Kurt Russell, Flexible Libertarian


From the Nexis transcript of Miracle star Kurt Russell's interview with Bill O'Reilly last night:

RUSSELL: …I've been told by people that there are people who wouldn't work with me because they were afraid of my politics, whatever that was.

O'REILLY: Really? What are your politics?

RUSSELL: Limited constitutional government. I believe in that. Freedom, freedom, freedom. And we're living in a very interesting time right now for Libertarians because this American experiment is having a difficult time in terms of freedom. Certainly, our privacy is…

O'REILLY: So you don't want intrusion by the federal government into your life?

RUSSELL: I think the—I think that the basic idea of the Constitution in that regard is we wanted to be able to find out who was running for office. We should be able to talk about that freely. Our press should be able to talk about that freely. But I don't think they really meant in terms of the First Amendment that we have our privacy raked across the coals for entertainment value without being paid for it.

O'REILLY: So give me an example of something that really gets you steamed in that area.

RUSSELL: Not much gets me steamed. I think it's kind of fun. I mean I think that the—you know, the rags that make money or some of the television shows that make money just off of paparazzi, people following you or what not—I think it's unfair. I think people should get paid for that. I mean that's…

O'REILLY: Look at these books that smear you and the defamation books, and then they get sued, and they—oh, it's just satire…


O'REILLY: … and they were calling the guy…

RUSSELL: I don't think that's fair.

O'REILLY: … every name in the book and they're ripping him to sleds, but we can do this.

Now, when you go to vote, all right, are you voting for a philosophy of some kind? You're going to have Kerry against Bush, all right? I'm sure there are things you like about both guys and things you don't like about both guys, right? What's the deciding factor for a Libertarian because you're not…

RUSSELL: I usually—I usually vote for issues and people who I think are going to look at it the way I'd like it best to be seen. I just—being a Libertarian, I do believe that limited government is good.

O'REILLY: Right. So you don't like the Patriot Act, for example? That's not…

RUSSELL: I think the Patriot Act is very necessary for right now.

O'REILLY: Do you?

RUSSELL: Yes, I think it's a fluctuating thing. I mean I believe in flexibility. I believe that's our government has the ability to do, be flexible. You try something.

O'REILLY: Right.

RUSSELL: If it becomes overwhelmingly oppressive, people will tell you. People like you will start talking about it and saying this is wrong, and the…

O'REILLY: You bet.

RUSSELL: … and people will respond. And we go vote. We change.

NEXT: Wokka Wokka Wokka Wokka

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  1. Jon B.
    I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that Russell could be an effective advocate (and fundraiser) for the cause, and he shouldn’t be driven out of the party over one issue.

    Libertarians disagree over all sorts of things (abortion, death penalty, etc) so why can’t Russell call himself a Libertarian? My gosh, use him to advance your agenda!

  2. Freedom freedom freedom? but only for me. Those sleazy paparazzi and tabloids don’t deserve freedom of the press. And of course we need to lock up all the towel heads until they learn to behave. And Oh yeah, limited government, except when it’s oppressing someone else, then it should be expanded.

  3. His embrace of the patriot act bothers me more than his feelings about the paparazzi and tabloid papers.

    A lot of libertarians have found some exception to their limited government views for a pet project. I remember jokes about how for Ludwig von Mises the only legitimate functions of government were the police, the military, the courts and the national opera.

  4. Max,

    OK, he said the thing about limited government. But then he said the thing about the paparazzi, which seems like he is asking for increase gov’t regulation of the press. Then he endorses the Patriot Act.

    He reminds me of those people who say “I believe in Freedom of Speech, but…” and then proceed to tell you that they don’t believe in freedom of speech to say things they don’t agree with.

  5. In my experience, the self-proclaimed libertarians who claim not to have a problem with PATRIOT are not necessarily in support of all its provisions…they simply don’t forsee that it could (or will) be abused in the way most of its opponents (self included) tend to fear. The disagreement isn’t so much over the substance of the law as it is who’s afraid of what.

    In other words, they fear terrorists more than they fear the government, and are willing to grant the government more power in the name of protecting them from terrorists…something about which reasonable people can disagree without having to question each other’s “libertarian credentials”.

  6. “I’m for victimless crimes, like drug dealing, prostitution and car-jackings. I guess that would make me a Libertarian.”

    -Snoop, Crank Yankers

    (I probably misquoted, but right idea)

  7. He probably doesn’t believe in privatizing the lighthouses, either. He must be some kind of a fascist. We sure don’t want him in our movement, it might endanger our 1/2 of 1% of the vote, if a famous actor were to endorse us.

  8. This is a good example of why it’ll be a great day when all actors are produced in Pixar’s renderfarm of computers.

    Nobody’s going to give a rat’s ass about the political opinions of Nemo and Buzz Lightyear. And nobody’s going to care about the opinions of “the guy who did the voice for …”.

  9. “I don’t give a fuck about your war – or your president!”

    -Snake Plissken

  10. Everyone please repeat after me:

    Pay no attention to the actor.
    Pay no attention to the actor.
    Pay no attention to the actor.
    Pay no attention to the actor.

    Thank you.

  11. It seems that Russell’s view of the paparazzi is not that they are a news organization but more of a “reality-tv” type business. They make money off his every day activities. Some would say that the publicity that he receives from the paparazzi is his payment for their intrusion…..Maybe they should have to pay him to publish those pictures in their non-news magazines but he should not be able to tell them they can’t take pictures of him while he is out in public.

  12. If I were a rich celebrity with a vengeful streak I would hire three photographers to hound the paparazzo of my choice in eight-hour shifts until it made him cry like a little girl. Then I’d post the photos on the web. Then I’d follow him around some more.

  13. I think we should have a Ministry of Truth which will exact sanctions against people who call themselves libertarians or Libertarians without perfect adherence to the official stances.

    And I should be in charge of determining what the official stances are. I don’t see how a movement could possibly falter if we demand perfect discipline from anybody who wants to associate with us.

  14. Well, ‘what’s a libertarian aside’ I have this to say about paparazzi…

    They violate basic contract principles. Mr. Russel’s visage is his stock in trade. To use it without his concent is theft. To say ‘he is a celebrety and therefore a public figure and so has no privacy entitlement’ is the same justification as stealing an author’s words because ‘he writes them for a living’.

    While there’s a line about not being entitled to privacy while in public, I think it is crossed when one is deliberately hounded by a pack of shutter flicking hacks 24/7.

    I daresay, if any ordinary citizen were treated thus we would have concerns and choice of employment.

  15. Silly me. And here I was, thinking his *acting skills* were his stock in trade.

    Does this mean every time a mass murderer is shown on TV or the papers without his consent, we have stolen something of value from him?

  16. From Mo:

    “I’m for victimless crimes, like drug dealing, prostitution and car-jackings. I guess that would make me a Libertarian.”

    How about
    “It’ a victimless crime, like punching someone in the dark.”
    (or something close to that) from the Simpsons

  17. I read a while ago about an anti-paparazzi device. It was some sort of EMF or “anti-flash flash” that would activate when it detected a paparazzi’s camera flash. 🙂

  18. “If it becomes overwhelmingly oppressive, people will tell you”.

    How is this possible? If you are too oppressed, you will get “disappeared” before you can talk.

  19. Paparazzi have no rights. Only humans have rights.

  20. Swamp,

    It’s a flash-activated flash, a slave flash that photographers use to light weddings, sporting events, etc. They set them up all around the room and they go off when the main flash activates them. Good idea. But not fashion-friendly. 😉

  21. I don’t think the Germans in 1933 were given much chance to change anything after Hitler’s Enabling Acts went into effect. Once you lose your right to speak up, it’s gone, baby.

    … and here we see someone whose extensive knowledge of American history extends all the way back to the 1990s!

    The powers granted to government under the Patriot Act are in all cases less-extensive and less-intrusive than powers the government has had at various times in the past. For example, had you compared Roosevelt’s actions to Hitler’s during World War II, or publically criticized the government’s anti-espionage activities, you would have been arrested, convicted, and sentenced to jail time. Today, despite your alleged “loss of your right to speak up”, the worst thing that’ll happen to you is that intelligent people will be able to correctly identify you as a whiny punkass.

    We have *regularly* lost some of our rights at various times throughout American history, particularly in time of war. Bush’s activities don’t even come close to the violations of human rights Lincoln — a man seldom compared to Hitler, at least outside of Alabama — perpetrated. Yet in the end we recovered our rights, because our key democratic processes remained intact. You only permanently lose your rights when you are excluded from the political process.

  22. “They violate basic contract principles. Mr. Russel’s visage is his stock in trade.”

    uh…and who is this contract signed with?

    celebrity is their job.

    i’d rather infringe on the rights of celebrities than the rights of shitheads with cameras (and legitmate journalistic enterprise, obviously)

  23. Freedom freedom freedom? but only for me. Those sleazy paparazzi and tabloids don’t deserve freedom of the press.

    Russel simply advocated the idea that he should be paid for the use of his image, not that the press should be barred from using it. That is a perfectly libertarian sentiment, especially in vehemently pro-property-rights libertarian circles.

    Such a law would possibly violate the Constitutional freedom of the press, but libertarians are under no obligation to rank their human rights in the same order the Constitution does; some of us consider our rights to privacy and property more important than our right to write about others.

  24. “They violate basic contract principles. Mr. Russel’s visage is his stock in trade.”

    uh…and who is this contract signed with?

    I think the point is that no contract has been signed. Russell’s visage is, provably, worth a lot of money (his career proves that). He indisputably owns it, as everyone owns their own bodies. Paparazzi sell reproductions of Russell’s visage, without first contracting with him for permission to do so. This violates contract principles, in the same manner that I would be violating contract principles if I ripped my CDs and sold the .mp3s without first contracting with the owners of the music on those CDs.

  25. eh…

    if one chooses to put themselves in the public eye, and then complains that they’re in the public eye and people in public are doing stuff they don’t like, that’s kinda dumb. not to mention it introduces a whole bunch of troublesome issues. obviously harassment (like breaking and entering, etc) is and should be punishable, but not because some contract with a third/fourth/fifth party exists, but because it’s harassment and breaking and entering, etc. civil lawsuits handles this pretty well already.

    a cd is a product. someone’s face, even a movie actor’s face or a model’s face, is not their product. and you’d be hard pressed to convince anyone that pictures of them in magazines dilutes their ability to sell their acting/singing/modeling skills.

    i could just see bush demanding “reproductive rights” over his own pictures in the AP. 🙂

    i sort of see your point, but it’s pretty stretched. and maybe i’m a bit stone-hearted to the cries of celebrities saying “i wanted to be famous – just not this famous!”

  26. Sound like Kurt Russell is a great libertarian, except when there’s terrorists, or offensive journalists, or whenever libertarianism is inconvenient.

    Wow, sounds like he’d fit right in at Reason.

  27. if one chooses to put themselves in the public eye, and then complains that they’re in the public eye and people in public are doing stuff they don’t like, that’s kinda dumb

    If Russell was complaining that the press took his picture when he showed up to promote his latest movie, that would perhaps be dumb.

    However, just because you are in the public eye occasionally — such as in movies — does not and should not imply that you permanently forfeit all privacy rights and all ownership of your own image.

    a cd is a product. someone’s face, even a movie actor’s face or a model’s face, is not their product.

    It most certainly is a product, as is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by the fact that people package and sell it.

  28. Crap. It’s him or Drew Carey. I say we keep him.

  29. I think this is the first expulsionary sentiment I have seen here. I guess the irrationality of “wingers” is infectiously compelling even to the devotees of reason. Frankly, I don’t see the great contrversy. Is the Act really such a departure from generally accepted norms of law enforcement? Um, not really. Chill. This is hardly the Fourth Reich nor so trending.

  30. So he doesn’t draw his line in the sand exactly where so many of these “libertarians” here want to draw it.

    With all the emotional, illogical name calling that passes for political discussion in the media, you’d think an expression by a high profile personality of basic principles in favor of more liberty would warrant at least mild praise from these quarters.

    But to judge from so many of the comments here, apparently the road to hell is paved by Kurt Russell.

  31. Bob –

    You’re right. It’s apostasy, blasphemy. Russell is impure. He has impure thoughts, imperfect libertarian beliefs. Therefore, he is not libertarian at all and must be excommunicated.

    I’m trying to figure out if libertarianism is merely a political philosophy or a crypto-religion. Around here, it’s a crypto-religion. The orthodoxy must be obeyed. Outliers are evil.

    Happily, libertarian extremists have not taken to strapping bombs around their waists to destroy infidels. But give them time.

  32. Dan –

    I think you have identified a distinguising characteristic of libertarians (orthodox or otherwise). They are terrified of the slippery slope. To some degree, this is healthy. But some slopes are slippery, and some are not, and it’s helpful to be able to tell the difference.

    History provides perspective. Should we be vigilent in defending our freedoms? Yes. But when you consider that, by and large, we are much freer now than we were at many, many times 50 or 150 years ago. In this country, at least so far, the slope has not been slippery.

    ‘Cept maybe taxes.

  33. I think Russell makes an interesting point.

    It’s easy to mock celebrities who complain about people taking your picture, but consider this: You’re not famous. You’re out at a restaurant. You spill soup on your shirt. A guy at the next table takes a picture of you with his camera phone and posts it on his advertising-supported “Stupid People in Restaurants” blog. Does he have the right to profit from your image without your permission? Now that everybody can be a publisher, does that mean everbody is also a celebrity, whether they want to be or not?

  34. From Vic:
    ?They are terrified of the slippery slope. To some degree, this is healthy. But some slopes are slippery, and some are not, and it’s helpful to be able to tell the difference.?

    The thing about slopes is, it?s not always easy to tell which ones are slippery, or how slippery they are. I would certainly agree that sometimes that argument is taken too far (and that in general we’re much freer now than 50/100/150 year ago, and in this particular case I don?t see a big deal), but I also think it?s better to err on the side of caution when deciding how slippery a slope might be. It certainly would be helpful to be able to tell the difference, but that?s much easier said than done.

    On another note, there are frequent comments about how libertarianism is a ?crypto-religion,? slavishly/dogmatically orthodox, or other things to that effect. This seems to ignore the frequent comments by regular posters, on this thread and others, that a given ?blasphemy? isn?t such a big deal. Just like among libertarians at large, there?s quite a range of views on this page. Some libertarians trend into conservatives, some into liberals, some are strongly orthodox, and the rest are somewhere in between. It seems a bit dramatic to label libertarians at large or the group here as a crypto-religion.

  35. J-

    I agree that there’s no orthodoxy. However, many people here (sometimes myself included, I fear) will talk as though “I am a real libertarian because I believe such-and-such, and anybody who believes otherwise is clearly not a real libertarian.” Rather than talking in degrees (e.g. this person is very libertarian, that other person is somewhat libertarian) there’s a tendency to deny the “libertarian” label to those who disagree.

    Contrast this with liberals and conservatives. Sure, the far left and far right can be pretty factional. But your average person who’s interested in politics will say “this person is less liberal than that person”, not “this person isn’t liberal at all”, or “this person is less conservative than that person”, not “this person isn’t conservative at all.”

    Consider the debate over Neal Boortz speaking at the LP convention. A liberal or conservative might say “that speaker isn’t liberal enough/conservative enough” but how many (outside the fringe) would say “that speaker isn’t liberal/conservative”?

    Maybe the problem is that self-described libertarians are naturally part of a fringe. Before I get flamed, just hear me out: American politics is organized around two big factions and a center of swing voters. Most people wind up identifying with whichever faction they like the most/dislike the least (take your pick). If you talk to people who vote for Democrats or Republicans (NOT the same as Republican and Democrats in elected office) some of them have libertarian sympathies. Yes, even some people who vote for Democrats. They don’t endorse the entire orthodoxy (gasp!) but many individuals have some sympathies for smaller government and its benefits, even if they vote for Republocrats.

    Anyway, those sympathizers who vote Republocrat will call themselves Democrats, Republicans, or moderate independents most of the time. The only ones who will describe themselves by the “L word” (upper case or lower case) are those who are disaffected.

  36. Thoreau: Perhaps that’s because liberalism and conservatism (and Democratition and Republicanation) aren’t based on logical principles, while libertarianism is (and, some still hope, Libertarianism).

    How’s this for you: I am a free-market anarchist. No government is good government. Still, I consider most of the regular Reason writing staff to be libertarian, despite only one or two of them seeming as though they would give serious consideration to the merits of anarchy. Minarchism vs. anarchism is something that can be argued about while both sides still try to hold to the same principles.

    Kurt Russell was talking about “flexibility” in adherence to libertarianism itself. While that does not 100% disqualify him from being taken seriously on the subject, it does raise a HUUUUGE red flag, as “flexible” (in the ethical and legal sense) and “principled” are pretty much opposite concepts.

    It’s rather like watching someone argue that 2 plus 2 is 3. Sure, he MIGHT have created his own number system, or be into some arcane form of geometry, but odds are he’s just, you know, wrong.

    Again, all of this is why I continue to be extremely happy to no longer be involved, in any way, with trying to advance libertarianism in the political sphere. Not only is it paradoxical, it very rapidly loses sight of the very thing it is ostensibly trying to accomplish. It’s very simple: if you compromise a little, you can get 5% of the vote. Compromise a lot, and you can get 25% of the vote. Steal the Republican platform and do a find-and-replace to substitute “Libertarian”, and you’ll actually start winning elections. Good work.

  37. The thing about slopes is, it?s not always easy to tell which ones are slippery, or how slippery they are […] I also think it?s better to err on the side of caution when deciding how slippery a slope might be.

    At the risk of beating this metaphor into the ground… we’ve traversed this slope before, and found it to be not terribly slippery. Government restrictions on our rights have been MUCH worse, within living memory, and during the previous century were even worse than that.

  38. > What are your politics?
    > So you don’t want intrusion by the federal government into your life?
    > So you don’t like the Patriot Act, for example?

    O?Reilly?s questions above were not only leading,
    but demonstrated his vision of Libertarianism.

  39. The Patriot Act is an extension of existing laws.
    We already had many limitations and rules to follow.
    When criticizing it, perhaps it would be more effective
    to include personal or publicized examples of abuse,
    inconvenience, and real, not imagined, problems.

    The reasons for the Patriot Act are known, are real.
    If Russell considers the Act justified, that?s his right,
    just as some think it OK to ban bomb building in suburbia.
    Maybe Libertarianism should be less exclusive, more inclusive.
    Seems that if every Libertarian could ‘black ball’ others,
    there would be no Libertarians left at all.
    Why would not this group be as varied as other groups?
    Accept the Patriot Act — you’re out.
    Don’t want to legalize drugs — you’re out.
    Self-interest expressed by Kurt — he’s out.
    I’m here checking out Libertarian thought.
    I don’t know where the lines are.
    I know that Kurt Russell just advanced the cause,
    even if some of you don’t see it.

  40. Pretty much boils down to “I hate papparazzi”. The only freedom he seems concerned about is freedom from the tabloids.

    As for the Patriot Act, he’s blind. I don’t think the Germans in 1933 were given much chance to change anything after Hitler’s Enabling Acts went into effect. Once you lose your right to speak up, it’s gone, baby.

  41. “Limited constitutional government. I believe in that. Freedom, freedom, freedom.”

    “I think the Patriot Act is very necessary for right now.”

    WTF? This is exactly why I make it a point not to care what people in Hollywood think about any subject other than making movies.

  42. I suppose poor Russell just blew his chance to be a “good” Libertarian. But ask yourself, do you really want to run a popular celebrity out of your party, someone who could be an effective spokesman and maybe recruit others to the cause? Over one issue?

  43. Just the fact that he used the L-word on a national TV show is a good thing. (When was the last time? Nick Gillespie, shheeet ….)

    However, Kurt’s a libertarian like Chi-chi Gueverra is a liberal.

    No, don’t start again, please.

  44. It’s not like he differed from Lib. on one issue, but it appears he calls himself a Libertarian without really understanding what it means.

  45. The problem I see with Russell’s comments about being “flexible” and “trying things out” is that the government rarely, if ever, does that.

    Programs and legislation is created and it creates interest groups, or it already has interests to protect it.

    Government programs just don’t go away……sunset provisions or not.

    I agree with him that ideally, yes, we should bea able to “find out what works”, but that’s also difficult to determine exactly “what works” means.

  46. And when is O’Reilly going to stop turning every discussion into a chance to whine because Al Franken made fun of him. For fuck’s sake, get over it already.

  47. You guys have hit it on the head!! You can’t just call yourself a libertarian, man! You need to believe in all the right libertarian things. There are rules, you know!! I think what we really need to do here is come up with a codified set of libertarian policies and hold everyone to them. No more of this thinking for one’s self and coming to absolutely non-libertarian points of view on different issues. Conformity, that’s what we need!!!

  48. Sounds to me like he knows what it means:

    “…being a libertarian, I do believe that limited government is good.”

    Obviously, some gov’t is necessary, so everyone has to draw a line in the sand on that topic–and a particularly difficult area in which to draw that line is law enforcement. So I don’t really see a contradiction here.

    Note that the capital “L” was an interpretation on the part of the transcriber!

  49. Hey Eric, your position seems to be that philosophy doesn?t matter, just advancing the cause.

    Doesn?t anybody really believe in ANYTHING anymore?

  50. I agree with Thoreau that a couple of comments on O’Reilly are no reason to give Kurt Russell a hard time, but it ought to lead to invitations from libertarians to get Mr. Russell to go on at some reasonable length about his libertarian beliefs and positions.

    I’d love to hear Russell give a speech at Cato, for instance, or on the Neal Boortz show (as I’d expect Boortz to take the conversation in one direction) or the Harry Browne show (since Browne would chat Russell up in a different direction). Maybe a profile by John Stossel on ABC. Then finish up with Gene Burns on KGO in San Francisco. Next, an extended talk with O’Reilly or Limbaugh on the one side, and Hightower or KGO radio’s Ronn Owens or Pete Wilson. After listening to all of those conversations, I think I might be able to draw some reasonable conclusions about how libertarian Russell is. Absent the benefit of those resources, I have, over the years, certainly tried to listen to or read up on Russell’s political ideas whenever I have found them expressed, and will certainly continue to do so. At the moment, I still haven’t seen or heard enough to make up my own mind and, like Thoreau, continue to give Russell the benefit of the doubt, although the fact that he doesn’t express libertarian-flavored reservations about PATRIOT certainly gives me pause.

    I’d certainly like to think that Russell is a “real libertarian.” I’ve always enjoyed his movies (right back to the “Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” and other Disney fluff of the 60s, and including the more recent “Escape…” movies, “Soldier,” and so forth). Also, Russell “got the girl,” the famously liberal Goldie Hawn, after whom many of us lusted, in our left-leaning youths that overlapped her “Laugh-In” career. That union seems to have stood the test of time, and good on them. Perhaps their example — showing not only that being libertarian doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely on Saturday nights, but also that libertarians can live with non-libertarians, even with notorious “liberals” — will give libertarians some hope. You go, Kurt!

    I think Dan’s thumbnail characterization of libertarianism, that it describes a crowd of people who have decided that “liberty is the most important thing,” is vague enough that it borders on the non-descriptive, although that certainly does, as he says, leave a lot of room for disagreement between self-avowed “libertarians.” Dan’s seems to be the kind of description that someone might determine, after hearing all the mutually contradictory pronouncements of self-avowed libertarians that I alluded to in my last post. When there is that much disagreement and contradiction among a supposedly philosophically related crowd, all you can do is conclude that the principle that binds them is weak or vaguely understood. On the other hand, such a conclusion would be based on the assumption that everyone who claims the label “libertarian” actually IS libertarian, which is not a safe assumption, at all. I think we need at least a somewhat more precise objective standard for classification.

    The best short definition of libertarianism I have seen (and it is longer than Dan’s, alas) asserts that libertarians believe every individual should be free to behave, and to acquire property and dispose of it as he sees fit, up to the point where the exercise of that liberty forcibly interferes with the equal liberty of someone else. At that point, libertarians concede, some way of getting and keeping order, usually a counter-force wielded by a government of some sort, will be necessary, but it should be minimized, as the sheer establishment and maintenance of a government infringes individual liberty to some extent (for example, the liberty to spend all of the money you earn as you please, because none of it is being taxed to keep the government going).

    Now I know, there will be those who will take issue with my “definition” of libertarianism as I took issue with Dan’s (with all respect, Dan!), but I think that the one I like gives a lot more rack, upon which to hang one’s philosophical hat, than Dan’s or other, similar glib summarizations that I have seen. It and very close variants, also happen to be fairly common in libertarian literature, and should be familiar to those who frequent Reason. It isn’t something that I just pulled out of my philosophical hat. I commend it to your consideration.

    Finally, I think we need to judge self-avowed libertarians against such semantic yardsticks as I have offered here. The first reason for doing so I have already mentioned: we need to keep the meaning of “libertarian” from sliding down the slippery slope into the muck of ambiguity, which will neutralize the word altogether — or worse, lead it to acquire a meaning that this the polar opposite of its original one!

    The second, and perhaps equally important reason is so that we can identify AND SUPPORT those celebrities and articulate public spokesmen, whom we can trust to give people a reasonable idea of what it means to be a libertarian. Hey, if Neal Boortz is going to speak at the LP convention this year, why not also Kurt Russell, who can tell us what it is like to be a “Libertarian in Lalaland”? (I’m sure he’d pick a classier title for his speech!) Or why don’t we lobby John Stossel to look at the so-called “liberal” bias of Hollywood, and point out what that may mean to celebrities, such as Russell, who might swim against that tide? If Russell has any aspirations for political office or campaigning, and would indeed bring a real libertarian sensibility to government, what can we do to help him get his foot in the door? If he just wants to continue in the entertainment business, how might we enable or encourage him to explore libertarian themes in his work, and so on? I think we should be asking these questions about ALL self-described “libertarian” celebrities, if their understanding of “libertarianism” measures up against our semantic yardsticks.

    Rather than use a purist definition of “libertarianism” to excommunicate the unclean, I think we need to apply a fairly rigorous definition against the claims of high-profile individuals, so we can identify and encourage those who stand the best chance of helping us move things in a more truly libertarian direction. Sorry this was on the longish side, but I hope it was worth your time and effort to read it.

  51. Wonder when you libertoids will finally figure out that most of America (roughly 99.8% of it) doesn’t give a crap about the notorious USA PATRIOT Act

    Props to Bob’s and Tommy Grands’s comments; but whoever it was that invoked Weimar Germany for the umpteenth time, get a grip

  52. Question for all the “big-tent” advocates: What position would someone have to advocate before you thought they were a phony (lower case “l”) libertarian? I mean if Al Sharpton said in an interview tomorrow that he always thought of himself as a libertarian, would you be announcing that, “Well just because he favors racial quotas, an extremely protectionist trade policy, banning private firearms and a multi-trillion dollar income redistribtution scheme as compensation for slavery, that’s no reason to push him out of the movement.”

  53. Are there a lot of pseudo-libertarians on earth? I shouldn’t think so…at least not since the generation when Ayn Rand was actually a popular writer.

    The attachment of American conservatives to economic liberty seems real enough, as far as it goes…which is pretty far indeed. It’s common around here to say “Conservatives are free-market EXCEPT when…” accompanied by tones of heavy sarcasm.

    But (apart from the fact that that would automatically be true of ANYONE who makes exceptions) the distance you have to travel before you encounter these exceptions is quite considerable…and the case is hardly the same as when you might reasonably say “John Kerry is for the free market, except when he votes in the Senate.”

    Permissiveness as a theme has all but vanished among liberals, and Tolerance is a code for quotas and PC speech-suppression. Nothing in THAT kind of rhetoric is even safe to employ, anymore.

    Libertarian is not a term familiar to most Americans, and Russell employing might at least arouse curiosity. I hope people won’t pull the LP first thing on the google search!

  54. Come on now, folks. Words must mean SOMETHING, mustn’t they? People who haven’t studied libertarianism (and that would be most people) will construct a meaning of the word from the contexts in which they see or hear it used, and the champions or exemplars of that word, whom they see in the media or meet in their daily lives. The only way a word will usefully describe anything is if enough people can agree on the qualities they should expect of something or someone that bears the label.

    If some libertarians oppose abortion while others are neutral or support it; if some argue for restrictions on the press while others oppose such restrictions; if some embrace PATRIOT or the Iraq War while some denounce either or both; if some support public schools while others want to do away with the system; if some support the faux-energy deregulation that helped sucker-punch the California economy, while others support the concept of the regulated public utility, and still others want no-conditions deregulation; if some support “sensible gun control” and others defy anyone to pry their guns from “their cold, dead hands”; etc., etc, etc., then I ask you: How is ANYONE to decide what a libertarian really is or what libertarianism entails?

    Somebody has to draw the line. Maybe it isn’t cool or smart to run the poseurs out of town on a rail, but still, somebody should respectfully challenge the self-avowed libertarianism of any celebrity, especially if their beliefs and positions don’t seem to be coming from a defensible set of libertarian core values. Maybe we don’t say, “a heretic! burn him!” But we can at least say, “Oh, how is that libertarian?” Or, “That doesn’t sound very libertarian to me; I would expect xyz…” O’Reilly has no interest in clarifying or promoting a proper concept of libertarianism, so I wouldn’t expect him to go any deeper than he did. But a natural question to ask is, “so are you one of the people who will tell government that PATRIOT is bad?” Or, “I would have expected you to have big problems with PATRIOT; most libertarians I meet do…”

    You guys are all too ready to make fun of those who would defend the meaning of a word like libertarian; but if nobody defends it, and if we don’t make the effort to clarify it in public discourse, then its meaning will blur into nothingness, or become co-opted, as “liberal” was, for instance. I’m sure most of you laughed to hear Humpty Dumpty declare to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s story that, `When _I_ use a word … it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ But if you really think that is how the world does or should work, then it’s no laughing matter. Remember also that Alice went on, in a similar vein as I did here: `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’

    Humpty’s answer, of course, got to the heart of political language:

    `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

    The naive reader perhaps jumps to the conclusion that HD means “master of words.” But does he?

  55. Maybe we are looking at it backwards?

    Imagine this game:

    In a high-school auditorium, you pack the house with a hundred celebrities anyone would describe as consevatives– Buckley, Will, Buchanan…hell Dave Duke.

    You pick anyone you would acknowledge as indiputably a libertarian– perhaps any of the editors of Reason. This is the contestant.

    When the contestant states his take on a public policy issue, Cons who disagree have to leave the room.

    The contestant is to find a sequence of policy positions that would clear the room most efficiently– using the least number of “turns”.

    What would you try?

    I would go for Open Borders, with a good shot at a One-Turn win.

    After that I am less sure…but abortion rights might clear anyone left standing.

    How about a room full of liberals?

    Open Borders would be worth a try, but I would go for abolishing all forms of affirmative action– a good shot at a one-turn win.

    What about a mixed group? Obviously no one-turn chances.

    Open borders first (zap LOTS of liberals), then anti-quotas. Anybody left, I’d be trying to recruit ’em!

    In ANY version of the game, a lot of things wouldn’t make it in the first five turns– drugs, gun control, abortion…Patriot and Iraq.

    You try playing!

  56. Oops,

    Contradicted myself on abortion (an issue libertarians famously disagree on).

    It IS tough to pick a second issue for the purely “conservative” version of the game…which is strongly suggestive that there is a systematic relationship between conservatives and libertarians.

  57. I just searched for the word “libertarian” on Google, and the first hit is http://www.lp.org. Really, they aren’t so bad. I started voting libertarian due to a confluence of factors, and the press releases on the LP home page were quite funny in 2000. For instance, they’d issue a press release about some sort of ridiculous law like regulations on the size of holes in Swiss cheese, and do some corny jokes that involve cheese. I know, silly, but it was down to earth and light. Better than an angry rant or whatever.

  58. I might add that the funny press releases were nice because it’s easy to get people to laugh at bureaucrats, but more complicated to get people to accept a categorical rejection of all government regulations on philosophical grounds. It doesn’t take too much to get agreement with statements like “We can’t trust our health care to the same idiots who can’t find the Chinese Embassy on a map of Belgrade. Especially if the same idiots are convening an inquiry into Janet Jackson’s breast.” It’s harder to get agreement with statements like “All health care decisions should be made on the basis of market forces in a for-profit system.” Yes, yes, I know, the second statement is true, but the point is that campaigning is easier when you keep it to things everybody can agree on (e.g. politicians are stupid).

  59. How is ANYONE to decide what a libertarian really is or what libertarianism entails?

    Libertarianism is a philosophy, not a religion or a political movement. Look how varied Christians are, despite having a fairly large number of core believes.

    Libertarians just believe that human liberty is more important than anything else. That still leaves oodles of room to disagree on practically everything, since people have radically different ideas as to what human rights and liberty *are*.

  60. > Libertarians just believe that human liberty is more important than anything else.

  61. The real problem with the Patriot Act is John Ashcroft.

    I think most people understand that during a time of crisis certain freedoms should be put on hold in the name of greater safety. Certainly the argument can be made that the PAUSA goes to far in some areas.

    But at the end of the day I feel that most people’s apprehension toward the act has little to do with privacy concerns and more to do with the personalities behind it’s drafting: John Ashcroft gives people the willies… he’s a very, very strange man – extreme in his views and beliefs and not afraid to hide them ? or perhaps allow them to shape policy.

  62. Somebody asked what stance a celebrity would have to take before I decided the guy wasn’t really a libertarian. Answer: there is no single stance that would do it. Or at least no single moderate stance that would do it.

    I’d want to hear Kurt Russell discuss more than just 2 issues (Patriot Act and paparazzi), and discuss those issues with somebody more insightful than Bill O’Reilly, before I issued him the pink slip and confiscated his copies of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

    And you have to remember that when two public figures get together to gripe about the paparazzi, they aren’t necessarily there to express philosophically correct points. It’s possible that if you sat him down and confronted him point-blank with “Should the government do something about them?”, Russell might back down and say he was just having a gripe fest, not composing a political platform. There are lots of times when I grumble “there should be a law against idiots like that” but once I calm down I would never actually write a letter to my elected representatives saying “Please pass a law against idiots like that.”

    So, basically, I’d give Russell the benefit of the doubt until I can get a more comprehensive outline of his beliefs.

  63. 80s Fan:

    “Wonder when you libertoids will finally figure out that most of America (roughly 99.8% of it) doesn’t give a crap about the notorious USA PATRIOT Act”

    How could they when it’s completely ignored in the media?

    No self-respecting libertarian could possibly look at the Patriot Act and not see a huge red flag. Of course, looking at it either way would place one above the spineless wastes of space that voted for it in congress without even reading the damn thing.

  64. > “All health care decisions should be made on the basis of market forces in a for-profit system.” Yes, yes, I know, the second statement is true,

  65. Re: the headline for this thread. I’d be more interested in Mary Carey, flexible Libertarian.

  66. I think Russel should run for president if only because if he got in that would make Goldie the First Lady. Now THAT would be cool…

  67. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/21/2004 07:01:45
    He does not seem to me to be a free man who does not sometimes do nothing.

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