Meden Agan


Bryan Caplan's libertarian purity test has been around for ages, but it appears to be making its way around the blogosphere again. I'm a bit surprised to find that I'm only six points more libertarian than National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru—doubtless confirming the suspicions of many H&R commenters. Though I'm still 38 points ahead of Jonah Goldberg.

NEXT: Dobbsian War of All Against Some

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Heh. 91 for me. I’m with Amy on the firefighters issue. And for what it’s worth, this was less a libertarian purity test than it was an anarcho-capitalism purity test. I don’t think the two terms are that interchangeable. But since I’m an Objectivist, I fall into neither category myself.

  2. 74. I am not worthy.

  3. 43.

    I was disappointed by the all-or-nothing anarchy vs. statism choices that were set up by the questions. “Should the law be privatized”, give me a break… IMO the law exists to protect us from each other, and if powerful individuals control the law… well, you can see where we are today. How would formalizing that process make us freer?

  4. 80 for me.

  5. Rick: Yes, it’s true that you must be licensed in a state to practice in that state, but in order to be licensed in a state, you have to be licensed by private boards. See How Stuff Works for details

  6. 78. I’m OK with the anarco but not the capitalism. Seventies hippy, what can I say? I consider myself a Leftist Libertarian.

  7. Christ, I’m a frigging commie. 34! But I took the questions literally. If they inserted the words “more or less” in front of “abolish”, etc., I’d have gotten a 70, easy.

    Still, that’s pretty pinko, man.

  8. 97
    But I got a little carried away. I would probably take back some of those answers. Probably an 85.

  9. Amy,

    Is the sanction from private entities called a “license”? Any way, I believe that on principle, and also in consideration of the medical consumer, there should be no legal restrictions from practicing medicine based on not having a license. Private certification is however, a very good thing as it is helpful to medical consumers.

    Even government certification would be better than what we have now as long as it didn’t entail forbidding those who didn’t have certification from practicing.

  10. I got a 76. I’m a lightweight. At least I’m libertarianer than Ramesh.

  11. I’d score close to 100% on principle, but I hesitate to answer a lot of the questions because the implications are so misleading.

    In cutting spending and taxes, it matters a great deal WHICH spending and taxes “we” cut first. This is a class state, whose main function is to guarantee the profits of rent-seeking corporations. So accepting ANY specific reduction of taxes or spending as a “step in the right direction” means letting the state capitalists who make policy cut their choice of spending and taxes and spending, according to their own grand strategy. I’ll bet the Romans welcomed the withdrawal of Hannibal’s center at Cannae as “a step in the right direction.”

    In the real world, the government activities we should be cutting first are those most essential to the structure of state capitalism. The second-order government activities whose main function is to make state capitalism more humanly bearable to the rest of society, and therefore more stable in the interests of the state capitalists, should be the last to go. But they should all go, eventually.

  12. BTW, one of the questions, at least, was just wrong-headed: many libertarians believe school vouchers would be worse than government-funded schools, because they’d wind up giving the government control of private schools through the power of the purse.

  13. 72 for me.
    I thought I would have scored higher. I had to say no on privatizing the police, abolishing safety regulations, and some other stuff. Though I do think that all of those could move in a more libertarian direction without the all or nothing answer.

    The questions that I didn’t understand were the military questions. You have to at some point concede that military force might be necessary in order to defend liberty. I don’t think that is a libertarian issue, am I wrong about that? As far as the civilian casualties, there will be civilian casualties. And abolishing civilian casualties may not always be a good thing.

    I think the whole war question is not a libertarian issue.

  14. 66. Guess I’m still a bit of a liberal at heart. Some of the questions are stupid – Should we privatize the law? What the hell does that mean?

    Is vigilanteism okay? Somehow judgement without a fair trial does not seem to extend freedom…

  15. 160 for me. But then, I’m just a loony utopian.

  16. A score of 31, and proud of it… I thought someone made a very good point in here that this was a test of Anarcho-Capitalism purity, rather than simply “libertarianism.” I wrote Caplan, a few months ago on the issue of war, asking if making tanks made someone a legitimate target in war? Is it OK to kill civilians? My answer is “Yes” as long as they are DIRECTLY contributing to the war effort. Michael Walzer makes much the same argument in his seminal work, “Just and Unjust Wars.” Anarcho-Libertarians are the hard core of you Libertarians, I guess they make the rest of you seem reasonable.

  17. Yeesh, 48. WWJGD? is obviously a question I don’t ask myself too much these days. I guess the yoke of being a committed DINK has burdened me to the point of not fighting the system at every possible step.

    I wonder if not paying my taxes this year would be enough of an atonement…

  18. Took it again, 118 this time, down from 131, the disparity is due in part from thinking about different time frames for my answers. This test is definitely weighted toward anarchism. Also, as I said before some of these questions really need to be answered in an “essay” format. Of course, that might make scoring a little problematic…

  19. 29 bay-bee!

    True to my roots!

  20. 95
    I just can not agree with privatizing the law, courts and police, removing all controls on immigration, ‘freezing the monetary base'(whatever that is), privatizing all highways and roads, judge-made law, the inherent evil of government, or the disarming and abolishment of the state.

    All of the preceding would create a balkanized America, where judge-mullah Roy Moore could rule Atheism and non-christian beliefs criminal and subject to a death penalty, with no roads, ( or roads denied to rescuers), for help to arrive to stop the slaughter of religious minorities.

    That is the problem I have with the way the LP is run, it is controlled by a bunch of confused anarchistic propeller-heads who revel in shocking and alienating people. I hope to help change that in Atlanta this year.

    Humans, being primates and members of the ape family, need a hierarchical society. We seek it out or create it if we are not members of it. We choose leaders of every group we create.

    We are also aggressive to those that are members of other groups. Look at what the issues of ‘gay marriage’, drug reform, slave reparations, ‘animal rights’, and the environment have spawned in this country, among many. Now remove all institutional debate, structures and controls. If you are imagining something like Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, etc, you are correct.

    This is why some sort of limited government is needed, with minority rights guaranteed and protected by its’ structure and the power of those minorities to protect their interests: To prevent a Roy Moore or a George Bush from sending the heathen to god for judgment, or a Ted Kennedy from declaring all property and people to be owned by the state, with himself as chair-Hutt.

    Those who truly are behaviorally independent usually turn into a Ted Kascinski or a muttering street person pushing a shopping cart around the landscape. The LP has been the political equivalent of that for 3 decades. It is time for the LP, stuck in the evolutionary backwater it is in, to change or die.

    Minarchy yes, Anarchy no. Some sort of *archy is needed.

    Government is a tool, no more or less dangerous than any other tool, no more dangerous than a gun. Neither can be left unattended without danger. Neither has any other intent than that of the people that control it.


  21. 152.

    You are all posers except for Franklin Harris and Fountainhead.


  22. 20.

    This isn’t so much a test of libertarianism as a test of whether you believe in the reality the rest of us share. I’m sure those who market Klingon dictionaries and memberships in the flat earth society would be interested in a mailing list with all those who scored over 90.

  23. Tom Wright –

    That’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever read on Reason. No doubt you will be verbally assaulted for it. 😉

    The Greens started to gain traction in Europe when they let go (just a little bit) on the ideological reins and began to acknowledge political realities (ie, that compromise is inevitable in politics, and does not necessarily equate to blasphemy).

    Nobody takes the LP even remotely seriously these days. One obstacle is the electoral college. Another is restrictions on what parties may field candidates for office. But the biggest is the ideologically rigid propeller heads running the LP (into the ground).

  24. 56. I’m a committed minarchist, not anarchist, and I’m an internationalist, especially in the short term. Lots of my answers are “yes, but…” and “no, but…”.

    “Is all government essentially exploitation of the productive members of society for the benefit of a parasitic ruling elite?”

    Yeah, but parasites are part of a healthy ecology too.

  25. I got 130. I think in part this is because some of the wilder libertarian desiderata seem to me to be a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. A lot of the questions would have been easier to answer if there had been a ‘not yet’ button. I believe it’s possible to lower taxes by 50%. I don’t believe it’s possible to lower them by 100%. I still think that nation states have something going for them, if only because their likely replacement would be even worse (I’d rather live in France than be ruled by the UN). On a lot of the military related questions I took the pro-military side. For example, should the US try harder to avoid civilian casualties? No. It should, and does, try hard. But harder? It wouldn’t be able to fight if it tried any harder. After we’ve killed all the Islamofascists, then we can talk about the size of the US military. Sure, get rid of nation states and armies. But not yet.

  26. 153

    Said no to “vigilante justice,” school vouchers, and I think relaxing immigration laws.

  27. BTW, I said yes on “Should the federal budget be smaller.” Once you lose 90% of farm subsidies, half of the defense budget, and quite a bit of pork and sweetheart deals, you can send a lot of kids to the doctor’s and still come out ahead.

  28. That test was fairly bogus–too many of the questions couldn’t be meaningfully answered without qualifiers.

  29. 94.

    But don’t Rand and Rothbard have little in common?

    Objectivist vs. Anarchist?

  30. Slippery Pete,

    One of the problems is that the LP even runs a presidential candidate at all.

    It should forego that and focus on the local and state elections.

  31. 52.
    And … I never realized Libertarianism was so scary. Or so cool.

  32. I got a perfect score of 160, but I know the secret to taking multiple choice tests.

    I will keep it a secret, but if anyone wants background information to improve their score as a libertarian, go to and buy some books.

  33. 73

    I think I could have spun that up or down about 10 points either way. I would guess this is about ball-park for most people who would self-describe as “conservative”, or who are thoughtful Repulicans. Give it to the National Review staff and the results would range from 50 to 90.

    It would be difficult to get anyone who self-described as a liberal over 40 points– Joe didn’t come close!

    Food for thought, there. Libertarians and Republicans are nearly identical across the range of issues that actually cut the ice in contemporay debate.

  34. 142.

    I didn’t think government was inherently evil or an unnecessary evil. I think the state is, but that’s something a little different. There ought to be consequences for rights violations, and to my understanding, that’s government. But I don’t think a monopoly is necessary or good to do these things.

    Bombing civilians also isn’t murder inherently. There might simply be a mistake about the nature of the target, which would be manslaughter under the common law.

    I agreed with Kev Carson that vouchers would probably worsen things, and I personally think it would give the state even more power.

    I don’t think the Supreme Court should strike down all economic regulation as inherently unconstitutional, because some economic regulation clearly is constitutional. This is a case where the state needs to be dismantled or the constitution amended. Art. 1, ? 8, cl. 3 clearly states, “[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;”. This doesn’t mean I think it’s right, only that it’s constitutional. Damn libertarian lawyers.

    – Josh

  35. Kev Carson,

    While I think much of your analysis is spot-on, I’m surprised you wouldn’t agree to cut the social welfare aspects of the state. Even if the state exists to benefit the governing class at the expense of everyone else, wouldn’t cutting social welfare bring that distinction into sharper relief, and hopefully prompt more anti-state action?

    Put another way, wouldn’t cutting social welfare restore some of the familial and community bonds that you (rightfully) lament have been interfered with by state action?

    Or from another tack, is okay for the poor to rob the rich but not vice versa?

    – Josh

  36. Josh,
    I think Kevin’s point(although he could make it better than me) is about which items you place at the top of your list.

    Why change social welfare if the underlying cause that brought about its “need” isn’t addressed?

    Cause: State-sanctioned industrial capitalism.

  37. 16. Lowest score so far that anyone will admit to.

    I double-dog dare anyone with a lower score to post.

  38. 53 – and I consider myself solidly libertarian and Libertarian! The RD’s wouldn’t score above 10.

  39. What a fuckin looney bin.

  40. 37

    I probably would score double that if the questions were a bit more defined. With only two polar opposite choices, my ‘safe’ side leaned towards center and away from the Great Wide Open.

    Oh, and eight years ago, I’d probably be in triple digits.

    I’m less terrified by many aspects of government that I used to be, though the Federal Gub is most often the cause for giving me the willie nelsons….

  41. This is not a libertarian purity test. It’s an anarchy purity test. Big difference. Very silly.

  42. 83
    I’ll privatize the roads and the schools, do away with all entitlements too. But I’ll keep the state and it’s military. I’ll also keep the FED, private banks, states, etc. should be allowed to compete, but I wouldn’t scrap the dollar.

  43. 18. He calls it “soft core libertarian.” I call it outcome-oriented liberal.

  44. 154.

    Never been accused of being a moderate.

  45. 106… although I have jokingly refered to myself as an anarcho-capitalist in the past, it turns out I just can’t take that last step off the cliff.

  46. First of all let me preface by saying that all test are evil.

    I only took this one because of peer pressure, which should be abolished because it is inherently coercive.

    I got a 73.

  47. 71 on the formal test, but the error bars would extend into the 60s range. I erred on the side of liberty for some of the Part 2 questions that I would like to explain more carefully.

    Middle of the road libertarian, more consequentialist than ideological, solidly minarchist.

  48. Assuming yes is always the correct answer, the test assumes that being in favor of government vouchers is always the more libertarian position than direct government involvement, ignoring the argument that such private-public interminglings may only complicate matters and make the government more involved rather than less. One of the few arguments Kevin Carson has won me over to!

  49. 153. You are all posers except for Fountainhead.

  50. joe:

    I don’t know if the test works for people who wouldn’t self identify as libertarian. In yes / no formats, there is a lot of assumed information in each question, and I think that you would lose points with any level of clarification you provided.

    As a believer in the government as an effective, active agent in improving life, you are more or less defined into the negative numbers on this scale. Not that I don’t want you on my kick-ball team …

  51. Most of the questions assume anarchy or big federal government. It’s like local government isn’t even an option anymore.

  52. Agreed, Russ. That test basically equates libertarian with anarchist, and there are significant differences.

  53. 131. Very bottom of the “hard core” designation. Some of the questions were hard to answer with just a “yes” or “no”. When do we get to do the “essay” section of the test? 🙂

    Given the current state of affairs, this test is like being on a train traveling East at 100mph and being asked; “So how fast would you folks like to go West?”

  54. Jason,

    Yeah, I know. Just helping y’all calibrate the meter.

  55. I got “160.” I believe that’s an improvement from the last time I took the test.

    OTOH, I scored “perfect” “0” here.

  56. I got a 74, but I used a strict definition of the words “abolish” and “privatize.” I said no to “abolish welfare” because although I believe we should phase out the current welfare system, I think it’s reasonable to have a shared obligation to pay for the care of abandoned or abused children. I said no to “abolish medical licensing” because although I’m in favor of getting rid of laws making it illegal for non-doctors to give medical advice, I still think that a private group like the AMA or its equivalent should continue to license doctors. The computer industry already has the equivalent of this with a vast, competitive scheme of certifications. I also said no to questions like “privatize sanitation, fire, and other local services” because although I want private sanitation, fire is a threat to public safety and I want to have public firefighters. That’s not to say there should be no private fire departments, or even that cities shouldn’t contract with private companies to provide coverage for public spaces, but contracting is not the same as privatization. Similarly, I said no to “abolish worker safety regulations,” because I can think of some (like regulations against forcible confinement) that I’d like to keep in place. The test isn’t very nuanced in that way. But then, it’s an online test, so I don’t expect much.

  57. 71. And all the libertoid girlies say I’m pretty fly for a lefty guy! (So don’t debate, a player straight, you know he really doesn’t get it anyway!…)

    Sorry, just felt silly there.

  58. joe: If you’re truly outcome oriented, you must have manipulated your answers to support your beliefs. It’s difficult to calibrate to a sliding scale.

    From my experience on H&R, I’ve realized I’m a much bigger extremist wack-job than I suspected. The test gave me a much softer score, probably because I began to resist its baiting in the high-value section.

  59. Amy,

    In the question about “abolishing medical licensing”, I’m pretty sure that they were referring to government licensing. Government, I believe, is the only entity that is said to issue licenses.

  60. 115.

  61. 139

    I suppose I’m still young, and someday I’ll have a wife and a kid and go soft.

  62. 69. A medium-core libertarian. Wishy-washy, middle-of-the-road, light-weight.

  63. I scored a 150, answering “no” only on the two questions regarding whether government was “evil” or a “necessary evil,” neither of which are judgments I’d consider relevant.

  64. 71

    About what I expected. Par for one who considers himself an objectivist as well.

  65. 85

    Supposedly I’m a “medium-level” libertarian and that my friends tell me I should stop talking about my views so much. I wish!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.