Libertarian History/Philosophy

Praise for Radicals for Capitalism in the Wall Street Journal

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John Fund pours the praise on our own Brian Doherty:

Louis Rosetto, the "radical capitalist" who founded Wired magazine, notes that, even if libertarian ideas must now push against a statist status quo, "contrarians end up being the drivers of change." Among the most ornery contrarians, he says, are the libertarians "laboring in obscurity, if not in derision." They have managed "to keep a pretty pure idea going, adapting it to circumstances and watching it be validated by the march of history." Mr. Doherty has rescued libertarianism from its own obscurity, eloquently capturing the appeal of the "pure idea," its origins in great minds and the feistiness of its many current champions.

More striking, on an op-ed page that's been generally dismissive of libertarianism, Fund gives the philosophy its due:

Scores of books have been written on the role of communists and socialists in the U.S., dour chronicles of welcome failure. But very few writers have devoted much attention to the role of libertarians, a more appealing and optimistic group of thinkers, political activists and ordinary citizens who believe that respect for the individual and the spontaneous order of market forces are the key to progress and social well-being.

The neglect is strange, given how much libertarians and their limited-government logic have shaped the culture and economy of the U.S. The ideas of John Locke and David Hume animated the writings of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Libertarian principles kept what we think of as "big government" in check for much of the 19th century and well into the 20th, despite tariffs and war. The federal income tax officially arrived, in permanent form, as late as 1913. Coolidge and his Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, took a famously minimalist approach to governing. Of course, we now live in a post-FDR age, with government programs everywhere. Still, the libertarian impulse is part of our political culture. "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism," Ronald Reagan declared.

Buy Radicals for Capitalism here .

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  1. Ms. Libertarian SCOOPED ya on this one and the Reason H&R gang basicly told her to go fuck herself.

  2. Say what?

  3. libertarians, a more appealing and optimistic group of thinkers

    Optimistic? Once upon a time, perhaps, but in this blog, anyway, that optimism seems to have given way to snarky derision and a near-chronic pessimism. Why is that? Is it the war? Or something more? I will say that Doherty is one of the least-depressed writers here, and he was enthusiastic and animated in his C-Span spotlight. Cathy Young still has a spark of optimism as well. And yes, Ron Bailey too. Maybe they need to share their prescriptions.

  4. Scores of books have been written on the role of communists and socialists in the U.S., dour chronicles of welcome failure. But very few writers have devoted much attention to the role of libertarians…

    Are you sure socialists haven’t been more successful in the U.S. than libertarians?

  5. A favorable review in the WSJ is not news.

    A favorable review in The Nation would be news.

  6. A favorable review in The Nation would be news.

    Then all of my shilling for Democrats would have been worth it!

  7. Hooray for Brian! Currently Amazon.com Sales Rank: #663!!!!!! If it cracks 100 I’m buying a round for the house!

    I haven’t been more optimistic since AT&T lost their monopoly.

  8. A favorable review in Teen Beat would be mega awesome news!!!

    You could even win a dream date with Brian!!!

  9. Dan T.,

    I think by “welcome failure” he means popular but historically failed policies, not failure at the polls.

    From a political standpoint, the Libertarians are more successful than the Socialists in that there still is a Libertarian party. From an influence standpoint, it’s a half-empty/half-full call as to whether the libertarians have had more influence on the majors than the socialists. Note the capitalization.

  10. Hey! Maybe Nick can use some of his old contacts to arrange that Teen Beat/Tiger Beat review!

  11. Maybe they need to share their prescriptions

    Real libertarians don’t need no stinkin’ prescriptions.

  12. “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism” Ronald Reagan

    Too bad the “heart and soul” of libertarianism ’round these parts is Statism and Government Dope

  13. “Then all of my shilling for Democrats would have been worth it!”

    Your candor is greatly appreciated.

  14. Kudos to Brian

  15. I guess we’re all libertarians when things are going well for us, and socialists when they’re not.

  16. I don’t see anybody telling her to go fuck herself. Her comments were dismissed because they had absolutly nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

  17. Not only did they not have anything to do with the discussion at hand, her comments weren’t cited as being a direct copy of the OP-ED in question. How the hell was anybody supposed to know that Ms. Libertarian wasn’t just verbally fellating Mr. Doherty with her own rather verbose words?

  18. Too bad the “heart and soul” of libertarianism ’round these parts is Statism and Government Dope

    You forgot burning straw. Lots and lots of burning straw. You look at the dark smoke from all that burning straw and you wonder how much more black it could be, but the answer is none more black.

  19. See Spinal Tap recently, Thoreau?

  20. I’d like an issue of Teen Scream, Teen Dream, and Teen Steam magazine.

    … they’re for my libertarian friend.

  21. Jason-

    Somebody in another thread tossed out a Spinal Tap reference, so I jumped on the bandwagon.

  22. Libertarianism would appeal to a lot more people and have more influence if more of its proponents recognized that tax policies favoring more economic equality are not contrary to its fundamental principles. This is not a matter of government taking from the richer to give to the poorer, but of taking from the richer instead of the poorer. Since there are a lot more poorer voters than richer voters, advocacy of this kind of policy should win elections. People struggling to get by don’t necessarily want handouts, but they also don’t want to pay big chunks of what little they do have to the government. Let people with money coming out of their ears and a much greater interest in the preservation of the economic status quo and infrastructure pay for battleships and aircraft carriers.

    Thomas Paine, who is cited as a libertarian in Fund’s review and whom many libertarians consider a patron saint, advocated in his “Agrarian Justice” paying every citizen (wealthy or poor) upon attaining the age of 21 years a certain sum. This was not a matter of charity but of justice, according to Paine, as compensation for the loss, caused by the cultivation of land and consequent system of land ownership, of every person’s natural birthright to joint proprietorship in the earth (as would have been enjoyed in the natural state, and as in fact enjoyed by Native Americans in the lands not yet taken by European cultivation and development). The funds for these payments were to come from a system of inheritance taxes.

    One can be a libertarian and think government spending and taxes should be drastically cut, while also believing that those necessary taxes we do have should be progressive. And inheritance and estate taxes are the most progressive of all, while being far more congenial to libertarian principles than income taxes.

    Liberty is tied to property, and this tie is closer the less property an individual has. A young man in modern society can’t find himself a plot of ground, build a cabin or a teepee, plant some crops, and hunt and gather food from the surrounding area, because all the land has been deeded off to others. If he wants to survive and doesn’t have an inheritance, he’ll need to obtain employment from someone with money (maybe someone who inherited his money and with it the unearned power to command the indigent’s services), and to obtain decent employment in the modern world he’ll probably have to go into debt to obtain the necessary education.

    This inherently unfair and unfree state of affairs can and should be ameliorated with drastic tax relief at the bottom rungs of the economic totem pole. Eliminate all income taxes (first for the poorer and then for the richer), and fund the government with use taxes, reasonable consumption taxes on non-necessaries, and as much inheritance and gift taxes as are needed to replace the income tax (or hopefully, a fraction of the former income tax in a drastically scaled down government).

    For another libertarian and capitalist proponent of inheritance and estate taxes, see Andrew Carnegie’s the Gospel of Wealth.

  23. Here’s a tax policy for economic equality, NO TAXES FOR EVERYONE!!!!!

  24. Libertarianism would appeal to a lot more people and have more influence if more of its proponents recognized that tax policies favoring more economic equality are not contrary to its fundamental principles. This is not a matter of government taking from the richer to give to the poorer, but of taking from the richer instead of the poorer. Since there are a lot more poorer voters than richer voters, advocacy of this kind of policy should win elections.

    It does win elections. This is the reason that tax rates (brackets) increase with your income. It is also the reason that the richest 3% of Americans pay over 50% of the taxes. This is also the reason that our Government is the size that it is and can waste money like it’s free paper and declare wars all across the globe without going bankrupt.

    Libertarianism isn’t about shifting the tax burden from the rich to the poor, it is about reducing the size and influence of the government and giving people the most latitude in thier day to day lives. Smaller government equates fewer taxes coming from everybody. Unfortunately, telling people that they are responsible for their own actions and that the Government shouldn’t be there for a safety net doesn’t win elections. Telling people that it isn’t their fault they are poor and that it is the responsibilty of the rich to care for them does.

  25. Louis Rosetto, the “radical capitalist” who founded Wired magazine, notes that, even if libertarian ideas must now push against a statist status quo, “contrarians end up being the drivers of change.”

    Wow! So cool! I used to read Wired, had a subscription for a while but bought it when I did not have a subscription.

    Hearing that the founder is an L explains how the Commies at 2600 said “Wired used to be cool, but it isn’t any more”. Thinking they lapped it up until they found out that an L was in charge.

    A favorite phrase of Emmanuel Goldstein (Eric Corley) was “the Libertarians just want to weaken the government until the corporations take over.”

  26. Ah, but are the richest 3% of Americans getting over 50% of the benefits from the taxes? That’s the question. Methinks that rich people have a heck of a lot more to lose than poor people and thus intrinsically are getting much more benefit from the police, the army, the protection of land rights, etc.

    As said before, think of progressive taxes as insurance against getting dragged out and shot by the hoi polloi during a revolution. You WANT a happy (and large) middle class.

  27. Ah, but are the richest 3% of Americans getting over 50% of the benefits from the taxes?

    I would go along with that if I saw public police forces guarding private, upscale, housing. For some reason, those folks tend to hire additional security at their own additional expense. Perhaps they are doing it just to be good fiscal citizens, but I doubt that they would be doing that if they could station public police forces at the gates of their communities.

    However, I do see plenty of public police forces around all manner of public housing. From housing projects to the mansions of mayors, governors, congresscritters and the president.

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