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Libertarians: Just Petulant Children

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As a libertarian, there are many Washington personality types I find grating. But the most insufferable are the Earnest (caps intended). These are people, generally big government conservatives, who don't merely disagree with libertarians, they disagree in arrogant, whispering hushes—quietly scolding, enormously condescending, fatherly I-know-better-than-you lectures.

The "compassionate conservatism" of the Bush administration (see raiding medical marijuana dispensaries, banning assisted suicide, the persecution of pain specialists) has unfortunately ushered in a wave of prominence and influence of earnest types, who are quite fond of using government power, influence, and coercion to mold the collective populace into good citizens, much like a father smacks the behind of a three-year-old for putting his fingers near the electrical outlet, or forces him to share his cookies with his sister.

The Prince of Earnest is NY Times columnist David Brooks, a guy who was once a bit irreverent and whimsical, but whose last few years writing for the most sought-after space in journalism has infected him with a case of earnestness that makes Jedediah Purdy look like Johnny Knoxville.

Brooks' latest paternalistic jab at the unruly libertarians came last week, in a column where he made the Orwellian argument that we should embrace big government because "security leads to freedom," and—I'm not kidding—supported that argument by calmly explaining that "the 'security leads to freedom' paradigm is," after all, "a fundamental principle of child psychology," as if the psychologist-child relationship were in any way an appropriate model for the state-citizen relationship. It's certainly a telling analogy, though.

Brooks goes on to suggest that it wasn't corruption, the arrogance of power, the failed endeavor in Iraq, or the complete detachment from principle that doomed the Republicans last November, it was their slavish devotion to "extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" Goldwaterism. Ri-ight.

At Cato's blog, Gene Healy plays the role of unruly teenager, and explains why all that time in the den smoking the pipe (tobacco only, of course) has caused Papa Brooks to lose his grip on reality.

NEXT: Miracle Fruit Revisited

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  1. Brooks goes on to suggest that it wasn’t corruption, the arrogance of power, the failed endeavor in Iraq, or the complete detachment from principle that doomed the Republicans last November, it was their slavish devotion to “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” Goldwaterism.

    Time for a laugh party.
    Could anyone possibly take this guy seriously after making such a claim?

  2. In principle, I would agree that true freedom is impossible without security (see City Mouse and Country Mouse). Security, though, does not just imply security from external enemies like al-Qaeda, it also implies security from those wearing badges, which the policies Brooks and his ilk support decrease that kind of security.

  3. In principle, I would agree that true freedom is impossible without security (see City Mouse and Country Mouse). Security, though, does not just imply security from external enemies like al-Qaeda, it also implies security from those wearing badges, which the policies supported by Brooks and his ilk decrease.

  4. “as if the psychologist-child relationship were in any way an appropriate model for the state-citizen relationship.”

    Just to nit-pick.

    The relationship Brooks is using as an analogy is not the psychologist-child, but the environment-child relationship.

    And I think crimethink’s comment is too narrow, but on the right track.

  5. Brooks is a stooge.

    Here’s a nice summary from the Cato rebuttal of why “negative liberty” is still the way to go: “Brooks’ (and Cowen’s?) notion that the modern world has outgrown the Liberty vs. Power paradigm is bizarre. Barring some miraculous change in human nature and the nature of government, that paradigm’s as enduringly relevant as anything gets in politics. There’s a reason ‘Skepticism about Power’ is the section that opens David Boaz’s Libertarian Reader. That heuristic flows from observable truths about man’s nature and the state’s. Distrust of government lies at the heart of libertarianism and at the heart of the American experiment. Liberty’s future depends on rekindling it.”

  6. Freedom does come from security – people who are confident that there will be no rude surprises of a violent kind can plan ahead more, and can act on their plans.

    Mr Brooks’ notion that the government provides security is where he falls flat on his face. Criminal gangs that extort money by threats of kidnapping do not provide security, they weaken it. Militias that act capriciously and threaten those who violate their bewildering and ever-changing edicts with assault, theft, kidnapping and even murder do not enhance security.

  7. It’s been said a gazillion times, in a gazillion different forms, but we really need new labels for all this stuff. “Conservative” and “liberal,” “right” and “left” — they just don’t work anymore. At all. They signify nothing.

    I mean, Brooks is on “the right,” I suppose, in that he’s big on the idea of security. But he’s championing big government, so he can’t really be a “conservative,” right? Freedom is a secondary concern to him, so he’s not really “liberal,” but he’s advocating intrusive government, so he IS kinda coming from “the left.” Using any of these words just creates a big mess.

    We keep trying to make modern politics fit into labels and definitions established half a century ago. It’s not working.

    When certain language is an impediment to making sense of the world, it’s certainly going to be harder to make the world make sense.

  8. It’s been said a gazillion times, in a gazillion different forms, but we really need new labels for all this stuff. “Conservative” and “liberal,” “right” and “left” — they just don’t work anymore. At all. They signify nothing.

    I mean, Brooks is on “the right,” I suppose, in that he’s big on the idea of security. But he’s championing big government, so he can’t really be a “conservative,” right? Freedom is a secondary concern to him, so he’s not really “liberal,” but he’s advocating intrusive government, so he IS kinda coming from “the left.” Using any of these words just creates a big mess.

    I’ve always hate this complaint and chalk it up to liberterian sour grapes; Conservitism doesn’t begin and start with “big goverment”, it is only a small part of what makes up conservitism. It also stands for a strong defense, tough on crime, and the religious right stuff.
    What is consistent, or at least has been cconsistent for the past 30 or so years is the personality of the parties; the Democrats has always been the “mommy” party and the conservitives have always been the “daddy” party

  9. Andrew Sullivan also offers a great fisking of Brooks’ column…

  10. Well, I’m libertarian, and my world is definitely full of sour grapes, but those aren’t the reasons for my post.

    My complaint is about imprecision in language, and how it keeps us from conducting our affairs as efficiently as possible. If “conservative” can mean 10 different things, and if 10 people have different ideas about what “conservative” means, then it’s unhelpful, maybe even harmful, to call David Brooks a conservative.

    (None of this was meant to be a criticism of Balko, by the way. Just a general observation…)

  11. I would not take anything David Brooks says at face value. This is a guy who is afraid of freedom. The “National Greatness” agenda that he sought to dream up prior to 9/11 was intended to think up something–anything!–that would force people to devote themselves to something “greater than themselves” instead of just living their lives as they wished. The War on Terror was a godsend to Brooks, giving him his very own fuhrer, but now that the steam is starting to run out of the Bush Administration, poor Dave is getting desperate. Slip the cuffs on me, someone! Anyone! Don’t let me be free!

  12. The political environment is a mish-mash of misnamed groups, but I think it generally breaks up into Right-Authoritarian, Left-Authoritarian, Left-Libertarian, and Right-Libertarian. Unfortunately, I think the first two are the most prominent in our society (and especially in politics) and the last two are rare and lack any political power (and don’t generally desire it).

    Then again, I’m not a political scientist, so I’m probably just full of shit. But I can say, with some confidence, that David Brooks can be classified — scientifically — as a “Bloviating Asshole”.

  13. Small “l” libertarianism, in my mind, differs from those other political philosophies in that it derives from a view of the world which is fundamentally optimistic. If you believe people are tainted through and through with evil, you by necessity want a strong parental authority to protect you. If you believe people are fundamentally stupid and helpless, you want a strong parental authority to protect them.

    If, on the other hand, you believe the overwhelming majority of people are not only fundamentally good, but capable of making their own decisions regarding what is good for them (and what makes them happy), and if you further are willing to believe that if you deserve to be left alone, everybody else does, too, you might be well on your way to libertarianism.

  14. Once upon a time, people who wanted limitless government and made trouble around the globe were called Communists. Today, of course, they’re known as conservatives. If that’s just semantics, call me anti-semantic.

    –Joseph Sobran

  15. If you believe people are basically good, you don’t need a government. If you believe people are basically evil, you don’t dare have one.

    –Somebody

  16. My complaint is about imprecision in language, and how it keeps us from conducting our affairs as efficiently as possible. If “conservative” can mean 10 different things, and if 10 people have different ideas about what “conservative” means, then it’s unhelpful, maybe even harmful, to call David Brooks a conservative.

    Most words have 10 diffrent means and differing interpitations about what it means. I don’t fret it that much mostly because the changing language of politcal labels isn’t going to stop, and if something is done about it, it’d lead to a kind of annoyingly pendantic way of talking. (“Up next on the show, we have pro-State, anti-interventialist David Madeuplastname!”)
    And again, I think the labels refer to more the personalities of someone’s political viewpoint, and if you look at it that way then the terms haven’t changed that much over the years.

  17. Having, as Mr. Balko notes, obtained “the most sought-after space in journalism” (but remember kids, on a per-word basis, ransom notes pay much better!), Brooks is just angling now for George F. Will’s bow-tie collection when Will finally moves on to the ultimate Gated Community. Being the token “conservative” at the Times is like being a capon in the hen house: there’s no point in trying to crow, so you might as well try to lay an egg.

  18. Amen, Uncle Sam. It’s hilarious some people think Bush has anything to do with Goldwater, who’s no-doubt doing the grave-spin as we type over someone even considering the nutty idea…
    JMR

  19. W. Kristol and Brooks and others should enjoy their moment in the sun now. These are the declining days of the golden age of neoconservatism.

    In two years, people will pretend not to know them.

    If it were a just world, they would be sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor cleaning prison toilets-with their tongues.

    Warmongering fascist idiots…

  20. “Learning to wipe my own ass” was a fundamental paradigm principle of my childhood.

  21. Libertarians are petulant children while people like Brooks, who have no compunctions against initiating government force to coerce folks, are affable adults-only in a bizzaro world.

  22. DA Ridgely,

    You aren’t seriously comparing Brooks to Will, are you? Will has been extremely critical of the administration in recent years.

  23. For once, I’ll pimp someone else’s blog but not my own: the left-wing blogger’s equivalent of Brooks’ column can be found at Pandagon.net (home of disgraced bloggerette Amanda Marcotte, although she didn’t write this one).

  24. I don’t think the Brooks-Will comparison is so far off base. It may not track as far as the current Iraq War goes, but Will has explicitly remarked that the cultural components of conservatism are at least as important as the economic side, where the cons and we libertarians can often agree. [See his Statecraft as Soulcraft for a full dose of his Burkean Toryism.]

    I wonder about Brooks. Maybe there’s something about his Canadian roots that makes an accommodation to statism easier to arrive at.

    Kevin

  25. In principle, I would agree that true freedom is impossible without security (see City Mouse and Country Mouse). Security, though, does not just imply security from external enemies like al-Qaeda, it also implies security from those wearing badges, which the policies Brooks and his ilk support decrease that kind of security.

    Freedom can get you security. Security, however, will never get you freedom.

  26. “Learning to wipe my own ass” was a fundamental paradigm principle of my childhood.

    This is part of the problem with America; there should be a village to wipe a child’s ass. Mr. Brooks, despite his affiliation with the vast conspiracy, knows this, as do I.

  27. Pandagon column was discussed here ( to death) or so I thought.

  28. Not only do you need to wipe it, you need to wash it!

  29. And as a Christian, I shake my head in disgust at many conservatives. Human nature is depraved, not virtuous. We need transparency and law to hold back the excesses of human nature; discressionary power is in essence all too often the enemy of transparency and the rule of law.

    Funny thing is that the reason that virtue climbs to such heights under liberty is that depravity has few external controls. People are forced to confront it on a spiritual level, not be first and foremost worried about a police officer’s gun going to their head. America was far more moral when a man could legally go to a general store, buy a case of beer, a gun (without any ID), pick up some heroin (it was sold over the counter 100 years ago!) and drive home without anyone meddling.

    The chief result of big government has been to insulate people from the consequences of their actions. One example is that you cannot reconcile conservative desires to control out of wedlock births and the welfare state. The latter, takes away much of the danger of the former. It also enables young men to be derelict in supporting young women who are left with a baby since “the system” will take over for them.

  30. crimethink, my comparison went to style, not substance.

    MikeT, liberals don’t believe in sin, conservatives don’t believe in grace.

  31. “America was far more moral when a man could legally go to a general store, buy a case of beer, a gun (without any ID), pick up some heroin (it was sold over the counter 100 years ago!) and drive home without anyone meddling.”

    Right, Jim Crow laws and other forms of racism, both legal and non-legal; lack of women’s suffrage and general oppression of women; complete and utter stigmatization of out-of-wedlock births, out-of-wedlock sexual relationships, non-heterosexuals, polyamorists, etc. These were all part of the “far more moral” society the US used to be 100 short years ago.

  32. Andy, all that stuff was true to some extent but it was neither all pervasive nor all encompassing. Except that part about women not getting the vote. Soon as they did, they banned alcohol. 🙂

  33. All I can really say is that I’m proud to be a petulant child.

  34. If, on the other hand, you believe the overwhelming majority of people are not only fundamentally good, but capable of making their own decisions regarding what is good for them (and what makes them happy), and if you further are willing to believe that if you deserve to be left alone, everybody else does, too, you might be well on your way to libertarianism.

    And what makes you stop there on the way to philosophical anarchism?

  35. Jonathan Hohensee | March 31, 2007, 1:26pm | #

    And what makes you stop there on the way to philosophical anarchism?

    Which is exactly what King George said to the Founders…

    reductio ad absurdum

  36. “The “National Greatness” agenda that he sought to dream up prior to 9/11 was intended to think up something–anything!–that would force people to devote themselves to something “greater than themselves” instead of just living their lives as they wished.”

    Exactly. I enjoyed Brook’s Bobos in Paradise as well as some of his columns pre-9/11. He overgeneralized wildly but at least he was amusing and even occasionally insightful. But I was also a little troubled by the whiffs of collectivist fascism I picked up in his prose. He’s just in love with the so-called ‘heroic virtues’ and ‘greatest generation blather’ to the point where his philosophical premises are virtually indistinguishable from the fascist. In the Organization Kid, an interesting look at Princeton, past and present, you find this glorifying of the manly virtues in violent sports. I can appreciate that as a healthy way to channel aggression in men. But of course Brooks elevates this channeling into an ideal way of life – not a past time – where generations of young men, in order to attain true chivalric greatness would be dispatched against their will to be sacrificed in state war cauldrons.

    Yet, looking at Brook’s bio, it’s quite apparent he never served in any sort of military conflict and I’d be surprised if he undertook any more heroic duty then dorm resident hall monitor at the U of Chicago, which incidentally is not known for its manly sport’s programs.

  37. reductio ad absurdum

    Only if philosophical anarchism is absurd, which I have yet to be convinced of.

  38. ^ not an April Fool’s comment, btw.

  39. GILMORE – How did JH get credit/blame for my comment anyway?

  40. If it’s any consolation, the Republicans’ arrogant certainty that those who share their ideology are the only people with access to the truth or the ability to govern is hardly limited to their opinion of libertarians.

    See the farce of a hirings process at the Coalition Provisional Authority.

  41. I have come to prefer the term “authoritarian” to replace both “conservative” and “liberal,” at least in their most extreme forms. Evangelical Christians and nanny-staters share the term “social authoritarians” in my personal lexicon, just as “New Dealers” and reverse income-redistributionists share the term “economic authoritarian.” It helps clarify for me just who my enemies are, and that they come from several directions.

    I’d like to call myself a libertarian, but I have trouble reducing all human experience to market transactions, and human nature appears to me to prevent a truly libertarian society from functioning for very long. I have yet to stumble upon a fitting term for my own political point of view.

  42. BlogginIowa,

    I have come to prefer the term “heirarchist” to replace both “social conservative” and “libertarian,” at least in their most extreme forms. Fundamentalist Christians and Social Darwinists share the term “social heirarchists” in my personal lexicon, while Crony Capitalists and Market Fetishists share the term “economic heirarchist.”

    It is always possible to group the world into “you” and “everyone else,” and define the latter group by their lack of adherence to the principles that you consider fundamental to yourself. The problem with just leaving it at that are that you miss a lot of important distinctions, and end up missing what actually makes your opponents tick.

  43. Very well said BlogginIowa.

    The problem I have with all the political sides is that they all see themselves as being on sides. They all see everybody else as wrong. And a lot see everybody else as “the enemy”. How do people expect a democracy to work if everybody else is an enemy?

    I don’t know about “petulant child” as a description of libertarians but taking umbrage at every percieved slight is a bit childish.

    It seems to me the far greater obstacle to libertarians isn’t conservatives that want to invade their lives with jackbooted thugs. The greatest obstacle Libertarians have is that they come across as being most effective at being contrarians rather than actually presenting a compelling political philosophy that can win over a majority vote.

    Of course to do that, reality would have to intervene.

  44. OK, Gene Healy, but someone has to be that politician too. You can’t take for granted the existence of the politician working out those good compromises any more than you can the polemicist. Every link in the chain needs to be there, and I see no reason to encourage people to be the polemicist at the end arguing the extreme any more than to be the person filling any of the intermediate and progressively more compromising roles leading up to the ones who actually produce the proximal results.

  45. joe,

    So, what fundamental difference in viewpoint distinguishes progressives and conservatives? I don’t mean the laundry list of differing positions on particular issues; I’m looking for the principles that motivate those differing positions.

  46. crimethink,

    How long an answer do you want?

    There are a lot of ways of answering that question, but I’ll try to stick to the ideological basis of each.

    Conservatives are heirarchists, believing that it is natural and good for there to be bosses and underlings, while progressives are egalitarians, believing that people are naturally equal, and heirarchies are social artifacts. This different orientations lead to different philosophies about the legitimate basis for power and for access to resources.

  47. This leads to progressives supporing more equal distribution of resources and more democratic decision-making processes; and leads conservatives to endorse greater inequalities in resources and a more “golden rule”-based distribution of power.

    Of course, these are orientations, not absolutes. Rawls, for example, endorsed income inequality on practical grounds, while conservatives in Western society have pretty much made their peace with universal suffrage, again largely for practical reasons.

  48. while progressives are egalitarians, believing that people are naturally equal, and heirarchies are social artifacts.

    Equal in what? Negative rights? Positive rights? Potential?

    I firmly agree that everybody is equal with regard to negative rights, as well as positive rights (although I’d say that the list of positive rights should be a short one).

    In terms of potential? Well, sadly, not everybody has equal potential. But since there is no systematic way of knowing what potential a person has, I’d say I’m in favor of equal opportunity to demonstrate and build on one’s potential. Or at least I’m opposed to artificially restricting opportunity. That’s not the same as wanting to equalize opportunity, because true equalization is basically impossible, except perhaps in some very destructive context. (i.e. A tyrannical society in which everybody has zero opportunity.) And while reducing inequalities of opportunity is certainly possible in practice, any effort to do so (by whatever means, coercive or non-coercive or whatever) will eventually run into the problem of diminishing returns.

    So what do you want to do in response to the value of equality?

  49. The problem is, joe, the two drives you attribute to progressives inevitably come in conflict with each other. As thoreau points out, significant inequalities will arise between individuals in any community, even without inequality being forced from outside. To remedy those inequalities requires that an authority force the “haves” to give their excess to the “have-nots”. Once that occurs, you’ve got a hierarchy in place. Maybe not the type of genetic hierarchy some conservatives yearn for, but nonetheless a system wherein some command and others must obey.

  50. And that’s leaving aside the question of whether the average progressive politician actually adheres to the progressive ideals joe writes of. Then again, there are plenty of conservative politicians who don’t adhere to their ideals, so little difference there.

  51. thoreau,

    “Equal in what? Negative rights? Positive rights? Potential?”

    “So what do you want to do in response to the value of equality?”

    Depends on the particular progressive individual or progressive ideology in question. I made a broad statement, because I was asked a broad question. Different progressive sources would deal with the questions you ask differently. I was discussion on the level of “fundamental difference in viewpoint.”

  52. crimethink,

    I knew you were going to say that. I almost wrote a pompous “this is the part where you say…” comment about Carol Browner telling the CEO of Dow Chemical what can come out of his smokestacks.

    The solution to that question is that having power over someone is not the precise equivalent of being above them in a heirarchy. When some zoning enforcement officer tells Donald Trump he can’t build a certain way, that bureaucrat isn’t above him in any sort of heirarchy – he’s just a functionary enforcing the law. The only thing above Donald Trump, or any other person, is the law. You know, nation of laws not of men.

    And, in progressive ideology, those laws only gain their legitimacy through the democratic process, so Donald isn’t even being trumped by any particular persons, but by the fact that he came out on the losing end of a decision made by the people, governing according to the progressive, democratic, egalitarian system of one person one vote.

    I’m not claiming that progressives are more opposed to vesting power over others than conservatives – that’s a whole different axis, and progressives and conservatives can be found on each end of it. What I’m saying is that the progressive vesting of power is based on democratic, egalitarian principles – government of the people by the people for the people.

  53. All right, all right, that last bit was cheerleading.

    Progressives who believe in vesting power in someone over someone else 1) recognize that what they are doing is an ideological act of creating reality, not an act of recognize what Nature or God (or his nephew, Da Market) hath wrought, and 2) strive to organize this vesting of power around democratic principles (be they popular elections for lawmakers in our republic, or workers councils making business decisions in the theoretical version of the Soviet Union).

  54. The solution to that question is that having power over someone is not the precise equivalent of being above them in a heirarchy.

    OK joe, so what exactly is it about the hierarchy that The Donald benefits from? Is the hierarchy powerless? If so, why obsess about it?

    As to your “creating reality” (funny thing for someone not a neo-con), Da Market ain’t all that different from Da Polis (or are we only talking about what them enlightened progressives are doing)? The problem with very democratic principles is that they result in tyranny of the majority, or less charitably mob rule. The irony being that often enough the majority is anything but “progressive”. To which the usual left/liberal retort is that the masses haven’t been properly “educated” (or sensitized to their own best interests) – e.g. Thomas Frank.

  55. This discussion about progressives and conservatives is a good example of why majoritarian democracy is just another name for oppressive government. Progressives and conservatives are the majority, and each group gets some of what they want out of majoritarian democracy. The rest of us–the minority–are left with nothing.

  56. “OK joe, so what exactly is it about the hierarchy that The Donald benefits from?” Having an enormous amount of money, and being able to get what he wants by using it. “Is the hierarchy powerless?” Certainly not. Have you seen some of the things Mr. Trump has been able to get away with?

    Da Market is distinguished from Da Polis in that the polis is organized according to egalitarian, one person one vote principles, while the market distributes power unequally.

    “The problem with very democratic principles is that they result in tyranny of the majority, or less charitably mob rule.” It can, and has, but I’d argue that progressive ideology contains a solution to this problem in its commitment to the principle that everyone is entitled to full membership in society and to an equitable access to resources, preventing the minority from being debased.

    Conservatism would seem to be the flip side of this coin. The problem with heirarchism and the maintanence of the structures that uphold it is that the in group – whether it be a monarch or the same mob you mention – can tyrannize the underdogs.

    ‘The irony being that often enough the majority is anything but “progressive”.’ Different progressivisms deal with this irony in different ways. Regardless, progressive support for democracy isn’t based on a belief in democracy’s ability to settle debates well, but in a principled belief that a democratic system (however defined) is a moral requirement.

    Anyway, I brought this up not to trumpet the superiority of progressivism over conservatism, but to point out that there are fundamental philosophical distinctions that make it problematic to lump very different belief systems together under lazy headings like “statist” or “authoritarian.”

  57. Anyway, I brought this up not to trumpet the superiority of progressivism over conservatism, but to point out that there are fundamental philosophical distinctions that make it problematic to lump very different belief systems together under lazy headings like “statist” or “authoritarian.”

    joe,

    For you, a progressive, this makes sense. You want to live in a progressive society, so the distinction is very relevant for you. For those that do not want to live in a progressive or a conservative society, the distinction means little. Conservatives and progressives are statists or authoritarians to me, and that’s all they need to be. I’m not being lazy; I just don’t find the distinctions between the groups that relevant to my life. The fact that both groups want to control my life is the most relevant factor. I’ve known many progressives and conservatives. In my experience, both groups are more like each other than they are like me, so I group them together. What matters to me is the desire to control others. Progressives and conservatives have this desire; I don’t.

  58. Having an enormous amount of money, and being able to get what he wants by using it.

    But joe, the example you just gave was him not getting what he wanted despite his wealth. As to what Trump seems to get away with most is an astounding amount of bad taste.

    while the market distributes power unequally

    But the market does not force anyone to do any particular thing. Whatever power is there is hampered by the voluntary aspect of participation. You will note that when X Corp wants to build a mall, etc. where some houses are, they usually get the govt to use eminent domain – and that is govt power, not market power.

    …preventing the minority from being debased.

    Minority status is not all about economic resources, and if progressive principles are all that they are cracked up to be, then something must indeed be wrong with Kansas. [An incredibly ironic choice of subject for Frank since it was the Topeka Board of Education that was sued by Brown.]

  59. “OK joe, so what exactly is it about the hierarchy that The Donald benefits from?” Having an enormous amount of money, and being able to get what he wants by using it.

    And how does he use it, joe? He persuades other people to give him things by offering them money. Obviously they want the money more than they want the things they give him, so there’s no hierarchy there, any more than I’m higher in the hierarchy than my car mechanic.

    If you’re referring to his shady eminent domain deals and such, well, he wouldn’t be able to do that if the progressive, democratically-elected governments weren’t going along with it, would he?

    Sorry if I spit on the screen, VM.

  60. Well, The Real Bill, if your only interest in people with political philosophies that differ from yours is in noting that they are different from you, then lumping the non-libertarian 99% of the world together under some heading is probably all the political theory you need.

    “But joe, the example you just gave was him not getting what he wanted despite his wealth.” Yes, juris, that’s because I was giving an example of what it would look like for the government to check the power of those on top of the heirarchy.

    “But the market does not force anyone to do any particular thing.” Yes, but “force” and “power” are not the same thing. A boss has power over his employees, but you would say there is not force involved. If you don’t want Bill O’Reilly pawing at you, you can always blah blah blah blah blah…Progressives seek to equalize, to one extent or another, not just the use of force, but power.

    “Minority status is not all about economic resources.” Of course not. As a matter of fact, when I was writing that bit, I was thinking of the Bill of Rights.

  61. crimethink,

    “He persuades other people to give him things by offering them money. Obviously they want the money more than they want the things they give him, so there’s no hierarchy there”

    Really? You try to secure for yourself a home, mistress, media presence, and other resources comparable to the Donald’s, and let me know where you stack up on the heirarchy.

  62. Well, The Real Bill, if your only interest in people with political philosophies that differ from yours is in noting that they are different from you, then lumping the non-libertarian 99% of the world together under some heading is probably all the political theory you need.

    The difference is big, joe. The desire to control others, or the desire not to do so. I don’t even want to force anyone to live in a libertarian society. Unfortunately, the statists want to force everyone to live in their preferred society–that’s big! It’s too bad that we can’t have a devolution of power down to small states, say 300 or so. People could then vote with their feet much more easily. I could live in a moderate libertarian state, and you could live in a progressive state. Sadly, this will probably never happen because the majority of human beings are control freaks.

  63. Really? You try to secure for yourself a home, mistress, media presence, and other resources comparable to the Donald’s, and let me know where you stack up on the heirarchy.

    joe, are you really that shallow?

    Donald’s homes are tacky in the extreme. I don’t want them.

    I love and respect my wife. I don’t want a mistress.

    Media presence? I would be willing to pay money not to be famous if I was. Fame is disgusting. I don’t want a media presence like the Donald’s.

    Other resources? I wouldn’t mind his money, but I wouldn’t want much else that he has. I guess I could work harder, but it’s not worth it to me.

    Well, that was a bit snarky, but seriously, Donald trump has zero power over me when compared to the power that Nancy Pelosi (my rep) has over me. Even if I grant you that Donald is somehow higher in the heirarchy than I am, it goes something like this:

    Nancy Pelosi (Progressive ruler)
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Donald Trump (Crony capitalist)
    .
    .
    Me (Peon)

  64. joe, I think we’re talking past each other here; you’re using hierarchy to describe differences in wealth, while I’m using it to describe power relationships. The two are not the same.

    While the wealthy can indeed enjoy pleasures that the poor cannot, by persuading others to give them stuff in exchange for money, they cannot command anyone to do anything…and to me at least, a hierarchy is a structure in which high members command and low members obey.

  65. You try to secure for yourself a home, mistress, media presence, and other resources comparable to the Donald’s, and let me know where you stack up on the heirarchy.

    And in any case, I don’t know what a progressive government could do to knock him down on the hierarchy. Seize his home, censor the media to ensure he doesn’t get too much attention, imprison his mistress?

  66. Yes, juris, that’s because I was giving an example of what it would look like for the government to check the power of those on top of the heirarchy.

    Oh, okay, I see. If, in other words, govt behaved in the real world like it does in your fantasy world.

    Sheesh and we libertarians are supposed to be out of touch?

    A boss has power over his employees, but you would say there is not force involved.

    Only the power I grant him (or her) in order to get a paycheck. I can hardly say the same about the local, state or federal govts (and their ability to extract taxes from me).

    Of course not. As a matter of fact, when I was writing that bit, I was thinking of the Bill of Rights.

    Strange then that you only talked about material issues.

  67. You try to secure for yourself a home, mistress, media presence, and other resources comparable to the Donald’s

    And THERE you have progressivism in a nutshell – pure envy for those who have more (even if it is more of something you wouldn’t even want).

  68. And THERE you have progressivism in a nutshell – pure envy for those who have more

    That’s an uncharitable way of putting it, but it is true that progressive rhetoric does often mask base envy.

    It is equally true, though, that libertarian rhetoric can mask arrogance and greed; for instance, it would be far more convenient for someone like the Donald (a truly disgusting creature, imho) to adopt a libertarian philosophy as opposed to a progressive one, simply out of self-interest.

  69. Sure Donald Trump has all that stuff. But don’t you think that at the end of the day, when his groupies, media contacts, chefs, maids, and mistresses have left, and he lies awake on his double queen bed, in the midst of one of his giant, empty palaces…don’t you think he searches deep inside himself for some hint of integrity, some pale trapping of a soul…and cries bitter tears for not finding any?

  70. That’s an uncharitable way of putting it

    The snark must flow.

    Actually, I think someone like the Donald, much like Edwards, fools more people by preaching liberalism rather than naked self-interest; i.e. it is in his naked self-interest to conceal that self-interest rather than wallowing in it.

  71. Actually, I think someone like the Donald, much like Edwards, fools more people by preaching liberalism rather than naked self-interest; i.e. it is in his naked self-interest to conceal that self-interest rather than wallowing in it.

    Exactly. Edwards could never live in that mansion if he actually believed a single word he says, unless he actually gets off on hypocrisy.

  72. Real Bill,

    It’s good that you don’t want those things, because you don’t actually have the choice to have them if you did. Which is the point – his status gives him more options, more power to get what he wants, than you.

    crimethink, the idea that money doesn’t give one power is a statement of faith, at odds with the entirety of human history, and I’m no more going to try to talk you out of it than I would try to talk an Italian grandmother out of her rosary.

    “And in any case, I don’t know what a progressive government could do to knock him down on the hierarchy.” That would depend on the type of progressive ideology we’re talking about. Some might attempt a radical leveling, others just try to structure the political system to reduce the out-sized influence of the wealthy on public policy.

  73. Col DuBois, perhaps he does. Or perhaps he lies there giggling about how rich and powerful he is. Ultimately, the progressive mind is going to want to do something about his outsized power, and the conservative mind will formulate reasons why it’s ok for him to have that outsized power.

  74. juris,

    “And THERE you have progressivism in a nutshell – pure envy for those who have more…”

    No, you deluded sucker – it doesn’t matter that Donald Trump can buy toys. The point is, if he can acquire all of those things that you cannot, he can acquire other goodies – like Congressmen’s votes, or the goodwill of a mob – that can have an effect on our lives.

    My, you are eager to make intellectual disagreement with you a moral failure! Typical ideologue.

  75. It is equally true, though, that libertarian rhetoric can mask arrogance and greed.

    I wasn’t aware that libertarian rhetoric was a mask for anything. If anything, it says that my arrogance and my greed are my business, and none of yours.

    Now, if you’re looking for agendas being masked, I would suggest the faux egalitarianism of the progressives, which always seems to result in the concentration of power in an insular elite.

  76. The point is, if he can acquire all of those things that you cannot, he can acquire other goodies – like Congressmen’s votes, or the goodwill of a mob – that can have an effect on our lives.

    And the point of libertarianism is that a Congressman’s votes and the goodwill of the mob should have little effect on my life. The Trumps of the world will always be with us; libertarians at least want to limit their ability to bother you.

  77. RC Dean,

    “The Trumps of the world will always be with us; libertarians at least want to limit their ability to bother you.” So, libertarians, how’s that going? Limited the ability of the Donald Trumps of the world to bother us yet?

    If laws can be changed to give the govenrment less influence over you life and business, they can be changed to give it more influence.

    If the most wealthy and well connected in society are able to influence the government, they will do so for their own ends. If there isn’t a government agency dedicated to handing out subsidies to them, or whatever it is they want, they will use their outsized influence to create one.

    Even the most cursory reading of history demonstrates that the wealthy and powerful will bring about exactly the form of government that allows them to exercise power over us, unless their ability to do so is somehow checked.

  78. “security leads to freedom,”

    Wow. It’s like “Jews For Hitler”.

  79. joe, I know this will tax you, but please realize that The Donald has absolutely zero power over my life. Unless you have the misfortune to be under his employment, I seriously doubt he has any power over you.

    Of course wealth has its privileges, but speaking of moral judgements you are veering quite near to “money is the root of all evil”.

  80. I wasn’t aware that libertarian rhetoric was a mask for anything.

    Libertarians do nothing to mask their greed and arrogance in their rhetoric. As distasteful as this can be, the honesty is refreshing compared with other -isms who mask their greed (for power, money, whatever) and arrogance in other terms.

  81. Largely, any outsized power the wealthy have over politicians is derived from their ability to provide things voters want. Often this is jobs to the district.

  82. juris,

    “Unless you have the misfortune to be under his employment”…or own a piece of property he wants, or live in or around New York City. But kudos to you for acknowledging that he at least has power over his employees.

    ‘Of course wealth has its privileges, but speaking of moral judgements you are veering quite near to “money is the root of all evil”.’

    It’s not a moral judgement. Poor people and middle class people want to influence the governemnt, too, as a trip to any bi-monthly zoning board meeting will demonstrate. Extreme differences in wealth, and the unhindered ability of those with wealth to influence politics, aren’t dangerous because the wealthy are any less moral than other people, just more powerful.

    If my cat were 800 pounds, he’d probably try to eat me like a lion, but he isn’t, so I rub his belly.

  83. Also, I would suggest that regulation of various forms may help keep power the wealthy in line, but increased power to regulate INCREASES the power of the well connected. At some point it becomes better to have direct influence in the government than to make money. My point here is that you aren’t fixing the problem so much as relocating it.

  84. As a libertarian, there are many Washington personality types I find grating.

    Problem: Dangling modifier and excess wordage.

    Solution: “As a libertarian, I find many Washington personality types grating.”

  85. Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort. — RAH

  86. Headline: “Libertarians Chastized By Splendidly Rouged David Brooks”

  87. Jason L,

    What you’re describing can certainly happen, just as even the most liberty-loving, democratic government can become tyrannical (as the founders of our nation realized). Still once you recognize the need for government, those problems become challanges to be managed through a system of restraints, not an excuse to void the government from doing its job.

  88. Unless you have the misfortune to be under his employment”…or own a piece of property he wants, or live in or around New York City.

    He would have no power to force you to sell your property if it weren’t for the fact that ____________ wants his money, and does have that power.

    Can you fill in the blank, joe?

  89. …or own a piece of property he wants

    Well, as long as the govt won’t do his bidding, I can get whatever price I want from The Donald, or choose not to sell at any price. But you would empower the govt and then whine that it does things that benefit the rich. Take away the govt’s power to steal my land for his benefit and the SOB has absolutely no power. Why is that such a difficult concept for you?

    and the unhindered ability of those with wealth to influence politics

    So eliminate the power of the political process to confer advantages. Since as long as political power can be abused, it will be abused. Or do you really believe in the fantasy of a political process that yields flawless results? Someone will ‘unduly’ influence the process – be it from wealth or charisma or something else that you don’t have.

  90. “Brooks goes on to suggest that it wasn’t corruption, the arrogance of power, the failed endeavor in Iraq, or the complete detachment from principle that doomed the Republicans last November, it was their slavish devotion to “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” Goldwaterism. Ri-ight.”

    I don’t know whether to applaud the suggestion that libertarians are an important block of swing voters or to laugh at the suggestion that we’re capable of bringing down the Republicans.

    …so I’m just gonna keep bitching and moaning about the government like I always do.

  91. Security’s got nothing to do with freedom. Security established outside of the self is antithetical to freedom in every way.

    …oh, and “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

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