Politics

There Are Two Kinds of Libertarians….

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….those who think you can divide all libertarians into two types, and those who don't.

Joining the former, and previous more or less useful classifications such as anarchist and minarchist, paleo and cosmo, utilitarian and natural rightsers, is the division between "policy libertarians" and "structural libertarians," explicated by Jacob Lyles over at "Distributed Republic."

Here is the line of division, Lyles says:

Policy Libertarians (PLs) include the vast majority of the most visible organizations and writers in the modern libertarian movement: the Reason Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Ron Paul campaign, the LP, the Constitution Party, most libertarian economists (e.g. Milton Friedman), and single-issue organizations like Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. PLs, as their name suggests, focus their energies on inventing and advocating a list of policies that governments should follow. For example, you can find policy libertarians opposing liberal eminent domain laws, fighting for lower taxes and deregulation, supporting cultural tolerance, opposing invasive police searches, and advocating the rest of the familiar libertarian manifesto.

Structural Libertarians (SLs) are much rarer in modern times than PLs, although the opposite used to be the case. Structural libertarians include Patri Friedman, Mencius Moldbug, David Friedman, Murray Rothbard, all libertarian Public Choice economists, Lysander Spooner, and the classical liberals that libertarians have adopted as intellectual ancestors. SLs often have the same moral and policy beliefs as PLs, but they focus their energies on the alternative ways to structure a government and the effect that government structure has on its incentive to adopt good policy. At their most extreme, SLs barely sound like libertarians. Under a market-based government system (a common SL proposal), the architects of Singapore would likely find plenty of customers for a burbclave that is incredibly prosperous and clean, but where communists are sent to jail and litterbugs are viciously beaten with sticks.

And he's taking sides–he thinks "policy libertarians" are naive and largely useless given the structural incentives of modern democracy.

Reason magazine contributor and economist Bryan Caplan has some thoughts questioning the validity of the division Lyles sees:

…institutions themselves are a kind of policy. They arise because previous institutions create incentives for change, and endure because current institutions create incentives for stability. Or as we economists like to say, "Institutions are endogenous."

I remain a gooey ecumenicist when it comes to libertarian activism and agitation, who thinks that the currents of social change are often too chaotic to usefully model, predict, or manage, and that every attempt using whatever strategy or technique to create policy and ideological change in the direction of fewer decisions in the human social world being made under threat of violence deserve to be pursued in the great division of political labor–presuming that some libertarian activist chooses to pursue it.

Undoubtedly, as in any market, there will be plenty of efforts exerted that prove ex post to have been misguided, but it's hard to know that before hand–and sometimes efforts at ideological and political change are consumption goods anyway.

This is not to say such taxonomic divisions and side-taking in libertarianism are useless or to be condemned–just that I think whatever such divisions you can create, it is quite likely that libertarians on either side are doing good things to help bring about a more libertarian world, even if that merely means convincing one more person that we should live in such a world.

NEXT: Nudged

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  1. I guess he does not read Reason much. The third kind are called Republicans.

  2. I remain a gooey ecumenicist…

    Two things. One, that’s a hilarious turn of phrase. Two, the word is usually given as “ecumenist”.

  3. FWIW, I prefer the term “heterodox libertarian”.

  4. The SLs might be more effective in a newly created nation, like a deep sea colony or a moon colony.

  5. The SLs might be more effective in a newly created nation, like a deep sea colony or a moon colony.

    Heinlein, FTW!

  6. I’ve had the division down as “navel gazers” and “assholes who don’t want to pay their taxes”.

    I belong to the latter grouping.

    Lysander Spooner FTW

  7. I draw my line between Liberals who want to keep their money, and Republicans who smoke pot.

  8. No no, it’s “Those who vote Libertarian” and “Part of the problem”.

  9. Warren, more like Party of the Problem.

  10. Libertarians come in two varieties:

    1. PaleoCon goldbug types who just weren’t wierd enough to be John Birchers and aren’t religous enough to be Buchananites; and

    2. Hipster upper class white kids who were not smug, self satisfied, or perpetually irate enough to be full blown lefties.

  11. John,

    So why don’t we just help them catch the terrorists in suits who keep trying to corporatize everything?

  12. Oh no, wrong thread.

  13. LurkerBold takes his lurking very seriously…

  14. “…it is quite likely that libertarians on either side are doing good things to help bring about a more libertarian world, even if that merely means convincing one more person that we should live in such a world.”

    Yeah, those race-bating newsletters Ron Paul put out made a lot of converts. Fuck, you guys make the Moonies look rational.

  15. Lefiti > LurkerBold.

  16. BDB that is false.

  17. No, Lefiti > Edward > BDB > Warren

  18. Lurkerbold, no it isn’t.

  19. Fuck you.

  20. Fuck you, you fuck!

  21. Lefiti at least hits chinks in the armor, silly as they may be. LurkerBold just sounds like a 13-year-old communist.

  22. John, I hope that post was a spoof because it was a stunningly ignorant comment.

    Buchanan’s departure from libertarianism is not religious. He’s a fucking protectionist and economic ignoramus. His agitation against free markets, more than anything else, casts him out of the tent.

  23. OK, this is an interesting topic thread that has been destroyed by the lack of any kind of care for who posts what here. Please get some kind of moderation.

  24. No, there is one type of libertarian, and everyone who disagrees with them even slightly isn’t one.

  25. Lefiti or at least his impersonators are funny sometimes. Say what you want about Lefiti but at least you can parody him. Lurkerbold is to boring for even parody.

  26. Hmm. I don’t think this is the best division, to the extent that there needs to be one. I’m certainly both, but that comes from falling more on the utilitarian side. But even that division isn’t entirely appropriate, because I like some of the natural rights’ arguments, too.

  27. My impersonator must have slept in today all the way until 1:47pm.

  28. “Buchanan’s departure from libertarianism is not religious. He’s a fucking protectionist and economic ignoramus. His agitation against free markets, more than anything else, casts him out of the tent.”

    Buchanan is a protectionist and a nativist, but his fortress America foreign policy lines up quite well with many Libertarians. Buchanan is also a goldbug if I am not mistaken. You could change that to read “just weren’t nativist or protectionist enough to be a Buchananite.”

  29. And he’s taking sides–he thinks “policy libertarians” are naive and largely useless given the structural incentives of modern democracy.

    This is exactly what I’ve been saying for years: you can’t fix these problems permanently when highly-centralized democracy is there to fuck it up.

    I’m willing to believe that democracy would work more-or-less acceptably on the local level, but by the time you progress to the state level it becomes more of a burden than a boon to progress. And at the federal level, it guarantees exactly the wrong outcomes.

  30. Do you think a butt plug would keep the gerbil from slipping out?

  31. ah ha. So hilarious.

  32. These divisions drive away those who are attempting to learn more about the libertarian “scene,” especially detrimental during a time when many young people like me are checking it out.

    It’s tough and confusing. Basically, I’ve always been interested in a limited government and individual liberty but was completely angry with the Republican party I grew up with. Bush was always the bad guy. I registered Democrat. Young people just wanted change, so thats what they voted for.

    Maybe more of us would have been interested in the libertarian movement if it wasn’t so aggressive to outsiders. I remember the first time I went to a meeting held by libertarians on campus where we watched “Free to Choose.” I thought it was great, but sometime during the discussion afterwards I mentioned that “I thought FDR helped us out of the Depression,” since that was basically what I was taught in public high school. I was instantly insulted, attacked, and labeled as a socialist. If it wasn’t for one open-minded guy there and my own curiosity, I would never have gone back.

    I checked out some books on the subject, did some research on it, and discovered that of course the New Deal was a terrible mistake. But I’ve seen so many people come to the meetings that never come back after they are called tyrants, theives, and commies by some of the more “pure” libertarians in the group.
    Still it remains one of the fastest growing groups on campus.

    Basically, there’s a lot of interest in the ideas but the extremists drive people away no matter how “right” they might be.

  33. Tyler, you think that’s bad? Just look at what we did to the LP candidate this year. 😀

  34. Buchanan is a protectionist and a nativist, but his fortress America foreign policy lines up quite well with many Libertarians. Buchanan is also a goldbug if I am not mistaken. You could change that to read “just weren’t nativist or protectionist enough to be a Buchananite.”

    So he has a non-interventionist foreign policy and a stiffy for gold. BFD, that’s not what a libertarian is. Just like the hipster in a Che shirt that’s for legalization and gay marriage isn’t a “wing” of libertarianism. Lots of people have views that overlap with libertarians. That does not make them a libertarian.

  35. 1. PaleoCon goldbug types who just weren’t wierd enough to be John Birchers and aren’t religous enough to be Buchananites; and

    2. Hipster upper class white kids who were not smug, self satisfied, or perpetually irate enough to be full blown lefties.

    So a middle-aged, middle-class grandfather on on the border between agnostic and atheist can’t consider himself a libertarian.

  36. This is a familiar distinction in political philosophies: those who believe in incremental change within the pretty good free society we have already, vs those who believe in discarding the hopelessly corrupt current system and creating the ideal utopian society from scratch.

    The latter tendency will always appeal to a certain kind of adolescent militant ideologue mindset, but twentieth century history offers cautionary tales galore about where it leads.

    In other (Reasonesque snarky punning) words, Lyles sounds to me like a libertarian Lenin railing against the renegade Catosky.

  37. “I thought it was great, but sometime during the discussion afterwards I mentioned that “I thought FDR helped us out of the Depression,” since that was basically what I was taught in public high school. I was instantly insulted, attacked, and labeled as a socialist. If it wasn’t for one open-minded guy there and my own curiosity, I would never have gone back.”

    The problem with “Libertarianism” is generally “libertarians”. In their defense though, got a college Democrat meeting sometime and say “I think Reagan won the Cold War and did a lot of good” and see what kind of reaction you get.

    Basically the country and colleges in particular are full of self important obnoxious fucks. Honestly, the only big meeting I have ever been to where I spoke out and disagreed with the group and didn’t get the treatment you got was a bunch of evangelicals. They were all kind of spacy and talked about God way too much, but I have never met a more polite group to someone disagreeing with them. Of course the Lefties and Libertarians call them intolerent bible thumpers and equate them to the Taliban. Not that anyone would project or anything.

  38. Now why is Buchanan out because he’s a protectionist and economic ignoramus, but Ron Paul is in despite his publishing racist newsletters and believing that the founding fathers wanted a “robust Christian nation”? The very fact that that sleazy old fuck excited the libertarian base is evidence that the base is fucking nutsoid.

  39. “So he has a non-interventionist foreign policy and a stiffy for gold. BFD, that’s not what a libertarian is. Just like the hipster in a Che shirt that’s for legalization and gay marriage isn’t a “wing” of libertarianism. Lots of people have views that overlap with libertarians. That does not make them a libertarian.”

    No kidding. That is why the term “enough to be” is in the sentence. I didn’t say Buchanan was a Libertarian or that Libertarians were Buchananites. Only that the Goldbug wing of the Libertarians have a few things in common with the Birchies and the Buchananites.

  40. Ron Paul is very anti-immigration. He talks about how NAFTA subverts US sovereignty and his bring the troops home fortress America foreign policy ideas allighn pretty closely with Buchanan.

  41. The difference between Buchanan and Paul, IIRC, is that Paul doesn’t believe in trade agreements but would rather just have the USA drop all of its tariffs unilaterally, while Buchanan wants us to have a full-blown, centrally planned “industrial policy” and oodles and oodles of tariffs.

    Paul makes the perfect the enemy of the good, while Buchanan just proposes the bad.

  42. So SLs are anarchists who believe that we have to just have 100% express consent to a certain type of governance. Am I getting that right?

  43. On immigration, Paul doesn’t like immigration because it adds people to the welfare state. Buchanan doesn’t like immigration because they’re brown and might be eating tacos.

  44. So how did anti-immigrant, race-baiting Ron Paul become the great libertarian hope in the election? To make sure liberarians remain a marginal political laughing stock? Maybe the LP has been infiltrated by agents of the state in an attempt to destroy the movement. Ever thought of that? Who is Radley baloko really working for? What moron would name a kid Radley?

  45. kinnath @ 2:16

    Are you me, or am I you? (other than the grandfather part)

  46. BDB @ 2:27pm

    Mmmm… tacos. Is it dinner time yet?

  47. Tyler: don’t let it get to you. A lot of crap I learned in public school that was outright lies took years (well, a decade even) of undoing through my own research.

  48. TAO,

    Yeah. It’s a 100% adherence to consistency with voluntarism and non-aggression. This obviously rules out a state.

    I would say it’s not practical, but they would counter with “that’s like saying you’re pro-murder because a 0% murder rate is ‘impracticle'”

    So it goes…

  49. I tend to be an Irish Catholic Buddist Pagan Modern Physicist kind of guy that thinks “We hold these truths . . . ” are the greatest words ever put on parchment.

    But I may not actually be a libertarian.

  50. In other (Reasonesque snarky punning) words, Lyles sounds to me like a libertarian Lenin railing against the renegade Catosky.

    Big problem with that thesis: most of the guys blogging at the Distributed Republic are agorists, who advocate use of black markets and conscious disobedience to convince people to ignore government edicts, thus bringing about peaceful revolutions.

    They are nothing like Lenin, with his edicts that unilaterally outlawed trades involving money on pain of death.

  51. Answer my question, you self-satisfied know-nothing fucks!

  52. Please get some kind of moderation.

    INCIF. Be a libertarain, do it yourself.

    There are renobs posting in this thread? I havent noticed. Although there are some posts that dont make any sense otherwise. 🙂

  53. “Honestly, the only big meeting I have ever been to where I spoke out and disagreed with the group and didn’t get the treatment you got was a bunch of evangelicals. They were all kind of spacy and talked about God way too much, but I have never met a more polite group to someone disagreeing with them.”

    Hah, I didn’t get quite the same treatment from them. I got sucked into a bible study and we started talking about metaphysics. I said something about God’s creation being in everything and every one of us, and this guy cut me off, declared me a “pantheist” then gave me a sound berating.

  54. tarran,

    If you really understood Lenin you would not lie about him.

  55. Uggggghghhh . . . Uggghhhh!
    (stamps tiny feet)

  56. Egosumabbas

    I said something about God’s creation being in everything and every one of us

    I would have berated you to, for saying something so vapid and clichey.

    I probably would have rolled my eyes first.

  57. Also, Agorism I think is the only practical individualist-anarchist system I’ve found. All other systems either require the state to not exist first, or for it to be dismantled piecemeal. The former requires cheap space travel and the latter requires somehow convincing 51% of the population to vote for libertarian policy.

  58. @robc

    I was 19 at the time. Everything you say at that age is either vapid or a clich?.

    Now I would just tell the bible study that you can only deductively prove metaphysics and trying to decipher it from a badly-translated transcript is engaging in the logical fallacy of appealing to authority.

  59. My INCIF is teh broken. I R not a computer-savvy guy.

    Anyway, I do not see much in the way of complex thoughts from the SLs that they seem to pat themselves on the back for. Anarchism is anarchism is anarchism, and asking for 100% express consent (when the doctrine of implied consent exists, is valid and is used every day) is silliness.

  60. If anyone hasn’t seen it – Lefiti!

  61. I may yet turn my daughter into a libertarian before the public schools have a chance to complete indoctrinate her. When we learned that a new government regulation has the potential to completely wipe out my wife’s small business (see here), she was shocked. “But I thought the government was supposed to help people, not hurt them.”

    It’s never too early to learn the law of unintended consequences.

  62. There are two kinds of libertarians, those that won’t vote and those who haven’t figured it out yet.

  63. I was 19 at the time. Everything you say at that age is either vapid or a clich?.

    I assumed so. Even at the same age I would have rolled my eyes at you (while probably making plenty of vapid comments myself). I went to an engineering school though, the bible studies I was involved with had a different character than they seem to at other colleges.

    Now I would just tell the bible study that you can only deductively prove metaphysics and trying to decipher it from a badly-translated transcript is engaging in the logical fallacy of appealing to authority.

    I would (now) point out that logical fallacies are not always fallacies outside the world of logic. While an appeal to authority is never logical, it often gets you to the right answer quicker (assuming you pick the right authority). If you are Feynman, it may make sense to start at first principals, but Im willing to trust Feynman.

  64. There are 10 types of libertarians, those who can count in binary, and those who can’t.

  65. You’re part of the problem Ken

  66. TAO-

    Do you think that you are the intellectual equal to Spooner or Rothbard? Do you think that they did not manifest complex thought? If you answer in the negative to the second question, the answer to the first question is not in doubt.

  67. tarran, you fool, there are 2* types of libertarians, those who can count in hexadecimal and those who can’t.

    Binary–ha!

    * This would be funnier if hex 2 and decimal 2 were different–damn the nature of the universe!

  68. Ken-

    I figured out that I had to fill out the little oval below the yes on Questions 1 and 2 of the Bay state’s initiative petition ballot.

  69. I was 19 at the time. Everything you say at that age is either vapid or a clich?.

    Hey now.

  70. I, for one, embrace our new Policy Libertarian Overlords.

  71. Do you think that you are the intellectual equal to Spooner or Rothbard?

    I did not say that I do not find their writings interesting or intelligent, just terribly “not complex”. With Rothbard, it proceeds from his axioms and everything else is a post hoc justification.

    The basic criticisms of a so-called “stateless society” still stand the test of time.

  72. Or as we economists like to say, “Institutions are endogenous.”

    Yes, so ‘endogenous’ that it only takes a massive increase of involuntary funding just to keep it from falling apart.

  73. @Nigel:

    “Hey now.”

    Okay okay, I also spoke in snark and hyperbole.

  74. TAO-1:49

    Control freak!

    Let the lefitis and LurkerBolds lavish us with their love of leninism. If an uber anarcho-free enterprise-individualist like me is okay with them posting, it shouldn’t bother you. I guarantee that you do not loathe leninism more than me.

  75. There are 10 kinds of libertarians. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.

  76. LM – don’t pull that “banning is anti-libertarian” shit with me. I am not a libertine; “controlling” idiots on private property is totally acceptable, or do you disagree with the concept of a bouncer at a bar?

  77. TAO-

    I do not think that you can reduce Rothbard to “it proceeds from his axioms and everything else is a post hoc justification.” I think that you are ignoring/downplaying their(Rothbard, Spooner) empirical life experiences and observations informing their positions.

  78. What attracts me are ideas, and the libertarian ideas are more attractive than the “conservative” or “liberal/progessive” ideas. If it was possible for society to function without an government, I’d be all for it, but I believe we need unified protection and court systems. For me it’s a first impulse toward freedom and non-interference, rather than a first impulse toward more government regulation and central planning. The particulars of what type of government society should create are difficult to determine, but I think our Founders were right for the most part — perhaps some stronger, clearer restrictions on what constitutes public welfare. I suppose the libertarian divisions are useful to help clarify thinking, but the greater division for me is statist and non-statist, which, I know, leaves a lot of room for differences — but the emphasis on direction is set one way or the other.

  79. a name before submitting the form | January 8, 2009, 3:22pm | #
    There are 10 kinds of libertarians. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.

    HaHa Knownothing decimalite libertarians make me smirk.

  80. TAO-

    Lighten up-you correctly informed Gilmore the other day that I was joking about the great joys of year round sunshine, trade winds, baseball and 57 chevies that life in Cuba offers.

    Besides, I was once a bouncer. Yes, I had to control some idiots. Sometimes I needed help from other bouncers and even the manager. But, on a blog, let the LurkerBolds have their say.

  81. Also, if libertarianism is to be a viable political philosophy, it needs to be able to answer questions without resorting to twenty pages of theory.

    Examples abound: are libertarians for or against school vouchers? Gay marriage? Tax credits for health spending? On and on…PLs at least offer relevancy to an otherwise irrelevant group. No one wants to hear a 10-page response to a one-sentence question.

  82. a government, not an government

  83. There two kinds of libertarians – those who voted for change and those who did not.

  84. Time to go up the Hershey Habitrail Lemmiwinks.
    Don’t scratch too hard!

  85. he thinks “policy libertarians” are naive and largely useless given the structural incentives of modern democracy.

    I would say that conclusion is nearly impossible to argue with, given the historical record.

    institutions themselves are a kind of policy

    Sophomoric semanticism. I think we can all tell the difference between Congress and bill passed by Congress, even though both are “policy” along some endogenous/exogenous continuum.

    /rolls eyes.

  86. OK, I can assume that my spoofer is old. I mean, Lemmiwinks? How 2002 of you.

  87. It’s tough and confusing. Basically, I’ve always been interested in a limited government and individual liberty but was completely angry with the Republican party I grew up with. Bush was always the bad guy. I registered Democrat. Young people just wanted change, so thats what they voted for.

    Reminds me of the predicament I found myself in as a teen in the 1980’s. I found myself registering Democrat and voting Dukakis despite strong libertarian instinctual leanings for no other reason than I found George H Bush to be an obnoxious creep during that campaign.

  88. Hey now.

    Don’t worry. Everything changes at twenty. *

    * Some restrictions may apply, results not typical

  89. These threads make me realize how I’m way too moderate to be in your super secret libertarian fun club.

  90. As far as I can see the real division is between libertarians who see it first and foremost as an ethical system / a quasi-religion (that just happens to work) and the practical libertarians who see it as something that would work better than the interventionist PC welfare state system.

    Ex-Marxists, for example, would usually be in the first category.

    Many in the second category would be libertarians without actually realising it.

    Libertarians in the first category are often very well read in libertarian and classical liberal material.

    On the other hand libertarians in the second category may have more of a set of libertarian prejudices.

    Ronald Reagan’s aphorism about the most scary words in the English language being “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” comes to mind.

    Anyone, who agrees with that is well on the way to being a practical libertarian.

  91. Whats a “Mike” and how do you farm it (one)?

  92. In my book The Jonah Stone I used the term Hyparchy to describe the type of government the new nation would have…I leave it to you guys to explain what it means.

  93. Jeb, are you really James E. Bowman?

  94. I forget who said, but I’ve committed it to memory: “There are slightly more versions of libertarianism than there are libertarians.”

  95. I just want to make sure everyone sees these horns on me.

  96. While a stateless society based 100% on voluntary associations and transactions will not work now and never has entirely in the past, I still think this should be the ultimate ideal and eventual pursuit of all libertarians.

  97. Which kind of libertarianism lets me pass a law that says smoking crack and selling babies are not okay?

  98. way too moderate

    Yeah, ease up, fellah, wouldja? It’s getting out of hand.

  99. smoking crack

  100. RWR – you can pass all the laws you want. We just won’t listen. And, by the way, libertarians don’t believe in selling babies.

  101. Not Even a Hedgehog
    The stupidity of Ronald Reagan.
    By Christopher Hitchens

    Not long ago, I was invited to be the specter at the feast during “Ronald Reagan Appreciation Week” at Wabash College in Indiana. One of my opponents was Dinesh D’Souza: He wasn’t the only one who maintained that Reagan had been historically vindicated by the wreckage of the Soviet Union. Some of us on the left had also been very glad indeed to see the end of the Russian empire and the Cold War. But nothing could make me forget what the Reagan years had actually been like.

    Ronald Reagan claimed that the Russian language had no word for “freedom.” (The word is “svoboda”; it’s quite well attested in Russian literature.) Ronald Reagan said that intercontinental ballistic missiles (not that there are any non-ballistic missiles-a corruption of language that isn’t his fault) could be recalled once launched. Ronald Reagan said that he sought a “Star Wars” defense only in order to share the technology with the tyrants of the U.S.S.R. Ronald Reagan professed to be annoyed when people called it “Star Wars,” even though he had ended his speech on the subject with the lame quip, “May the force be with you.” Ronald Reagan used to alarm his Soviet counterparts by saying that surely they’d both unite against an invasion from Mars. Ronald Reagan used to alarm other constituencies by speaking freely about the “End Times” foreshadowed in the Bible. In the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan told Yitzhak Shamir and Simon Wiesenthal, on two separate occasions, that he himself had assisted personally at the liberation of the Nazi death camps.

    There was more to Ronald Reagan than that. Reagan announced that apartheid South Africa had “stood beside us in every war we’ve ever fought,” when the South African leadership had been on the other side in the most recent world war. Reagan allowed Alexander Haig to greenlight the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, fired him when that went too far and led to mayhem in Beirut, then ran away from Lebanon altogether when the Marine barracks were bombed, and then unbelievably accused Tip O’Neill and the Democrats of “scuttling.” Reagan sold heavy weapons to the Iranian mullahs and lied about it, saying that all the weapons he hadn’t sold them (and hadn’t traded for hostages in any case) would, all the same, have fit on a small truck. Reagan then diverted the profits of this criminal trade to an illegal war in Nicaragua and lied unceasingly about that, too. Reagan then modestly let his underlings maintain that he was too dense to understand the connection between the two impeachable crimes. He then switched without any apparent strain to a policy of backing Saddam Hussein against Iran. (If Margaret Thatcher’s intelligence services had not bugged Oliver North in London and become infuriated because all European nations were boycotting Iran at Reagan’s request, we might still not know about this.)

    One could go on. I only saw him once up close, which happened to be when he got a question he didn’t like. Was it true that his staff in the 1980 debates had stolen President Carter’s briefing book? (They had.) The famously genial grin turned into a rictus of senile fury: I was looking at a cruel and stupid lizard. His reply was that maybe his staff had, and maybe they hadn’t, but what about the leak of the Pentagon Papers? Thus, a secret theft of presidential documents was equated with the public disclosure of needful information. This was a man never short of a cheap jibe or the sort of falsehood that would, however laughable, buy him some time.

    The fox, as has been pointed out by more than one philosopher, knows many small things, whereas the hedgehog knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn’t like him all that much. He met his second wife-the one that you remember-because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. Year in and year out in Washington, I could not believe that such a man had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.

    However, there came a day when Mikhail Gorbachev visited Washington and when the Marriott Hotel-host of the summit press conferences-turned its restaurant into the “Glasnost Cafe.” On the sidewalk, LaRouche supporters wearing Reagan masks paraded with umbrellas, in mimicry of Neville Chamberlain. I huddled from dawn to dusk with friends, wondering if it could be real. Many of those friends had twice my IQ, or let’s say six times that of the then-chief executive. These friends had all deeply wanted either Jimmy Carter or Walter Mondale to be, presumably successively, the president instead of Reagan. They would go on to put Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen bumper stickers on their vehicles. No doubt they wish that Mondale had been in the White House when the U.S.S.R. threw in the towel, just as they presumably yearn to have had Dukakis on watch when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I have been wondering ever since not just about the stupidity of American politics, but about the need of so many American intellectuals to prove themselves clever by showing that they are smarter than the latest idiot in power, or the latest Republican at any rate.

    ******

    Sen. John Kerry waited until the first week of June 2004 to tell us that he met Ahmad Chalabi in London in 1998 and that he didn’t care for him then. That makes six intervening years in which the senator could have alerted us to this lurking danger to national security. But something kept him quiet. One must hope that that something wasn’t the tendency to pile on. Cheer up, though. At least this shows that Kerry has no pre-emptive capacity.

    Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His latest book, Blood, Class and Empire, is out in paperback.

    Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2101842/

    Copyright 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

  102. There are two sorts of Libertarian: those who agree with other Libertarians and those who don’t. The latter are in the majority.

  103. Ah, the infinitely divisible libertarian.

    Let me tell you, the Communists never had this problem. They had mass executions instead.

    Now there were some people getting something done.

  104. Moderation between good and evil is not a virtue.

    AR

    (Or something like that.)

  105. If you don’t care about how many kinds of libertarians there are, are you still a libertarian? I doubt it.

  106. The two kind of libertarians are dumb and dumber.

  107. not that there are any non-ballistic missiles

    Hitchens wrote that? How dumb is he?:

    Missile – An object or weapon that is fired, thrown, dropped, or otherwise projected at a target; a projectile.

    And ballistic does not mean “explosive”, it means:

    Ballistic: relating to or characteristic of the motion of objects moving under their own momentum and the force of gravity; “ballistic missile”

    This as opposed to cruise missiles (which have fins for lift and guidance) and SAMs.

    Hitchens is the one corrupting language. I thought all writers at least owned a dictionary.

  108. matth:

    “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.”

  109. If you don’t care about how many kinds of libertarians there are, are you still a libertarian? I doubt it.

    Another addition to the ever-growing list.

  110. “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.”

    Good news, Obama wants to make a deal with Hamas.

  111. the ever-growing list

  112. Why are we talking about a waste of a former Nixon white house speech writer who discovered his true calling – defending a neo-Nazi who lost the libel case he brought. The title reminds me of my favorite computer joke. There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.

  113. There is only one kind of libertarian, namely the one who posts only after reading the thread, and sees that his joke has already been told, in this case 10 times. 😉

  114. “Whats a “Mike” and how do you farm it (one)?”

    We’ve had bumper crops for years. We apologize for Tyson, though.

  115. it is quite likely that libertarians on either side are doing good things to help bring about a more libertarian world, even if that merely means convincing one more person that we should live in such a world.

    I have been a libertarian for six years, and I have never been more confused about what a “libertarian world” really means. One with more individual choice, I suppose.

    Most structural proposals probably require convincing a large number of people to go along, just like policy proposals. I am hoping that structural proposals will be more likely to last, more robust against the fashions of the moment. Libertarian constitutional democracy has been shown to be flimsy. As Patri pointed out in his essay on Dynamic Geography, the founding generation of the United States was very libertarian, and it wasn’t long before things went sour.

    So maybe you legalize pot, and John Walters’ kid comes along 20 years later and bans it. Maybe you write an amendment saying “the Federal Government shall make no laws about pot” and it lasts for 100 years until the Supreme Court can figure out a way to get around it. Maybe you convert your country into a neocameralist for-profit corporation and it doesn’t have any incentive to mess with its customers’ personal choices, and that freedom lasts for a very long time.

    It seems we should be advocating the things that matter.

  116. I should point out that Patri’s structural proposal involves convincing only a few thousand people, and maybe less. Compared to most other structural and policy proposals that is a big improvement.

    If the engineering and accounting numbers crunch right on seasteading, a movement the size of the Ron Paul r3volution would be orders of magnitude larger than what is needed. The Libertarian Party might even be too large, though maybe not if you exclude the high and insane people.

    Anyways, I am not really advocating anything. I am just exploring interesting ideas, and I hope smarter people than I will explore them with me.

  117. I hope smarter people than I will explore them with me.

    Fail. Real libertarians are immodest.

  118. Ha. Well, if it counts, I used to think I was pretty hot stuff. Then I went to grad school and met tons of people smarter than me.

  119. Stop! You’re killing me! This place needs a border guard. Interloper! Hypocrite lecteur! Mon semblable! Mon fr?re!

  120. Daniel Reeves | January 8, 2009, 4:43pm | #
    These threads make me realize how I’m way too moderate to be in your super secret libertarian fun club.

    Well, some people live lives of quiet desperation, and that too is okay, so long as you don’t try to enforce a compromised lifestyle on the rest of us. However, it never works that way.

  121. # of times that damned binary joke was told in this thread.

  122. 11 | January 8, 2009, 11:17pm | #
    # of times that damned binary joke was told in this thread.

    Pretty clever sir, joke was told 3 times so first order 1 gives you 1, second order 1 gives you 2, so just like you said, 11 times.

  123. …he knew that.

  124. squarooticus

    This is exactly what I’ve been saying for years: you can’t fix these problems permanently when highly-centralized democracy is there to fuck it up.

    I’m willing to believe that democracy would work more-or-less acceptably on the local level, but by the time you progress to the state level it becomes more of a burden than a boon to progress. And at the federal level, it guarantees exactly the wrong outcomes.

    I agree. And I’m left to conclude that the only solution at the national level, is a libertarian dictator.

  125. If it was possible for society to function without an government, I’d be all for it, but I believe we need unified protection and court systems.

    Contrary to the sense you might sometimes pick up around here, not all libertarians are pushing to get rid of the government and a return to all the glories Dark Ages. Some of us still actually want *limited* government.

  126. “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.”

    And this has precisely what implications when it comes time to do foreign policy?

    It’s funny. Libertarians have this “oh, I’m just a laid back dude” attitude when it comes to foreign policy.

    But I dare you to defile the purity of their faith.

  127. Jacob Lyles,

    It seems we should be advocating the things that matter.

    You stole my thunder.

    Not that anybody around here seemed to be actually, like listening.

    I too would like to explore realistic possibilities more, but not many seem to have any real interest. Though I have to give Brian credit for sort of steering us in that direction with this thread.

  128. I was absolutely a policy libertarian until the assclowns at Reason fucked over the policy libertarian presidential candidate. Now I understand that the system is not fixable.
    The corruption runs too deep. It reminds me of an old Chevy half ton my dad sold for 300 bucks. He told the new owner “whatever you do, don’t change the oil.” That old gunk and grease was the only thing holding the engine together. The U.S.A. is like that old Chevy. The system is more corruption than republic now.

    Limited government is impossible because the government always uses its rule-making power to change the rules that limit its power. Judicial activism, Presidential signing statements, etc.

    Oh, yeah. That guy who bought my dad’s old truck? He changed the oil and the engine burned up. I’m actually hoping that’s the kind of change Obama brings. We need a new vehicle anyway.

  129. Accepting the idea that the federal government ought to enact social policies that fit your viewpoint and the belief that the government ought to be shrunk down to the nightwatchman level, if one is to have government, seems a tad bit inconsistent. You can?t have true policy libertarianism without structural libertarianism.

    ?Contrary to the sense you might sometimes pick up around here, not all libertarians are pushing to get rid of the government and a return to all the glories Dark Ages. Some of us still actually want *limited* government.?

    So you reject the validity of the non-aggression principle then? And the age of expanding governments and centralized states has been so good for mankind.

  130. reason sucks

  131. A polyglot amuse-atarian with involuntary agorist twitches ?

  132. Lyles’s distinction is actually an old one — it’s the usual socialist/communist split, reworked for the libertarian crowd. Do you work within the system or try to overturn it?

    My thought is that the two can coexist, and they’ll be unsuccessful in different ways. Try to promote congenial policies in a democratic framework, and you can achieve modest success, but to the extent that you get anything passed it will be coopted by actual politicians who muck things up with ambition and political expediency and all the frailties that democracy is heir to. But it may be worth it. (How would a social democrat feel about Lyndon Johnson?)

    Try to resist the system and, assuming you don’t practice violence, you’re talking about establishing a separate community. Seasteading, maybe. Is that more successful? Less? Maybe it’s worth it just to have a single society founded on the principles you believe in.

    I’m in the policy camp because it’s not in my temperament to pack up and leave; I’m just not nuts enough (though I have some admiration for the nuts.)

    There’s also the notion that, through cultural and not governmental means, personal life can get a little freer. Through the internet, free culture, networking, “vulgar” entertainment, etc., we can spread the idea that one can choose one’s own form of life and associations. The ethos of “make your own.” Not the same sort of thing as political libertarianism, but it’s made a lot of otherwise non-political types harbor fairly strong libby leanings. “Cultural libertarianism” could be a third category.

  133. INCIF. Be a libertarain, do it yourself.

    Dude, I wrote INCIF, but when I read through a thread and see huge swathes of filtered comments by trolls and/or people spoofing trolls, I despair. I think the volume of wankery discourages new and interesting commentors, and I think it encourages more trolls.

  134. There are two kinds of libertarian:

    One kind wants a free market in weapons of mass destruction:

    The other kind wants mankind to have a future.

    Tony Hollick

  135. Two types of libertarians?

    No, there can only be One. The others will be challenged to a death match.

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