Where Do Libertarians Belong in American Politics?


Some interesting chatter at National Review Online between Reason magazine columnist Veronique de Rugy and Jonah Goldberg on the proper, or expected, place for serious libertarians in American politics, hooked off the Cato study on libertarian voters that Katherine Mangu-Ward talked about earlier.

From de Rugy, defending libertarians as not fickle and confusing when it comes to party affiliation, but merely tough and principled:

What we want is more freedom in our personal and economic lives. Sadly, over the years, no matter who has been in power, the government has grown. In fact, the story is even sadder. In theory, the Democrats want more government in our economic lives and less in our private lives while the Republicans want less government in our economic lives but aren't opposed to a certain level of government intervention in our personal lives. That's the theory. In reality, when Republicans or Democrats have been in power, they have done a poor job at defending our freedoms, even the ones they supposedly believe in.

As long as politicians fail to defend our freedom consistently, it is likely that libertarian-leaning voters will likely fail to commit to either group — not because they are capricious, but because they believe that more freedom is the way to a happier world for all of us.

Indeed, de Rugy, indeed. But Jonah Goldberg thinks she's only talking about a very tiny number of truly serious libertarians–you know, Reason magazine libertarians. But when talking about the larger group of voters that Cato's Boaz and Kirby are speaking of, we gotta realize that the hardcore libertarians:

don't come close to constituting a major voting block. I respect folks who seriously believe in liberty-maximization in all spheres of life, but that is not a power-brokering constituency in American politics and never will be. Many left-leaning self-described "libertarians" are libertarian (libertine?) on social-issues but Naderites on economic issues. Many conservatives are libertarian on economic and federalism issues, but un-libertarian on all sorts of issues like gay marriage or drugs….

While I'm not a big fan of third parties, a serious Libertarian party would be the least objectionable — to me at least — because I think it would help pull both parties in a mostly healthy direction. But I am dubious it will ever happen.

That's alas too often the end of any sober consideration of serious libertarian hopes: nice idea, but don't see much likelihood of it happening. (I can see the sense in Goldberg's declaration that leaving both parties, rather than shifting from one to the other, is the best way for libertarian-leaning voters to make it impossible for the two majors to miss exactly why they are losing some of their support. Shifts from one party to the other can be spun in many, many ways, as see all the contradictory chatter over what Scott Brown's victory really says about voters feelings today.)

There are certainly many, many serious libertarian thinkers and activists who have felt the same way, that short-horizon libertarian political victories seem wildly improbable; which is never enough to make the case that libertarian activism, intellectual work, or even voting (though I don't advocate it myself) are a waste of time in keeping the world of politics from being even more, if you can imagine it, out of control.

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  1. Freedom? Liberty? Hah! No matter our age, we are still childlike hairless apes, and without the Fist of Government in our rectums we would surely poke out our eyes with pointy sticks.

    The very idea!

    1. That is why I am The Baby-Daddy of every one of you ungrateful meatbags. You only exist to serve Me.

      And if you bitch about it, I’ll send Rahm over to slap you around.

      1. Hey! WE want that title!

        1. we are the ones you are waiting for

      2. Rahm couldn’t even deliver Massachusetts to you with the help of ACORN and the Boston Machine. Methinks he’s going soft in his old age.

        1. Could you stop the ‘ACORN stole the election’ bullshit? It’s as stupid as ‘Diebold stole the election’ before it was.

          1. ACORN didn’t steal this election, obviously. I don’t see where you think I stated it did.

            1. Not for a lack of trying. ACORN is still an evil organization which might occasionally do something decent, by mistake.

      3. Rahmming speed!

    2. Um… the fist of government IS us pointing our eyes out with pointy sticks.

      Government is the pointy stick.

      1. “We” aren’t government. For the most part, people IN government are former human beings who have been transformed into self-serving perpetual-reelection machines.

    3. When did you turn into Tony?

  2. Where Do Libertarians Belong in American Politics?

    I been through the desert on a horse with no name.

  3. To get the votes, a libertarian party candidate needs a hook of some sort. Let’s see… How about a campaign promise for the federal government to spend more on-

    No wait, that won’t work. Okay, what about a candidate guaranteeing that, if elected, he’ll create a new agency that will make voters’ lives better in some-

    Dammit, this is really hard!

    1. Needs more hopey and a dollop of changey, Fist.

    2. Vote for me. I won’t do a damn thing.

      Ahhh I don’t want to to work, I just want to bang on the drum all day.

      What the hell’s wrong with me today? Everything I touch turns into the lyrics of some dumb song.

    3. Give every citizen a check. The value would be based on some kind of scale, some kind of measurement… there’s got to be something that we could use to determine how much money to give everyone…

      1. “No representation without taxation”?
        The hell with giving them a check for X amount; time to use the stick.
        You wanna vote and have it counted? Well, show you’ve payed X taxes the past year.
        Sorry, you don’t get to vote on what happens to the bucks if you don’t have skin in the game.

        1. When does anyone get to vote on what happens to the bucks?

        2. I’ve at times thought taxes should be considered stock in the corporation that is the US. If you own stock, you get a vote. If you own a lot of stock, you get a lot of votes. If you own no stock, then I think it goes without saying that you can fuck off.

          1. My sentiments exactly.

    4. Hire thousands of attractive, well-built women. Put LP or otherwise libertarian images and/or statements on their chests. Have them walk around at events and in public places with lots of traffic. Sit back and wait for the freedom to ring.

      1. Banner reads: Libertopia needs a few good women.

        I think Switzerland has just the women we need.

  4. I’ve become of the opinion that for a libertarian candidate to get any traction he needs to do what other politicians do:

    Lie like there’s no tomorrow. “Do I want to legalize drugs like Heroin and Cocaine? Absolutely not… I have no intention of cutting military spending… I plan to veto every single bill that does not provide health care for every single American…” and so on. Most of those can easily be shoehorned into a libertarian platform through the miracle of parsing.

    Maybe libertarians just need to get better at deceiving the populace as to their true intentions. Advicate the most popular position on every single issue, and then just do what you want once elected.

    That’s kind of Machiavellian, I know, but if you want to win…

    1. Lie like there’s no tomorrow. “Do I want to legalize drugs like Heroin and Cocaine?

      Absolutely!” And then he doesn’t.

    2. The problem with that strategy is that once you know someone’s OK with lying to your opponents, you can’t be sure he’s not lying to you too. In twenty years that will be called the Obama Dilemma.

    3. The liberals have been doing it for years.

  5. First step is to correctly spell “advocate”.

  6. How about starting from the ground up? I’m not trying to bust anyones balls here, but any national office is simply out of reach. The LP really need to work harder at getting established at the local and regional level. The actions of Mayors, City and county councils, school boards and the like still have a great deal of impact on the average person and will help build the LP brand.

    1. +1, this is really where it starts, getting libertarians elected at lower levels and hopefully have them move up the political chain.

      1. It can cost thousands of dollars to run for a school-board slot, which pays nothing. Running for mayor of a town of five thousand people can cost that much or more.

        Just to run a decent state rep campaign can cost about a hundred grand. I know, I tried, had nowhere near that kind of money – but that’s what the incumbent spent.

        God knows what it costs to run for governor, state auditor, or US Senate.

        LP candidates don’t have the machinery behind us like the Brand Xers do. We need to build that machinery.

        1. Have I got a deal for you.

          Once, I dreamed of being a bank robber. But I was afraid I’d get caught, so I went to school and became an engineer. Now I could design robots that do the robbing. And to stay clean, I don’t even use them, I just sell them to people who might want to use them.

  7. As Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, while it’s not as though you can break the American people down into just liberals and conservatives, it’s also not that you can break people down into liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. There’s a sizable number of anti-libertarian populists. Sadly, by many measures there’s as many of them as there are libertarians, or more.

    The Cato study showed that libertarian voters do swing between the parties, but, importantly, they swung the opposite of how the electorate as a whole did from 2000 to 2008. Republicans gained net votes in 2002 and 2004 while losing libertarians, while libertarian votes actually swung back to Republicans in 2006 and even more so in 2008.

    If libertarian ideas are so unpopular that pursuing libertarian voters means losing a greater number of non-libertarian voters, then we have a lot to despair about.

    1. Now you get the picture.

  8. The LP, as it stands, is composed primarily of hardcore naval gazers and assholes who don’t want to pay their taxes. There’s just not much room, demographically, to carry anything but token numbers at election time. This can change. Wait until the feds start having problems with bond sales…

    1. ‘hardcore naval gazers’

      I gazed at the navy. There were big ships, a couple of carriers. They were quite imposing. I thought about our fleet. I thought about the imposition it made on every sunup and every sundown.

      1. Damn, I botched that homophone.

        Although I did spend some time with the USN back in the day. AO-99 representin’…

        1. At least you didn’t both a homophobe.

    2. You want to pay taxes? Is it something you look forward to?

      Because I don’t want to pay taxes. I don’t want to go to the dentist either, but neither make me an asshole.

      1. Actually, I don’t pay much in the way of taxes. retail and such, certainly, but, thanks to the Earned Income Credit, income tax season is a net benefit to the tune of a couple grand. Does that mean I have to turn in my decoder ring?

        1. I see, a moocher.

          1. Yeah, like that. You see a moocher where you’re supposed to see a vote. That attitude, all by itself, is a big part of what keeps the libertines on the fringe. But at least you’re right, right? Right doesn’t win elections. You need votes.

  9. Real libertarians don’t vote.

  10. We need stronger candidates, who could win D/R primaries if they ran as such. So basically we need to work hard, get promoted to CEO, and then run for office.

  11. I would say not even Reason libertarians are hardcore. The real libertarians are the anarcho-capitalists who base their ideas on moral principal, in direct opposition to utilitarianism and moral consequentialism. I’ve seen too many consequentialist “libertarians” around here.

    1. Full disclosure: By real libertarian I obviously mean myself, as do all libertarians when pontificating on the elusive “real libertarian.”

      1. And yes this is actually me and not someone trolling as me to be sarcastic. I’m poking fun at myself. Really.

        1. is this a catch-20something?

    2. The real libertarians are the anarcho-capitalists who base their ideas on moral principal, in direct opposition to utilitarianism and moral consequentialism.

      Rothbardian Libertarian – C’est moi.

      And I take my freedom very seriously, thank you very much.

    3. As an an-cap, I enjoy the flattery. But anyone who actually stands by non-initiation of force is a “real” libertarian.

    4. Personally I don’t see how anyone who’s thought it through can seriously believe anarcho-capitalism can possibly work. It’s just as deluded a utopian fantasy as “pure” communism was, imho.

      But that doesn’t mean I don’t think you guys are libertarians.

      1. Anarcho-capitalism is a moral position. Does our current system “work”? It’s amusing how arguments against an-cap focus on how it’s not perfect, as if the existing system, or any other, are perfect. They all have terrible, awful flaws, and so does anarcho-capitalism. But at least it’s morally superior.

        1. as if the existing system, or any other, are perfect

          Argghh…subject noun fail. “as if the existing system, or any other, is perfect”

        2. I’ve heard liberals (read: socialists) argue the same way.

          1. O Rly? They’ve taken an absolute, morally defensible stance and stuck by it?

            If initiating force against others is wrong, government monopoly on force is therefore wrong.

            All I’ve seen liberals and conservatives do is bitch-slap each other over details about who is holding power.

            1. Initiation of force is going to happen as long as more than one human walks the earth. We can stomp our feet and say it’s immoral till we’re blue in the face, but any political system we subscribe to has to take into account the fact that it’s going to happen anyway. And anarcho-capitalism doesn’t deal seriously with this fact.

              1. but like somebody said, recognizing that initiation of force is wrong is the totality of anarcho-capitalism (IMHO)*. There is no system there to not deal seriously with anything (Again IMHO).

                * ok … probably need some kind of theory perhaps about just property acquisition in there too ….. but thats kind of an implicit part of deciding what’s initiated force and what’s retalitory force.

              2. Sure it does, at least as good as any other system.

        3. Our current system is relatively stable. Anarcho-capitalism would morph into the worst sort of dictatorship almost immediately, once one of the factions is able to overpower all the others. People don’t suddenly turn into peace-loving hippies when the government disappears, and the anarcho-capitalist assumption that this happens is just as misguided as the communist assumption that people will continue working hard even after their pay is no longer tied to performance. It’s inherently unstable, as all the various flavors of anarchy are.

          It’s no coincidence that the few examples of enduring liberty in non-isolated societies have all been minarchies. True, minarchies depend on constant maintenance on the part of the population too — eternal vigilance is indeed the price of freedom — but the US brand of limited government lasted for over a century before turning into the hodgepodge we have now in the Progressive Era.

          1. I don’t think that’s what an-caps believe at all.

            An-caps believe courts are vital, as are the police and military. And International relations is pure anarchy, yet most countries don’t fuck with little states like Singapore and Taiwan.

        4. Yes, those who have a problem with libertarianism invariably hypothesize some circumstance where there isn’t an obvious libertarian answer (though, there is often an answer, if you look deep enough). This as though all of the issues and problems they see with libertarianism do not currently exist and do not exist even more severely under other approaches to society and governance.

          At least libertarianism gives you a principled basis on which to address what appear to be difficult issues. I would argue that 90% of our problems have simple, obvious fixes from a libertarian perspective. Maybe consider the way that libertarianism answers most of the problems which plague us now and fret less about the remaining, hypothesized, more difficult issues.

        5. I read an-cap and think of the endcaps at the end of store aisles.

          1. I think of Andy Capp and wonder if that strip is still in circulation or if most of you think he originated as a snack food character…..

            1. I remember him. And his wife.

      2. I agree. But what they actually do is make me wonder if I know what a libertarian is.

        Other than something that I know isn’t going to get elected…..

  12. Where Do Libertarians Belong in American Politics?

    In Hong Kong.

  13. what we truly need are several very wealthy donors (billionaires) that commit large sums of cash to our cause … either in direct donations to the Libertarian Party or to causes directly tied to our activities. This is the true missing key …

    1. Liberals believe that large sums of money = mind control, so yeah that would work.

    2. what we truly need are several very wealthy donors (billionaires) that commit large sums of cash to our cause[…]

      Done – McClain-Feingold ist todt.

    3. That strategy worked great for the Ron Paul campaign. I’m sure CATO and Reason and the LP would like you to believe that throwing money at the problem is all you need to do, but it’s more complicated.

    4. See: Koch brothers, late ’70s, early ’80s. It brought the Clark presidential campaign, which was a high-water mark for votes. Launched Cato. Also burned a lot of cash that didn’t pay off.

      I’m grateful for what they (and their money!!) have done and continue to do, and one of those things is show that cash alone doesn’t make the difference.

      Now, Selma Hayek reading Friedrich Hayek… THAT would make a difference.

  14. There are certainly many, many serious libertarian thinkers and activists who have felt the same way, that short-horizon libertarian political victories seem wildly improbable.

    Political victories? Huh, so are we Libertarians suppose to change the whore house from within?

    Sorry, but I don’t like the idea of putting on lipstick.

  15. Statement of Congressman Ron Paul

    United States House of Representatives

    Statement in Opposition to H Res 1021, Condolences to Haiti

    January 21, 2010

    I rise in reluctant opposition to this resolution. Certainly I am moved by the horrific destruction in Haiti and would without hesitation express condolences to those who have suffered and continue to suffer. As a medical doctor, I have through my career worked to alleviate the pain and suffering of others. Unfortunately, however, this resolution does not simply express our condolences, but rather it commits the US government “to begin the reconstruction of Haiti” and affirms that “the recovery and long-term needs of Haiti will require a sustained commitment by the United States?.” I do not believe that a resolution expressing our deep regret and sorrow over this tragedy should be used to commit the United States to a “long-term” occupation of Haiti during which time the US government will provide for the reconstruction of that country.

    I am concerned over the possibility of an open-ended US military occupation of Haiti and this legislation does nothing to alleviate my concerns. On the contrary, when this resolution refers to the need for a long term US plan for Haiti, I see a return to the failed attempts by the Clinton and Bush Administrations to establish Haiti as an American protectorate. Already we are seeing many argue that this kind of humanitarian mission is a perfect fit for the US military. I do not agree.

    Certainly I would support and encourage the efforts of the American people to help the people of Haiti at this tragic time. I believe that the American people are very generous on their own and fear that a US government commitment to reconstruct Haiti may actually discourage private contributions. Mr. Speaker, already we see private US citizens and corporations raising millions of dollars for relief and reconstruction of Haiti. I do not believe the US government should get in the way of these laudable efforts. I do express my condolences but I unfortunately must urge my colleagues to vote against this resolution committing the United States government to rebuild Haiti.

    This is showing principles. This is showing huevos, because now Statists of every ilk (from the left and right) will attack him for being such a cold hearted “isolationist.”

    He was the only one to vote “No”. How could one not admire a person of such moral conviction, especially when he is following HIS OATH to protect the Constitution to the tee?

    1. This is what Congressman Paul most likely found troubling [I find it disturbing]:

      (7) recognizes that the recovery and long-term needs of Haiti will require a sustained commitment [Translation: your tax dollars] by the United States and international community based on comprehensive assessments of the development needs for Haiti;

      (9) urges the President?

      (A) to continue to make available to United States agencies [emphasis mine], nongovernmental organizations, private voluntary organizations, regional institutions, and United Nations agencies the resources [Translation: your tax dollars] necessary to confront the effects and consequences of this natural disaster[…]

      This is the kind of stuff that Libertarians should abhor – the use of appeals to emotions to justify this plundering of our wallets for years to come, just to conduct social engineering experiments on an unsuspecting (and suffering) people.

      1. Hell, send Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity there to help rebuild Haiti. I’m sure he needs the work and publicity to satisfy his self serving ego while he guilts the rest of the country to hop on board with his globalist, One World garbage. He can bring Ty Pennington and company with him along with that Madden Cruiser that they haul around.

      2. But does the bill really _do_ anything other than offer condolences.

        There doesn’t appear to be any actions that are going to be taken because of its passage, and the fact that normal rules were suspended and debate lasted less than an hour suggests this is another one of those “say something, do nothing” type things congress spends its time with.

        I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, but why vote against it if there’s no practical upside?

        If the next bill comes down the pike with $100 billion in reconstruction aid to Haiti over the next year, then by all means “nay” the crap out of it. But why hand out bulletin board material for future elections if there’s no real gain to be had?

        1. 7 is vague, but 9A “does” something, even if it is only telling the Prez to do something. But, technically, that is all any bill does – tell the executive what to execute.

    2. You’re not protecting shit (besides the adoration of your simple-minded worshippers, I suppose) if you’re on the losing side of a 434-1 vote.

      Bob Barr’s “yes” vote on the Patriot Act, which ensured that the worst portions of it would expire five years later, did way more to protect the Constitution than all of Ron Paul’s “no” votes combined. The voting games played in Congress are not as simple as many of you seem to think.

      1. Keep this up and we’re going to have to promote you to chief strategist.

        Tell us child, where did you come from?

      2. Tulpa, Tulpa, Tulpa,

        There is no worship here. We worship no one. We admire certain acts. That’s it. But no worship. Worship? That’s for worshippers.

        1. There was a period of several months where Ron Paul enthusiasts would berate Reason for covering the Ron Paul racist newsletter story — a story Ron Paul himself admitted was true. I feel totally justified in terming those people worshippers.

      3. Bob Barr’s “yes” vote on the Patriot Act, which ensured that the worst portions of it would expire five years later, did way more to protect the Constitution than all of Ron Paul’s “no” votes combined.

        Basically agree, but the person who deserves the most credit for the sunsetting of portions of the Act is Dick Armey.

  16. “But such very serious, committed, consistent libertarians are very rare in America (and really, really rare everywhere else).”

    The last parenthetical is the most depressing, and accurate statement of Goldberg’s response. If you think this country’s political trends are awful, you’re better off ignorant of the vast of the rest of the world’s political heritages and trends. Democrats are positively libertarian in comparison with most European politicians, particularly on the continent. And Asia and Africa, and the peoples residing therein, generally have close to no tradition of individual liberty.

    1. Ah, I see I forgot Latin America, land of left and right populists and socialists.

  17. Honestly, libertarians remind me of the marxists I knew in school. Kind of fun and exciting at first because of their earnest idealism, but ultimately tiresome because that idealism fades into borish obstinancy or becomes mendaciously self-serving. The hardcore ‘radicals’ will tell you that “Marxism didn’t fail, it’s never been tried,” and the libertarians strike much the same note. No matter what problems or short-comings you point out to them, they tell you that “if the markets were really free” or “if we actually lived in a libertarian society” things would be better. It’s a utopianism based on extrapolation and speculation. But I suppose that only applies to the utilitarians and consequentialists that Heller feels aren’t real libertarians. It sounds like his is an almost theological moral absolutism, which is …

    Well, good luck with the anarcho-capitalist party. I’ll definitely caucus with you guys if only for the after-parties.

    1. No matter what problems or short-comings you point out to them, they tell you that “if the markets were really free” or “if we actually lived in a libertarian society” things would be better.

      That’s a caricature of the libertarian argument. It is possible to look at different sectors of the economy that are closer or further from operating as free markets, and to ferret out the effects of free market policies vs. statist policies. There is of course a rich literature that you could study about this question, if you’re interested in more than mocking what you don’t understand.

  18. Politics? We don’t need no stinkin’ politics.

  19. But Asian people do have a tradition of minding their own business.

    1. Only if they’ve rewritten the history books since I last read them.

      1. I should have said Asian PEOPLE in general mind their own business. Because paybacks are a bitch.

      2. Outside of token UN contributions, how many troops does China have in bases outside its national borders? How about Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, or Singapore? How about thee U.S.? I think Gao Xia-en is correct here.

        1. Umm, there was this empire that started on a chain of islands SE of Korea… I don’t think you can make broad, sweeping statements based on 65 years of enforced disarmament.

        2. China has a nice long history behind it too. Somebody remind me what’s happened in Vietnam and Korea over the ages, just to pick two examples off the top of my head.

          And that’s if we just don’t count the Turks and Mongols as “Asians”. I guess the Eurasian steppes are really just an orbiting moon or something.

  20. Libertarians have never been about voting blocs. Libertarians have always rationally understood the irrationality of voting. One vote, by itself is meaningless. Ergo, why vote in a bloc? It is just as meaningless.

  21. Here’s an idea for any serious LP prospects, drop the snark. Sure it’s great for comments but if you want to be taken seriously, speak and write seriously.

    Try to find issues that mainstream America cares about and stick with them a little before going off on getting pot legalized (full disclosure, I want all drug laws dropped, but that isn’t the most pressing issue of the day.)

    1. Those kinds of ideas float around here. But we’re just a tiny little community, you see……

      The gays and drug users and anarchists are large enough segments of our population, that it’s easy for them to derail the idea before it ever grows any legs.

      Those libertarians who want to become politically relevant will probably have to run off and start a whole new party before they can get anything done.

      1. The gays and drug users and anarchists are large enough segments of our population, that it’s easy for them to derail the idea before it ever grows

        They derail nothing. There is nothing to derail. There is no community. There are just some of us that say ‘Let us be.’ That’s it. ‘Let us be.’

        1. I’d agree that they derail nothing, because nothing ever really gets started.

          But the minute someone tries, the lunatics crawl out of the woodwork and start demanding that the most extreme measures be made central planks of the platform.

          It’s true that libertarians have shown zero ability to focus first on the biggest, most important issues, and leave the rest in the closet for now.

    2. Apparently America cares about pot legalization, see Denver, Seattle, California for examples moving in that direction.

      So, why shouldnt that be the idea to “stick with”?

    3. Till you or someone you care about gets arrested for a drug related crime.

      Then removing the income tax doesn’t sound all that “pressing” anymore.

  22. Making things better than they now are is a non-trivial proposition. Stable social orders, let alone political orders, of the size and scale of the US, represents no small feat.

    But supposing for a moment that we could just go off and do the ideal thing, we’d still face the problem of know what the ideal is.

    1) Much of our current political mess arises because people respond to incentives. Politicians are actually people. The pandering, the lies and deceptions they thrust upon us, are what democracy gives them every incentive to do.

    Nobody has yet figured out how to devise government institutions in a way that insures they will act in the best interests of the general public. The logic of large groups is a real pisser.

    We need a better answer than democracy as we now know it. I haven’t seen that answer yet.

    2) Libertarians in general, and anarchist-types in particular, are loathe to face the fact that some really vital segments of the economy are not, and can never be, free markets. Free markets exist only with lots of competition. But consider:

    a) Roads. Within any four blocks of NYC, you may have 25 different restaurants competing. But there can never be 25 different systems of roads to get you there and back, because there’s not enough room or money to build them.

    The restaurants may function at least approximately as a market. The roads never will.

    b) The idea of *completely* deregulating the electric power industry is similar. Putting up 25 independent power grids is cost prohibitive, hence normal market forces cannot function.

    c) Ditto for sewer and water.

    d) Defense industries — unless you’re an anarchist you probably aren’t willing to let your defense contractors sell all their wares to the highest bidder on the international market. So no matter how many defense contractors there are, it’s never going to function like a free market.

    Some of these, like roads and electric power, could change in time with technology. Others like defense industries will never change. And there will always be market segments so capital intensive that only one or two players are going to be there.

    By all means, free up everything where it’s possible for market forces to operate. But it’s not clear that a categorical “private ownership” mantra is always right when market forces can’t operate. In at least some cases such as roads, I strongly suspect across-the-board private ownership would yield worse results than we now have.

    It’s true that there inefficiencies in public ownership of these things, but is this worse than the alternatives?

    I suspect only the anarchists around here will have a quick and easy answer. But amongst the ranks of the libertarians they shall be the very last to ever get elected to public office.

    We haven’t even gotten into the Machiavellian side of things, but this is good enough to start with. I’ve said it before, Mankind still has a lot to learn about how to properly rule his collective self.

  23. Yes, but Jonah Goldberg is an asshole. And an intellectual midget. I remain a pure member of the Guns and Dope Party. Ostriches for everyone!

  24. 1) Much of our current political mess arises because people respond to incentives. Politicians are actually people. The pandering, the lies and deceptions they thrust upon us, are what democracy gives them every incentive to do.

    Eby, Eby! What planet do you live on? They respond to graft. Your post is so crazy, I’ll leave it at that. To go point by point would be well pointless. I think you might agree in the morning.

    Just sayin’

    1. Uh, no, I don’t agree, and it is morning.

      If you don’t understand the fact that what I’m saying is right on the mark, then you need to go read this book.

      Beyond Politics: Markets, Welfare, And The Failure Of Bureaucracy
      William Mitchell, Randy T Simmons

      I know it’s on Amazon.

      Come back afterward and I predict you’ll agree with me. There is no possible way democracy as we know it can lead to any result other than graft. It’s the nature of the beast.

  25. updated 6:06 p.m. CT, Thurs., Jan. 21, 2010
    GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – The Haiti earthquake is giving the American base at Guantanamo Bay a new mission: supplying aid to the devastated island nation and potentially detaining thousands of Haitian migrants captured at sea.

    President Barack Obama’s deadline for closing the base prison expires Friday with no new date in sight, but a huge effort to provide earthquake aid is just getting started.’ – from MSNBC

    Ok, I’m up late, but here is a creepy new standard. I’m assuming it’s a creepy new standard.

    1. Gitmo has been used for Haitian refugees in the past. It’s main function before the war on terror was migrant camps of Haitians and Cubans.

      Not saying it is “right”, just pointing out that this is nothing new at all.

  26. “I can see the sense in Goldberg’s declaration that leaving both parties, rather than shifting from one to the other, is the best way for libertarian-leaning voters to make it impossible for the two majors to miss exactly why they are losing some of their support.”

    That’s exactly why I voted for Barr, especially when it became clear that Obama was going to win.

  27. I’m currently pushing the very ‘libertarian’ Warren Redlich to seek both the LPNY and GOP nomination for Governor in NY. Stanford Grad, attorney and previous Congressional candidate.

  28. Socialist Party of America presidential candidate Norman Thomas in 1948:

    “The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.”

    Libertarianism is called liberalism everywhere else in the world; capitalism, individual liberty, democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, free speech, etc. In the US you now have to call it “classical liberalism” or “libertarianism”, because liberalism has been coopted by socialists. And conservatives have helped them do it!

    America was founded on liberalism, classic liberalism! The founding fathers were liberals. The US Constitution is the crowning achievement of the original liberal movement.

    America is being torn apart by socialists and clueless conservatives. The real liberal/ libertarian middle is left out in the cold, but still there and starting to fight back. They are the tea partiers and the people who voted Scott Brown in.

    1. Can please we stop this myth that Scott Brown is some glorious defender of liberty? He’s a neo-conservative with political views more closely aligned to McCain or Bush than any libertarian. His election represents gridlock on the Senate. Nothing more.

      1. Can please we stop this myth that Scott Brown is some glorious defender of liberty? He’s a neo-conservative with political views more closely aligned to McCain or Bush than any libertarian.

        As long as you stop misusing “neo-conservative.” Scott Brown is a regular old moderate Republican.

        1. You say that as if there is a discernible difference between the two.

      2. Had you even read my post? My point is that Brown was elected by “classic liberal” Democrats as well as “libertarian” Republicans. BTW, neo-conservatives used to be the Reagan-Democrats; urban, classic liberal Dems who didn’t like the socialist direction of the Democratic Party.

  29. The long winter of our discontent will not be ending any time soon.

    1. It will be over by 2035..

      oops I meant 2350

  30. Where Do Libertarians Belong in American Politics?

    At the top.

  31. Many left-leaning self-described “libertarians” are libertarian (libertine?) on social-issues but Naderites on economic issues.

    When will people realize that economic issues ARE social issues. And, that taxation, etc. are individual rights issues. Most people don’t see it that way.

  32. The correct path for libertarianism is for us to bide our time and be ready for opportunities like the one now. The one we’re not ready to capitalize upon.

    If the LP were smart, it would focus on easier to win elections, such as races in state legislatures and even the federal House of Representatives. The local approach is okay, but I think local LP candidates are more likely to come from the wacko fringe of the LP. By focusing on legislative positions, the LP would become just a little more mainstream, a little more organized, and a little more prepared to take advantage of disenchantment with government. Then it could make a national push.

    The other thing is to focus our efforts on a few simple concepts. Less government, more freedom. Focus on pointing out the abuses of power, the corruption, and the gross inefficiencies and inequities of government action. Leave out altogether talk about libertopia-e.g., legalizing drugs, privatizing roads, etc. Incidentally, this goes for libertarians within other political parties, as well.

    Yes, I know some of us aren’t minarchists and want more radical solutions, but the critical issue today is to step back from the brink and to make this country freer. If we can get back to a truly limited government, then we can start fighting over just how limited it should be.

  33. As I have stated before, there are a lot of “libertarians” out there. They just don’t know it, or they simply don’t identify as such. In fact, the less people label themselves politically, the better. One of the appealing aspects of labeling yourself as an Independent is perhaps candidates will work a little harder for your vote. Perhaps? It’s no different than labeling yourself as ethnicity-American. How about just American? It certainly doesn’t mean you have to compromise your cultural pride!

    Libertarian candidates don’t have to compromise principles while delivering an auspicious message. Rather than Ron Paul telling voters al qaeda is attacking us because of us and our presence, he should have pursued the more acceptable message of imperialistic unsustainability, exclusively. Even if the veracity of such comments is undeniable, it’s not going to get votes, nor is it required for effective foreign policy.

    It’s the message. Why try to convince the public that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. The conversation should be about the role of government dictating what you can or can’t put in your body – not advocacy. Of course, you have to address the proverbial “what about the children?” Well, first and foremost, it is your job and responsibility as a parent to explain to your children the harmful effects of “drug use” just like it is with cigarettes and alcohol. If in fact your children are likely to experiment with “drugs,” would you prefer they do so with an unregulated black market of drugs and acquire these “drugs” from a dealer on the street corner or through whatever mechanism they use now to get alcohol, but with the caveat that “we will provide harsh” penalties for those that supply children “drugs” from regulated dispensaries such as ABC stores. And then there is the ineffectual “drug war.” I usually have success with one undeniable piercing statement: “we cannot keep drugs out of our prisons, it’s absurd to think we can keep them out of the country.” Concentrating on the absurdity of an ineffectual drug war is much better. Incrementalism (word?) here is necessary.

    Gay marriage is similar. You don’t have to advocate gay marriage to get the liberal vote, nor do you have to oppose gay marriage to get the conservative vote. States’ rights is the easiest position. And yet again, government has no role in the marriage business. Convincing people of this is much more affective and viable (politically) than opposing or supporting – especially now with the anti-government zeitgeist. In my humble, uneducated opinion, social issues have a way of working themselves out. My solution to this issue would be to give everyone who wants to marry a state approved civil union certificate for legal purposes. Then, couples and triads, or persons and inanimate objects for that matter, can get “married” in whatever setting and approved by whatever institute, be it a synagogue, church, bowling alley, or Scientology fortress they want. Of course, I wouldn’t say that specifically as a candidate.

    Contrary to the current Dems in power, liberal pundits, and the White House, it really is the message. Paul’s most reverberating message was something along the lines of “I don’t want to run your life.” Winner. Brown’s was: “this seat doesn’t belong to the Kennedys or one party, it belongs to the people.” Right now the most important message is the economy. I really, really hope Schiff can win in Connecticut and Paul in Kentucky. Under the label of the LP party, not a chance. Unfortunate, but it is reality. Once again, in my humble opinion, the most powerful message of libertarianism and the like is that of self-determination. Hey, but what do I know? I only engage the comments section for humor. Some of you sombitches are pretty damn funny.

  34. I’d be totally satisfied with restoring to our culture a profound distrust of government. A distrust great enough for us to make one of our chief principles of politics the limiting of government power. Accomplish that, and we win half the game right there. Not forever, of course, since assaults on liberty will continue, but it would be a win nonetheless.

  35. Where do libertarians belong in American politics?

    Why, in charge, of course.

    I think Pro L hit the nail on the head. A libertarian country has to be culturally libertarian. Once you lose that, your drift into statism is inevitable, regardless of which party claims to be libertarian.

    1. It seems self-evident: If most of us think government needs to be shackled, it’ll be shackled. The fact that we think that way at all is why we’re as free as we are and aren’t, say, China.

      I have reached liberals best when I’ve talked about not trusting those in power. Including their guys. Not all of them buy that, but many do. It takes willful ignorance to not notice the corruption, lies, and abrupt departures from promised policies. A longer term strategy for winning over some liberals would be to demonstrate how consumer protection and welfare can be accomplished more effectively in civil society. Do that, and a lot of the justification for big government (in their eyes) goes away. Oh, and help them stop fearing the illusory corporate bogeyman.

      On the right, I’ve found more sympathy to libertarian values, particularly, of course, in the economic sense. I think after this latest power grab by the Democrats, a larger number of Republicans are thinking that limited government may be necessary, even though that would mean limiting their ability to do whatever it is they want to do.

      1. I’ve had success with people on the right with the drug war and gay marriage, but try explaining how harmful current climate change legislation is to a liberal. Explain it to them in terms of the poor around the world they profess to champion – you are instantly transformed into a “right-wing operative.” Choney?

    2. A libertarian country has to be culturally libertarian.

      Absolutely. This, more than anything else, is the single biggest root to the problem we’re talking about here.

      Wf we want to solve this problem, Stage 1 is taking back the educational system from top to bottom.

      American did not start out sympathetic to socialism and statism. But those are the people who started taking over our educational institutions over a century ago.

      That, I submit, is the primary avenue they used to get us where we are today.

  36. Pragmatism dictates that libertarians eschew the utopian notion that we will obtain “net liberty gains” by strategically casting our votes for one party of state’s candidate or the other in given elections.

    I agrre with Pro Lib’s pont and thus we should redouble our efforts to promulgate the good news of liberty. Necessarily, this means that we need to be contemptous of, and have nothing but disdain for, not only the abstract notion of government itself, but for all those who choose to feed at the public trough, particularly the professional politicians, bureaucrats, administrative law judges, cops, soldiers and public school teachers.

  37. I think one of the big issues for libertarians is message delivery. We get caught up in telling people what they shouldn’t be doing instead of defining how are “do nothingness” is actually going to do something! I know it sounds contradictory.

    What’s the saying? To a carpenter with a hammer everything looks like a nail. Because of that same mindset with our politicians the electorate has come to believe that congress MUST do something to have an impact or improve things.

    As a libertarian, we could arrange our message to show that moving towards limited governance and removing barriers actually is more than just saying no to every bill or idea.

    I wish I was more charismatic and I might actually take a shot at it but I’m dumb and ugly so I’ll leave that to someone else…

    1. Best bumper-sticker-like catch phrase you have here:

      removing barriers

  38. I think noting that there are mechanisms for accomplishing things outside of government is a big part of the message. What would a modern mutual aid society look like? Would it be more effective than welfare? What would consumer protection look like with a private certification authority (e.g., UL)?

    On top of that, throw the tons of data showing how corrupt government decision making is, how inefficient it is in accomplishing important tasks, the unsustainability of our way of life if government keeps spending the way it is, and the constant threat to our freedoms presented by a meddling and interfering government.

    1. ProL,

      Sure, stop Medicare for those rich old folks but don’t take my Earned Income Credit away, you bastard! 🙂

      Btw, who doesn’t think that the term Earned Income Credit isn’t somehow wrong?

  39. Pro Libertate — I largely agree with your take.

    Now if somebody could show me how to make money by going off and doing all of this, I’d be doing it. But anybody that knew how wouldn’t be telling me, they’d be off doing it.

  40. I’m going to level a criticism at libertarian thinking: our vision of the best world is foggy.

    There was once a thread around here where the question was asked: what government institutions would you do away with, and why?

    The broader question is, going from where we are now, just how far would you reduce our government’s size?

    A Zen master once said: you cannot know how much is enough until you know how much is too much.

    We’ve got the “too much” part down. My criticism is that we don’t yet know how much is “enough” when we talk. All libertarians have to say is “less less less”.

    The only people who will have a quick and easy answer here, are the full blown anarchists. I recall from that earlier thread that there wasn’t broad agreement on what agencies would be done away with.

    Brian — you’ve been doing an interesting little series here. Might I suggest that you revisit this issue in some form(s) again.

    If libertarian ideas are ever to have a major impact, the first thing we’re going to have to do is sharpen up our thinking.

    The package we’ve now got just ain’t selling, boys and girls. So the very next thing we’ll have to do is work on packaging up a much better sales pitch.

  41. The Libertarian starts with the foundation that each person “owns themselves”. Then they take that to “anything which has been legally obtained is inviolately their own”. I presume that would include another person where slavery is permitted by law. This, of course, is an oxymoron because the slave could not “own himself”.

    In any case, the fundamental problem with Libertarian thought is that it denies the reality that Humans are social animals who actually depend upon each other for survival. There actually is such a thing as cooperation for the welfare of the group. There would be no need for the ability to speak if there was no need for human cooperation.

    Libertarians serve a useful purpose in promoting individual responsibility but would destroy needed community if they were in charge.

  42. Did you see “High School Musical 3”? There’s this hall, this corridor that’s on a pivot, turning like a cement truck’s barrel. Inside is an American voter who first smashes himself against the Democrat Wall (when Bush is in office) — kicking out all the Republicans and making both the Senate and the House pretty much Democrat.

    It’s now 2010 and The Hall turns again. The voter is miffed at who’s in office and he smashes himself against the opposite wall — this time kicking out all the Democrats and making both the Senate and the House pretty much Republican.

    Makes you want to scream, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, this goes on, election year after election year … until the voter “wakes up” on stage, sees the light sitting in the dark, and says to himself, “But of course! I should’ve voted Libertarian from the beginning! No more tumbling corridors for me, thank you!”

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