Libertarian History/Philosophy

There Are Two Kinds of Libertarians…

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…and an infinite number of ways to argue about and between them. Riffing off a distinction I limned between Hayekians and Rothbardians last month here at Reason Online are Jonah Goldberg and Jim Manzi over at National Review.

Goldberg thinks I was unfairly one-sided in making it seem like Bill Buckley went out of his way to be disdainful of Rothbard (who, as Goldberg rightly points out, returned the disdain in spades). Manzi lays out his vision of the rough Rothbardian/Hayekian distinction I wrote about this way:

one strand takes liberty to be a (or in extreme cases, the) fundamental human good in and of itself; the other takes liberty to be a means to the end of discovery of methods of social organization that create other benefits. I'll call the first "liberty-as-goal" libertarianism and the second "liberty-as-means" libertarianism. Obviously, one can hold both of these beliefs simultaneously, and many people do. But in my observation, when pushed to develop a position on some difficult issue, most self-described libertarians reveal a temperament that leans strongly in one direction or the other. Again, in cartoon terms, I'd describe the first temperament as idealistic, deductive and theory-based, and the second as practical, inductive and experiment-based.

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  1. Like any true libertarian, I believe the first and argue the second.

    1. At one point I gave up entirely arguing the 2nd and only argued the 1st. Didnt last for long, but it was the right thing to do. Just refuse to argue the pragmatic.

      1. I actually got rudely called out by an ex-girlfriend (and, unrelatedly, an ex-libertarian) because she claimed I was changing justifications for what I believed, when I made two arguments, one using the first and the other using the second.

        Still working on her. She voted for Obama, and things aren’t looking so great. She knows I shorted the market mid-january. And she’s a scientist, so she knows that predictive value means a correct model. Of course, she’s a scientist, so that means she’s going to be on the dole. For ever.

        1. I won’t argue pragmatism. That’s the tool for progressives and conservatives with which to beat you down with their own flavor of their anti-liberty agenda. They always manage to argue that their latest plan to enslave you is for your own good.

          Either you believe in liberty or you don’t. Don’t waste my time with middle-of-the-road bullshit. That typically and ultimately ends in in expanding the state anyway, but only a little bit more slowly than before.

          1. I like to say that most libertarians are either Republicans that actually believe in liberty, or Democrats who understand the slippery slope.

            Libertarian pragmatism fully takes into account the slippery slope. The pragmatic argument is, “we shouldn’t do that because of unintended consequences”. It’s not middle-of-the-way at all, it just looks farther afield, and seeks sustainable, noncoercive solutions.

            1. +100 for two comments that are conceptually fascinating.

            1. FWIW, I don’t believe in the pragmatic argument as strongly as the ideal argument. Liberty emanates as a consequence of free will and agency. I have oft made the argument that “if we don’t wind up doing the right thing without coercion, then we don’t deserve to survive as a species”.

        2. “And she’s a scientist, so she knows that predictive value means a correct model.”

          Hmm, she’s “knows” that, does she? Because it isn’t true, you know? (At least not in this simplistic fashion — Ptolemaic astronomy predicted very well, as did Newtonian physics!)

          1. Not well enough.

        3. No interest in anything actually workable, hey?

          1. That’s what led to Obama’s election. How’s that working out?

    2. My rule of thumb is to always make both a moral and a practical argument on any given topic. If I can’t come up with both, I view that as a sign that I need to keep my mouth shut and rethink my position.

  2. Is “limned” a word”
    Riffing off a distinction I limned between

      1. That’s just funny. Thanks.

      2. That was magical!

    1. . . . illuminated between . . .

      I knew the Masons were involved somehow.

      1. My grandfather was a Mason. We were doing some work in his old house last weekend and found a box of rings. In it was a Masonic ring. I’m hoping it has secret powers–that would be so sweet!

        1. Your checking account woes are over. Congratulations! Now you just have to watch out for the Knights of Columbus.

          1. That’s okay. I figure with great power comes great hostility.

            1. Maybe you can hire Naga and his sword as your castle guard/sushi chef and bartender.

            2. Unless it glowed and shot out a beam of light that opened a portal to the Masonic Temple in DC, gramps gypped you.

              1. Now with the vampires? Why must this board always have to stop at vampires before we get to zombies?

              2. Oh, so that’s what that was about. I was wondering why George Washington came and spoke with me.

                1. Zombie George Washington or vampire George Washington?

                  1. Ha! Wrong! Wraith George Washington.

        2. Before doing anything else, heat the Masonic ring in the fire. If the words “The Masons Will Kill all the Shriners and Rule the World” appear in runes on the ring, just put the ring back where you found it and forget you ever saw it. Dealing with that stuff would be just too much hassle.

  3. Yes it is a word.

    Who wrote this post?

  4. Usually Brian Dougherty is the one bringing up Rothbard, but what time is it in LA right now? 6 am?

    1. BTW, I totally called that this was Brian Dougherty before the name went up.

  5. There are three kinds of libertarians – those who can count and those who can’t.

    1. No, no, no! There are 10 kinds.

      1. Those who understand binary and those who don’t?

      2. Actually, there are 1111 kinds of people:

        – Those that understand neither binary nor unary.
        – Those that understand binary but not unary.
        – Those that understand unary but not binary.
        – Those that understand both binary and unary.

        1. I think you mean SSSSO kinds of people.

          1. Fucking retard computer nerds

      3. Hexadecimal is so much cooler. Binary is for the simpleminded.

        1. Hexadecimal? Oh yeah, HAWT, in that insane sort of way.

  6. K

  7. There Are Two Kinds of Libertarians… the ones who drop dope beats and the sucka MCs.

    Word.

    1. Was that some sort of old school Ebonics?

      1. Even in the presence of truth, some still can deny it.

        1. Hey! Stop dragging out poetry class lines when we are trying to have a serious discussion.

  8. Yes, it is by Doherty. Computer glitch. Sometimes I get to work really early.

    1. Good Morning Brian!

  9. The one that values freedom itself as the highest good really just values autonomy, and is a key reason why libertarianism has such a bad reputation. Contrary to what many libertarians think, there are a lot of things which non-libertarians get right about human nature, such as the fact that human beings are neither naturally rational, nor isolated, autonomous beings.

    Freedom itself is simply a precursor to do things, so the philosophical idea that freedom itself is the highest good puts the cart before the horse. A lot of what people are inclined to do when autonomy itself is placed as the highest good is simply libertine, not productive. As I’ve pointed out in the past, radical individualism often quickly devolves into statism because most people don’t want the freedom to produce, but the freedom to fuck, to shoot up and consume. They get pregnant, get STDs, use too many drugs and expect John Q productive tax payer to pay for it. The conservatives are not entirely off when they worry that drug legalization will simply lead to a whole new raison d’etre for the welfare state.

    1. Whats wrong with the freedom to fuck, shoot up and consume?

      A libertarian who wants those things doesnt expect the taxpayer to pay for them.

      1. I expect the taxpayer to pay for me to fuck. I mean, I consistently don’t get any, shouldn’t I be the beneficiary of a sex redistribution plan?

        1. If nobody else will fuck you for free why do you expect the rest of us to pay? That’s just fucking all of us.

      2. Just want to point out that you just made a “liberty-as-means” argument. The goal being fucking, shooting up, and consuming.

      3. You might check in with Aristotle on this, or perhaps Hegel.

        1. Critique of Hos
          Ganja as Weed and Idea
          Tractatus Theologico-Politicus et getting-more-bling-i-ous

    2. Exactly. Whenever something like population is discussed here, the “Libertarian Solution” boils down to “someone else will solve the problem, let’s just do what we want now”.

      1. Freedom->Higher standard of living->lower birth rates.

        Freedom is the solution to population “problems”. Personally, I tend to like people, so dont see more of them as a problem.

        1. What about the lower birth rates in socialist Europe? You’re not even trying here. 😛

          1. Higher standard of living = lower infant mortality and longer life spans. It doesn’t necessarily follow that birth rates decline.

            1. And yet they are. So it does follow.

              1. Comrade Zero|2.4.10 @ 9:53AM|#
                Higher standard of living = lower infant mortality and longer life spans. It doesn’t necessarily follow that birth rates decline.

                robc|2.4.10 @ 9:58AM|#
                And yet they are. So it does follow.

                Well, not for everyone. Wealthy Mormons tend to have lots of kids. Not having kids is a values choice, not an unalterable consequence of prosperity or socialist misery.

            2. Empirically, there is a very good correlation between birthrates and poverty. Growth precedes lower birthrates, so it is suggestive that one causes the other.

          2. Nothing in my statement says that freedom is the only way to a higher standard of living. However, I do think it was freedom that got Europe to where they are. Socialism is dragging them back down.

          3. They are crushed by obscene tax rates and can’t afford to have more children if they want them, unless they are immigrants on full public assistance.

    3. “The conservatives are not entirely off when they worry that drug legalization will simply lead to a whole new raison d’etre for the welfare state.”

      And this illustrates they don’t really value liberty as a goal. So are liberty-as-a-means libertarians really just conservatives?

      And are leftists people who believe in liberty as a goal, but not a means?

      1. For the leftist version of liberty to work in that formulation, 40oz’er, they would actually have to be talking about liberty as normal humans understand it.

        To a leftist, liberty is often defined as positive liberty. Positive liberty is restricting the liberty of one group for the benefit of another. Stripping the rich of their property rights for the benefit of the poor through redistribution is a prime example of this thinking.

        Liberty is not the enslavement of some for the benefit of others.

      2. And this illustrates they don’t really value liberty as a goal./blockquote>

        Not necessarily. In some cases it means that they care about different aspects of liberty more.

        Suppose someone doesn’t use drugs, and has no desire to. In the abstract, he’s for drug legalization. However, as a practical consequence, he feels that drug legalization will lead to a larger welfare state and government regulations on the liberty of people who don’t use drugs, like him. He might not be willing to trade his liberty for that of others.

        There are lots of “having your cake and eating it too” ways around this problem (that I personally believe on many issues, mind you.) The “prosperity will lead to lower birth rates,” the “regulation wouldn’t work anyway,” the “social pressure doesn’t violate libertarianism and will fill the void and reduce the problem more effectively,” and other arguments.

        Still, it’s not entirely impossible that in the real world, political shifts towards more liberty in one area would lead to a political response that deprives liberty in another area.

        You’re either concerned with the practicality or not.

        1. Another graduate of the SF school of HTML i see.

          What do you mean “oops”?

        2. You’re either concerned with the practicality or not.

          “Practicality” may not mean what you think it means. Increasing liberty is a net benefit to society. It is both practical and a good goal.

          That said, any change whatsoever will likely be to the disadvantage of someone, no matter how much overall good it does.

      3. I think of Libertarians as Republicans who’ve learned to mind their own business, and Conservatives as Republicans who want to get all up in everyone else’s business.

        It’s a concept I’m working on.

        1. Libertarians are both former Republicans and former Democrats who have learned to mind their own business. It’s just different businesses that they’ve learned to mind their own.

      4. “And this illustrates they don’t really value liberty as a goal.”

        Well, I think that was Mike T’s point, that they do (and should) value it as a means, not as an end in itself.

    4. “…such as the fact that human beings are neither naturally rational, nor isolated, autonomous beings.”

      So your arguing we should use government to force people into being rational and social?

    5. Prohibition gives the welfare payments to the cops and lawyers, not the poor.

      Legalization would necessarily take funds from these people and give the money instead to the poor and addicted.

      Since it is easier to pull funds from the poor than it is from cops and lawyers, perhaps this is the intended outcome?

    6. A lot of what people are inclined to do when autonomy itself is placed as the highest good is simply libertine, not productive.

      It’s statist thinking to posit that people should spend all their time being productive, rather than “purchasing” luxury goods like free time and pleasure.

      Or, alternatively, it’s an economic misconception, that work should be an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. The point of production is consumption.

    7. “The conservatives are not entirely off when they worry that drug legalization will simply lead to a whole new raison d’etre for the welfare state.”

      Wrong. Conservatives are against drug legalization because they are a bunch of fucking hypocritical moralists that use God and government to force people to conform to their views while accusing Liberals of doing exactly the same.

  10. There Are Two Kinds of Libertarians…
    Those who tell Jonah Goldberg and his cronies at NR to eat shit and die, and asshat LINOs who keep selling us out.

  11. In practice, since we will never really achieve complete liberty, you’d think that these distinctions would not matter. Because the two camps will almost always come down on the same side of issues.

    And really, if we believe in liberty, shouldn’t we be saying “right on brother! fight your own fight, we’ll get together on the 95% of other issues!”

    Or is that too hippyish?

  12. Count me as the second, or latter, type of libertarian … while being attracted to liberty as an end in itself, I think that creating conditions of liberty leads to a social construct that promotes other more desirable ends – economic freedom, autonomy, technological discovery and advancement, etc. It’s the “fruits of liberty” that are sought.

  13. I am both types of libertarian. I contain multitudes.

      1. No, that’s just hemhorroids.

      2. Move second h as necessary.

        1. “Hem-horroids” is actually a nice RC’z.

  14. Good place to restate robc’s 2 rules of libertarianism:

    1. Everyone agrees with libertarians about something.

    2. No two libertarians agree about anything.

    1. But there are libertarians who agree on things. Wouldn’t a more balanced formulation be No two libertarians agree about everything?

      1. I don’t agree, shithead.

        1. You are both wrong.

          1. You are both caught in a state of superposition where you are simultaneously wrong and right. A Verschr?nkung of political beliefs.

      2. Name one issue in which all of us agree, that is the point. Even in agreement, we disagree about subtle distinctions. See minarchism v anarchism. We both favor cutting the government down, but how far?

        1. We agree that everyone else is wrong. I say we build upon that foundation.

        2. I think “everything” can be defined away from “anything.”

          It’s just the thrust of your wording. The idea you just expressed is “Not all libertarians agree on any one thing,” not “No two libertarians agree on anything.” There are dozens of overlapping Venn diagram circles between our beliefs, for example, but I doubt all libertarians would share the same overlap set.

          This is all just a semantic argument to sharpen your phrasing… that two libertarians agree on something, ever, no matter what it is, makes #2 demonstrably false. But I think you are attempting to articulate a true statement.

          1. But robc’s way is much more amusing. That should count for something.

            1. Well, I agree with that.

              See!

            2. Exactly, the law is for humor purposes and to illustrate a point, not an attempt to articulate a true statement.

              But, I do think it is true, because when libertarians agree, it is usually for different reasons, and other peoples reasons are wrong.

              1. Fine, just ignore my boring philosophy discourse. [pout]

                1. i am inclined to disagree.

                  IS IT SAFE?

              2. It’s so awesome I made it my gchat status.

    2. Libertarians who agree about everything are usually called “objectivists”.

      1. I almost concurred with that, but a millisecond later I remembered there are still (at least) two Objectivist camps, and they can still get awfully pissy with each other.

      2. Definitely.

        Objectivism, despite all the good that can be said about it, is the unhealthy natural result of taking logical positivism too far. I think this criticism applies in some measure to the Misesians/Rothbardians as well.

        When you start from logical “axioms” of liberty and then try to develop equations of law, either a person ends up making human beings very narrow or the ideology very rigid.

        I often joke that the logical result of libertarianism is one man standing alone, because without a type of ‘pagan’ conservatism that isn’t based upon logic, analytical positivism will keep further subdividing the camps.

  15. I’m both, too, pretty strongly.

  16. Im both, but its just luck. I would be type 1 even if I didnt think type 2 was true.

    1. SF is Type 1

      So I hear.

  17. I don’t care what people do as long as it’s not on my lawn or dime.

    Concern over liberty leading to *gasp* libertinism is conservatism in libertarian drag.

    1. In violation of rule #2 above, I agree with this.

      1. I kinda thought the whole idea of libertarianism was to have the ability to have 300 million different libertarian camps just so long as each camp doesn’t fuck with the other.

        1. You can say hello to your neighbor without clubbing him over the head.

          1. But if she’s hot, it might help.

            1. Why don’t you try a nice bottle of wine and some good conversation?

              1. You mean like “Sure is some nice weather we are having” and then hit her on the head with a bottle of wine? Might work.

                1. Well, that’s one approach. Not sure if you are getting any return business from her. Maybe if she is into it but that is sort of an iffy proposition to try at random.

                  Maybe you should start with flowers and some intelligent conversation before moving onto the heavy corporal action?

                  1. Maybe you should start with flowers and some intelligent conversation before moving onto the heavy corporal action?

                    Since I am married, and have been told I am incapable of “intelligent” conversation, I think I will stick to the wine bottle upside the head. Either that or an Ambien subcription.

                    1. subscription>prescription.. perhaps I need am the one who needs it.

              2. Why don’t you try a nice bottle of wine and some good conversation?

                Potato, Potatoe. (turns out that phrase doesnt work well written)

                Or what Marshall said.

                1. There is a funny one I have heard but whenever I smell the handkerchief I fall asleep and I never remember the punch line.

        2. 6 billion, xenophobe.

          1. No! Yang worship word!

            1. Ya know, that could have been a decent episode if it weren’t so completely nuts and utterly implausible.

              1. Actually, it is a good episode. The whole trick to understanding Star Trek’s more bizarre moments is to accept that (1) limited budget meant clothes and sets that weren’t exactly S/F and (2) many of the episodes were meant to be little morality plays, not part of a grand scheme or arc.

                Making a big deal about freedom not being some holy word without meaning is a pretty powerful moment. Hell, we could use some of that right now.

                1. Oh, I agree. They had it going until the alien pig latin and the US flag showed up. I had to set my belief phaser to unsuspend at that point.

                  1. Never have I felt closer to Shatner’s Canada than at that moment.

    2. I don’t care what people do as long as it’s not on my lawn or dime.

      But what if the choice is between banning drugs, or allowing them but with people using them on your lawn and on your dime?

      In society, those may be the tradeoffs. Both are violations of liberty.

      1. So we never get any sort of liberty? Why not legalize drugs and say that drug use invalidates your claim to public assistance?

        The problem is that 99% of people who come up with your idea (I’m not saying this about you) are just using it as a rationale to keep drugs/immigration/gay marriages, etc. illegal.

        I”ve already expressed my problems with incrementalism, but it’s no reason to straightjacket liberty.

        1. Why not legalize drugs and say that drug use invalidates your claim to public assistance?

          Love to. But it won’t happen.

          So in reality we choose the least bad option, which means incrementalism. On balance, ending Prohibition but taxing it.

          To me, it’s the people who have “problems with incrementalism” that make it so we “ever get any sort of liberty.” Incrementalism has had real successes.

          1. Err, “never.” Oh well.

            1. All I’m saying is that an imperfect conception of human liberty can only create so much freedom, even with incrementalism.

              If everyone understood that self-ownership produced the highest good, maybe 45 years after many in a very large generation first sampled marijuana they wouldn’t still walk a drug dog along the halls of some college dormitories on Friday night.

              1. All I’m saying is that an imperfect conception of human liberty can only create so much freedom, even with incrementalism.

                I agree with that 100%. I just disagree that we can get everyone to have a perfect conception of human liberty. I’m all for trying to convince people to the limits of what we can, though.

                In general, people like libertarianism a general theory, hate it in concrete theoretical examples except when they’re the ones losing freedom, but enjoy the generally-superior results of having it.

                People in Hong Kong like the idea of being free market, but every concrete free market issue actually polls badly, even though people enjoy the results.

      2. John:
        On your lawn – shoot ’em
        On your dime – fire ’em
        Other than that, roll one up and put some heat to it.

    3. Well, no it’s possible to care, but use your own money and mouth to change other people’s actions (instead of using government).

      On the other hand, I’m pretty convinced that if there were less coercion about sexual mores, my (few) sexual escapades with conservatives would have been far, far less exciting.

      It’s fun to be a libertarian in conservative drag!

  18. I’m not sure how liberty as means can be fruitfully experimental about anything if liberty as a goal deosn’t come first. Take markets… you can’t know the problems of a free market with strong government protection of self-ownership in a modern environment until you have one.

    Deregulating bits and pieces of the financial market without subjecting the players to the full brunt of the consequences of their actions has been disastrous. Incrementalism in this sort of free market/non-interventionism means that the vast majority of the mechanisms are still being distorted. It’s like making sure to lick all your petri dishes before rubbing cultures on them.

    You can’t test the limits and utility of freedom without granting it.

    1. Except that there is a sliding scale, to some extent. For instance, the U.S. has had a quite extensively regulated market for some time, but it is less regulated than most other countries. Therein lies one of our major advantages.

      1. Yes, you’re right. But it also seems to act as a trap.

        You have a crappy table that mostly functions. You saw a foot off one of the legs and the next time you put food on it it topples over. Our ideological opponents want to repair the shitty table and we want to make a good one that doesn’t wobble or smell like the old soup spilled in the cracks.

        When a barely functioning table is considered the Platonic ideal of a table, the better table would seem the the only thing to really revolutionize the furniture store.

        1. Jefferson had the right idea about things getting reset, though we almost need a built-in mechanism for renewal. A mechanism, incidentally, that has built-in checks to prevent a bunch of populist nonsense to get thrown in to the structure of our government. You know, like a right to a bullet train.

          1. It seems to me that an automatic dissolution and imprisonment of any government that enshrined any positive rights might do the trick.

            The people with uncontrollable impulses to control other people can either content themselves with punishing negative rights violations or they can go to Coventry.

            1. It seems to me that an automatic dissolution and imprisonment of any government that enshrined any positive rights might do the trick.

              A bit begging the question, don’t you think? The problem is that the majority of people aren’t libertarians. How would you enforce your “automatic dissolution and imprisonment” without force? When the majority of people have those “uncontrollable impulses” how will you make them go away or content themselves?

              I’m not saying it would end up like Andrew Ryan’s Rapture in Bioshock, though for obvious reasons that springs to mind.

              1. I’ve always said I’m not a fan of democracy.

                But this really was about PL suggesting how to go about setting up a state that could resist the pressure to become socialistic.

                As for force… I’m all for the use of force against people who violate the self-ownership (theft, rape, assault, murder) others. Any one–government or otherwise–who try to enforce or legislate positive rights is by definition violating some group’s right of self-ownership.

                As for When the majority of people have those “uncontrollable impulses” how will you make them go away or content themselves?…. so if enough people want to steal and rape and pillage, moral people shouldn’t stand against them?

                1. so if enough people want to steal and rape and pillage, moral people shouldn’t stand against them?

                  Of course we should. But as people gather into a collective to stand against the others, it will lead to positive rights and liberty violations.

                  1. Anrcho-capitalism is it’s own bag, man.

                    I’m only trying to forge a working libertarianism. There’s nothing about opposing violations of negative rights that must necessarily lead to codification of positive rights.

                    An-Caps and libertarians can agree to disagree on this point.

                2. I’m a minarchist, but I think the system we have–I mean, the one we had–could work for the longer term if we built in a few more checks and a renormalization process.

        2. You have a crappy table that mostly functions. You saw a foot off one of the legs and the next time you put food on it it topples over.

          Wait, now you sound like the people you’re criticizing. “I’d like more liberty in this one area, but we can’t do it without more liberty over here. It’s like legs of a table.”

          That’s exactly the argument that “liberty-as-a-means” people might use to say “we can’t free immigration without ending the welfare state” (LoneWacko) or “we can’t legalize drugs without ending the welfare state.” Or “the state shouldn’t privilege marriage at all, so we shouldn’t have it recognize gay marriage, we should work to get the state out of marriage.”

          The problem is that 99% of people who come up with your idea (I’m not saying this about you) are just using it as a rationale to keep drugs/immigration/gay marriages, etc., illegal, no? (Again, LoneWacko.)

          1. You have it exactly backwards.

            You have a crappy system full of distortions, fixing part of it won’t fix the whole thing. Once again, I think we should start from scratch.

            1. You have a crappy system full of distortions, fixing part of it won’t fix the whole thing. Once again, I think we should start from scratch.

              So in the meantime, you’re opposed to efforts to fix part of it because it won’t work? I’m not trying to be deliberately obtuse, just trying to understand your position.

              If so, that’s fine, I understand that argument, even though a large number of people who make that argument are just using it as a rationale, like LoneWacko. (Who isn’t a libertarian, but likes to try to tell libertarians that they can’t possibly support more immigration without ending the welfare state.)

              Ron Paul’s probably honest when he votes against CAFTA because it wasn’t perfect. In the short term, all that got us was CAFTA passed anyway and extra tariffs on socks thanks to ex-Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) being the deciding vote, but I certainly understand the principle of the trap.

              1. The financial markets and the, say, drug war, are two vastly different issues. To equate my ideas on one with the other is not really germane.

                Incrementalism in the drug war is not really dangerous, just slow and seems to be used by people was a way to wave off the concerns of liberty in order to keep their social conservative ideals alive without seeming to be a conservative. Gay marriage and immigration fall like this as well for me.

                However, incrementalism in the financial markets, because of both how heavily regulated they are and their nature as complex systems, is actively dangerous. “Deregulation” of a portion of that system seems only to really destabilize whole to make a worse status quo. But, rather than discount incrementalism in favor of the status quo, I think the only workable solution is to get rid of all of that at once.

                I’m not defending either status quo and I think incrementalism is non-optimal in both cases, but the complexity of the issues makes it non-optimal in vastly different ways.

                Legalizing soft drugs would save as much–if not more—money than it would cost. Destabilizing the financial markets gives a whole generation of leftists the ability to piss and moan about the evils of free markets for decades.

                Which, ultimately, is more damaging to liberty?

    2. Deregulating bits and pieces of the financial market without subjecting the players to the full brunt of the consequences of their actions has been disastrous. Incrementalism in this sort of free market/non-interventionism means that the vast majority of the mechanisms are still being distorted.

      I’m confused. Are you agreeing with the “we can’t legalize drugs/immigration if we don’t end the welfare state” crowd here?

      1. Yes, you are confused. And I’m starting to suspect deliberately.

  19. Don’t know if anyone noted this on the threaded and nested mess above, but there is a third Skywalker. I mean, libertarian. The one who thinks he’s a libertarian, tells people he’s a libertarian, but is in most ways not even remotely libertarian. Bill Maher is one example of that, though there are plenty of others who are less well-known.

    1. But they arent a libertarian, so they arent a 3rd type.

        1. It’s cause everyone wants to be one of the cool kids.

      1. They aren’t libertarians to us, no. But they are to themselves, and they are perceived as such by nonlibertarians.

    2. Donderoooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

      1. Hey! He walked twelve miles in the snow to campaign for Rudy Giuliani, Paragon of Liberty!

        1. I love the smell of submission to authority in the morning…..it smells like…liberty!

    3. I think Glen Beck falls into this category as well. Perhaps they have to be media types in order to be this kind of “libertarian”? And is this a related phenomenon to the mainstream politicians who try to affiliate themselves with the Tea Party?

  20. In your anus?

    In the simulation spaces of my immense and terrible mind, jackhole. I have explored every possible ending to your life. Oddly, most of them involve Steve Smith.

  21. I’m neither.

    1. Splitter!

  22. I’m Tiger Woods.

  23. Manzi’s column seems to show that liberty-as-means “libertarians” are willing to jettison liberty at the first sign of trouble.
    So, is fortyouncer correct? Type #2 libertarians = conservatives?

    1. As long as you agree that liberty-as-goal “libertarians” are willing to see no progress made on liberty in reality so long as it’s perfect in theory.

      1. I view this as a false perception. I am certainly a type#1 but I profess and push type#2 (or better, incrimentalism). I do understand the point that it can have negaive consequences. One of which is to damage the long term goal (by show how ‘bad’ freedom can be i.e. the whol banking bs going on, it is just too difficult to communicate in a short time how that was NOT an example of ‘freedom’). More importantly though I feel that most often there is progress. Medical MJ leagalization efforts, gay marriage debate, special taxing district repealing, etc. All of these are examples of an incremental approach that has resulted in more freedom and a better understanding of the base issue by the voting public. It is by no means perfect, it does is so GOD DAMN FRUSTRATINGLY SLOW, but it IS working. I believe that you must always strive for the Liberty as a Goal (we can discuss different organizations once we get there) or you lose you compass. I also believe that many LINOs are simply people who still don’t “get it” completely. For some the journey takes a while.

        Screw you guys, I’m goin home.

      2. sorry for WOT

        Only 1 cup in at the moment

  24. And fortyouncer’s “leftists believe in liberty as a goal, not as a means” is facile, but a terrific line.

    I mean, everybody claims to like liberty, right?
    type #1 libertarians = libertarians
    type #2 libertarians = conservatives
    our new type #3 libertarians = leftists.

    See, if we make our libertarian tent big enough, there’s room for everybody!

  25. It’s gotta look strange to outsiders when there’s one group claiming they’re the REAL libertarians, and the other group is either:

    A) A bunch of backwoods, gold-hoarding conspiracy theorist anarchists (gasp!). Did we mention they’re racists, racists I tells ya! Now, if we can just convince politicians to adopt libertarian policies, it’ll work this time for sure. Did I mention those other guys are the idealists?

    B) Weak-spined beltway insider opportunist sell-outs who have hijacked the movement all for the man behind the curtain. That’s why we distill all our own water and whiskey while they sip their fancy cocktails and… hey, wait, where are you going? You don’t even want one of my DVDs? Sheeple!!

    Obviously, these caricatures are exaggerated, but I see them being perpetuated by people all the time (including me just now… oops, sorry but I’m trying to make a point here). I guess what I wish would happen is that people could abandon the naive belief that we’re gonna use politics to achieve liberty, but also keeping in mind that we’re never gonna go anywhere if we come off as a bunch of crackpots and alienate potential support. Then we’ll sing kumbaya and live happily ever after the end.

    1. shorter Tyler:
      A)Blue-skins
      B)Cosmos
      but you forgot:
      C) We Are The World Libertarians, with Tyler as charter member #1!

      1. Yeah, you’re right. Getting along with THOSE types is unacceptable. Surely liberty will happen if we just turn up the infighting a few more notches.

        I, for one, will cope with our overlords with internet snark and booze.

        1. The only way to go, brother.

        2. Wait, there’s coping mechanisms besides internet snark and booze?

  26. I see it all now.
    John and MNG, who seem to be mortal enemies, are actually just #2 libertarians!
    Tony and his gang are type #3 libertarians!

    Epiphany! Can’t we all just get along?

  27. I’m unapologetically the #1 kind.

    I have no doubt the gov’t could run my life more effective than I do. I’m a colossal fuckup.

    But it ain’t their’s to run as long as I keep my fuckups affecting only myself.

    1. Your grammar fuckups are affecting me.

      I guess I can live with that, though.

  28. The problem with L2=conservatives is that even using liberty as a means means having to grasp that liberty is only negative rights.

    The right not to have teh gay buttsecks on your block, or to make other kids pray your prayers in schools, or to have furriners tortured, or to have a gigantic and lavishly funded military are all positive rights.

    Concern over *gasp* libertinism is a failure to grasp the meaning of liberty.

  29. This gives me a great excuse to repost this:

    WORLDS SMALLEST PALEO/COSMOTARIAN QUIZ

    Answer Yes or No.

    1) The Kochtopus is an evil sumbitch. Burn it.

    2) Dope smokers are hippy scum. Pray for them.

    3) Friedman kicks Rothbard’s ass. Write it down.

    4) Badnarick was misunderstood.

    5) No fluoride. Colloidal silver!

    6) Heroin should be banned in public schools.

    7) The South shall rise again.

    8) Ron Paul can run faster than most black boys.

    9) Abolish marriage now!

    10) Pakalolo kicks Friedman’s and Rothbard’s asses.

    Scoring:
    0-3 Yes = out of the LP
    4-8 Yes = out of the LP
    9 and 10 Yes = out of the LP

    1. It’s…beautiful.

  30. “Again, in cartoon terms, I’d describe the first temperament [“liberty-as-goal”] as idealistic, deductive and theory-based, and the second [“liberty-as-means”] as practical, inductive and experiment-based.”

    I think there’s a bias among libertarians who think about public policy all day, to paint those who think of liberty as an end in itself as being impractical. But liberty as the goal is only impractical if you see liberty as something that’s instituted through public policy…

    …which is why, as someone who sees liberty as the goal itself, I tend to think of people who see liberty as a construct of public policy, to achieve some other goal, as the true idealists.

    To further illustrate the point, I’d bet there are plenty of “liberty as a means” libertarians participating in this thread who think the result of liberty is always a net positive for society, and they’ll argue the point to the wall…

    If I’m someone, however, who doesn’t really care whether the legalization of marijuana is a net positive for society, or someone who doesn’t really care whether gun ownership is a net positive for society, then how can you call me idealistic? In what way can wanting the freedom to choose those things, regardless of the net outcomes for society, be considered idealistic?

    Idealism is thinking that the fruits of liberty are always sweet. …and arguing the case to bring about liberty by way of public policy. Trying to bring about liberty by way of public policy, that’s the very definition of impractical and idealistic.

    1. Trying to bring about liberty by way of public policy, that’s the very definition of impractical and idealistic.

      x12

    2. But liberty as the goal is only impractical if you see liberty as something that’s instituted through public policy
      But we’ll always have public policy as soon as you get 2 or more people together, there will be public policy, whether that policy is agreed upon or unconscious.

    3. In what way can wanting the freedom to choose those things, regardless of the net outcomes for society, be considered idealistic?

      It’s pretty clearly based on an ideal. I think it’s a fair point that utilitarian libertarians are based on their own ideal, though.

      Trying to bring about liberty by way of public policy, that’s the very definition of impractical and idealistic.

      Pretending that public policy has no effect on liberty, and doesn’t restrict it, that’s the very definition of impractical and idealistic.

      Sure, pretending that we could get perfect public policy is impractical and idealistic. But some public policy is incredibly stupid and restricts liberty, and things have been known to get better (and worse.)

      If someone’s going to argue that we should keep drug Prohibition because legalize-but-tax is an imperfect solution, and we should wait until it’s legalized for the right reasons, I’m going to call them impractical. And people have argued that.

      1. “Pretending that public policy has no effect on liberty, and doesn’t restrict it, that’s the very definition of impractical and idealistic.”

        Who’s doing that? No one’s talking about only doing one and not the other. I was talking about how the categories under discussion don’t fit the people or arguments as labeled.

  31. Buckley worked for the CIA…I’ll go with the non-CIA backed guys.

  32. “6) Heroin should be banned in public schools.”

    My personal favorite. Both “yes” and “no” answers get you cast out of the LP.

    1. That’s the beauty of the WSPCQ!

    2. Hell, even answering the question.

      “Public schools? Is this one of those ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ questions. I don’t believe in public schools, so I won’t answer the question. Frankly, I think that public schools should be as bad as possible so people realize the inherent liberty-destroying nature, and everyone goes to private schooling. Force the contradictions and viva le revolution.”

      1. Shock Capitalist! Eeeeeek!!!

      2. Ah, rather than making things better, let’s actively make them worse!

      3. “I don’t believe in public schools,”

        Really? I’ve seen several with my own eyes.

    3. This reminds me of a philosophy final I had to take where the professor put a chair on the stage and said, “prove this chair doesn’t exist.” The only correct answer is,”what chair”, because any other explanation involves admitting the existence of the chair. Here I would say the proper answer is, “public schools are illegitimate.”

        1. I just meant for some type of party purity test because of the obvious traps in the question.

  33. Kurt Haskell and other news reports have made it known as fact that the government has lied extensively about the underwear bomber. Why doesn’t Reason cover this?

      1. His very limbs are forged from HFCS!

    1. Even if it’s true (I have no idea and I don’t care), reporting on it is a bad PR move.

      That might seem lame, but in the long run it’s more beneficial to keep up a good image.

      The people who are into conspiracy stuff have other sources to explore it.

      Most people really don’t care. Reporting about it won’t make them care, either, it will just turn them away.

      Make sense? I hope.

  34. I flat out reject the liberty-as-a-means argument. Once you get into results-based arguments it is all about whose statisticians lie better.

    1. Generally. Though over the long run some differences become too large to lie about, like the Germanies, or Koreas, etc. Not that that stops people from believing, sadly. You can’t win.

  35. Manzi wrote
    Start with a practical question: should prostitution be legal? The canonical libertarian position is that this is a consensual act between adults, and should be legal. The liberty-as-means position is far more tentative. We don’t know the overall effects of legalized prostitution. Some people have the theory that it will make people happier, provide incomes and stabilize marriages. Others think it will lead to personal degradation, female victimization and societal collapse. It is very hard to know which theory is right, or if there is only one right answer as opposed to different best answers for different social contexts, or if the relative predictive accuracy of various theories will change over time as the environment changes. What the liberty-as-means libertarian calls for is the freedom to experiment: let different localities try different things, and learn from this experience. In the best case this is literally consciousness learning from structured experiments, and in the weaker case it is only metaphorical learning, in that the localities with more adaptive sets of such rules will tend to win out in evolutionary competition over time.

    Which sounds to me like a Douglas argument to let the South experiment and keep slaves since it works for that particular culture. I mean freeing the slaves could have all kinds of bad results.

    He finishes with,
    Now, obviously, there are limits to this. What if some states want to allow human chattel slavery? Well, we had a civil war to rule that out of bounds.

    Really, that is the reason why slavery is out of bounds, because the South merely lost? I have always thought that violence was definitely the way to determine what actions are moral or not. sheesh

  36. There are two types of libertarians – those who view liberty as an ideal to be aspired to (optimists), and those who view liberty as necessary because power corrupts (pessimists).

    Typically the optimists got there by reading ayn rand, or in high school because they thought it was cool to be third party (that’s you, ex-girlfirend). The randians become hard core objectivists and the cool kids become liberals.

    The pessimists will always be able to find proof that their views are correct. There’s no going back after that.

    1. Replace pessimism with cynicism and I’ll go with that.

      Pessimism is cynicism without foundation.

      1. sed .. s/pessimism/cynicism/g

        there.

    2. Your analysis doesn’t make sense. If someone is being optimistic or pessimistic they are making an estimation of how the future is going to turn out — that’s inherently looking at the world from a pragmatic viewpoint. An idealist would not be concerned with estimating how the future is going to turn out.

      1. Yes. The idealist is not interested in the actual effects they are having in the real world, they are interested in being “pure” or “hardcore.”

    3. Count me in the cynic camp. Freedom isn’t perfect, or even always good, but it’s usually the lesser of two evils.

  37. right and the pessimists typically get there later in life.

    1. Lord Acton was right. Also, as someone here recently pointed out, the already-corrupt will seek out power.

      I’ve posted this previously, a talk by Philip Zombardo, the leader of the notorious 1971 Stanford “prison” experiment. I think that, along with the Milgram experiment shows that coercive power will inevitably be abused, and must be kept to a minimum. Since it’s not, we get Radley Balko columns, etc.

    2. sed s/pessimist/cynic/

  38. I’m a 1, for sure, but reality dictates 2 is required in this world.

    As lone libertarian voice in my work circles, I argue all the time that liberty is what matters, whether discussing drug use or the sale of anything. It gets me no where, unfortunately. I’m dealing with a lot of conservatives here. So, then I try liberty as means and start to change minds a little. Then, I reinforce the liberty in and of itself once I’ve gotten their attention and they see the world not ending as a result of freedom for all. It sucks, but it’s more effective. Could be I’m not a good enough salesman, or their stubborn and/or not very intelligent nature, but I’m going to continue to use what works to change hearts and minds.

    1. As lone libertarian voice in my work circles…

      You still willingly invite that abuse?

      About as close as I’ll get to the pragmatic stance is one I heard years ago relating to the WoD: “Which is the greater evil? Allowing someone to put something in their body that you don’t approve of or locking them up in prison because they do?”

      Drug warriors hate that question.

      1. My WoD question is ever easier: Are you in favor of killing people who have no connection to the drug trade or drug use to stop somebody else from getting high? If they say no, then I point out that’s exactly what they’re getting with the WoD.

    2. I think your strategy of means-based-libertarianism for conservatives is a great strategy.

      I think equally good is ideology-based-libertarianism for certain brands of progressives. (Especially the net neutrality “the internet is wonderful” crowd: how loving the most decentralized system in history makes people believe in centralized management… I will never know)

      Conservatives still have lots of Burkean roots and progressives are Wilsonian idealists at heart. I’ve found that it’s good to argue from both the ideology and practical viewpoints and then finally unite the two. That way, you can show that you have a holistic viewpoint that isn’t metaphysical ethics vs. physical reality, but that the ethics and the reality are one.

  39. radical individualism often quickly devolves into statism because most people don’t want the freedom to produce, but the freedom to fuck, to shoot up and consume.

    And the “I believe in freedom and autonomous individualism in theory, but it’s just not practical” argument smells exactly the same to me as, “There are some damn fine Coloreds, but I wouldn’t want my sister to marry one.”

    1. But that, of course, is not what he’s saying. He’s saying the theory itself is incorrect.

  40. Libertarians are the only group of people that CAN prove a negative…well…and Chuck Norris.

    1. BTW, you can prove a negative inductively. Assume the positive is true and then show it contradicts reality. Thus, the negative is proved.

      1. This is great fun with tariffs, when I propose that perhaps Michigan should ban imports to stimulate its local economy.

  41. This is a decent article about this topic.
    http://libertyunbound.com/article.php?id=449

    1. I love it that he ends the piece with, basically, a call for the U.S. to invade Sudan.

      1. ‘Cause, you know, by his calculations it’ll do more good than harm.

  42. Also, John is the one true scotsman

  43. Then there are the “libertarians” who are no kind of libertarian at all.


    If freedom produced poverty, strife, and conflict, I would be in favor of something else.

  44. Assume the positive is true and then show it contradicts reality.

    Like if we were to propose putting a fence around Ohio, because we believe requiring work permits and visas for entry would improve the economy of the Midwest?

    1. If it keeps Ohio drivers off KY roads Im all for it.

      Really, ohioans, due you really feel the need to enforce the speed limit where ever you go? The rest of us dont put up with you driving 65 in the left lane.

      1. It would only be fair to fence off Indiana as well.

        1. I’m in favor of the Great Ohio Fence, but mostly to keep you fuckers out.

      2. New Rome is the absolute worst pd in the whole country for this…1 mile long city, 6 cops, 14 police cars.

        not joking

        1. I understand why Ohioans drive that way in Ohio. But when they get free, no need to drive the same way.

        2. Not any more.
          Power of the press, dude. Bow down to it.
          (Plus I got me a New Rome PD badge in my souvenir drawer. Spoils of war, and all.)

  45. “Liberty-as-goal” is the core belief of Libertarians. “Liberty-as-means” is the sales pitch to non-Libertarians.

  46. “There are slightly more versions of libertarianism than there are libertarians.”

    Still holds true.

  47. Give me Liberty, or give me a more practical alternative that produces better results!

  48. I posted as Patrick Henry but the spam squirrels binned it. You can probably guess the gist of it…

  49. Contrary to what many libertarians think, there are a lot of things which non-libertarians get right about human nature, such as the fact that human beings are neither naturally rational, nor isolated, autonomous beings.

    Libertarianism is founded on mutual cooperation and is thus more socially oriented than creeds that rely on the heavy hand of government. Have you ever been around many Europeans? They don’t tend to form social clubs to the extent of Americans, and they don’t tend towards charitable giving on the off years where there are no big causes like Haiti or Ethiopia to identify with either. These are considered functions of the state in their world view, and nothing tends to make a person an isolated navel gazing organism than to have the scarce resources of your existence handed to you. It is a socialist ideology that has atomized them, not libertarianism.

    The conservatives are not entirely off when they worry that drug legalization will simply lead to a whole new raison d’etre for the welfare state.

    We are already paying for welfare with prohibition. The Welfare of the Conservative Conscience which uses my wallet to pay for his moral absolution. The conservative who supports the drug war, as well as the dipshit liberal like Biden, is every bit as bad as the thirty year old lady in the projects with eight children of her own and three grand children, all on the dole. However, he one ups her with vulgar hypocrisy.

    1. “The Welfare of the Conservative Conscience which uses my wallet to pay for his moral absolution.”

      So is this wrong? Absolutely wrong, or just wrong to you?

  50. I’m in favor of the Great Ohio Fence, but mostly to keep you fuckers out.

    Have no fear, CN.

    1. I spent 9 of my more formative years in the shithole formally know as Ohio. If it were not for the fact that even a moron could grow a Dockrillia linguiformisis in that god forsaken sunless pit of despair the whole place would be worthless. My vitriol comes from too much experience with the “authoritah” and the weather of that state…ohh and the government school system. (I did like the farm i grew up on but that is about it. 5 acres is not enough buffer room for me)

      So it’s to be torture. I can cope with torture.

  51. I don’t care what people do as long as it’s not on my lawn or dime.

    Concern over liberty leading to *gasp* libertinism is conservatism in libertarian drag.

    Exactly. It is up to Mr. Republican to keep his dick out of the neighbors wife, I am not going to do it for him.

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