Civil Liberties

Where Do Libertarians Belong Politically?

Maybe nowhere


Reason's August-September cover story explored different answers to the question "Where Do Libertarians Belong?"

The answers, and a rich and interesting online debate they sparked, are, at the very least, interesting to those of us for whom skylarking about libertarian movement orientation and strategy is an entertaining consumption good. The Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey argued that a decisive and public split from the right is necessary for libertarians (without any longer calling for a full-blooded alliance with contemporary liberalism either); National Review's Jonah Goldberg countered that the right is the only significant political movement that agrees with libertarians full-heartedly about important economic liberty issues; and FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe cheered the same Tea Party movement Lindsey decried, arguing that it encourages Hayekian and small-government constitutionalists whom libertarians ignore or mock to their detriment.

How important to the task of intelligently directing libertarian energies are such thoughts? From the beginnings of the self-conscious libertarian movement in the late 1940s, the overriding imperative was educating the public (including, but not limited to, policymakers, politicians, and political activists) in the ideas of libertarianism. It was about making more libertarians.

Contemplating the direction of policy and opinion in modern America would tell you that such education is still libertarians' most necessary task.

As Bryan Caplan, the George Mason University economist (who wrote in Reason back in 2007 about the many prevalent biases about economics that lead voters to prefer anti-free-market policies), has found in his studies of public opinion research vis à vis libertarian policy conclusions, "the sad truth is that the status quo is quite popular, and even moderate libertarian reforms like abolishing the minimum wage are persistently abhorrent to the overwhelming majority of the population."

At Caplan's advice, I spent some time trolling through the highly respected "General Social Survey" (GSS) to check out what Americans thought about more stringent applications of libertarian principles regarding when and where it is appropriate to bring state power to bear. While the more abstractly phrased questions tended to produce some modestly libertarian results—for example, 75 percent of Americans favor or strongly favor government spending cuts in the abstract—when asked about any specific spending area, the public tended to want more spending.

Still, some encouraging signs do appear amongst the GSS data, especially in changes that have occurred over the past 10 years. For example, from 1996 to 2006, the number of those who believed in definitely allowing public meetings advocating revolution went up nearly 20 percentage points, while those who believed in definitely not allowing them went down 9 percentage points.

But around 50 percent of Americans apparently have no objection to government control of wages; only 28 percent believe racists should definitely be allowed to publish books; only 27 percent think it should definitely not be the government's role to provide jobs for all; and over 60 percent think government should prevent imports to protect the domestic economy.

We see a similar mistrust of robust libertarian ideas in electoral politics this season. While Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul's all-around libertarian bonafides are questionable—he's off a significant part of the libertarian reservation on immigration and overseas aggression—he is, for better or worse, the candidate most associated with the movement and its ideas this year. Self-styled libertarian wannabe Bill Maher, though, still mocks Paul as beyond-the-pale nuts for reasons both defensible on libertarian terms (Paul's defense of BP from presidential criticism) and not (Paul's freedom-of-association-based doubts about the Americans with Disabilities Act and aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act).

What Paul has gotten the most heat about, however, both in local Kentucky politics and the national scene (where the phrases "Rand Paul" and "insane" are oft found together) are his more purist libertarian stances on matters such as ending farm subsidies, ending federal support for local efforts to quash prescription drug "abuse," and his expression of a full freedom to associate (and not associate) stance on private discrimination.

A survey of modern politics, medium-term and short-term, shows that the most important question facing libertarians has little to do with where the movement should line up on this grim and hopeless landscape. We're facing massive expansions of government power and control of the health care and auto industries; uncontrollable spending as far as the eyes can see; and looming monetary and foreign policy disasters with no effective political pushback. Public employees bankrupting the public, artists arrested for the nature of their art, and the government demanding our children's urine: This is the nation we have chosen. It doesn't leave much room for libertarians, except on the outside screaming bloody murder.

Reason Contributing Editor Julian Sanchez sums up the best and most libertarian answer to the question of where the movement should aim its political energies: "Libertarian individuals and institutions should make whatever tactical alliances on specific issues that best suit their dispositions and concerns." And as a snarky commenter on his page, Michael Drew, noted with some justice, when it comes to electoral coalition building, "nobody but you [libertarians] cares if you come aboard or not."

Libertarians with a yen for a libertarianism that's as willing to ally with the left as it is with the right, such as Timothy Lee, are at best pointing to issues where libertarians agree with progressive policy intellectuals who are just as divorced from most actual Democratic politicians as pureblood libertarians are. That is, all of us who believe in real civil liberties, an end to the drug war, and an end to unconstitutional police tactics are pretty much out in the cold when it comes to electoral politics. In the Obama era, if you are seriously advocating limits on executive power and respect for the Fourth Amendment, you are about as politically relevant as someone advocating competing defense agencies.

That, and the general political fecklessness of a truly thorough libertarianism, will remain true until there are a lot more libertarians—really more libertarians, not merely the polled 13 percent or so who can be gathered under a loose rubric of "socially tolerant and fiscally conservative." And that does not mean more fairweather libertarians who are unlikely to support, say, serious blows to the entitlement state, open borders, closed overseas military bases, or the elimination of public schools. Thanks to the existence of magazines, intellectuals, and institutions dedicated to explaining and advocating libertarian frameworks and solutions over the past 60 or so years, many, many more people embrace that libertarian vision than ever before. But there needs to be many more such libertarians before specific political alliances are the most important thing for libertarians to worry about.

Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man (BenBella), Radicals for Capitalism (PublicAffairs) and Gun Control on Trial (Cato Institute).

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Peter Suderman Talks Deficit Politics, Entitlements, and the Republican Agenda With TPM's Brian Beutler

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  1. I prefer free will. Why is this so hard for not-libertarians to understand?

    1. It seems to me that the majority of humans have an inherent bias towards authoritarianism in government 🙁

      1. As long as the right people are in charge. 🙂

        1. As long as the right people are in charge. 🙂 🙁


      2. Which brings us back to the question at hand: where do Libertarians belong? The article is couched in Republican/Democrat debate terms, but really presses me to think further. Do Libertarians have a place in the one country on the planet that was created with Libertarian principles in mind?

        It seems that we have slowly eroded the freedoms and ideals of the enlightenment to the point where liberty is no longer on the agenda in America. When I was young any notion of a national identification card was political death. Now it doesn’t even rate a “meh”…

        At one point the debate over freedom of speech was not at all about political speech, that was sacrosanct. We had to fight to add extreme porn to the protected class, but political speech of all stripes has always been protected. Not any more. We currently have a supreme court nominee who argued in favor of banning books that had one single sentence of political speech (under campaign finance laws). Can you imagine an America where someone in favor of banning books because of political advocacy contained therein could be appointed to the supreme court? I sure can’t. But that is the America I’m living in.

        Where do Libertarians belong? Perhaps we belong in a parallel reality where America didn’t abandon its core principles…

        1. OTOH, I remember when we had a draft, you couldn’t own gold, couldn’t even hitchhike legally in the states where most people lived, and the phone company was a legal monopoly. The change in that last bit is especially ironic in view of The President’s Analyst. At the same time, the airlines couldn’t legally compete on fares. Plus, the period where you could think of protecting extreme porn had been short, because during most of the time I’m thinking of, porn publications existed only via the loophole they exploited by labeling themselves as educational and diluting their intended contents with actual educational material. Simple marijuana possession was criminal in all the states, and a felony in many of them. Home schooling was under far more severe restrictions then too, and the top marginal federal income tax rate was a multiple of what it is now. “Shall issue” pistol carry permitting was no more than a gleam in the eye of gun enthusiasts. The Cold War looked eternal and frequently threatened to break into hot war, and about the only country the USA had reasonably free trade with was Canada. To gamble legally you had to go to Las Vegas, or, if your own state would let you, play the NH lottery.

          So please excuse me if I’m blase about claims of how bad things are now in the USA.

          1. Yeeeees. Legitimate reasons for optimism!

      3. Authoritarianism period. I began to suspect some time ago that most people are less interested in freedom than they are in the ability to stomp their boots upon the necks of anyone doing whatever thing(s) they happen to disapprove of.

        1. +1

          More and more I think Heinlein was right. In order to be free you have to live in space, away from other people. When more people gather around you and you start to have society, the loudest people will inevitably call for limiting everyone’s freedoms in the name of the common good.

          1. There does appear to be a strong correlation between population density and statism. Space, of course, gives one the minimum possible population density, and it is literally impossible to be statist toward others when you’re the only person around.

            1. I don’t know about that. Africa is one of the least densely populated landmasses on the planet, and there’s no limit to its countries’ enthusiasm for coercion (though to be fair, there’s not much of an outlet for political expression and representation there, either).

            2. Not so sure. Hong Kong had a fairly libertarian policy mix for a long time. And you’re not exactly talking wide open spaces around there.

        2. Authoritarianism period. I began to suspect some time ago that most people are less interested in freedom than they are in the ability to stomp their boots upon the necks of anyone doing whatever thing(s) they happen to disapprove of.

          It has to do with the temptation of power.

          Think about God. As Lord of Lords and King of Kings, He does as He pleases, without the possibility of retaliation against Him. That is absolute power, and people are tempted to cover God’s power.

          1. Yes, it is impossible to retaliate against someone or something that doesn’t exist!

      4. It seems to me that the majority of humans have an inherent bias towards authoritarianism in government

        Of course the do.

        All primate species have hierarchical societies.

      5. Yes, weak and stupid.

    2. I think ONE reason (not the only) people have a problem with this is that many of them start off truly believing they support free will. But they kind of assume that if people really have free will they will make the same choices that the person would make. So when people DON’T make the same choices, the person assumes that other people have a problem (take your pick: seduced by special interests, not smart enough, etc.).

      So, then, free will has to be curtailed in some fashion to make allowances for the perceived shortcomings in others. Rousseau made a similar argument in “Social Contract.”

    3. The most straightforward argument against orthodoxical libertarianism is that it assumes free will would always be used rationally, and in the event it isn’t, individuals will have the capacity to defend themselves.

      Leftists generally take a Hobbesian view of human nature and think that in the event of total freedom from formalized government, those with the biggest guns will control those who can’t defend themselves – by force. They believe that corporations would snap up every possible natural resource and use it until the Earth is spent and barren. They believe that society would let the unfortunate, elderly and unwanted children rot on the street.

      What I never understood is – if individuals are so evil, destructive and selfish in certain positions of non-coercive power, how come they trust individuals in positions of actually coercive power to be morally superior? I’m a miniarchist who believes rights need to be defended equally whether you are the most powerful or the weakest person in society, and some government is necessary to do that. I also think the Left is right about the results of anarchism however – that it would end up as de facto government by mob.

      1. Didn’t you just describe the current political system? There is no assumption that people will act rationally all the time. That’s a mischaracterization of the anarcho-capitalist position. We would still have law and order, just private.

        1. Anarchy would not have produced half a billion maimed, murdered and slaughtered by the state in the last 150 years.

          1. Right, it would have been done by private interests. And for half as much money!

            1. Evidence? We know what the state has wrought. Would you run on the state’s sorry record?

              1. Would you run on the record of the Mafia and the KKK lynch mobs?

                There’s plenty of evil coercion outside the confines of government, mike. Like the pig head says, the Beast is not something you can hunt and kill. It lives within each of us and springs up in horrific and unlooked-for ways.

                1. The mafia is a product of government prohibitions.

                  KKK arose in response to a change in federal policy from sanctioning slavery to prohibiting it and the war against succession.

                  Essentially, both arose from government policies.

                  1. The mafia is a product of government prohibitions.

                    Whatever its origins, it provides a telling example of how a non-governmental coercer behaves.

                    The problem with prohibition (well one of them anyway) is that it provides lucrative revenue streams for non-governmental coercers, who more often than not are highly unpleasant to deal with.

                  2. Essentially, both arose from government policies.

                    Ever heard of the Vikings

                    The sad fact is that homo sapiens use violence against each other to get access to resources.

                    Private violence flourishes when there is no state monopoly of violence.

                2. Would you run on the record of Hitler and Mao?

            2. And for half as much money!

              “Half a loaf is better than none”

        2. And how do you prevent the private enforcers of law and order from developing into a government? Assuming that they are acting purely in their self-interest and not for the good of anarcho-capitalism.

          1. Well, for one, there would be much fewer private enforcers as there would be much less law to enforce. Two, the enforcers would not be able to unionize as there would be no collective bargaining. Three, yes, those who would be state worshippers would inevitably be eliminated.

            1. Everyone would need the services of a private enforcer, if only to protect themselves from the private enforcers hired by others. So there aren’t going to be a few small ones — there are going to be many small ones or a few big ones, and in both cases (but especially the latter) these are inevitably going to develop into government-like organizations (though they’d probably resemble the Mafia more closely in practice).

              1. Step back from the crack pipe, dude. Five days without sleep leads to hallucinations.

            2. There would be collective bargaining. Just perhaps not *forced* collective bargaining.

              1. “Collective”? There goes your anarchy.

                Anarchy is only possible when inividual humans can meet all their needs, wants, and desires by themselves. Even breeding moves one from an anarchic state into a basic ‘society’.

            3. I am no more comfortable with “private” authoritarianism than I am with “government” authoritarianism and in fact see no distinction between the two. The underlying assumption is, left to their own resources and without an overriding authority (public or private) people will be unable to resist the urge to exploit and victimize each other, which I think is an absurd perspective on it’s face. No, people will not and do not always cooperate under all circumstances. On the other hand, if human beings were not naturally inclined to cooperate we would have vanished as a species long, long ago.

              1. Goddamn apostrophe!!! Please, please ignore it.

                1. Its hardly noticable.

              2. The underlying assumption is, left to their own resources and without an overriding authority (public or private) people will be unable to resist the urge to exploit and victimize each other, which I think is an absurd perspective on it’s face.

                Have you hard of Elizabeth Shoaf and Jaycee Lee Dugard?

            4. the enforcers would not be able to unionize as there would be no collective bargaining

              And who would en force the ban on collective bargaining?

              You should do a little research on the Mamalukes.

          2. Shoot anyone who tries to form a government.

            Or hang them, after a fair trial.

            It really boils down to that.

            1. Who is supposed to shoot them? Who conducts the fair trial?

              1. I’ll do it. Let’s go with the sink they’re innocent, float they’re guilty method.

                1. So you’re gonna round em all up if they look like state-worshipers and let’em go when they prove their innocence huh?

                  Mind if I call you Sheriff AnArcho-paio from now on?

                  1. This discussion string is off into the weeds and makes us libertarians look like nuts. My view of plausible libertarianism is that we advocate limited government (cops, courts, national defense, maybe I’ll throw in dog catcher) not NO government.

                    1. Yes, Rothbard and Spooner have been so terrible for the libertarian movement.

    4. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

      I will choose the path that’s clear: I will choose free will.

      1. Hobo, have you weighed the historical evidence? The record of the state, the public sector, particularly the state’s record having a monopoly on the administration of justice, is a record of mass murder, mayhem, class warfare, welfare and the like. In other words, misery.

        OTOH, what evidence exists to support the proposition that an absence of monopoly rule produces a worse result? Almost all of the arguments opposing anarchy rest upon rank speculation.

        1. Somalia is a good example. There, the supremacy of a State has been replaced (in many parts) with that of the adherents of a mind-virus: Islam. As long as people aren’t free from monolithic, dogmatic mind-viruses and ideologies, or they don’t live in mobile cities (seasteads or spaceships), anarcho-capitalism is impossible.

          Of course, the idea that the State needs to exist to protect the citizen might be a mind-virus of its own (although, in its modern, relatively liberal-democratic form, it might be less deadly than unchecked religious violence)

          1. Somalia was destroyed by gov’t. Not a good example.

            1. If anarchism ever comes into force (so to speak) in North America, it will be after a government has collapsed. So examples of what happens when anarchism follows the collapse of a state are quite relevant.

              Not to mention that it’s a bit too convenient that you dismiss any example that might discredit anarchy unless the anarchy in question was not preceded by the existence of a state (which is every anarchic society that ever existed).

              1. Yes, it can only follow the collapse of a state. There is absolutely no other way (insert sarcasm).

                1. There is no other way. There ARE states. The advent of a sucessfull anarchy would neccessarily follow the collapse of the state that spawned it.

                  Unless you could figure out a way to get to a place where no state had ever existed.

      2. Don’t annoy us further!
        We have our work to do
        Just think about the average
        What use have they for you?
        Another toy will help destroy
        The elder race of man
        Forget about your silly whim
        It doesn’t fit the Plan!

        1. “Don’t go around tonight,
          It’s bound to take your life.
          There’s a bathroom on the right…”

      3. Are you sure you’re not N. Peart?

    5. I prefer free will. Why is this so hard for not-libertarians to understand?

      Ah, but I don’t think you do. You don’t support allowing a person to choose to kill another person, do you?

      Oh — but you don’t support free will when the choice is to violate someone else’s rights. So what are those rights?

      Well, there’s the right to life of course. But killing an aggressor who you think poses a lethal threat is OK, so those people don’t have a right to life. But it’s also a right to carry around a lethal weapon, so that’s not enough to forfeit your right to life. So there has to be another ingredient — pointing the weapon at you, or possibly crossing an imaginary line into your property (another rather messy right we’ll have to get to later) while carrying a lethal weapon, or wearing another country’s military uniform while carrying a lethal weapon.

      et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

      So, this is the usual progression:

      (1) Libertarian A makes an absolute and great-sounding pronouncement about libertarian philosophy.

      (2) Libertarian B points out a particular case where libertarians would not apply the pronouncement as stated.

      (3) Libertarian A opines that, of course, there are exceptions for some vaguely-defined cases such as the one in part (2).

      (4) Libertarian B probes as to the exact nature of those exceptions.

      (5) Libertarian A declares Libertarian B a troll, a fucktard, a statist, a practicer of poor reading comprehension, a fellator of authority, or most hurtfully, a non-libertarian.

      (6) Libertarian A follows libertarian B around H&R and replies to each of his posts with some form of “He’s not a libertarian! Don’t listen to him!”

      1. One man’s fellator of authority is another man’s bitch.

        1. A fellator of anarchy is no better.

      2. Excellent post 🙂

        1. A fellator of anarchy is not fellating mass murderers, costumed clowns or rent seekers.

          1. Ahhh Snap!

      3. Ah, but I don’t think you do. You don’t support allowing a person to choose to kill another person, do you?

        I support each person’s right to exercise their agency — including the right of the outraged citizenry to levy an appropriate penalty upon those who harm others.

        Typing is no substitute for thinking, Tulpa.

        1. Oh, another lynch mob enthusiast! I really miss the arguments about whether lynch mobs are preferable to the current justice system.

          1. Lynch mobs should definitely be organized as government so that injustice can be perpetrated legally.

          2. You forgot to work the KKK and the Mafia into this post. I expect better from you. Maybe you should pick the pipe back up.

          3. Oh, another lynch mob enthusiast! I really miss the arguments about whether lynch mobs are preferable to the current justice system.

            Where have we had lynch mobs in our history?

          4. “We only see in others what we see in ourselves”

            I agree with your statements. There is very little difference between what we currently have as “criminal law” and a lynch mob.

      4. “killing an aggressor who you think poses a lethal threat”
        The aggressor has willfully surrendered their right to life.

      5. “He’s not a libertarian! Don’t listen to him!” 🙂

      6. Very simple: people have a right to self-determination, so long as it doesn’t infringe on another’s right to the same. This right should not be infringed on by either government or other people, and government should be in the business of preventing other agencies from infringing on this right through its monopoly on the use of force. Details therein (death penalty, abortion, armed forces, law enforcement, government structure, etc) are negotiable.

        If you generally adhere to the above, or at least place it above other concerns, you just might be a libertarian.

      7. Of course, Tulpa cannot show how limited gov’t does not lead to massive gov’t or why it’s morally superior to the massive state. Once you accept the violence of the state, you have compromised all of your positions. Why is it okay to steal for purpose A (defense) but not purpose B (healthcare)? You have no principled position to stand upon. Or would you trot out the whole “Constitution” argument? That really worked well, didn’t it? We had the best-written document in the world and even it couldn’t prevent the rise of gov’t. Believing that gov’t can limit itself is absurd.

        Besides, your criticisms of anarcho-capitalism are quite Hobbesian. If it is true that humans are not to be trusted, why would you put them in a centralized power mechanism? Yes, I can use Bastiat to criticize libertarian minarchists, because I fail to see the difference between little state that violates my freedom by expropriating me and big one that does the same. Neither of them did I agree to.

        1. Limited government is far more stable than anarchy. 150 years passed between the creation of the federal government and the scrapping of the enumerated powers doctrine in Wickard. I agree that the natural course of things is for government to grow and eternal vigilance by the citizenry is needed to prevent that. Obviously that’s hard in practice; unlike you, I’m not claiming that my way is the perfect and true moral way. Ultimately, I suspect that the intersection of the moral, the good, and the workable may be empty.

          But anarcho-capitalism would devolve into the worst sort of dictatorship very quickly, as soon as one or more defense agencies become strong enough to use coercion for their own interests rather than just for their customers. It certainly wouldn’t take 150 years; probably not even one.

          1. Your assumptions are baseless and Hobbesian. You assume that anarcho-capitalists believe in a utopia, which is absolutely not the case. We know just as well as anyone that humans are capable of violence and irrational acts, which is why we support private law, private courts (you know, what we had in Anglo-Saxon history before the 19th Century). We also support private police, which America and Britain had up until 1830. You didn’t hear about police states forming from those. You conveniently ignore examples of what we advocate that already exist or have existed.

            The second fallacy you engage in is the assumption that chaos is the definition of anarchy, which it most definitely is not. An ordered society is what develops under market conditions. Anarchy simply means no rulers, a world you obviously cannot imagine. What it does not do is advocate the absence of the rule of law.

            Your system, on the other hand, is utopian at its worst. It awaits a better king, a better system. You are looking for a golden middle that does not exist. Anarchy assumes that people will check themselves, because there will be an absence of centralized authority. If there is no mechanism to take over, then there is no one and nothing to rule over.

            You obviously reject economic competition, which would check defense agencies and all other agencies. They would be intertwined with insurance agencies, customers, and, naturally, news agencies would check them. There is no limit to what the free market can produce.

            Like Hayek said, the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to people how little they know about what they imagine they can design. This applies to an anarcho-capitalist society as well. We know little about what will be designed because we are hampered by regulation and the violence of the state.

            You still cannot explain how you justify the violence of the state or how that makes you different from socialists who do the same. Your only principle is that your principle is better than theirs, which is quite arbitrary. At least socialists that I know make an attempt to justify their state through social contract theory, as fallacious as that is. Instead, you attack those who merely point out the obvious, that you have no moral high ground against them.

            Lastly, I’m quite aware that what we advocate will not exist any time soon, and, perhaps, it requires more neurological evolution. We are limited by our primordial brains, and, thus, our conception of the world is completely warped. In any case, I refuse to accept less than full liberty. Compromise will only lead us right back to where we are. You can have that, but you won’t even get that, because you have already compromised too much.

      8. Ah, but I don’t think you do. You don’t support allowing a person to choose to kill another person, do you?

        Well, actually, yes, I do. There are people who need killing, there are people who like to kill. There’s a whole slew of reasons why I’d get rid of ‘laws’ against ‘murder’

        There are no ‘rights’.

        If I like killing, and I kill someone who people care about, then they can kill me–if I can’t outwit them.

        Here’s your ‘right’–and you only get one.

        You have the right to be responsible for what you do.

        That’s it.

  2. New at Reason: Brian Doherty on Where Libertarians Really Belong

    In the local strip club, drinking beer, previewing Storm Squirting Milk Nymphos two, while smoking.

    1. You mean “libertines.”

      1. No, I don’t.

        1. So all libertarians should be porno alcoholics? I know you are kidding.

          1. Of course he’s kidding. Everyone should be porno alcoholics, not just libertarians. We don’t discriminate.

    2. Sometimes I think the local strip club could hold us all, too.

      1. Interesting. I know a stripper named Peaches. Any relation?

        1. I know Peaches!

          1. What else is in the teaches of Peaches?

      2. Most strippers of my acquaintance are Liberals who are collecting a WIC check.

        Take an informal poll yourself sometime!

        1. I know a libertarian stripper! (seriously)

          1. Glass Bottom boat is $400. Space docking is $700.

    3. What thinking person would enjoy these vices?

  3. many, many more

    [citation needed]

  4. Love lifts up where we belong.

  5. Compassionate anarchy.

    1. A figment of your imagination.

  6. 50 percent of Americans apparently have no objection to government control of wages

    I think I see a partial solution to our fiscal difficulties, thanks to those 50%!

    1. Think they’ll step forward when we ask for volunteers? Wouldn’t it be great though if we could have tax increases only on those who support them, social security only for those who support it,
      censorship only for those who believe in hate speech or faint upon seeing nudes, etc?

      1. Or issuance of national IDs only to those who sheepfully buy the government’s 9/11 conspiracy theory.

        1. “sheepfully” — good, snarky Newspeak, lm.


          1. I think he means “sheepishly”. Unless he thinks non-Truthers eat excessive amounts of mutton.

            1. No, I meant what I wrote.

        2. What do those have to do with eachother?

          But, I would support government-provided free psychiatric help for Truthers.

          1. Coerced of course. Tulpa could blow government psychiatric workers when he wasn’t servicing cops.

  7. Good article Doherty. As usual I agree with just about every word.

  8. Libertarians belong in Congress. But that’s never going to happen. (As perfectly illustrated by the surveys mentioned.)

    1. Maybe libertarians could pursue careers as party politicians, speak the standard party line BS, and then vote libertarian once in office? I mean, don’t unpopular/ineffective incumbents get re-elected almost inevitably? As long as you don’t have a sex or drug scandal you should be golden.

      1. You’d have to pretend to pass legislation to protect corporations, err, I mean consumers.

      2. My dream would have been to partner up with another libertarian. He would spout standard Republican nonsense and I would spout Democrat. Eventually we end up running against each other.
        Then I would take the hustings with a Marxist anti-American rant, so that he could win and reveal his libertarianism in office. Trouble is, I would probably win (if not be assassinated.)

      3. Maybe libertarians could pursue careers as party politicians, speak the standard party line BS, and then vote libertarian once in office?

        No, the voters don’t like full frontal libertarianism. This could only work for a single term, then you’d be booted out of office.

    2. You only need a handful of Libertarians in Congress if the D and R parties are evenly split…

      1. Well, except in cases where the D and R parties are equally stupid.

  9. Reason Contributing Editor Julian Sanchez sums up the best and most libertarian answer to the question of where the movement should aim its political energies: “Libertarian individuals and institutions should make whatever tactical alliances on specific issues that best suit their dispositions and concerns.


    Im trying to find the benefit of working with ubernational, xenophobic Paleocons, warmongering neocons, statist liberals and moralist busy body religious/social cons. Can someone help.

    1. Sometimes you have to swim through the sewage to get to the top of heap.

    2. Some Republicans are pretty good on fiscal issues, however awful they are on social issues. Some Democrats are good on social issues, and almost uniformly terrible on fiscal issues.

      Gotta play one team off against the other, depending on the issue.

      1. To be fair, conservatives are generally accepting of libertarians in policymaking positions (Milton Friedman, Hayek) and elected office (Gary Coleman, Jeff Flake) where leftists aren’t.

        To be unfair… Robert Bork supports censorship. So there’s that.

        1. …. Gary Coleman?

          1. He probably meant Gary Johnson.

            1. Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Dwight?

  10. Imagine the influence even those 13% might be able to have if the two major parties stopped colluding to keep themselves in power.

  11. We need to reform elections so that libertarians actually have a shot at entering public office. A lot of people vote for either the democrat or the republican because they are being realistic. If we had a multi-party system, we would be able to compete.Our country should reform elections and allow for there to be some version of proportional representation. Libertarians should form a coalition with the Green Party, the Constitution party, and pretty much everyone and anyone who is sick of the two party system. WIth about 50% of the country being independents, this shouldn’t be impossible.

    1. So foruming an alliance with the Greens (who are more socialist then the Dems but are at least up front about it) and the Constitution party who more or less want the nations social policy to be enforced the same way Middle Eastern countries do. This is a plan?

      1. Only on the issue of election reform. I truly believe this is a center-right country. Agnosticism/Atheism is the fastest growing “religion” in the country, more and more states are allowing gay marriage, abortion has been legal for over thirty years, 50% of marriages end in divorce and most Americans have smoked pot. The constitution party would never make large gains. After a financial crisis, a BP oil spill, high unemployment, and millions of people without healthcare, the Dems still can’t convince the country that liberalism works. The greens won’t be able to either. When the dust settles, I believe libertarians would benefit far more than the Green or constitution party from election reform. It may sound cynical, but we should use them to get what we want.

        1. That’s exactly how you end up with what we have now. Parties using other party members to “get what they want”, only very rarely does it turn out to be what anyone wants.

    2. Electoral Reform won’t get Libertarians in office, unless by “Electoral Reform” you mean completely throwing out the constitution and reforming the United States into a party-based parliamentary system where people vote by party, not the person. That is, if there are 100 seats, and the Libertarians get 5%, they get five seats. They would then frequently get to pick which side they want to join a government with and be able to influence policy.

      Unless you do that, you’re screwed. America had a libertarian choice for President last time (Ron Paul), and he completely and utterly failed. It is highly unlikely that any libertarian could get elected to any office higher than the House of Representatives.

      1. Well, I suppose Rand Paul might be an exception, now that I think about it…

        1. A stealth libertarian could get elected to higher office — for one term.

          Now, if libertarians could string together a succession of such adroit liars who fool the voters and then vote libertarian in office …

      2. The way we elect congressmen now, by districts, has nothing to do with the constitution. We can have party based proportional representation, or another form of proportional representation, in our system without having to be a parliament and having a prime minister. It would probably be in the house of representatives.

      3. Republicans had a libertarian choice for President. Although I can’t help but wonder who Dr No would have picked as his running mate.

      4. Nonsense. There is an easy way to get libertarians in office under the current system. All it takes is a little action at the state level: Get rid of representative districts, and make it a state wide office. The top x vote receivers (where x is the number of seats for the respective state) get the seats.

        This would get rid of such things as gerrymandering, as well as secured seats, as well as lead to some kind of turnover in the house. That said, it’s not collusion-proof, but it’d be more interesting than the current system.

    3. At best, you’ll get a half dozen “official” libertarian politicians who’ll exist outside the major parties and have limited influence on them. The results will be largely the same for libertarians politically, but you will have put the major party establishments firmly in control of their politicians, which I think is a horrible result.

      You won’t advance libertarianism by electoral gimmickry. Libertarians don’t have enough beliefs in common with parties like the Greens or Constitution to forge an alliance on anything but the narrowest issues. You actually have to do the footwork and convince enough of the electorate to embrace a libertarian ideology. There are no shortcuts.

      1. A form of proportional representation would make the US more representative ideologically by allowing diverse opinions to enter our political debate and break the strangle hold of the two major parties. I wouldn’t characterize that as “electoral gimmickry”. When people see that there are alternatives to the regular right/left debate, more attention will go to libertarians. Also, most people dismiss libertarians because we can’t get elected. The best way to convinve people to embrace libertarianism is for libertarians to present themselves as a viable alternative, which we are not now and never will be with the way our elections are currently structured.

        1. Proportional representation puts representatives at a remove from the people they nominally represent. It puts the parties completely in charge of who actually holds office.

          Proportional representation may be better for the Libertarian party, it is not necessarily good for libertariaism, and it is not good for the country. Proportional representation requires a unified national government, it cannot work under a federalist system like the USA is supposed to be.

          1. I disagree. There are different methods of proportional representation. We could simply pick the system, or create the system, that would best fit our needs. There could still be a primary system where people decide who goes on a party list, or we may not have party lists at all. Also, proportional representation could be done on a state to state basis, which would still ensure our federalist system.

          2. You may be right. Anyway, there are other ways to promote a multiparty system. We could try run-off voting. I suspect this could make a difference because most people vote R or D because they are concerned about “wasting their vote.” Run-off voting would give them a second chance.

            Another way would be to repeal the 17th Amendment and stop electing senators, who aren’t accountable to public anyway because the populations electing them are too large. A congressman actually cares about the letter you write him, because he believes it is equivalent to 1,000 votes. The letter you write to your senator goes directly into the paper shredder as soon as his staff puts a stamp on the form letter reply. Repeal the 17th, and senators are accountable to congressmen, who are accountable to the public. And voting for a third party in a smaller population, like a congressional district, is far less risky than doing so statewide.

            1. Well, the senate (as well as the electoral college) was originally for the purpose of making the federal government answerable to the states. The senate should go back to being appointed by the state assemblies, that way the people and the states are represented. The founders believed that the states would be able to check the federal government’s growth. Once the senate was popularly elected, that important check was eliminated.

              1. Agreed. Why did I say congressmen instead of assemblymen? That was dumb on my part.

      2. At first there would be only a few libertarians elected, but if we are persistent in campaigning and presenting America an alternative, the movement would grow over time.

    4. Or, a variation that is used in Australia. In elections you have to get 50% to win your seat. When you vote, you assign a choice to each person running for that seat e.g. 1-5.

      If nobody wins 50% on the first count, they toss out the lowest votegetter and then allocate the second choices from that person’s vote. If that still doesn’t get someone to 50%, they toss out the second lowest & allocate again.

      It doesn’t mean that third parties win a lot of seats, but the major parties have to do a lot of horse-trading to get the second preferences of the smaller parties.

      The problem in Australia is that you don’t have a libertarian party. But the Greens have used this strategy from time to time. And, for a long time a rural-based party had a lot of leverage b/c of this system.

      1. What’d you say is the closet to a libertarian party, Raven Nation?

        Also, I pretty much agree with your take on IRV. Even if libertarians do not win a lot of seats, a handful of libertarians could control Congress just by allying themselves with the Democrats and Republicans on the issues where they agree.

        I’m sure the major parties would unite against it, though.

        1. “What’d you say is the closet to a libertarian party, Raven Nation?”

          In Australia? Not sure, it’s been a while since I followed Oz politics closely. Sorry.

        2. One other thing on the preferential vote (Oz style). It actually encourages a lot more people to vote for a third party b/c they can’t be swayed by the “throwing your vote away” line. So, especially in close races, you would get a lot more people voting third party b/c they would know if their person didn’t win, their vote would slide over to their second preference.

          1. I guess I should have scrolled down before making a post advocating run-off voting; I didn’t realize I was being redundant!

            1. Nice to know more than one person is thinking the same thing!

              Although, in Australia, it is not technically a run-off: the allocation of preferences is done from the original ballot i.e. there is only one vote. I *think* that would give the third parties more leverage. In a true run-off, the smaller parties just disappear.

    5. I agree. Nicely stated.

    6. At one time the Libertarian Party proudly boasted that it was the third-largest party in America, largely because there were Libertarian Party members at nearly all lower-level positions in government. LP members were on county commissions, represented people in state houses, etc. I don’t hear that much anymore. I think that folks here have political sights set too high. Think of the policy shifts if libs were serving on school boards, for example, or even home owner associations.

      The war is won in the trenches.

      … Hobbit

      1. Then would you suggest libertarians entrenching /or carpetbagging, if you prefer/ throughout a given state’s government?

      2. Absolutely.

        Unfortunately, the trenches aren’t cool.

  12. Well, according to these polls, there is little hope of a resilient, popularly-based libertarian movement turning the tide of rising State influence. That sucks.

    I’m skeptical of the validity of polling like this, because it gives no context of consequences for things like “Government providing jobs for everyone.” I think most people in the US are fundamentally pragmatic, but don’t take the leap of considering feasibility and unintended consequences. But lets assume the findings of these polls are valid and that democratic processes will never bring libertarian policies; what measures would you agree to to make such policies happen?

    I understand that a lot of these cross the line of libertarian principles, but to what extent would we accept positive ends from unsavory means?

    Would you support a libertarian-leaning coup or demagogue?
    Why or why not? (if not for reasons of permanency, what if there was a credible guarantee to return democratic power once reforms took effect?)

    Would you support a new constitutional convention?

    Would you support a unitary United States (with all meaningful government decisions made at the national level) if it stuck to its enumerated powers?

    These are tough questions for me. I’m confident that policies which reflect a strong commitment to freedom (including speech, assembly, self-ownership etc.) would result in far better outcomes for the general public, especially in the long term.

    Maybe imposing freedom is a false choice, but is that true in every context? Different cultures have different comfort levels and expectations for the role of government.

    1. 1.) There’s no such thing as a credible guarantee, and given our current state, I would not support any kind of “coup.” No need to put people’s heads on pikes at this point.

      2.) It would have more of a geeky neatness to it. With that said, no, not really. Much of the crap that’s going on now that we don’t like would end up being slapped in there. How could I bitch about it’s Constitutionality then?

      3.)Hell to the no. First, the latter part is a pipe dream, much like the first proposition given. I already think that many unitary decisions made at the federal level are crappy ideas, why continue said practice? That’s not even going into plausible abuses, be it now or down the road.

      1. 1) Good for you to be skeptical. What if the central leader had terminal cancer? Some kind of kill switch? There is definitely not sufficient impetus for a coup these days, but how far down the police state water slide would we have to go to get there?

        2) Agree, for the same reasons.

    2. 1. Yup: It’s not wrong to prevent a wrong.

      2. No: Our constitution is fine the way it is. We just don’t follow it.

      3. Heck yeah. To some extent we already do this with the Bill of Rights. State/local governments can’t pass anti free-speech laws, and that’s just the way I like it. If they couldn’t pass welfare state spending, that’s fine with me.

      I’m not naive. I know that a libertarian revolution would never succeed. But if it could, I’d be for it.

      I remember a sci-fi story about a band of people planning to sabotage a powerful computer overseer who kept preventing people from enacting laws they wanted. The story describes the ways the computer prevented each member of the band from getting something they wanted. Just when they are about to blow the computer up, a member of the band turns out to be a spy for the computer. He then explains, in true libertarian fashion, that all of their wants would violate individual liberty, and that’s why the computer blocked the laws. “The founding programmers knew that liberty was not popular, so they created the computer and a few guardians of liberty to defend our rights from the people.” It was the least PC story I’ve ever read.

    3. 1) Sure, if I knew the future and could tell you with certainty that the dude really would stick with libertarian principles, not kill people indiscriminately on the way to power, and otherwise be bad on libertarian policy goals. Since I can’t, as a practical matter I am for democracy. I suppose my beliefs are something like Churchill’s “the worst system of governance” line.

      2) No. Hell no.

      3) Ehh… I could live with it, but I would find it highly unpragmatic.

      If I could make libertarianism stick, I would, tbh.

    4. A libertarian demagogue is too strange for me to even contemplate (aside from assisting my voluntaryist friend take over the world)
      A new constitutional convention would be too much, I fear. Unless said convention wiped the slate clean of virtually all federal laws.

    5. Unfortunately, Libertarians would cease being Libertarians if they level a gun at someone for simply being in the way. There probably is an argument in there that a revolution could be wound up on the grounds of self-defense (i.e. the State just keeps taking more of our crap with implied force for little, if any, benefit which is similar to crooks perpetually stealing your porno collection and HD-TV under the pretext of “protection”). In the end, being a Libertarian means sticking to your unpopular guns, the most basic and implicit being “the ends do not justify the means”. So if a bunch of corrupt, theiving, murderous bureaucrats (most of them in the real world are too lazy to overtly be all of those things) are thrown out into the street and riddled with an assortment of basement fabricated bullets and one innocent is taken out in the maelstrom, in theory, the revolution has lost its moral high ground. Over the course of history when this has happened, most people just say “Fuck it”, kill a lot more innocent people, and eventually become more like those they deposed.

      A better way to control the situation, however technically impossible in 2010, would be to create some sort of nano-machine that could either control or incapacitate policy-makers who feed the Leviathan. Of course, the second that technology is available, we’ll all have some sort of metal bug in our brain making us buy U.S. savings bonds and subsidized corn as we sign up for the service in our sleep. Fun times. Good thing I’ll be dead.

  13. Would you support a libertarian-leaning coup or demagogue?

    Coup? No. Demagogue? I’m not even sure what a libertarian demagogue would look like, but if you mean a libertarian politician with the gift of gab, then probably, yeah.

    Would you support a new constitutional convention?

    Yes. Let’s get it over with, already. This death of a thousand SCOTUS opinions is wearing my ass out.

    Would you support a unitary United States (with all meaningful government decisions made at the national level) if it stuck to its enumerated powers?

    Which is it? The national government sticks to its enumerated powers, or it makes all meaningful government decisions? Because there are whole universes of meaningful government action that the national government is not empowered to take.

    1. I’m not even sure what a libertarian demagogue would look like

      I’m not the only one going blind!

    2. Which is it? The national government sticks to its enumerated powers, or it makes all meaningful government decisions? Because there are whole universes of meaningful government action that the national government is not empowered to take.

      I intended it to be both. A Unitary US government that is essentially minarchist.

      1. I intended it to be both. A Unitary US government that is essentially minarchist.

        That wouldn’t stay minarchist long. The whole point of the constitutional separation of powers is to get various branches of government fighting each other so nothing much gets done.

        Unfortunately, the various branches don’t do much fighting of each other any more.

    3. This death of a thousand SCOTUS opinions is wearing my ass out.

      Best argument for a constitutional convention I have ever heard. Though, I’m weary of the idea and am glad none have occurred in my adult lifetime. There is nothing legally in the declaring of a convention that would prevent the amendments from going outside the stated purposes of the convention. The most likely scenario given Generation FuckedInTheHead is Nancy Pelosi jumping out of a cake naked and a grinning with the resulting law resembling the most disgusting and degrading bukkake in the history of mankind.

      1. Okay, I think I’m going to have to throw up now.

  14. Would you support a new constitutional convention?

    I find this one tough. Sure, kill the 16th and 17th ammendments.

    But what about the 10th ammendment? What are we supposed to do about that? Put another copy in, but put it all in bold text? How much more clear can it get? Willful obvious misreading can (and mostly has) overcome anything we write down.

    1. Well, personally, my answer is Constitutionbot 2000 (with offending judge slaughtering death rays). But, I’m having a hard time selling people on the idea.

  15. Americans are too enamoured of fascism to embrace libertarian principles.

    When the people found out they could vote themselves goodies, the Republic (and freedom) ended.

    1. When the people found out…

      I totally agree, if only all the people were drooling morons, libertarianism would prevail.

      1. Re: Tony,

        I understand your limitations, so I do understand you would not find the clear contradiction in your assertion. Drooling morons cannot be free, so why would libertarianism previal in such conditions would be something that defies explanation.

        Your big interest in looking cute tells me more about the thinks you LACK rather than the things you HAVE. I pity you.

        1. You don’t really pity him. He is only worthy of contempt and gov’t handouts.

          1. Tony voted for someone who guaranteed that he and other gays wouldn’t be allowed to have the same civil rights as heterosexuals. Whether that’s stupidity or self-loathing, pity or contempt are the only options.

            1. Or not seeing a better option.

      2. Unlike progressive liberalism which only treats the people as if they are drooling morons.

  16. OK that dude is actually makes sense man. Wow


    1. OK that bot is actually makes sense man. Wow.

    2. Oh anyono-bot…. you so crazy!

  17. I see MY role (as a libertarian) as someone that can and should educate people about liberty, free-market economics, our rights and ethics.

    People like Bill Maher and others of his ilk are not interested in arguing ideas, only in having a leg up over others so that they can fancy themselves as very clever humans.

    1. Bill Maher is so not a libertarian, it’s not even funny. He’s worse than fucking mallgoth bondage-pants wearing Korn fans who claim to be metal.

      1. Eh Maher is funny but very rarely. Hell even Stewart is wearing thin on me. Nonpolitical comedians are more refreshing.

      2. LIES! There aren’t any Korn fans left.

      3. Seriously, who listens to Korn anymore?

  18. It’ll take a charismatic figure to lead the charge. Someone to capture the imagination of people. Only then would the messhage expand to a larger audience I reckon. At this point, libertarians are looked upon as kooks even if they have a point. In fact, their points often necessitate critical thinking.

    Put it to you this way: Jonathan Capehart is seen as “logical” and “normal” as far as political discourse does. I can’t believe that guy has a job writing about politics.

    I call racist first!

    1. This is the approach I hope for too, but the resulting hero-worship troubles me.

    2. Being quite handsome, intelligent, and loved by all, I hereby volunteer.

  19. Maher’s Religulous was Ridiculous. Seriously, it was so puerile it was sad.

  20. I’m just posting to see if we can get the count past the booby (I mean Cheer-leading) thread.

    1. I missed a booby thread!?

  21. People only become “true” libertarians (just as interested in minding their own business as in being left alone) when it benefits them personally. As it is, most people don’t perceive a direct, personal cost to themselves as a result of the regulatory and welfare state.

    Because of this, I don’t think the USA, as we know it, will ever be close to libertarian. Perhaps one of the successor states following a complete societal collapse might be. The Republic of Wyoming, perhaps.

    A mere prolonged economic crisis isn’t enough. We’re more likely to turn into a bigger, uglier Argentina as a result of that. Only a true collapse of our federal structure could even possibly result in a libertarian entity.

    1. I agree. I also think that a bigger longer economic collapse is the most likely scenario in the near term. Followed by a libertarian make over? Maybe.

  22. ” serious blows to the entitlement state, open borders, closed overseas military bases, or the elimination of public schools. ”

    I’m in for pretty much everything besides open borders.

    Guess I’m not a libertarian, oh well.

  23. 1. Would you support a libertarian-leaning coup or demagogue?

    I would support a coup if it were against a non-democratic or murderous government, otherwise no. I can’t imagine what a “libertarian demagogue” would look like, since libertarianism is just about the most elitist political philosophy there is – besides neo-anti-revisionist syncretic democratic socialist left-libertarian anarchism. (Vendee school)

    2. Would you support a new constitutional convention?

    No. It would create some awful committee-written document declaring the US to be a “social state” and establishing a “right” to healthcare and banning holocaust denial and all that yucky stuff.

    3. Would you support a unitary United States (with all meaningful government decisions made at the national level) if it stuck to its enumerated powers?

    I’m for peoples’ rights, not necessarily states’ rights (code word for segregation). I do think that the present compromise is just about ideal, but if the gov’t would truly stay within its enumerated powers, I’d have to support it.

  24. Anyway, I really think half the problems stem from education failure. If the majority of people jsut had a working knowledge of basic economics, with a dash of consitutional law, we would be good IMO.

    1. The sad thing is that isn’t true. That’s why Keynesian economics and the “living constitution” theory are so popular – people won’t adjust their prejudices to new facts – they’ll just adjust the facts to their prejudices. That’s true for people of all ideologies and all levels of education, including my well-educated and libertarian self.

      1. Actually I don’t think Kenesian theory has really been tried. We seem to be great at the deficit spending part, but haven’t gotten the surplus part when times are good.

        1. LOL.

          Although, you seem to misunderstand Keynesian theory yourself. In order to “stimulate” the economy, we need to spend 58 gajillion dollars. That way, we get all the nice multipliers and we all get to live like kings. Of course, if we only spend 57 gajillion dollars, then we won’t get any of the multipliers and the economy will be deader than disco.

    2. People are amazingly resistant to understanding basic economics.

    3. There’s probably something to that, but plenty of people well-schooled in economics and constitutional law still fall for the false charms of the regulatory state.

      The motivation, and the education, must be more personal and visceral in nature. For example, “if we don’t stop this nanny state shit, you and all your neighbors are going to be broke and hungry, and those of your children with any ambition will have to seek their fortunes elsewhere.”


  25. Allying yourself with different groups on different issues is a nice way to stay pure, but it guarantees that the Libertarians will never become an electoral force with real potential to change the game. If you ally with the right, you can possibly become THE swing voters every Republican will need to get in close districts.

    Democrats are currently the advocates for state control in almost every area, while the Republicans are currently acting as advocates for freedom. There are a few exceptions to Republican advocacy for freedom, but I believe these exceptions can be dealt with in a manner that is acceptable to both sides if Libertarians are willing to get active in local parties and make the case for freedom.

    A few key areas of policy difference to make the above points clear:

    1) The Dems want to take away guns, whatever they may say publicly. Actions speak louder than words. The Republicans want to see people free to own and carry guns. Self-defense is the foundation of liberty. This alone ought to convince any Libertarians that the Left is simply not an option.

    2) Recent attempts to reimpose the fairness doctrine both overtly and covertly (localism, ownership regulations,) and to control internet content (net neutrality amongst other efforts,) by the Obama administration should have everybody worried. Add to this the possible subsidization of newspapers, and you are looking at government-controlled media outlets and a shutdown of political speech from the right.

    The difference is clear: The Democrats want to limit your ability to change minds on political issues, the Republicans want to limit your ability to see naked women or hear the F-bomb during the afternoon.

    If Libertarians modify their message on porn and bad language to Republicans a little bit, and advocate for easy-to-use parental controls on television, combined with deregulation of content, freedom to show what you like is combined with the right to control what your kids watch in a manner that both sides can support.

    3) The Dems want to seize control of vast sectors of our economy. They have de facto control of the automakers, the banks, and they are about to gain control of health care and newspapers. The Republicans are trying to end that control. Economic freedom is a joke in this country because of the efforts of Democrats across the state and federal governments. If you want it to expand, there is only one way to vote.

    4) The Democrats want the government to control the schools, and to decide what is taught there. They also want to make sure that none of their teachers actually have to perform, or meet any sort of minimum standards for competence. The Republicans argue for, at a minimum, school vouchers and many argue for a complete end to government involvement. True, some Republicans argue against sex education and the teaching of evolution in schools, but they are arguing that primarily because the government runs the schools and sets curriculum and teaches things they beleieve are wrong. Argue for school choice, and all of these differences over dild0s and Darwin disappear.

    5) Involvement abroad is another area where the Democrats are flying in the face of Libertarian principles, though the Republicans do their fair share of the same. Democrats push tariffs rather than free trade, peacekeeping operations and “Meals on Wheels” missions with guns, foreign aid payments and international agreements that sidestep the domestic constitution. Republicans tend to support bombing hostile countries and then staying there long enough to make sure they do not become immediately hostile again.

    I admit that the Republicans get in to quite a few more wars than the Libertarians would like, and quite frankly I think you’re nuts for opposing most of them. But what is the greater danger to freedom? Killing terrorists abroad, or Kyoto killing the economy and regulating every aspect of our lives here at home? Iraq or Smoot-Hawley? In other words, are you really willing to elect people at home who are opposed to almost every aspect of freedom in order to avoid any interference abroad?

    As a side note, I should also point out that there are plenty of Republicans who agree with you that we are interfering abroad far too-often. Ron Paul didn’t get that many votes just from Libertarians, he got them from Republicans who believed as you do. If you are Republicans, you too can make the case for neutrality and non-intervention. Chances are you will gains some converts.

    1. The Republican objection to limited government has proven to be mostly illusory every time they’ve gained power since 1952. AFAIK, the last time the GOP seriously tried to roll back the regulatory and welfare state was after the GOP congressional landslide in 1946, and they paid dearly for it in 1948. The GOP learned to play kissy-face with the maximum state and elected Ike in ’52. Of course, Ike seems like a raging libertarian by today’s standards…

      1. OK, but then your problem is not Republicans but voters in the aggregate. You’re saying the Republicans want to do the right thing, but the voters won’t let them. Of course, if they won’t let them, they won’t let anybody else either.

    2. Im sorry but no we cannot forget what Republicans did and continue to personal freedom. They like to talk the talk now but of course when they get into power it will be just more of the same. How many current in power Republicans oppose the Patriot Act, and our clusterfuck foreing policy? With the exception on Ron Paul, the number is very small. This alliance that Conservatives are pushing are just a grabber for votes, they still believe in statism to certain degrees.

    3. A bit simplistic, but I mostly agree. Republicans, as bad as they are (and as atrocious as they were from the Clinton impeachment onwards) have been receptive to libertarian ideas in the past, and have helped enact some (voluntary armed forces, lowered taxes, the better SC Justice, Clarence Thomas, gun deregulation, welfare reform). Name a Democrat in power who has attempted libertarian reforms without outside influence since Carter.

      Libertarians at least have some chances within the Republican party that they could exploit, particularly in western states like NM, NV, AZ, and others. They have absolutely no chance with the Dems.

      1. How to make you guys see… if your political philosophy requires an alliance with Republicans, is it really worth holding on to?

      2. Feingold is the only one I can think of at the moment. In 05, he and several other senators blocked the reauthorization of the Patriot Act and attempted to remove some of the more draconian parts of the bill:,2933,178898,00.html

        He also voted against TARP, Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Medicare Part D, Iraq Resolution, REAL ID, voted against giving Obama access to TARP funds, etc. etc.…..ayers.html

        Of course he also voted for Obamacare, and he gave us McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform….in other words he’s a mixed bag. In any case if the GOP is about to give us Rand Paul and Mike Lee for the U.S. Senate. For President we might get Mitch Daniels, Gary Johnson, and maybe Chris Christie somewhere down the line. So I say we align with the Right for now.

      3. The way I look at it, Repubs tend toward being right for the wrong reasons and Dems tend toward wrong for the right reasons. Thats why we trend more towards the repubs (we’re right for the right reasons) 😉

    4. Killing terrorists abroad, or Kyoto killing the economy and regulating every aspect of our lives here at home? Iraq or Smoot-Hawley?

      This is not even a fucking choice. There is no excuse for the Iraq war. There weren’t any terrorists there before we got there, they had no hand in Sep. 11th, and there weren’t any means to attack the US.
      Indiscriminately killing innocent people is about as un-liberterian as you can get.

      However, I agree with about much else that you’ve said. Keep in mind that Ron Paul’s harshest critics come from the right and the ‘establishment’ GOP.

  26. In a box with a fox wearing socks eating lox playing with our…….clocks.

  27. The basic problem is that leftism and rightism both give simple, easily-digested answers and libertarianism doesn’t. A lot of the answers libertarianism gives are frankly abhorrent to common perception.

    For instance, a libertarian system would allow disabled, elderly, and otherwise useless people to starve in the streets. Don’t give me the “private charity would take care of it” line of BS: that’s a cop-out. You can’t count on residual collectivism to act as a deus ex machina to save your explicitly anti-collectivist system from having ugly results, any more than the anarchos can expect their private defense agencies to faithfully act within the bounds of a non-coercive system when there’s no one to stop them from behaving coercively. Own up to your philosophy’s results, both good and bad.

    Now, a libertarian could say that giving the government the powers necessary to keep people from starving in the streets is going to lead to worse outcomes than just having a few people starve. And I would agree with that — but it is by no means a simple proof to do. Look at Rand Paul’s appearance on Maddow — he has to explain the very delicate argument that banning discrimination leads to more problems than it solves, while all she had to do was keep pushing the racist button. That’s the political environment we’re in.

    As for alliances with the right or left on various issues? Not likely to be beneficial in my estimation. They only need to court you until they’ve won the election and then you’ll be cast aside like a ratfucked pillow. Implementing any significant amount of libertarian philosophy would alienate much bigger and more useful factions of either party, so it ain’t going to happen.

    So in short, my answer to the question is: despair.

    1. Now, a libertarian could say that giving the government the powers necessary to keep people from starving in the streets is going to lead to worse outcomes than just having a few people starve. And I would agree with that

      the very delicate argument that banning discrimination leads to more problems than it solves…

      These assumptions are the crux of your entire political philosophy? Negative effects you can barely define, and certainly can’t back up with data, and which fly in the face of plain historical fact? It’s slippery slope paranoia at best.

      1. And by “at best” I mean sometimes there are slippery slopes and sometimes paranoia is justified. So here’s an idea: scale back your ambitions. Stop flirting with Republicans with delusions of a small-government utopia, and focus on the excesses of liberals if it ever looks like the slippery slope is upon us.

        But that’s ignoring the fact that the very argument you make against civil rights laws is the same discredited one used by people as cover a desire to maintain a segregated society. Doesn’t make you wrong, but it’s strange company. What makes you wrong is the fact that it worked, with the sacrifice only of the freedom of people to act on their bigotry. And since the only sacrifice made for keeping people from starving is a portion of the wealth of people who aren’t starving, that too is a good trade-off and another reason you’re wrong.

        1. “Stop flirting with Republicans with delusions of a small-government utopia, and focus on the excesses of liberals if it ever looks like the slippery slope is upon us.”

          That would be good advice, except that Liberals are really just Socialists who use Liberal issues to sucker in voters.

          “What makes you wrong is the fact that it worked, with the sacrifice only of the freedom of people to act on their bigotry.”

          Incorrect. The market was already moving against racial inequality when the civil rights movement began, as Thomas Sowell has shown. To the degree legislation worked, it was because it was acting in the same manner as the Invisible Hand, which itself is nothing more than a reflection of the general social values (a more subtle and accurate one, to boot).

          “And since the only sacrifice made for keeping people from starving is a portion of the wealth of people who aren’t starving, that too is a good trade-off and another reason you’re wrong.”

          Incorrect. Starving people can’t work, ergo, no able bodied persons, nearly regardles off what kind of failure they may be in other respects would starve. And charity would almost certainly serve the deserving remainder. If it fell short, I’m sure most Libertarians probably wouldn’t bemoan state assistance, as that kind of welfare state we’re talking about would be a tiny fraction of what we support today.

      2. In logic, the slippery slope is a fallacy.

        In human behavior, it is a tautology.

        1. Of course! And libertarians have the perfect solution to that inevitability: engineer society so that it couldn’t possibly get any worse.

          1. Yes comrade, I understand your concern. Starvation is not a politically correct motivation. Please take my earnings and do with them what allows you to feel socially relevant.

            1. What you should do is eat a simple meal that can be cooked in a single pot one Sunday a month and donate the savings to government poverty relief.

              This will help eliminate poverty in our nation.

          2. What, you prefer worse to better?

            And, besides, libertarians do not engineer society. That is what statists do.

            1. BS. You’d need to do a lot more legislating to get your preferred society than I would. There is no blank slate to start from, sorry.

              1. BS. Just maintaining the current funding levels and laying off the grandiose corporate-backed regulatory schemes that engineer things go from bad to worse would be a step in a libertarian direction.

                No blank slate even needed, sorry.

              2. Actually, my preferred society requires no legislating at all — just scraping the barnacles of statism out of the statute book.

                It’s telling, though, that you would create your perfect society by legislation.

                1. Ever better than I could say. 🙂

                2. Tulpa, to repeal laws is to legislate. All I’m saying is you’d be more of a ‘social engineer’ than me. I don’t want near that much change.

                  1. We know you don’t want change, Tony. You like having corps and special interest groups sup at the government-provided table just fine.

                    1. Of course not. I want a lot of change. Just not as much as libertarians, who want to engineer a society almost nobody wants.

                    2. libertarians, who want to engineer a society almost nobody wants.

                      I’m not interested in engineering any societies, Tony. An incredibly diverse set of societies could exist (and even coexist!) with a libertarian body of law in the background.

                      It’s interesting, an extremely liberal colleague and I were lightly arguing about politics the other day, and he complained, “The problem with you libertarians is that you’re so vague. Tell me, what kind of society do you want to create with libertarianism?”

                      I must have looked pretty puzzled. “I don’t want to create any particular society,” I retorted, “I just want to give people the freedom to build whatever society they want.”

                      This, I think, is a major dividing line between libertarians and thoughtful liberals (as opposed to mindless Team Blue cheerleaders): liberals fundamentally think that government and law are about implementing some sort of perfect society, while libertarians see them as more of a sewer system — something you realize you need to make civilization, but don’t want to have to think about.

                    3. Liberals fundamentally think that government and law are about implementing some sort of perfect society, while libertarians see them as more of a sewer system — something you realize you need to make civilization, but don’t want to have to think about.

                      That should be a bumper sticker

                    4. It’s a little too verbose for a bumper sticker. I’ve thought about condensing it to the sewer system part but never actually did it.

                  2. “Tulpa, to repeal laws is to legislate.”

                    This is belligerent semantic obfuscation.

                  3. All I’m saying is you’d be more of a ‘social engineer’ than me.

                    I don’t think the phrase means what you think it means. I prefer scaling back the statute books to the point where they have very little influence on the particular shape that society takes. Social engineering refers to an attempt to shape society into some preferred form, usually by enacting “just the right” set of laws.

                    1. Tulpa you’re evading the issue. We do have a society that was built by people exercising their freedom to build the type of society they want. You complain just because it’s not everything you want. Tough titties. Finite amount of land. Democracy. It’s what works. Very few people want to exchange the what we have for dispersed city-states or whatever the hell you have in mind.

      3. By “[n]egative effects you can barely define”, you mean high unemployment, currency that is worth 95% less than it did 100 years ago, recessions, monopolies, a polarized electorate, poorly educated children, a general disrespect for the law, the largest prison population in the world, a high crime rate, segregation, involuntary sterilization, terrorist attacks, a land war in Asia, and shall I go on?

        1. How are any of those things the consequence of social programs meant to prevent starvation?

    2. My response would be to fight battles that are necessary.

      If the elderly were starving in the streets, as a thought experiment, do we really expect nothing to be done about it without a formal government mechanism? And if it were the case that impoverished seniors were struggling, then I’m not fundamentally opposed to a safety net if it’s in the electorate’s will. I’ll at least concede we wind up with means-tested insurance.

      I’d rather focus on the real battlegrounds: freedom of commerce, free speech, property rights, etc. Ricardian comparative advantage, for example, is very much in line with libertarian views and eminently defensible. If someone’s going to dismiss the free market argument in entirety because of a nuanced view of the Civil Rights Act, I’d rather see some rhetorical triage.

      Not the purest viewpoint, obviously, but I’d rather see some reforms or defenses of libertarian views succeed than the whole ship sink under perceptions that the whole philosophy is “wacko.”

      1. * we might wind up with

    3. For instance, a libertarian system would allow disabled, elderly, and otherwise useless people to starve in the street

      Wrong again. They allow themselves to starve in the streets. A little starvation would be motivational to me. Like the actor says, ‘What’s my motivation?’

      1. And they said I was condescending and out of touch!

      2. If the statists have their way, they may starve in the streets even more: The Politics of Giving

      3. If the statists have their way, they may starve in the streets even more: The Politics of Giving

  28. Politics and ideology are dead…

    America is not united…

    Enough of your dead-end drivel…

    The Cheese…

    1. I am the cheese.

  29. What the country needs is a Capitalist movement!

    We can fight over the social issues afterward.

    1. The social issues may even resolve themselves when the growing economic influence of, say, homosexuals makes them important enough to legalise same-sex marriage.

      Reason had a debate about this a while back.

    2. I agree with this. I know where I stand on the nolan chart like everyone else hear, but if you look at it, half of the people are capitalists and half are socialists. Seems like conservatives and libertarians would benefit immensely if they left social issues alone for a while.

  30. I think we libertarians would be best served retreating from modern america and forming our own society. Seriously, I don’t think the illiberal monster that America has become can change.

  31. I would like to believe that libertarians belong more appropriately on the “left”, given the “right”‘s obvious attachment to religious nuttery and militarism.

    However, it’s far from clear that today’s “left” is much less authoritarian than the right. Realities are more ambiguous. Some of the more influential voices on the War on Drugs are not leftists. Outside of the marginalized fringe, no Democrat is serious about legalizing drugs. At least a few Republican leaders have come out of the closet and stand a chance of swaying the party on it. This is how real changes in policy happen. The D’s are too intent on controlling every single aspect of the economy to waste political capital on drug legalization.

    Similar, today’s mainstream conservatives are far more tolerant of diverse options on social issues than the mainstream liberals. The so-called liberals today seem to feel that ostracizing anyone who dares dissent from their political orthodoxy is part of their moral mission – the best and only way to shut up their hated enemies and “win” the argument once and for all.

    Socially speaking, a room full of Republicans will listen politely before telling you how wrong you are. The Democrats will start calling you a facist or a racist or a corporate tool before three words have left your mouth.

    1. +100 What Hazel said!

    2. controlling every single aspect of the economy

      So all you need to do is shed this ridiculous straw man, and everything’s ok. As for the stuff about orthodoxy and demagoguery, that you think Democrats or the left have the GOP and the right beat on that front, you’re just in another universe.

      1. Perhaps flowers shouldn’t be regulated?

      2. MNG and several other leftists were debating the benefits of government raiding raw milk producers. Please, name a market that you have no problem with as it stands in the free market, and that you would ascribe no regulations to. My guess is that it’ll take you a while to think of one, if you do.

    3. The things about drugs is that the “right” has an all-or-nothing mentality based on moral judgements about drug use, where compromise has practically no place, while the “left” is all about controls and regulations. The “right” will therefore go, in different cases, for prohibitions or laissez faire, while the “left” will never accede to laissez faire.

      1. The left believes that regulation of drugs is part of the benefit of legalizing them.

        1. That’s what we call a cursed gift.

          Of course, none of the left that favors legalizing drugs are ever going to have access to the levers of power.

          1. Eh, we’re on the right track. As long as we keep right-wing prohibitionists out of power.

            I expect drugs to some extent would self-regulate if they were legal, but moving from criminalizing drugs to treating addiction as a medical issue means regulations on drugs, the way we do booze and cigarettes. You could be against age limits, but surely you’d be happier if your weed were guaranteed not to have god knows what infesting it?

            1. As long as we keep right-wing prohibitionists out of power.

              Considering that your means of doing that is keeping left-wing prohibitionists in power, your strategy leaves much to be desired. I don’t think even the most gullible true-believer can plausibly chalk up Obama’s drug war activity to just keeping those eeeeeevil right-wingers placated. If DEA had really stopped raiding med MJ dispensaries in California, as opposed to only raiding them when local prosecutors assert another violation of state law, no one in the general public would have even noticed.

              moving from criminalizing drugs to treating addiction as a medical issue means regulations on drugs

              Here’s an idea: why doesn’t we move from criminalizing drugs, to getting the government’s filthy paws off them entirely? Addiction doesn’t need to concern government unless the addict is stealing to finance a habit or driving intoxicated or something like that.

              surely you’d be happier if your weed were guaranteed not to have god knows what infesting it?

              And we know that can’t happen unless government is regulating it and taxing the shit out of it! Why, I just opened up a container of Renuzit the other day and a rat came out of it and bit me! We need government control of air fresheners!

    4. Splendid!

      1. @ Hazel Meade

    5. Drug use and the legalization of drugs will result in concerts like this; young people losing all their inhibitions and gyrating their hips wildly.…..p;index=57

    6. The left is statism. That is it’s endpoint. Libertarianism can never flourish on the left

      Religious nuttery is statism as well. Many of the things that libertarians dislike about the right are nothing more than infections of statism that permeate human nature.

      The right seems to want to make law that allows the maximum amount of freedom while sometimes allowing and sometimes fighting those incursions of statism.

      The left seems to want to make law that takes advantage of petty dislikes to allow for maximum growth of the state.

  32. Why should not libertarians try to co-opt one of the political parties?

    Counterculture hippies used to be in the fringe, before they took over the Democratic Party in the ’70’s.

    1. Which one?

  33. I am very skeptical of the belief that advances in liberty are a result or product of the proportion of radical libertarians — or libertarian ideologues — in a society. If you look at the ups & downs of freedom over millennia around the world, I don’t think you’ll see the increases as having been produced by increases in the proportion of radical libertarians, but where there is a correlation, I suspect the causality to have gone mostly the other way. That is, a certain fraction of persons observing a free society they live in will learn by its example and become radical libertarians.

  34. For instance, a libertarian system would allow disabled, elderly, and otherwise useless people to starve in the streets.

    Allow, or acknowledge? Even in a social welfare state you have the problem of those so miserable in their circumstances through both fault and misfortune that death occurs. Think Needle Park.

    Do social welfare states really alleviate the problem, or does the existence of capitalist prosperity give a greater array of choices both state and private to address those problems and make them much more uncommon than they are in cultures that lack a capitalist outlet?

    Why would you assume that the mixed approach of private and public resources would be a superior means of alleviating social ills over a purely private one when both rely equally on the existence of capitalism? The social welfare state hampers the capitalist system from operating at its most efficient allocation, whereas private activity does not.

    Whether a society is charitable or not depends on the culture of the people, not on the form of government. A social welfare state like the former USSR was one of the cruelest places for a poor person to live in modern times in spite of constitutional cradle to grave guarantees because Russians are a cruel people. Even if they converted to anarcho-capitalism I would not expect that to change about them. Likewise, my neighbors tend to be generous to a fault, as is customary in their culture, and the encroachment of socialism hasn’t changed that.

    1. Do social welfare states really alleviate the problem, or does the existence of capitalist prosperity give a greater array of choices both state and private to address those problems and make them much more uncommon than they are in cultures that lack a capitalist outlet?

      They aren’t mutually exclusive! Capitalism is this great force, but it buckles completely under the slightest pressure from government? What is this mythical pure environment in which capitalism is supposed to thrive? It can deal with operating in an environment of social welfare, which only exists because it never sprang up naturally in the market, because it’s not the type of thing the market produces. That doesn’t mean it’s not desirable.

      1. L O L

      2. “Capitalism is this great force, but it buckles completely under the slightest pressure from government?”

        It buckles under monopoly influence, and when the government represents 35%-40% of GDP, we’re talking about a massive monopoly influence.

        1. Capitalism does “buckle completely under the slightest pressure from government” for a very good reason. Mao pointed to it “all power comes from the business end of an ak47” and capitalist are subject to withdraw from confrontation with the people who control the lethal weapons pointed at them. Like IRS agents being given shot guns currently. Sad to say most of us are unwilling to die for the sake of keeping our business alive.

  35. How’s that “liberaltarian” thing workin’ out for ya again ?

  36. “Where Do Libertarians Belong?”

    A mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico plugging the hole BP raped into the Earth. You guys are certainly dense enough to rival concrete.

    1. Maybe we should listen to Hobie. He does, after all, have extensive experience plugging holes. His penetrating insights on hard problems could use some lubricant, to be sure, but once you get past the gag reflex his point isn’t so repellent.

  37. So libertarians “agree” with liberals on taxpayer funded abortions all the way through the third trimester and no parental consent for minors?

    And libertarians are OK with legalized marijuana so long as the potency is regulated by the FDA and it is heavily taxed to provide coercive treatment for hard drug users?

    I’m struggling to think of where “we” agree with progressive policy intellectuals on those social issues.

    I think I’m in agreement with Nat Hentoff on civil liberties and abortion.

    1. Abortion is kind of like drugs–prohibition only creates more social problems. You gonna vote for the people who want to prohibit everything? How practical for advancing your cause!

      1. That’s exactly the argument Jeffrey Miron makes in Libertarianism from A to Z for legal abortion, drugs, and prostitution among other things.

      2. Look who’s throwing out vaguely defined negative consequences with no data now. You sound like the Paris police who decided just to let the honor rapes and honor killings in the immigrant banlieus proceed for fear of igniting social unrest among radical Muslims.

        If abortion is indeed murder, then the fact that prohibiting it “creates social problems” is irrelevant. The government should protect the individual right to life whether it creates social problems or not.

        1. Murder is defined legally, so the very act of redefining it to include abortion will cause the negative social problems. Like with drug use, people will still have abortions, it will just be less safe and punish the poor disproportionately. Liberalizing abortion laws is the way to go.

    2. I for one agree that liberals will abort their young to the extent that they will thin their heard and eventually die off. How intellectually pure is that? SIV Were you always a stupid sob or did it just come on you recently?

  38. What I never understood is – if individuals are so evil, destructive and selfish in certain positions of non-coercive power, how come they trust individuals in positions of actually coercive power to be morally superior?

    Some (including my own dear mother) seem to believe that the decision to go into “public service” (defined to include govern jobs and politics none-the-less) serves as a filter which excludes the bad people.

  39. Appeal to the left, and the right, and the center, and the tea partiers, but don’t hide or sugarcoat your libertarian beliefs. Speak the truth, that immoral actions taken by a government, such as theft and murder, are as immoral as those taken by individuals.

    1. I think we’re all in agreement about that. But taxation isn’t theft.

      1. When the purpose of a tax is to redistribute wealth rather than fund legitimate government functions, then it is theft. The most prominent examples being the estate tax and the progressive income tax.

        1. Right you are.

        2. All taxes are redistributive. And don’t you think that rather than overburdening the poor to pay for the things we buy, we should try not to burden anyone with taxes? Hence, a progressive system.

    2. Problem is that the right doesnt want to hear the truth about our foreign policy and calls the truth, communist. Left doesnt want to hear the truth about the market, calling it corporatist.

      1. Amen LB

  40. Good article overall Brian. But there’s a couple of points I have to disagree on.

    he’s off a significant part of the libertarian reservation on immigration

    He’s off the anarchist reservation on immigration — but not so much so, with libertarians who aren’t anarchists.

    Around here, one could easily be led to believe that “libertarian” and “anarchist” are synonyms. For many of us they aren’t.

    This is the nation we have chosen.

    Bryan Caplan is entitled to his (more often than not insane) opinions, but I don’t think that’s a true statement.

    This is the nation that democracy has brought us to, like it or not. The philosophers amongst us have known forever that democracy ultimately ends in bankruptcy.

    The ObamaCare Ramrod Show, and its probable long term outcome, are a perfect example. It is not in fact what the majority wants, but they’ve forced it upon us anyway. As it sinks roots into the soil, people will accomodate to it and ultimately be unwilling to give it up.

    This is a far cry from the claim that “this is what we’ve chosen”. “This is the kind of bullshit our political system brings us” is a far more accurate statement.

    So where do libertarians belong? I don’t know but I can guess where they’re actually going. There are only two options: 1) evolve into something else, or 2) go the way of the dinosaur.

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  42. In this article and all the posts, scarcely a mention of the Libertarian Party. Reason Magazine is great, but I never heard of it until I saw a copy at an LP meeting.
    The Libertarian Party is the retail arm of the libertarian movement – potentially the best vehicle for getting the “word” out.
    But I have often been disappointed at the poor quality of discourse from LP candidates.
    MHO for a strategy:
    Most people are not ideological. They are just trying to live their lives and have a vague notion that the government is there to help solve their problems. To reach out to these “regular folks”, Libertarian candidates should avoid hard-edged indoctrination but emphasize how the application of libertarian principles can make things better for the average person. Be proactive on issues that are normally red meat for statists and point out how an expensive, instrusive government has worsened, not solved, the problems of poverty, unemployment, and access to health care. Avoid tired expressions like “big government”; and anyone using “socialism” as a pejorative comes off like a nut digging a bomb shelter in his back yard.
    This “softer” approach will cast the widest net to get people at least thinking about libertarian ideas and may also recruit some new true believers who will haunt the Reason discussion board at midnight PDT.

    1. The LP is too tightly controlled by wannabe popes who are more interested in excommunicating anyone who disagrees with them on arcane questions of ferret legalization (for instance) then actually running a sensible campaign (let alone winning an election!). It was a nice idea but it’s hopeless.

      1. I agree with your characterization of LP “leaders” and their papal aspirations.

  43. 218 comments? No one will possibly care what I think at that number.

    1. Douglas, they might, give it a shot.

      1. I want more, give it to us Douglas.

  44. “Paul’s freedom-of-association-based doubts about the Americans with Disabilities Act and aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act” are not defensible on libertarian terms?

    Quite the opposite!

  45. Sometimes I think the liberaltarian wing of libertarianism exists for the sole purpose of undermining anything coherent about it.

  46. I agree.
    Plant mustard seeds! Mustard seeds everywhere! They’re delicious. And there’s a lot of fertile soil in this country to work on.

  47. Libertarians belong as a subset to the liberal Democrats. Not that they are of the same mind, but because their presence on the ballot assures victory for the lib/dems by syponing off conservative votes that would have gone to the conservative Republicans.

    They are the suicide faction of politics; never winning and killing off their alter egos.

    They’re like the Green Party only much bigger.

  48. Honestly, I don’t think the 13% figure ought to, in and of itself, scare libertarians. The fact is that most people line up with conservatives or liberals because those are the options available. If the debate is framed in conservative and liberal terms, most people are going to line up conservative or liberal.

    A bigger problem for libertarians is the extent of “one true faith” weanie whacking. As Kroneborge’s comment implies, all too often someone who disagrees with the libertarian line on one or two issues all of a sudden isn’t a real libertarian. And how often does someone who agrees with libertarians on 80% of issues get treated as no different from someone who agrees with libertarians on 20%? And you can virtually count on all too many libertarians to couch the libertarian perspective in its most radical form. But, here’s a news flash, even people who are supportive of reforming our drug laws are going to recoil when you say 10-year-olds should be able to buy crack or heroin. Even people who think the government meddles too much in the economy are going to shy away when you demand an immediate return to the gold standard. People generally supportive of reducing the military budget are going to start getting a little nervous when you insist that we should give up having a standing army.
    I won’t even get into the internacine disputes between the anarcho-capitalists and, well, everybody else.
    Politics aren’t won by purists. Coalitions inevitably beat out and marginalize those who insist that they can only work with those who agree with them down the line. And that, more than anything, is the reason libertarians don’t seem to succeed in getting much beyond a relatively small slice of the electorate.

    1. Yeah – I have to agree with you on that point. We’ve gotten to the point where our arguments resemble those on conservative websites: You don’t agree with me on the gold standard/drug deregulation/illegal immigration? You’re a LION! You’re even worse than [undesirable political group]!

  49. I know from an outside perspective of someone who’s just started to self identify as a libertarian that a lot of people think that we’re just a group of anarchist and atheist.

    1. If you can figure out how to be a libertarian and not fall into purist traps wherein you are forced to argue essentially for anarchy because you can’t think beyond hatred of government, you’ve got most people here beat.

  50. Gonna try for some serious ones here. Tell me this: How can you tell a black guy that repealing the CRA is beneficial to him? How can you convince someone scraping by on minimum wage that repealing that minimum would be a good thing (and while assuming that complex theories are likely going to be wasted)?

    Or how would you tell a 55 year old man whose factory is closing because of overseas competition that it’s a good thing and needs to happen more? Bonus points for telling him with a straight face that he can move somewhere else and train for a new job.

    Libertarianism has a long tough road ahead of it. You’ll have to convince people facing who are worried about an uncertain future, who struggle day-to-day to make ends meet that eliminating the safety net they see in big government (both in economic and legal terms) will be in their best interest.

    Can you do it without abstractions? Can you make it real?

  51. Look, the thing to say to people having a hard time is this: we can’t protect you. Nobody can actually protect you. Not even the government. Nobody has yet figured out a solution to the harshness of life.

    But: a better government wouldn’t fuck you over so badly. It would keep its nose out of your business and its hand out of your pocket and leave you a little dignity.

    Sometimes poor people understand this better than rich people; sometimes black people understand this better than white people.

  52. First, I think there has to be a distinction between ideals and present reality. You do not have to abandon ideals in order to focus on what is possible. The ideals are the goal, but you get there one step at a time.

    Second, there has to be a prioritization of goals. Is drug legalization really on the same level of importance as getting the government out of education or health care?

    There is a reason why libertarianism has found common cause more often with the right. It is because the left (which in the U.S. is epitomized by the Democratic Party) rejected classical liberalism in favor of socialism as its guiding ideology almost 100 years ago. The modern libertarian movement sprang up in response to that change. Once the socialist/progressive behemoth had cemented itself in control of the left, the right (at least in America, where conservatism entails a preservation of the classically liberal ideas the country was founded upon) immediately became the lesser of two evils.

    In my experience, hard-core right wingers tend to view libertarians as a sort of eccentric relative, who they sympathize with, pat on the head and don’t pay much attention to. Hard core left-wingers, on the other hand, view libertarians as Satan incarnate, because they stand for “selfishness” and against clearly true, right and good things like nationalized health care.

    It’s not really a contest. Within the context of the two parties, the only avenue for libertarian progress is on the right. There has actually been some movement in that direction since the implosion of Bush-ism. I don’t think Rand Paul winning the Republican nomination for a Senate seat should be dismissed as nothing. It’s not everything, but it is something.

    Back in the Reagan Era, libertarians had a seat at the table. They never were, and never will be, in control of the Republican Party. But they were one of the three legs of the proverbial stool. The Bushes explicitly sought to kick out the libertarian leg. They succeeded, and ended up with a two-legged stool, with predictable results.

    In other words, libertarians should stand on principle, while looking for areas where they can find common cause with “mainstream” actors. The Republican Party needs to be made to understand that incorporating as much libertarianism as they can stomach will make them more popular, not less. Reagan’s overwhelming electoral success (and economic success) was due to the fact that he at least took libertarian ideas seriously, even if he was not a pure libertarian. It is the Bushes’ “compassionate conservatism”, which essentially agreed with the left that libertarianism is “heartless” and “selfish”, that has driven them into the ditch.

  53. I don’t understand why Liberals & Conservatives don’t get that I am Anti-Imperialism, Pro-Capitalism, Anti-Prohibition, Pro-Gun, Anti-Totalitarian, Pro-Jeffersonian, Pro-Gay and Pro-Constitution. I really believe that most Liberals & Conservatives are so rigid in their views that they can’t think beyond their political talking points.

  54. Brink Lindsey, Jonah Goldberg & Matt Kibbe are knuckleheads. The delusional opportunists in the Libertarian Party who think that they can win elections by running clowns like Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root actually do more harm to the libertarian movement than they do to advance it. Mr. Doherty is close to being correct when he opines there needs to be many more libertarians. Actually, there needs to be many more anarchists who understand that the government that rules the best is one that doesn’t rule at all. Just as the emperor is wearing no clothes, the state has no legitimacy.

  55. hate potion #9,
    good job getting to the heart of the matter.

    i think the beginning of answering those questions is that 1) while employed, they would have been making more under a more libertarian system, and 2) it would be much easier to find a new job under a libertarian systems.

    your point about talking to someone scraping by on minimum wage is not super relevant; very few people are supporting themselves with that wage. its almost always supplemental to the family income.
    but again, you can point out that there would be many more jobs that werent min wage mcdonalds jobs if a libertarian system flourished. then you can ask them if they have any talents. then ask why they dont freelance those talents. you will often find that opening a business to do so is too costly and diffcult for them. then you can hit them with the barriers to entry argument.

  56. Things are a bit different in New Hampshire. Free Staters and local libertarians are having some success in both major parties, about 75% Republican and 25% Democrat. It depends on individuals. The NH Republican Liberty Caucus continues to grow in importance:…..ents-2010/

  57. e only significant political movement that agrees with libe

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