Sociology

I'm Not Trying to Cause a Big S-S-S-Sensation

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A story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggests that the kids these days have libertarian leanings:

America's Generation Y (born between 1980 and 1995) is the first to have grown up with the Internet, which leaves it the most liberty-loving generation since the era of Andrew Jackson….Millions of Gen-Yers have grown accustomed to making purchases online tax-free. They download movies and music (much of it pirated), read their news online for free (to the detriment of print media), find recipes online and network with friends and relatives online.

In short, they love their freedom.

This love of liberty translates into a unique political composite. Gen-Yers are less nationalistic and more likely to see all politicians as corrupt than older voters. They support liberalization of drug laws and would prefer to see marijuana legalized. And they are much less likely to support restrictions on immigration than older voters. On these counts, they seem to lean left of center, at least as the political spectrum is defined today.

But they are also free-traders, much more supportive of globalization than older voters. They're optimistic, overwhelmingly believing that they can change the country for the better. And in the most recent surveys, they support proposals to privatize Social Security, which few believe will be there for them when they retire. On these counts, they seem to lean right of center.

Sound familiar? If you're older than Generation Y, it should. In 1995, USA Today published a front-page feature headlined "The GenX Philosophy: Many reject politics, lean libertarian." I can't find a copy online, but I did dig up a Libertarian Party press release that highlighted it and similar stories from Rolling Stone and The Wall Street Journal. A decade before that, in 1986, the Cato Institute issued a book called Left, Right, and Babyboom, which set out "to explain just what political analysts mean when they describe baby boomers as economically conservative but socially liberal—and what that combination of views means for the system." I expect to read something similar about Generation Z sometime before 2020, and a decade after that we'll have similar sentiments about Generation Z+ beamed directly into our heads by wind-powered nanobots.

So the story keeps recurring, generation by generation, whether or not Washington seems to be in retreat. I see two possible lessons to take away from this. The first is just that we should distrust all broad generational generalizations. With a group that large, you can cherry-pick the data to find almost any pattern you want. The serious sociological study of generations can be fruitful, but most essays you'll see on the subject are not serious sociology. Not in the age of snake-oil salesmen like William Strauss and Neil Howe, whose silly cyclical theory of history somehow survives even when their predictions flop. (Read this op-ed they published shortly after 9/11. As an adaptation of their thesis to what the conventional wisdom expected in October 2001, it's brilliant. As a description of the decade that actually ensued, not so much.)

The other lesson, which isn't entirely inconsistent with the first, is that America could be undergoing a wide social shift toward individualism, an evolution of the sort that Ronald Inglehart described in Modernization and Postmodernization. That's why every crop of twentysomethings can be hailed as more anti-authoritarian than the one before it: because the country as a whole is gradually, in fits and starts, moving further from the old order. That doesn't have anything to do with those large, varied, artificially demarcated cohorts that pop philosophers call "generations." It reflects more deeply rooted social trends.

Whether such a pattern will actually translate into libertarian policy, given the countervailing trends that also exist, is another question entirely. Even if it turns out to be true that the people in their twenties now tend to be more libertarian than the people who were in their twenties a decade ago, the country itself obviously isn't as free as it was in 1999. If that changes, it won't be because there's something uniquely individualist in Gen Y's DNA.

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  1. If you go by who this generation actually votes for, it’s a stretch to call it libertarian-leaning, since they turned out for Obama in droves, and shunned the LP.

  2. Or maybe it means that your message appeals to selfish, immature people and most people evolve out of it as they become older and wiser.

  3. Clearly a plot to tie libertarianism with youthful ignorance.

  4. People try to put us d-down
    Just because we get around

    It’s surprising how pro-freedom people my age can be when on the internet, but when it comes to old-fashioned “irl” freedoms they just suck.

    Another words,

    You can tax me updownleftandright, tell me I can’t buy a gun, force me to drive an econobox, and tell me where to get my health care. But if you fuck with my internets, we have a problem.

  5. I think young people lean libertarian. I also hate the term Gen-Y.

    Rise, Millennials!!!

  6. But they are also free-traders, much more supportive of globalization than older voters.

    Ah, thus explaining the 5% old, wrinkled, white haired hippies in anti-Globalization protests. The young ones were only human shields.

  7. ” the most liberty loving generation since the era of Andrew Jackson?”

    Oxymoronic. Yeah, ethnic cleansing ego-maniachal power hungry presidents often inspire “eras of good [liberties].”

  8. I don’t about young people being more libertarian than older people. Young people seem to support all the coercive collectivist economic ideas. They certainly seem to have embraced the democrat platform in the last election.

    Young people are just like anyone else, freedom for me but not for thee. They want freedom for themselves to do the things that they want to do but they don’t what 50 years business owners to be able to do what they want. Historically young people have believed in utopian ideals whose benefits justify enacting them with coercion.

  9. Yyyyeaaaahhhh, this

    The first is just that we should distrust all broad generational generalizations. With a group that large, you can cherry-pick the data to find almost any pattern you want

    is about right. I wouldn’t call my g-g-generation particularly libertarian.

  10. If you go by who this generation actually votes for, it’s a stretch to call it libertarian-leaning, since they turned out for Obama in droves, and shunned the LP.

    Eh, not so fast. Sure, the youth vote swept the Chairman in, but I would guess that many of these folks were voting in a presidential election for the first time, and most (if not all) are not yet politically aware. Which could be what drives the Chairman right back to Chicago in ’12.

  11. Oops, keep forgetting to take that ‘pedant’ off. I think that was from weeks ago.

  12. Prolefeed nails it on comment one.

  13. Except that a lot of Gen Y’s did go for Ron Paul

  14. Maybe it’s youthful optimism, but it seems like among the Gen Y-ers I know, there are relatively few fire-breathing partisans. Most intelligent people are at least willing to consider the possibility of a politics beyond left/right bullshit.

    Doesn’t translate to the polls, though, I guess.

  15. I don’t think “libertarian” is the right word to describe these people. It’s more like free-market liberals. A lot of them take a liberal position on gun control, for example.

  16. I actually liked Strauss and Howe’s first book, which really felt like a sociological study of how shared experiences influenced generational attitude which then turned around influenced culture as they grew up, which is what caused the cycle they’re talking about. I found their analyses of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to be dead on back than and continue to be true as both generations get older. Also, I had confirmation bias due to the fact that many of my favorite American historical figures came from earlier iterations of Gen. X.

    But yeah, they turned an interesting sociological analysis into pop culture fortune-telling. I bought a used copy of their Gen. X-focused book from the ’90s last year. It’s good for a laugh in most places. Though their prediction that the purpose of Gen. X is to clean up the messes the Baby Boomers leave behind may end up being true.

  17. Dammit prolefeed, you beat me to it.

    I think that their “youthful optimism” is untempered by a health cynicism toward government and politicians, and was coopted beautifully by the Obama campaign. To date they have proven to be useful idiots for collectivism, not the vanguard of a new individualistic/libertarian wave.

    I wouldn’t be too quick to assume that a love of free internet stuff is a sign of a deeper commitment to freedom.

  18. Generations are 16 years now? I didn’t realize teen pregnancy was THAT common.

    Of course, those of us born right around 1980 keep getting passed around between the generations like a Portuguese water dog with behavioral disorders. X or Y, will you people make up your minds.

  19. Every generation appears to love freedom. Then they get a little older, have some kids and a mortgage and decide that one of the two official parties is close enough to what they want that they will vote for it happily. Property values and “think of the children” become the most important issues.

    I know, it’s an oversimplification, but so far it has seemed to hold true.

  20. I think the libertarian-leaning types of all ages tend not to vote because they recognize the futility of it. The 2 major parties have so gamed the system that game-changing politicians (sorry for using that metaphor) don’t have a chance. They get labeled “fringe”, “radical”, “loony” (by columnists, if not by newswriters), etc.

  21. If you go by who this generation actually votes for, it’s a stretch to call it libertarian-leaning

    In fairness to the argument I was criticizing, I wouldn’t necessarily expect an inchoate libertarian sentiment to translate into votes for libertarian candidates. Most people don’t vote; most people who do vote, don’t base their votes on careful analyses of the candidates’ platforms; and many people who do analyze the candidates’ platforms vote for the lesser evil.

  22. It seems uncontroversial to say that the results of this election have been an escalating grab of power by the federal government, and that younger voters were instrumental in electing the people who made this power grab possible.

    Perhaps that wasn’t the Gen-Yers intent, in which case they would change direction in 2010, but I’m not holding my breath for a return to divided government ala 1994.

    And the vote totals for Ron Paul and Bob Barr didn’t indicate any sudden appetite for rolling back the growth in statism that has been going on for the past century.

  23. If I had to stereotype my generation, I’d say it was composed mostly of tech-savvy quasi-goth emotards.

    Not really, I just had to get that phrase off my chest (so to speak).

  24. Young people aren’t libertarian leaning, they’re pro-freedom for the stuff they know and do (like most people). Smoking some weed in their dorm room doesn’t hurt anyone, so legalize it. They buy a lot of shit online, so they don’t want it taxed.

    As they get older, things will change as their lives change. Basically, they’ll have kids and then will fuck the rest of us repeatedly in the ass every time someone says “it’s for the children!!!”

  25. I don’t think young people are nearly as sycophantic to business as old-school libertarians. If you didn’t live through the age of Reagan you should have no reason to conflate corporate interests with individual freedom.

  26. When the LP stops running creepy mustache guy for Pres they’ll get more Gen-Y. Coach Obama made my (nearly) Gen-Y boy feel good and hopey and was the candidate who was most likely able to tell the difference between regular and goofy. McCain was angry old dude to him.

  27. KT,

    The gun issue is a weird one for this (*ahem* full disclosure: my) generation. The anti-gun stuff has been pretty thoroughly implanted, and lots of people just haven’t been exposed to any sensible thinking on the subject. I like to think that if they were, there’s at least a chance that some people would be open to changing their minds.

    (I say this now, so I’ll probably get a huge pie in the face and all my friends will join the freaking Brady Campaign tomorrow.)

  28. I don’t think young people are nearly as sycophantic to business as old-school libertarians. If you didn’t live through the age of Reagan you should have no reason to conflate corporate interests with individual freedom.

    Fixed it for you.

  29. If the stories my 14 year old daughter has been telling me about the political leanings of her classmates are any indication of the upcoming generation of voters, we are on the verge of a tidal wave of hardcore statist voters. We’re talking about kids who have unquestioningly bought into the government school indoctrination en masse.

    Yes, it’s anecdotal evidence from a very Blue state, but when my daughter is the ONLY person in her class not arguing the modern liberal line on topic after topic, it does not give me Hope TM for a libertarian renaissance.

  30. Tony sat at his computer and glanced over at the picture of Reagan he had on the dartboard. He had written “LIBERTARIANS” in an angry scrawl over Reagan’s crotch, and there were several darts in and around the region. Taking another sip of his Sobe Adrenaline Rush, he angrily banged out a response to that jerk Xeones, who couldn’t even comprehend how beholden to corporate interests he was.

    Rage, like a Diet Coke bottle with Mentos thrown into it, began to boil up inside him.

  31. If you go by who this generation actually votes for, it’s a stretch to call it libertarian-leaning, since they turned out for Obama in droves, and shunned the LP.

    The Libertarian Party is ignored by most voters, even libertarian-leaning ones, because Libertarian Party:libertarianism::Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of America:Christianity.

  32. The socially liberal pro free market fiscally conservative get government off my back voter is like the jackalope. Everyone swears they are the silent majority in this country but I never seem to meet them outside of myself and the other 20 people who post at reason. Sadly, all fiscally conservative people I know are socially conservative and most socially liberal people I know also have no problem with big government. What is even more depressing is that neither side is willing to leave the other side alone. Alledgedly freedom loving liberals who are pro legalizing drugs and gay marriage, have no problem with censoring any and all speech they find distastful, and the government controling nearly every aspect of life from what we eat, what car we can drive to to contents of our garbage. Alledgedly freedom loving conservatives have no problem with asset forfeiture, the drug laws, and controling people’s sex life and what they can do in the privacy of their home.

    This country is generally populated with people who go to bed every night thinking of new ways they can make the world better by controling the undesireables. The only thing that saves us is that no one can agree on what constitutes an undesireable.

  33. the most liberty-loving generation….They download movies and music (much of it pirated)…

    …and find the contradiction inconvenient.

  34. The younger generation are morons. They are too young to remember the 70s. So they have no idea what it is like to live under the policies McHopey is selling them. Many of them are just crotch sniffing synchophants to their dirty agin maladjusted hippie teachers. They generally know nothing about history. They have spent their entire lives in schools and homes that valued ensuring self esteem over teaching anything or instilling values. Basically they have been told how woderful they are their entire life without ever being expected to accomplish anything to justify the assessment. There are some good ones out there. I met a lot of them in the military. Kids that were the salt of the earth. But they tend to come from the middle and lower classes. The children of our upper classes tend to be the problem.

  35. This country is generally populated with people who go to bed every night thinking of new ways they can make the world better by controling the undesireables.

    Word. But like Jesse Walker points out, there is a sizeable population of people who don’t vote. I wonder about those fuckers sometimes.

  36. first picture from a google image search for “generation y”

  37. Young people in general are distrustful of political authority, because they don’t have it and don’t benefit from it. This will naturally change as they age, and the promises of “free” money and “free” medical care loom.

  38. Where is the LoneWacko novel? How is it coming along? Is it going to be available on Kindle?

  39. People are sheep, young and old. Obama knew how to play the shepherd.
    There is enough evidence from the last several millennia that freedom works, that people don’t have to be sheep. America is a ideally a good place for people who realize it. Problem is, there are many many many more who don’t.

  40. It really shouldn’t be difficult to make freedom sound cool and fun and hip. What philosophy is better suited to the mentality and proclivities of a 20 year-old than one that says, “Do not bother others; otherwise do whatever the fuck you want.”

    Unfortunately, and paradoxically, people who believe and advocate for freedom tend to be the types you’d avoid if you saw them across the room at a party.

    Or maybe I’m projecting.

  41. “It really shouldn’t be difficult to make freedom sound cool and fun and hip. What philosophy is better suited to the mentality and proclivities of a 20 year-old than one that says, “Do not bother others; otherwise do whatever the fuck you want.”

    You would think that but it is actually the opposite. To believe in freedom requires a certain amount of cynisism. It requires an understanding that the world is a really complicated place and as tempting as it is to go out and stop everyone from doing things you think are wrong, doing so often creates more problems than it solves. You people have a hard time getting that. They don’t have enough life experience to understand how hard and complex life is. So they are total suckers for snake oil salesman selling hope and change and easy sollutions to the world’s problems. Young people also tend to want to be a part of something larger than themselves. They want feel important and like they are making a difference. That also makes them easy marks for mass movements and coercive sollutions.

    Go back and look at any mass movement for government coercion from the French Revolution to the Bolshevics to the Nazis to Mao and you will find the young on the front lines bashing heads and being manipulated by their more cynical and eviler elders.

  42. Well my observation is that the majority of people in every generation believe in freedom. Freedom just doesn’t meean the same thing to them.

    1)You can’t be truly free if you live in fear of being banrupted by a major illness or injury. hence the need for Universal Healthcare.

    2)You can’t be truly free if you live in fear of being shot by a criminal. Hence the need for gun control.

    3)You can’t be truly free if you live in fear of unemployment. Hence the need for job security protections and controls on who employers can hire and fire. And the need for protectionism to protect there jobs from being taken by a foreigner.

    The list goes on and on.

    That, my friends is what most people think freedom is.

    And yes, the reason people want the welfare state is not because they feel sorry for people who are worse of than them. It’s because they want to get stuff paid for by people who are better off than them.

    I have become convinced that politics bring out the very basest instincts in people.

  43. Go back and look at any mass movement for government coercion from the French Revolution to the Bolshevics to the Nazis to Mao and you will find the young on the front lines bashing heads and being manipulated by their more cynical and eviler elders.

    Why are you coddling Chavez? 🙂

  44. “1)You can’t be truly free if you live in fear of being banrupted by a major illness or injury. hence the need for Universal Healthcare.

    2)You can’t be truly free if you live in fear of being shot by a criminal. Hence the need for gun control.

    3)You can’t be truly free if you live in fear of unemployment. Hence the need for job security protections and controls on who employers can hire and fire. And the need for protectionism to protect there jobs from being taken by a foreigner.

    The list goes on and on.”

    Exactly. The young think they can solve all the world’s problems. This sets them up perfectly for the kind of thinking you describe.

  45. Unfortunately, and paradoxically, people who believe and advocate for freedom tend to be the types you’d avoid if you saw them across the room at a party.

    The folks who got picked on for being “different” in their formative years do tend to develop an appreciation of being left alone. There’s a reason you see such a high correlation between libertarianism and avid sci-fi readership, for instance.

  46. The foregoing post would have been shorter if I had just said:

    Everybody wants free stuff.

    A few of us realize that you can’t have free stuff just because the president says so.

  47. I was a hardcore liberal back when I was a teenager too. So long as you have room and board, and maybe a tax-free allowance, provided for you, economic freedom doesn’t seem all that important. Especially compared to the freedom to have sex and drink and hang out with who you want to, or for more nerdy types like I used to be, the desire to see abstract conceptions of the perfect society fulfilled in the real world.

    Only when you start having to provide things for yourself do you begin to value economic freedom. Not saying that will ever happen to these people, especially if our economy moves even further toward the welfare-state model, but it’s silly to assume that the current political philosophies of teenagers will endure long into their adult life.

  48. SF,

    Is it work safe? When did you get a blog? Is there supposed to be an hr before sugarfree?

  49. Safe-ish (there is a pic of LW in a scrotum costume) / I set it up this morning / Yes, because a blog that hasn’t been update since 2001 has sugarfree.blogspot.com [grr]

  50. Yes, because a blog that hasn’t been update since 2001 has sugarfree.blogspot.com [grr]

    You couldn’t recover your pw?

  51. However, we do need to be concerned that just as in the story of the Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp, these things tend to create a vicious spiral of dependency. Once people get used to a certain level of dependency they will do everything they can to remain dependent.

    Thankfully, no economy can sustain this forever, and after the economy collapses people begin to figure out how they lived independently before the govt wiped their noses. But that process itself is not a pleasant prospect.

  52. If you want to find a libertarian generation, it will be the kids who are ten and under right now. They will be the ones who grow up under the government’s and their lunatic risk averse parents’ thumbs. They will be the ones who grow up under perverse economic conditions created by big government. They will be the ones who live to see how all that free stuff this generation and their whackjob boomer mentors think is so great aren’t so great or so free after all. Sadly, things will have to get worse before they get better.

  53. McCain is now the pro liberty choice?

    I voted for Obama, and even if he turns out to be the biggest asshole since Hitler, the Republican party needed to kicked in the nuts very very hard.

  54. I voted for Obama, and even if he turns out to be the biggest asshole since Hitler, the Republican party needed to kicked in the nuts very very hard.

    Um, you and Ron Bailey did that when you gave us Obama. Thanks.

    I voted for the other Black dude.

  55. While John’s verbage is a little harsh, he is sadly correct. The majority of my generation are hardcore liberals who believe what they’ve been told by public school indoctrination, or people so distrustful of society that they just want to get theirs at others expense. Libertarian belief is just too hard for them to grasp due to their lack of reality or ideas of consequences. They assume that Nanna Gov’mt will care for them if those consequences ever come to fruition. Only 1:500 believe in true individual liberty, and are so disenchanted with the political system that they believe there’s no chance anyhow.

    That said, the reason they don’t vote libertarian is the Libertarian party.

    2 reasons: They don’t see a chance for success, and so choose the lesser of the two evils they can think succeed. And your ranks are filled with racist nutjobs, truthers, and old cranky men who are horrible public speakers.

    NOTE: That lonewacko story is brilliant.

  56. “I voted for Obama, and even if he turns out to be the biggest asshole since Hitler, the Republican party needed to kicked in the nuts very very hard.”

    Then make a statement by voting for Barr or not voting. By voting for Obama you just gave him a bigger majority and more power. Any Libertarian who voted for Obama needs to be ashamed of himself.

  57. I left out one other type:

    Those who believe the world is a horrible place and that they can make a difference, and solve all the worlds ills. They’ll make it better by going to rally’s and supporting Obama with all their heart. Free Healthcare for all! Free Clean Energy for All! Clean the Earth at Humanities Expense!

    They frighten me the most.

  58. the Republican party needed to kicked in the nuts very very hard.

    They did, it’s true. Obama was not the only non-Republican candidate out there, though. Now he’s sitting up there in the White House, peeing in everybody’s butts.

    The Dems could use a good nutkick at first opportunity.

  59. “Those who believe the world is a horrible place and that they can make a difference, and solve all the worlds ills. They’ll make it better by going to rally’s and supporting Obama with all their heart. Free Healthcare for all! Free Clean Energy for All! Clean the Earth at Humanities Expense!”

    What is that old saying; when people don’t believe in God the danger is not that they will believe in nothing it is that they will believe in anything. Most people are just not happy as athiests. They want to believe in something. They want to have meaning in their life. It used to be that they got that through, at least in the US, Christianity. Now many of them get it by joining crackpot causes like you describe. Instead of saying the Rosary they recycle. Instead of attending services every Sunday, they go to marches and protests. They commit what really is man’s original sin, believe that they can create heaven on earth.

  60. Free Healthcare for all! Free Clean Energy for All! Clean the Earth at Humanities Expense!

    How is it at humanity’s expense if we protect the environment that humanity inhabits?

  61. Tony stared at his computer screen, amazed. How could these insane libertards think that saving the earth was bad? Tony didn’t really know what saving the earth meant or truly entailed, but it sure sounded good to him, and that was what mattered.

    That’s when he realized that the jerk Xeones had posted again, but he had been so focused on responding to John that he hadn’t noticed. He was itching to respond to him, but he had to pee after so many energy drinks, and if was going to be in the bathroom anyway, he might as well shave his asshole because he was getting cling-ons again. But he resolved to come back as soon as possible.

  62. Instead of attending services every Sunday, they go to marches and protests.

    All true atheists sleep in on Sunday.

  63. Be quiet Tony, the adults are speaking.

  64. “All true atheists sleep in on Sunday.”

    So do a lot of Catholics. That whole 5:30 mass thing.

  65. @ Toxic

    “McCain is now the pro liberty choice?

    I voted for Obama, and even if he turns out to be the biggest asshole since Hitler, the Republican party needed to kicked in the nuts very very hard.”

    Exactly. It doesn’t matter which of the 2 big parties are in power. The dems will take away your economic freedom, and the repubs will take away your social freedoms. After 8 years of having a theological agenda shoved down my throat, I would still have voted for Obama even if he actually carried a hammer and sickle.

    The Libertarian party needs to get to the youth just like the republicrats do, otherwise we’re no more than debate society. How, I have no idea.

  66. How is it at humanity’s expense if we protect the environment that humanity inhabits?

    And when i shell out to fix my house, that doesn’t count as an expense on my budget, because i live there! Tony, you are one dumb motherfucker.

  67. The Libertarian party needs to get to the youth just like the republicrats do, otherwise we’re no more than debate society. How, I have no idea.

    Maybe we should start referring to ourselves as “Libertarianz” or the “Libertarian Par-tay”.

  68. John,
    I hate to have to tell you this, but lefty political protests are not the domain of atheists. There is a very strong socialist Christian movement out there and most of the conventionally main-stream protestant denominations (near where I live at least, UCC, UMC, unitarians, many Episcopalians) are pretty firmly planted on the left.
    So a return to religion is not an answer to the problem here. I fear that people just won’t get it until confronted with a truly and blatantly brutal totalitarian state. Until people see their lives and families threatened, most people will continue to go along with the people who think they can fix the world.

  69. Maybe we should start referring to ourselves as “Libertarianz” or the “Libertarian Par-tay”.

    We should set up a Myspace page too. Isn’t that what all the kids are into these days?

  70. “I hate to have to tell you this, but lefty political protests are not the domain of atheists. There is a very strong socialist Christian movement out there and most of the conventionally main-stream protestant denominations (near where I live at least, UCC, UMC, unitarians, many Episcopalians) are pretty firmly planted on the left.”

    You are right. But I would argue that the mainline Protestant churchs have so dilluded thier teachings that they really no longer count as Christian. They are just secular churches teaching the PC doctrine. Same goes for the leftist elemetns of the Catholic church. Sadly, as a Christian your choices are, mainline Protestant leftist goo, being a Papist, or evangelical holy rollers. UGH!! Reasons why I don’t belong to a church.

  71. Xeones,

    You’re saying unmitigated climate change won’t present costs to humanity?

  72. Funny… the older I get, the more libertarian I get. Either it means I’m growing up or that I’m getting senile.

    BTW, this article is crap. The younger generation don’t see anything wrong with incremental intrusions int their liberties in the name of safety (economic or otherwise). I’ll echo John in that the Gen “Whatever” crowd have a different definition of freedom.

    … or maybe they’re all just clueless sheep?

  73. You’re saying unmitigated climate change won’t present costs to humanity?

    Thnks fr th thrdjck

  74. If you believe people are shaped by their environment, the fact that our plurality-wins electoral system allows for only two parties, both of which compete for the “middle of the road” voter, may stifle whatever libertarian sentiment naturally exists. The preferences of voters are shaped by those who hold power and control public discourse. If the parties aren’t libertarian and the discourse isn’t libertarian, the voters aren’t libertarian. Could also explain why on the other hand we haven’t drifted to socialism quite as fast as everyone else.

    The plenitude of socialist countries with lots of parties notwithstanding, I wonder if libertarian ideas would have a better standing in the US if we had proportional representation and the many parties that come with it.

  75. I will say that the intrusion of statism is so pervasive and has been going on for so long that I doubt most young people will notice it unless either well-schooled in history and/or at least vaguely aware of threads of alternative political thought.

  76. Reagan won two landslides saying the government was the problem not the answer because things sucked in the 70s. Reason has this wierd nastalgic view of the decade, but the decade sucked. The cities fell a part. Crime was out of control. There was massive inflation. People got a ten year adult dose of government suckatude. Sadly, they have now forgotten all the lessons of that decade and are going to have get another dose relearn the lessons.

  77. Furthermore, John is spouting religious bullshit and nobody is calling him an idiot or a dumb motherfucker, but debating calmly with him.

    All you guys have to do to get me to go away is to admit you’re de facto Republican shills who tolerate conservative quackery much more than liberal quackery without any regard to liberty (or fiscal responsibility for that matter) but just because you all share the same shallow rhetorical hatred of taxes.

  78. “The preferences of voters are shaped by those who hold power and control public discourse.”

    That is true. Right now Hollywood and the media are controled by hard leftists. They control the dialog and determine what can and cannot be said in polite company. They determine what is mainstream and what is not. Shows like the Daily Show and the West Wing and movies like Erin Brokovic that portray the free market as evil have a real negative effect on the country.

  79. “Furthermore, John is spouting religious bullshit and nobody is calling him an idiot or a dumb motherfucker, but debating calmly with him.”

    Translation: I have nothing of substance to say in response and am not smart enough to articulate why I think he is wrong, so I will just spout off a few obscenities and dismiss him.

  80. I never thought I would say this, but Joe really was a reasonable liberal. He is a shill and a hack, but he is Danial Webster compared to Tony.

  81. John,

    There is no God. That’s why you’re wrong.

  82. I’m more apt to believe Mencken’s idea that we’re a nation of joiners. In high school, you have no choice but to associate with your peers, even if you don’t want to. You show up to school, have your friends, that’s all you need. In college, you leave your old friends and have to find new ones – you find people you like and join what they’re doing and change your viewpoints in order to network. Right after college, you’re inclined to do that even more just so you can feel like you belong to something. It’s simply insecurity – it’s expressed more in political terms as people get older. So it’s not news that people aged 14-25 are “libertarian” – they aren’t – they’re just less insecure.

  83. Tony,

    You’re saying that mitigating climate change won’t cost anything? ‘Cause that’s kind of what How is it at humanity’s expense if we protect the environment that humanity inhabits? implies.

  84. The press articles that say each generation is more libertarian are half right. On social issues, each generation really has been more libertarian. 60 years ago, blacks couldn’t marry whites. 30 years ago, men couldn’t marry other men. Now they can. In terms of social arrangements, people are free to associate with anyone they want (the exception is polygamy–I think this wall will be breached in about another 30 years). Now we can watch sex on TV and the internet, wear jeans to school, get news from many different sources, and nobody gives it much thought anymore. We’ve won half the battle.

    With economic freedom, the picture is a lot more mixed. Marginal tax rates, even after Obama does his damage, will still be lower than they were in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The government spends a lot more today, though, and there is a lot more regulation. Now 2 of the big three car companies have been nationalized, but they no longer play the role they one did in the economy. Microsoft and Amazon are still private companies. On the economic front, we have clearly not won, but we are not screwed yet either.

    I see two megatrends of the future. The first is immigration. Most people coming to the US are from groups that do not have much of a libertarian tradition. The second is genetic research. As the data keeps streaming in, and it becomes more obvious that individual differences cannor be explained away by environment, the old “blank slate” mentality cannot last. This will not be good news for economic liberals.

  85. We should set up a Myspace page too. Isn’t that what all the kids are into these days?

    In all seriousness, one would think the political party that advocates legal pot & porn would have a lock on the youth vote.

    Then again, there are authoritarian dickholes like Glenn Beck claiming to be Libertarians, and I’m not sure if the LP has gotten over being the “Party of that Blue Dude“.

    but Punk @ 4:35 is right. Most young people don’t give a crap about liberty and individual freedom.

  86. “There,” thought Tony. “I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. I’ve challenged them to admit they’re Republicans, even though they routinely attack and decry Republicans, the GOP, and conservatives. That’ll show ’em!”

    In satisfaction, and pleased at the smoothness of his newly shaved anus, Tony broke out a Charleston Chew and waited for the libertarians to not admit being something they weren’t. He’d shown them. And he’d do it again.

  87. “John,

    There is no God. That’s why you’re wrong.”

    Yeah that is an intelligent response. I would invite you to consider the implications of their not being a God. Step out of your liberal dellusions for a bit and stare into the abyss for a while. Then after you have cryed yourself to sleep come back and we will talk.

  88. Sadly, as a Christian your choices are, mainline Protestant leftist goo, being a Papist, or evangelical holy rollers.

    Join us. Don’t be afraid.

  89. Tony,

    Please read up on the green revolution. There are problems yes, but it’s kept billions alive.

    John,

    Whoaaaa man. There may be issues here, but I know dogma is not the answer. Dogma feeds delusion and self-righteous belief. I’m not an athiest but dogmatic belief systems are silly at their best and dangerous at their worst.

    Episiarch,

    You are truly an artist.

    I have nothing more worthwhile to ad, good day to you all, I’m going drinking.

  90. “The second is genetic research. As the data keeps streaming in, and it becomes more obvious that individual differences cannor be explained away by environment, the old “blank slate” mentality cannot last. This will not be good news for economic liberals.”

    I agree with you that the blank slate menatlity is patently rediculous and at odds with both common experience and science. But, how is that necessarily bad news for economic liberals? I am not arguing with you. I just don’t see how that is true and would like to know why you think it is.

  91. Xeones,

    No it doesn’t. Obviously it will have costs. The question is will it cost more than doing nothing. If you have any appreciation whatsoever of the facts in this matter you’ll realize the cost to humanity of doing nothing far outweigh the costs of mitigating it.

  92. Mike,

    60 years ago, there was no Drug War, no gun control to speak of, and you were allowed to mention a candidate for public office on the radio less than 90 days before an election. There’s been some loosening up on the pelvic issues, but we’ve taken a step back for every step forward, even on social issues.

  93. “Whoaaaa man. There may be issues here, but I know dogma is not the answer. Dogma feeds delusion and self-righteous belief. I’m not an athiest but dogmatic belief systems are silly at their best and dangerous at their worst.”

    I am not advocating dogma. But I do think that you have to figure out a way to squiare the humility needed to advocate indivudual freedom (namely that there are limits to how much human action can attain and consiquently we need to stop believing that government coercion can solve our problems) with people’s desire to believe in something larger than themselves and be a part of bigger causes.

  94. I would invite you to consider the implications of their not being a God. Step out of your liberal dellusions for a bit and stare into the abyss for a while. Then after you have cryed yourself to sleep come back and we will talk.

    Trust me, I’ve stared. And it’s not easy. But I’m a grown up. I can handle existential dread. I don’t need a daddy in the sky and a false promise of eternal life to make it all seem OK. Incidentally, I believe my alternative to be much more pleasant. I don’t want to spend a trillion trillion trillion trillion multiplied by a trillion trillion years multiplied by infinity anywhere, in any state, and I doubt you do either. Not that it being more pleasant is why I believe. I can only believe in proportion to evidence, and the evidence your deity exists is nil.

  95. Tony was pleased. He had the jerk Xeones on the ropes with the infallible logic that Xeones must be an idiot if he didn’t agree. What could Xeones possibly say to that?

    Very satisfied, Tony pondered having another Charleston Chew, but he was concerned about getting fat. He decided to have a Tab instead. He had been surprised when he found Tab at that old store downtown, but they assured him it was the real deal and only 20 years old. What a find that was!

  96. “60 years ago, there was no Drug War, no gun control to speak of, and you were allowed to mention a candidate for public office on the radio less than 90 days before an election. There’s been some loosening up on the pelvic issues, but we’ve taken a step back for every step forward, even on social issues.”

    There was also no CPS examining every bump and bruise on every kid. I think the rise of CPS shows the delima we are in. Everytime the government takes away our freedom it is done for the noblest cause. Who doesn’t want to stop child abuse? Of course what gets lost in the debate is that taking away our freedoms really don’t do much to stop child abuse and are huge costs in themselves. No one talks about the downside of invading people’s privacy, of the people falsly accused of abuse and caught in the system. All they talk about is the need to save kids. Here we are 40 years later and kids are no safer than they were and no one has any privacy anymore.

  97. “Trust me, I’ve stared. And it’s not easy. But I’m a grown up. I can handle existential dread.”

    That is pure comedy gold man. Rage rage against the dying of the light. You go Tony.

  98. People, I think we’re missing the main issue here. What are we going to do to get those damn Millennials to stop skate-boarding on the sidewalk?

  99. OSHA is another good one. Who doesn’t believe in worker safety? But the number of accidents per hour worked is no lower today than it was in 1970 when OSHA was enacted. So we have pissed away billions of dollars paying OSHA inspectors and lawyers and pissed away more billions in useless safety measures and gotten absolutely nothing in return. But anyone who argued that OSHA should be abolished would be portrayed as hating American workers. None of this shit works, but we pay for it anyway.

  100. In short, they love their freedom.

    Which explains why they came out in droves to vote for Obama! Yeah, maybe they didn’t want as much freedom as MoustacheGuy was offering, but that still doesn’t explain their continued worship of him.

  101. Which explains why they came out in droves to vote for Obama! Yeah, maybe they didn’t want as much freedom as MoustacheGuy was offering, but that still doesn’t explain their continued worship of him.

    I don’t think anyone is worshiping Obama. The majority in this country I think are just happy to be rid of Bush. Seems like they were willing to give “small government” a try back when less seemed to be at stake. Since most people aren’t ideologically married to the idea that government is always bad and always inefficient, now they’re willing to give something else a try. That Obama has proven competent, even when you’re not comparing him to the low standards set by Bush, means his approval ratings remain high. That’s not worship, it’s political reality.

  102. Tony,

    How exactly was Bush, someone who raised the size and scope of government, giving small government a try? Further, Obama hasn’t done one competant thing yet. From small things like giving the Prime Minister of Britian DVDs that were for the wrong zone to big things like TARP and Iran, Obama has exhibit no competance at anything. At best he has just blundered further down the path set by Bush and at worst he has been downright dangerous. Other than your blind loyalty to the man, what would cause anyone to think he is competant?

  103. Tony,

    Obama can’t say two sentences without a teleprompter. The guy isn’t bright. Face it. He is an empty suit.

  104. Damn you, Epi, now I’m craving a Charleston Chew! Haven’t had one of those things for years. Not sure if I want to put it in the fridge or let it melt in my mouth, though.

  105. Guys, Tony is like a Google ad. The more you mention him the more he appears.

  106. Good GOD man! Fine. Here you go:

    I hereby admit [I’m a] de facto Republican shills who tolerate[s] conservative quackery much more than liberal quackery without any regard to liberty (or fiscal responsibility for that matter) but just because [I] share the same shallow rhetorical hatred of taxes.

    So, now you can go.

    Have a good day.

  107. More seriously, as a millenial I’ll offer my .02 on my generation as I have experienced it.

    the 2 most important factors by far are 1) the internet as a place of freedom and 2) our liberal brainwashing–I mean education.

    Millenials are very libertarian leaning. Take for example the popularity of South Park. My generation does not know a world without the internet. The internet, as has been written in Reason before, makes people more libertarian.

    However, we have been educated through high-school and college by people who are extremely liberal and who very often became teachers to proselytize their politics. You cannot discount our liberal education when discussing our generation because all of us are very recently out of school.

    Thus our education is at odds with our experiences. Most people my age are, therefore, very confused politically. Sure they voted for Obama, but when you start to question them you find out that they don’t really know why. They don’t like to talk politics in great depth with people like me* (my mom had me reading Heinlein at 8) because they don’t have any defenses to my arguments. They realize that they have never put what they believe to any serious scrutiny.

    That is why “hope” and “change” resonated with my age group: they didn’t required (and arguably discouraged) self examination of one’s political beliefs.

    *I may also be just an asshole, but that’s something that’s hard to self diagnose.

  108. Millenials are very libertarian leaning.

    Stagman, unfortunately, you go on to refute this very assertion, when you note that they voted for Obama, they aren’t open to discussing why, they are politically inert, they are brainwashed by our education system, etc.

    Grooving on the intertubes does not a libertarian make.

  109. Tony | May 7, 2009, 4:43pm | #

    All you guys have to do to get me to go away is to admit you’re de facto Republican shills who tolerate conservative quackery much more than liberal quackery without any regard to liberty (or fiscal responsibility for that matter) but just because you all share the same shallow rhetorical hatred of taxes.

    Actually, I find that quickly hitting the scroll down button whenever I see your name does an admirable job of making your comments disappear from my field of view.

    But, if you guarantee to permanently go away and never return as you promised above, I will cut and paste your blatantly false portrayal of the libertarian POV and cynically claim it as mine — once.

    Then, I’ll go back to, you know, stating my actual POV advocating for more freedom.

  110. Good points, crimethink. I can’t disagree with you that there have been some steps back (and I just realized that people’s freedom to smoke is much more restricted now, too), but still think we are better off overall.

    John, first I just want to make clear that by “economic liberals” I mean people modern liberals like Obama, not classical liberals/libertarians. Now it is common for liberals to say “He is poor/in jail/ect. because he was raised badly.” Society is responsible for his problems, and society needs to fix them, and we can fix them, because they were caused by the environment. Once people realize that traits like conscientiousness and intelligence are mostly fixed by birth, there will not be as many illusions that inequality is something that either can or should be fixed.

  111. The term “generation Y” is outdated and shows the people using the description have no damn imagination. We are better described as “R3volution Generation “

  112. Isaac Bertram,

    I have become convinced that democratic politics bring out the very basest instincts in people.

    There, I fixed that for you.

    The problem we have is not so simple as figuring out how to be more persuasive. The problem is that democracy has always, and will always, work against us. For many reasons including:

    — there are always more poor people than rich, so if you offer free stuff at somebody else’s expense, sooner or later you’ll get the majority vote

    — politicians, like the news people, make their careers off of crises, so they will always manufacture them and then take away our liberties to “fix” the problems

    We could go on but that’s enough of a start. But democracy is one of this generation’s sacred cows. It’s taught in schools because schools teach socialism. It’s invariably the socialists who suggest there should be laws forcing everyone to vote, because they know in advance who’s going to win.

  113. So we all know dictatorships and monarchies suck. And who’s in the mood for an oligarchy?

    But it is a basic economic axiom: people respond to incentives. Democracy is a recipe to incentivize socialism.

    I don’t for a minute believe this latest generation is libertarian leaning. They’re socialists to the core, more so than their parents because they’ve been better indoctrinated.

    Before we bust our asses trying to persuade the masses they’re wrong, we really need to come up with a system that isn’t going to be stacked against us from the start.

    Shit-can democracy as we now know it. Kill the existing public educational system (all the way up through universities). We’re kidding ourselves to believe we’re ever going to swim against the tide that these two create.

    Then, we need to get a little more realistic about some libertarian “ideals”, so as to convince people we aren’t just going to go in there and fuck everything up. “I promise to fuck it up in a whole new way” is not such a good come-on.

    Then, libertarians need some non-dorks to run for office.

    Now if you tap your heels three times and just believe, it’ll all come to pass.

  114. I don’t consider most 20 somethings today remotely libertarian. Most of them expect more government sponsored social services like higher education and health care. Keynesian economic theories are widely believed. They endorse tax and spend stimulus as the perfect panacea for a recession. Just like Obama.

    They have little regard for individual rights and think as collectivists or “greater good”.

    They support cap and trade. Sin taxes. Progressive tax increases on the rich. Increased regulations on businesses and increased minimum wages. They want more great societies and new deals. They deplore local government control and endorse central economic planning and social engineering. They are pro patriot act, pro bailout and protectionist.

    On the plus they are pro-freedom on gay marriage, guns and marijuana (taxed and heavily regulated of course).

    So basically we’re going the right direction on pot, guns and gays and horribly socialist on everything else.

  115. @Stagman: “Sure they voted for Obama, but when you start to question them you find out that they don’t really know why.”

    It’s anecdotal, but my stepdaughter said the same thing regarding all her friends who happen to be of the 20 – 25 yr old age group. They cannot articulate *why*. Although, that can be said about many folks regardless of party affiliation. The anger or frustration directed towards Obama voters is misplaced. Our electorate is (in my experience) sadly uninformed.

  116. Unfortunately the parasitic government system is strongly attached to the host, maintaining itself at the expense of those who don’t particularly care for the outcomes it produces, by playing the left against the right and offering the young a glimmer of “hope”.

  117. As a Gen Y-er (I think), I can tell you most of my peers are just as collectivist, if not more so, than their parents. They just don’t want the unpleasant part to apply to them.

  118. “Sure they voted for Obama, but when you start to question them you find out that they don’t really know why.”

    And they bitched at me for voting for McCain and giving “divided government” as a reason.

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