Quien Es Mas Libertario?

|

Jim Henley explores the Anakin-style corruption of the neolibertarian.

NEXT: House Approves Stem Cell Research Expansion

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The whole concept of “neo-libertarians” is fraudulent out of the box. Call them neo-neo-conservatives if you like, but get them the fuck off the libertarian bus. With “allies” like these, who needs enemies?

  2. Yeah. Is there a good definition of “neolibertarian” out there? I’m thinking someone like Glenn Reynolds or maybe Boortz . . . in other words, a republican who just can’t bear to be honest about himself. Republicans still have a Lawrence Welk/Pat Boone vibe about them so aging hipsters don’t want to be seen hanging out with them – they’ll just do everything they can to get them reelected.

    Does “neo” basically mean “not” now? As in, “neoconservative” – about the farthest thing from a conservative that I can think of.

  3. Uhm — just curious, why is the post title in Spanish?

    If this just cuz Julian couldn’t think of a good title???

  4. Jim Henley died from a cold.

  5. “Leave the terrorists and dictators alone, or you’re no friend of liberty!” Gotcha.

  6. Is there a good definition of “neolibertarian” out there?

    Yeah – a fascist that smokes dope. 😉

  7. I’m sure that Hugh Hewitt will use his, er, vast intellectual resources to refute every point of this, uh, baseless, um, exaggeration. Yeah.

  8. A Neo-libertarian sounds like a conservative who wants to dress up his political beliefs behind some meaningful-sounding ideological words, without having to take the libertarian plunge and trust his neighbors not to screw him.* That’s what conservatism has always seemed to be about to me, at least; a fear that the guy sitting next to you is intimately concerned with screwing you over. Hmm, for that matter, that seems to be what liberals think these days. Maybe they can all be Neo-libertarians together.;)

    *This is not to say that there aren’t people who want to screw others over, just that the one thing that libertarians have always seemed to have in common was a willingness to operate from the optimistic perspective on human nature, at least until given some contrary evidence on a specific case.

  9. John Tabin,
    Right because it’s impossible to oppose dictators and tyrants without eroding civil liberties. Somehow we managed to defeat fascism and communism without “Sneak and Peek” warrants. I think the Republic can keep its citizens safe and also remain true to its principles.

  10. Solyom, how old are you?

    It’s a riff on an old SNL bit, “quien es mas macho?”.

    John Tabin–you and your ilk are continuing proof that most Americans are total pussies. “Land of the Brave”–what a fucking joke. When I was growing up we were taught how OTHER nations threw away their liberties in a headlong embrace of authoritarianism as soon as things got rough (and, of course, things like the WW2 internment camps and McCarthyism were still soft-peddled back then). Little did I appreciate at the time what moral and physical cowards most of my own fellow citizens would turn out to be.

    May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!

  11. Back in the bad old Cold War days today’s “neolibertarians” would have been labeled Frank Meyer-style Fusionists. The most important fact about the conservative-libertarian fusion was that the cons were always supposed to be the senior partners, and the libs were supposed to wait until Communism had been rolled back to start pushing their nutty ideas, like eliminating conscription and reducing the federal budget and taxes. This neo-lib thing seems like the same old unequal partnership, including the part about shutting up and voting for statists with an R behind their names.

    Kevin

  12. I have said before that I don’t like the old “Who’s a better libertarian?” pissing contest. So I’m reluctant to really go after neo-libertarians, even if I disagree with them on some thing. If neo-libertarianism is a way of making libertarian ideas more palatble to conservatives, well, more power to them. Build that big tent.

    If, on the other hand, neo-libertarian is a label adopted by people who want to distinguish themselves from other libertarian factions so they can argue, well, then there’s no point in arguing with them. Pissing contests leave the participants dehydrated and the carpet messy.

    So, basically, if they do good things for libertarianism then I’ll applaud them, otherwise I’ll ignore them.

  13. He?s right, of course, and the remedy is in scrutiny of every antimilitary/anti-Christian/anti-police story that appears.

    Ummmm… what does this conservative pile-of-shit mean by “scrutiny? Who will be doing the scrutinizing and why do I think it involves a right-wing thug with a gun and a badge?

  14. Shem,

    I came to libertarianism by way of believing that one can’t really trust most people, especially those people in the government.

    Some neolibertarians are real libertarians when it comes to domestic policy, but realists or liberal internationalists with respect to foreign policy. Some other so-called neolibertarians are just full of shit.

    thoreau,

    I don’t know if it’s much of a pissing contest. Either you’re for oppressing your fellow citizens or you aren’t. It seems like many people claiming to be libertarians these days are oppressors, therefore, they cannot be libertarians (IMO).

  15. Real Bill –

    (irony alert – Real Bill and quasibill having a discussion)

    How can you be a “realist” or “liberal internationalist” without oppressing your fellow citizens through taxes? In the absence of a threat to the political power structure that is in place (which noone can honestly argue AQ is) – all our military is doing in the war on terror is risk management. And since the value of avoiding a risk is inherently subjective, shouldn’t it be left to the private market? Much like healthcare decisions?

    I have a hard time understanding how “neo-libertarians” rationalize this split.

  16. Tabin says, “Leave the terrorists and dictators alone, or you’re no friend of liberty!” Gotcha.

    This nonsense has already been thoroughly ignored over at Unqualified Offerings, and thoroughly rebuked here. I love these half-assed bloggers who drop in on comment threads which peak their antennae, toss some pre-engineered party bullet-point, then scamper back to the comfort and protection of their respective blog-caves.

    This one’s a real gem, considering how much of a rediculously huge leap must be made to transmutate “neolibertarians are not really deserving of using the suffix” into “Leave the terrorists and dictators alone, or you’re no friend of liberty!”

    Here’s another one: “Get in line with the welfare-warfare state, and submit to every state/military encroachment, or you support the terrorists & dictators!” Gotcha.

  17. I’ve been hesitant to adopt the label of neolibertarian, though I am sympathetic to many of their points. Calling for special scrutiny of antimilitary articles is just asinine.

    What I would say is that libertarians have a tendency to lose all perspective when the military is deployed, and that I would much prefer every libertarian blogger take a deep breath before screeching reflexively about backlash and the unjustness of any use of force unless we have soldiers with clearly visible flags on their uniforms standing in the White House.

    On a practical level, no one is going to swallow the whole libertarian platform, and I think we need to recognize that being 100% ideologically pure is being 100% ineffective on any issue. I would much prefer libertarians attack one issue at a time by participating in the coalition friendly to that issue. Smug and impotent is no way to live.

  18. One needn’t be smug nor impotent to criticize so-called “______-libertarians” who support various pro-statist agendas. Sure, I’d take a “neo-libertarian” over a “neo-conservative” any day…however, it is possible to justifiably criticize both.

  19. Evan,

    You may have misread me. I don’t think that smugness is implied in the criticism of neolibertarians per se. I think that smugness is implied if the criticism is based on the neolibertarian choosing to participate in a governing coalition. Certainly, libertarians have different views of foreign policy, and I don’t think libertarianism lends itself to any certain view of international relations. Criticisms along the lines of this disagreement are of course entirely reasonable.

  20. Is there a good definition of “neolibertarian” out there?

    You might try the guys publishing the New Libertarian. http://www.qando.net/

    Personally, I think of it as non-pacifist libertarians.

  21. While I agree with the sentiment that libertarians should be willing to participate in coalitions to achieve goals, they shouldn’t change their basic outlook, and should actively voice the difference in their opinion.

    Sorta like the SS issue. I’m willing to support Bush on the issue, because at least his plan is heading in vaguely the right direction. However, I make sure I qualify that support with all the valid criticisms of his plan, including the fact that it really ISN’T privatization, so in the end it will be doomed to a failure similar to the CA energy market. This is important so that you don’t get people pointing the inevitable failure as a reason to go in the other direction when it happens.

    Furthermore, allowing yourself to become a full partisan in a non-libertarian coalition just splits libertarians into fragments. Personally, if I’m looking at the choice between welfare state and warfare state (like there’s really a difference), I’ll choose the welfare state. “neo-libertarians” clearly choose the warfare state. Now we’re split into two camps, even though we share an agreement on a large number of issues. That can’t be good for the cause.

  22. quasibill:

    I agree. What I criticize is the continued broad based blasting of both coalitions as being identical statists. One is significantly better than the other on any given issue.

    Things I don’t think the Republicans get enough credit for from libertarians:

    – Ending the assault weapons ban. I did not think this was possible. They put the nail in the coffin of effective scare mongering on the issue by the Dems. They get BIG kudos for that one. Bad legislation can be rolled back even in the absence of huge media support for doing so.

    – Having the social security discussion. Seriously, when did you think Cato would be this influential with a governing coalition? I am amazed that libertarians give them almost no credit for this remarkable step.

    Democrats don’t get enough credit for:

    – Ending welfare as we knew it. Note that this was always a Republican issue, but it took Dems to actually get it done.

    Democrats currently benefit from a ‘grass is greener’ feeling from many libertarians, where they get full credit for opposing restrictions on stem cells while Republicans get none for social security and the awb roll back. Pick an issue, pick a coalition, and run with it.

  23. Jason – agreed, on all points.

    RC – perhaps a better definition for “neo-libertarians” is people who think markets work, except when THEY are irrationally scared…

  24. I’d prefer to stay out of any coalition. By joining and participating in such activities, you only further the goals you seek to repress -regardless of the side you choose.

    Its a lot like saying you’re diametrically opposed to mud-wrestling then climbing in the ring to eradicate it. So it goes with governments of coercion and force.

  25. I think Henley’s just tring to point out that the Neo-Libertarians should be careful who they trust, especially when they employ tactics that differ greatly from your core values.

    If you champion freedom and liberty but are willing to support limiting them during wars, be aware that the wars might last far longer than you’d like your freedoms curtailed.

  26. Well, it sounds like the term “neo-libertarian” might already be almost entirely content-free, since so many have lunged to claim it from a wide variety of perspectives and for a wide variety of purposes.

    Kinda like “liberal” and “conservative”, in fact.

  27. I’d prefer to stay out of any coalition.

    Then you prefer to stay irrelevant to politics and have no effect on how the state and government operate.

    Nothing is accomplished in American politics by those who will not compromise and make coalitions. Thus, the the continued irrelevance of the big-L Libertarians.

  28. R C,

    Libertarians are irrelevant whether they join coalitions or not. If you stay out of coalitions, you are irrelevant. If you join coalitions and have no influence, you’re at least irrelevant if not worse.

    The tiny portion of the population that considers itself libertarian seems to think they deserve influence just… well, because, I guess. I can?t figure it out myself. If libertarians want influence then they need to increase their numbers and organize into big-L Libertarians. All libertarians are irrelevant today because they are big-L Lazy.

  29. As far as the anti-military/christian/police stories go, I’m not sure why they need special scrutiny. I’ve always operated on the principle that these outweigh the “pro” stories because they sell better, not necessarily because of some “agenda” With the stranglehold on information diminishing, such stories will be increasingly less effective, which may be a good or bad thing depending.

    On the larger point, it’s impressive that something as fractured a libertarianism can divide itself into ever more pieces. I suppose that’s natural for a political philosophy that places a premium on individualism, but when you have to start defining your beliefs with phrases like “small-l, pragmatic prefix-libertarian minarchist with a view to anarcho-capitalism” it becomes impossible to actually accomplish anything. Which leaves us exactly here.

  30. Exactly, RC. I don’t want governments to operate; certainly not under someone else’s control and not under mine, either. By making bastard exceptions to a principal (ZAP) then we’ve made a bastard of the principal. To say force is bad, then turn and say, “but not if I have some say in it” is reprehensible.

    By joining the coalitions and participating in the politics, we become yet another leg supporting an illegitimate enterprise.

  31. RC,

    There a difference between compromise(where you at least get something in return), and giving support in the hopes that you’ll benefit later. Later rarely comes.

  32. The labels Radical Whig and classical liberal appeal to me more and more. Particularly the former.

  33. Democrats don’t get enough credit for:

    – Ending welfare as we knew it. Note that this was always a Republican issue, but it took Dems to actually get it done.

    Democrats? I recall a Republican congress. It is true, Bill Clinton didn’t get enough credit, although he did it as part of a triangilization stratagey developed by toe-sucker Morris. But to the extent that Dems or Repubs deserve credit, credit should mostly go to Repubs. And of course, to American citizens who were polled, indicating support for the changes . . .

  34. Don:

    Yes. I was reaching there. I actually struggle these days to find much that Dems aren’t given credit for by libertarians. In fact, libertarians give dems credit for all sorts of things that aren’t really the case. The notion that they are the Civil Rights Party strikes me as suspect, for example. At least as suspect as the notion that the Republicans are the Small Government Party. They get the benefit of the doubt mostly due to them being in the minority, I suspect.

  35. Jason,

    I agree. I think that both coalitions also get too much credit on a lot of issues as well.

    Issues that Democrats get too much credit for:
    The WoD ? It is true that Democrats have generally been less aggressive in their tactics for the WoD, but you are more likely to find support for ending it among Republicans.
    Opposing Media Decency Legislation ? Tipper Gore anyone? Even nowadays, Dems are pushing for decency laws to gain street cred with those offended by Janet Jackson.

    Issues that Republicans get too much credit for:
    Low Taxes/Fiscal Sanity ? If you don?t cut spending (or raise it like has been going on) a tax cut today is merely that same money put off into the future plus interest. My credit card debt is still money I owe, even though I may not have to pay it all this month. The Dems have Byrd and the Reps have Stevens, 6 of one, a half dozen of the other.
    Small Government ? Corporate Welfare is the same thing as social welfare. It?s robbing Paul to pay Peter (who in this case is much bigger).

    Let?s face it, the traditional major glue for libertarians and Republicans was the Cold War. Once that issue was gone, they had opposing expansion of government in common. Once Republicans gained power and still expanded the government (more, in fact than the previous Democrat administration) and rolled back civil liberties, is it any wonder that more libertarians started to woo the Dems?

  36. I agree with Mo.

  37. And if you listen to Howard Dean, the new Democratic Committee chair (I think that’s his new ‘position’), the Dems are talking about personal responsibility up the ying-yang. I saw him on ‘Meet the Press’ or something similar, and I was amazed at what I heard.

    Now I understand that Dean already had a reputation as a pro-gun, pro fiscal-responsibility Dem, but when the Dems put him in place as their mouthpiece, you have to wonder.

    Of course, they’re probably just trying to blow sunshine up the asses of the libertarians and centrist Repubs.

    He did mention the word ‘libertarian’ a couple of times, but it almost seemed to pain him to say it. Of course, everyone knows we’re all nutbags…

  38. Mo:

    “Low Taxes/Fiscal Sanity” – Do most libertarians give them credit for this? Maybe it is just that I hang out at Reason, but I don’t hear many people in these parts giving credit explicitly for lower taxes to the Republicans.

    “Small Government ? Corporate Welfare” Again, I never hear libertarians say this these days. This is confusing for me anyway. I think many definitions I hear for ‘corporate welfare’ are not very useful. I’ve heard the term applied to everything from dividend tax cuts to farm subsidies and tariffs. As far as actual corporate welfare goes (the latter two), the Dems are just as bad or worse. I don’t think there is a small government bone anywhere in the left coalition.

  39. Why do I feel like the whole “neolibertarian” label is just a Rove-ian plot to factionalize libertarians and quell or limit their potential split from the Republicans during the next election.

    As for me, I’m going to split, but I can’t vote for an actual Libertarian (if they run anyone as bad as Banarik again) and I can’t vote for a Democrat. Didn’t someone start the Jedi Party a few years back? Let’s take that over.

  40. Why do I feel like the whole “neolibertarian” label is just a Rove-ian plot to factionalize libertarians

    If it weren’t for Rove we’d be united! 😉

  41. Speaking of coalitions to achieve goals: The effort to un-sunset the worst provisions of the Patriot Act, and to extend them in decidedly unlibertarian ways, is on. I’m not a regular reader of Hit and Run, so apologize if this has already been extensively covered. Please act.

    Y’all can argue about whether support for foreign intervention can be reconciled with libertarianism, but surely failing to stop this domestic power grab is something that should permanently keep a person Off the Bus.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.