wide-range of libertarian groups (many of whom had representatives at a pre-conference "summit" meeting). Check out their website if you are a student or want to assist students at colleges near where you live.

  • ||

    "Students for Liberty, two years old, actually looks like it is going to revitalize the on-campus presence of libertarian ideas."

    Not again!?

  • C L||

    I think the leather jacket is actually fused permenently to Nick's skin. I've never seen photos of him without that jacket on.

  • ||

    And, of course, we are also experiencing an expansion of the political sphere that is unprecedented since at least the New Deal.

    Well, you see, that's because around here we don't quantify liberty by the degree government imposes itself on the citizenry, we quantify it by how much of a freak show the marginal types have managed to impose on the majority. If that's your yardstick, Gillespie certainly has a point: perverts, parasites and and the generally obnoxious are certainly freer than ever. But if you happen to be Joe Average, things kind of suck for you right now.

  • ||

    WORST. THESIS DEFENSE. EVER.

    First of all, using the decent from Sinatra to Vicious as an illustration of freedom is... misguided, to put it kindly. I can't believe I need to educate no less a figurehead of the libertarian movement as Nick Gillespie, but apparently this can't be spelled out often enough.
    Libertarian /= Libertine
    and especially
    Libertarian /= Anarchy

    Second of all, while you sold me on "things are actually getting better even as the government gets worse" eight years ago, you completely failed to engage the threat we're facing now. You're three reasons for hope are divorced from reality.
    1. When staring down the barrel of total economic collapse from entrenched government irresponsibility, at the very moment of, in your own words "the greatest power grab in the nation's history", the idea that we "shouldn't over estimate the role of the state" strikes me as so insane that you represent a danger to yourself and others.
    2. The establish parties are a bunch of hypocrites? Say it ain't so joe! What a newsflash. We'll just put that out on the intertubes and loyal team red and blue players will flock to our banner in droves. Get fucking real Nick. 95% of everybody doesn't give half a shit what kind of low life fucking pigs are running their team as long as their team wins.
    3. A call to arms for libertarians? You've got to be fucking joking. I've heard that call all my adult life. I've seen the fission of libertarians from conservatives, the creation and ascent of the Libertarian Party, the Reagan Presidency, the Thatcher PM, the "end of big government", and now? Now? Now after NCLB, Medicare Part D, farm bills and highway bills, and a foreign policy designed to destroy life, treasure and national standing, what do we see now? The FUCKING KEYNESIANS have crawled out of the grave and taken over THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD!!!!! And you think more debate in the dorms of George Mason is going to save us? You're retarded Nick.

  • Xeones||

    Warren,

    You forgot:

    Doom
    DOOM
    DOOOOOOOM

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Is it just me, or does Warren seem a little tense?

  • ||

    Dear Nick,

    How do you suggest our society deals with collective action problems? By what criteria do you judge whether or not collective action is justified when individual liberties are sacrificed?

    Also, when you mention that the government should stay out of the boardroom, do you extend that comment to the financial sector?

    Consider the following article:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/hudson02232009.html

    Take your time,

  • TofuSushi||

    I've never seen photos of him without that jacket on.

    You really don't want to either.

  • Paul||

    Gotta love Nick, always the optimist.

  • Paul||

    And you think more debate in the dorms of George Mason is going to save us?

    Kids have smoked weed in those dorms, Warren!

    We're winning!!!

  • Mike Laursen||

    This has been mentioned thousands of times, but dressing like a Stasi agent might not be helping the cause, Nick.

    Always being seen wearing the same outfit is a time-tested way of getting the public to remember you. I assume that's why Nick adopted his look.

  • Paul||

    By what criteria do you judge whether or not collective action is justified when individual liberties are sacrificed?

    Hmm, according to Benjamin Franklin, never.

    They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security-- B. Franklin

  • Paul||

    and forget duty, obligation, and community.

    Wow, pound that podium and yell that shit out with a very thick Austrian accent.

  • economist||

    I'm with RC on this. If this is the libertarian moment, what exactly would the collectivist moment be? When singular personal pronouns are eliminated to scrub individualism from the language?

  • Warty||

    I dug the speech. A little optimism won't kill you, folks.

    The Chicago Boys in Chile realized that markets free for predatory finance and insider privatization could only be imposed at gunpoint.

    Ooooooooooookaaaaaayyyyyyyy.

  • John||

    I gotta wonder if Nick is ever without his leather jacket -- in bed, in the shower....

  • Warty||

    It's not a jacket, it's an exoskeleton.

  • economist||

    John,
    I remember a few months back there was a Reason.tv show where Nick actually didn't have his leather jacket. I was shocked!

  • economist||

    Warty,
    Optimism kills. Believe me.

  • ||

    Oh come on you guys know you're not truly happy unless you're in complete opposition to the status quo.

  • ||

    essential liberty

    Would Franklin define as essential liberty the freedom from living longer, happier lives?

  • geniusiknowit||

    Libertarian /= Anarchy

    The earliest political usage of "libertarian" was indeed a term used to describe certain anarchist philosophies. It has since been co-opted by all sorts of mini-statists such as those muddleheaded folk who call themselves "minarchists" and "Cato scholars."

  • ||

    My posts are trollerific!

  • economist||

    Tony,
    I would love it if the status quo was set to my preferences. And what the hell is "freedom from living longer, happier lives?

  • jtuf||

    "How many of you live in a place with blue laws?"

    Me.

  • jtuf||

    I agree with the last 5 minutes of Nick's speech very much.

  • ||

    God this place is filled with morons. At least over at Huffpo or Kos the liberals will refute nonsense with arguments rather than just label every dissenting voice a troll.

  • ||

    And what the hell is "freedom from living longer, happier lives?

    Franklin referred to essential liberties, which I think liberals and libertarians mostly agree about. I don't know about Franklin, but I don't count the freedom from government regulation of markets to be an essential liberty, any more than I consider not having firefighting protection an essential liberty.

  • ||

    Freedom of contract isn't an essential liberty?

    troll...

  • Paul||

    Would Franklin define as essential liberty the freedom from living longer, happier lives?

    Trick question.

    Trick answer: No.

    He would never abide the freedoms we've lost (and will lose) in the name of 'health'.

    The framers weren't real big on "freedom from"*. They rolled a little more "freedom to".

    *Except in the generic sense of being free from government coercion. But freedom from illness, freedom from economic downturn?

    Apart from freedom of expression, the liberal's idea of freedom is mainly about privacy. It is about a place for whoopee, and for not being held to account or morally judged afterward. In many ways his idea of freedom is the 15-year-old's: Stay out of my room. Show me respect. And hey, when's dinner?

  • Paul||

    Oh come on you guys know you're not truly happy unless you're in complete opposition to the status quo.

    No, we're in opposition to authority. Anti-establishment is someone elses game.

  • Paul||

    If this is the libertarian moment, what exactly would the collectivist moment be?

    Dude, you don't even want to know.

    Undoubtedly something that would frown upon "private reflection outside party needs"

  • ||

    Hah, hah, hah.

    Yeah things are great.

    *snort*

  • ||

    He nailed it when he said that politics should not be the center of solving problems/human flourishing in America.

    The political industry is way way waaaaaay behind the other industries. I can eat a dark chocolate snickers. But I can't find a candidate that is both pro-gun and against the war on drugs.

  • engineer||

    "Apart from freedom of expression, the liberal's idea of freedom is mainly about privacy. It is about a place for whoopee, and for not being held to account or morally judged afterward. In many ways his idea of freedom is the 15-year-old's: Stay out of my room. Show me respect. And hey, when's dinner?"

    Which is why there will never be a "liberaltarian" coalition.

  • ||

    nick's record collection seems like it was defrosted from 1985. He needs a fresher example than Tupac to support his "libertarian paradise 2009" thesis

  • Justen||

    I think Nick sort of fails to explain why, in detail, his optimism is well-founded. He gets at the symptoms - increase in choice, increase in freedom of expression, etc. but only touches on the root of what is driving this change. That, I believe, is the concept of the network and network technology. What Nick doesn't really delve into is the "why" of the change. Network technology, and the explosive human networks in general, are revolutionary in that they undermine systems of authority. Briefly, without control over the channels of transmission and the information transmitted, authoritarian institutions lose their most valuable tool in controlling and directing society. If an authority can't limit what we know and through whom we learn it, it cannot control something much more critical to human freedom - the total sphere of information in which our minds can operate. Freedom of communication empowers us to work under, behind, and around authorities in ways they are decreasingly capable of adapting to or even discovering. With this means of control rapidly disappearing institutions and authorities become dependent on voluntarism; instead of demanding our compliance they must entice us to consent. It's a radical shift in the balance of power, the likes of which we haven't seen since the invention of the printing press - which revolutionized society in its own time. Understanding this is critical to understanding why Nick is correct.

  • voxpo||

    Weird. This video cuts off at 16:23 for me.

  • Condor||

    I can't be as optimistic as Nick, how will we ever manage to end the drug war when we have socialized medicine? What American is going to be cool with paying the for the health care of crackheads and heroin addicts? I don't care what people do on their own time but I don't want to pay for it.

    As for smoking vs marijuana I think the problem is that people go to jail for weed while the attempt to ban smoking is more of one where cigarettes are very expensive and can't be smoked in most public places. I doubt many of the young people who support smoking bans would want smokers to be put in jail.

    Libertarianism is far from anarchy, the state's ability to pass laws to prevent harm to others gives it a great deal of coercive power. As for collective action problems it is fine for the state to raise taxes to build a road, power transmission system, or sewage system. These kinds of goods being either natural monopolies or having a free rider problems could not easily be provided without the state at a level that would be socially optimal. The problem with liberalism is that they see public goods like education and healthcare as "human rights" and thus proceed to have the state entirely take over their provision rather than merely subsidize them or give them to the poor.

    The ultimate goal of libertarianism should be to maximize individual freedom to the extent that it is compatible with an equal level of freedom for others. Some form of wealth redistribution to achieve a minimum standard of living can be a part of this, but only to the poor and not "free" healthcare, education, and who knows what else for everyone with a pulse at the expense of the wealthy.

    As I said before I find socialized medicine on top of a greater federal role in education combined with war on terror polices and the resurrection of Keyensianism frightening but there is some hope with the internet since libertarian ideas will not be condemned to obscurity. Its no longer the era of three network news channels full of committed big government liberals. People are much more able to access ideas now and much more able to speak out against poor government policies than ever before so there is so there can still be some hope.

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