Civil Liberties

From the Why-I'm-Turning-Libertarian Files


Your moment of Zen

Over at Andrew Sullivan's website, Conor Friedersdorf explains why he's being lured in by that small l. This excerpt may be of some interest: 

The pragmatist in me has concluded, after long experience and repeated disappointments, that the conservative movement is never actually going to deliver on its promise to check the growth of the federal government, however superior its rhetoric might be on that issue; and that the progressive movement is never going to deliver on its promise to protect civil liberties, however superior its rhetoric might be on that issue.

Instead, the conservative movement is going to continue advocating for an unsustainable foreign policy and a vision of executive power that is utterly at odds with the checks, balances, and purposeful limits on presidential prerogatives enacted by the founding generation. And progressives who manage to elect their dream president, plus a majority in both houses of Congress? They won't reverse the trend, so much as ignore it—the better to pass agenda items like a health care bill that thankfully covers more Americans, but leaves unaddressed many of the worst pathologies of the status quo and acts as a stark giveaway to influential industry players.

There is our fiscal insolvency too. Is anyone serious about addressing that?

I retain Burkean concerns with pure libertarianism, but the pragmatist in me is confident that they're irrelevant.  In a way, that is a disappointment. Libertarians lack the power to pass their most appealing agenda items, never mind the extreme stuff. That aside, there is also the fact that the conservative movement's worst features—its advocacy for foreign wars of choice, catastrophically failed approach to drug prohibition, and radical views on executive power—are themselves Burkean nightmares. And speaking of that trifecta, President Obama and our Democratic Congress are by now complicit in every one of them.

Whole thing here.

Want to learn more about libertarianism? Read Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty's magisterial history, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.

NEXT: Paul Krugman's Proof: Score-board! Score-board!

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  1. No the little boy isn’t becoming libertarian because of logic, he’s becoming one because he is a die-hard libtard who can’t bear the thought of his side losing in November and wants to rid himself of the smell ASAP. Conor Friedersdorf is a loser trying to hang with the cool kids.

    1. And with welcoming attitudes like that it’s completely unsurprising that this movement is experiencing recruitment problems. Try to step back from your parochial concerns and focus on the goals of winning elections and implementing policy.

      1. Many (most?) of us have an interest in neither.

      2. I’m commenting more about the libtard Frieendwhorf obvious disingenuous thinking. He’s obviously a far-left winger and praises the extremist legislation of the Democrats.

        1. He’s obviously a far-left winger…

          I think that says more about you than him, sorry left-coast dude. Respectfully suggest that you recalibrate whatever you use to judge where people fall on the left-center-right spectrum.

    2. Wait…We’re the cool kids??

      1. That can’t be right, can it?

  2. Fake conservatives and fake libertarians do have a lot in common.

    1. They get hired by The Atlantic?

      1. I thought Weigel went to Slate?

  3. [cue music]
    I think I’m turning libertarian
    I think I’m turning libertarian
    I really think so

    1. It’s still about wanking.

  4. The guy sounds fairly reasonable… which means he’ll be beaten like a rented mule by the pedantic purists here.

    1. He wasn’t “reasonable”, he is a fucking lefty shill.

      1. And you’re the fucking gold standard for libertarian thought? Fuck off.

        1. There is so much love in the room right now. Can’t ya just feel it?

        2. It is precisely this grounding in pragmatism and real world consequences that is pushing me toward libertarianism generally, and especially the brand you find at the Cato Institute and Reason

          Friersdorf ^openly admits^ he’s a “fake libertarian”.

        3. Re-read SIV’s post. No where in it does SIV claim to be a libertarian. He simply points out that CF is a lefty shill, presumably for suggesting that the right is doing nothing to limit big government and that the left is ignoring civil liberties.

          Criticizing the right is clearly going to be viewed as lefty shillitude to right-wing kulurkampf douchebags.

      2. He’s a writer. He openly admits that he’s a writer. He’s admitting sympathies towards some small “l” ideas which puts him with a fair number of Americans. Compared to the religious right rod-sucking of the Republicans and the special interest sack sucking of the Democrats… I thought it was a decent read.

        1. I’m OK with leftists publicly acknowledging that libertarians have good ideas.

          Dunno if they have ulterior motives, but good press is good press.

          1. And he spelled “libertarian” correctly.

      3. As much as it inconveniences and annoys many of you here, Sully’s blog is pretty moderate and centrist.

        1. That’s not exactly a point in his favor.

    2. “the better to pass agenda items like a health care bill that thankfully covers more Americans, “

      1. Go get ’em, V’ger.

        1. Oh no the borg are coming!

  5. “There is our fiscal insolvency too.”

    Yeah, there is that. Too bad it’s basically an afterthought for Mr. Friersdorf.

    Our coming fiscal meltdown renders all of the other mush-mouthed crap he talks about basically irrelevant. When we’re flat broke and on the verge of a crack-up, all of the hot-button issues that once seemed so important will seem like quaint notions of an earlier time.

    The biggest obstacle I find to embracing “conservatism” (whatever it really is) as a philosophy is its adherents’ increasing acceptance of the regulatory state.

    The only way to avoid the meltdown is to radically defund the federal government. Eliminate the Departments of Labor, Commerce and Education entirely, as well as the EPA. Get rid of the laws and regulations they were created to enforce. Sure, there will be some adverse consequences, but the only way to get our country back on track is to get the government’s boot off the necks of the folks who actually build and create things. If we don’t do this, the future will be written elsewhere.

    1. We’re not broke as long as we can still sell T-Bills!

    2. Take the money away from them. The only way.

    3. Eliminate the Departments of Labor, Commerce and Education entirely, as well as the EPA.

      Don’t forget Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, USDA, et al. If you’re going to remove the boot, then remove the fucking boot.

  6. Surprised he didn’t blame conservatives for eugenics too.

    1. But that would go against the prevailing image that the left is trying to project – that Conservatives are fascist Nazis who cling to their bibles and guns (and racism) and wear RealTree underwear.

      Eugenics is a smart solution to the human condition. It will make a comeback someday.

      1. So when you say “smart”, do you mean: “intelligent and appropriate” or “rational but evil”?

        Because I’m really hoping you think the latter. I’m pretty sure eugenics kind of falls outside of the purview of the government’s authority, from a libertarian perspective.

        1. I was trying to be sarcastic and express some sophist progressive arrogance at the same time. Fail.

      2. Eugenics is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans, with the aim of improving the species. In a historical and broader sense, eugenics can also be a study of “improving human genetic qualities.” Eugenics was widely popular in the early decades of the 20th century, but has fallen into disrepute after having become associated with Nazi Germany. Since the postwar period, both the public and the scientific communities have associated eugenics with Nazi abuses, such as enforced racial hygiene, human experimentation, and the extermination of “undesired” population groups. However, developments in genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies at the end of the 20th century have raised many new questions and concerns about the meaning of eugenics and its ethical and moral status in the modern era.

        This was practiced by the Nazis, so it has that stigma attached to it, and, of course, it will cause the race-baiters to twitch and froth and croak, “u jest hates teh brown peple, hurr durr durr”, but what is wrong with improving human genetic qualities?

        Improving human genetic qualities is what natural selection (you know, the tool used by the “intelligent designer”) accomplishes.

        1. There’s nothing inherently wrong with attempting to improve human qualities through breeding, so long as it is voluntary.

          The problem arises when government begins using coercive power to regulate the gene pool… as it has in the past.

          1. ^^this. Private eugenics has a point. Government eugenics… well, the Nazis isn’t the worst it can get, methinks.

            Ironically, btw, Orthodox Jews, who are limited to marry other Orthodox Jews (so have a higher degree of inbreeding than the general population, though not as high as the Amish), have taken to genetic tests to minimize the risk of genetic conditions in their children. I only mention this to show that eugenics can be supported without Nazism coming along, and that it can be made an individual choice rather than a govt mandate.

          2. Aside from the ethical implications, there’s also the practical problem — centralized eugenic programs will in all likelihood reduce human genetic diversity substantially, making us much less genetically robust.

  7. The pragmatist in me has concluded, after long experience and repeated disappointments, that the conservative movement is never actually going to deliver on its promise to check the growth of the federal government, however superior its rhetoric might be on that issue; and that the progressive movement is never going to deliver on its promise to protect civil liberties, however superior its rhetoric might be on that issue.

    We’ve had GOP control of both houses and the White House yet the Department of Education survived and grew. Plus we got Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage and No Child Gets Ahead.

    We now have Dem control of the same and the War on Drugs Civil Liberties continues unabated (bonus points for ramping up the stupidity in Central Asia).

    They’re all lying pieces of shit. I used to vote some GOP, less Dem when it mattered (close election). Now I vote for some third party (Libertarian preferably) or leave the slot blank. I no longer will give my imprimatur to either of the major parties by voting for any of them.

    1. Yes, it really pisses me off when some of my conservative friends (who have gotten really cocky lately due to the coming November) say “see what your third party vote got us!!!!!” Well fuck them it was the Republicans who spent us into the ground whilst using socon rhetoric to win elections and were left with no credibility by 2008.

      1. “Same meat, different gravy.”

      2. Seriously. It’s like when I see those stupid “Miss me yet?” buttons/bumper stickers/posters. The fact that our current president sucks balls doesn’t make me miss our last president who sucked balls.

        1. I’d like one of those with George Washington on it.

          1. or Calvin Coolidge. Because Coolidge taunting us would be awesome.

            1. Best I could find

              If only I could post the image directly….

                1. Just because it is amusing

                  Stupid cheeseheads… they’re lucky they brew good beer otherwise I’d say just give ’em to Canada.

                  1. That was only the secondary amusing part.

              1. Quick and dirty for ya, robc:

                Mee me yet?

                1. Spelling fail…

                2. alexdroog,

                  Nice. Danke.

                  1. Not sure when that picture dates from, but doesnt appear the presidency aged Calvin in the ways it has modern ones.

              2. Sonny, in my day–oh, back in the early years of the century–why I could post images in comments! Yessiree!

            2. grover cleveland anyone?

        2. I’d want one with the Articles of Confederation on it.

      3. My philosophy, guided by years of observation of the inherently corrupt nature of man, is to NEVER, EVER vote for the incumbent.

        Being in a high level political position is simply a license to steal, what human can resist that? I am completely convinced that a Libertarian politician would soon have his hand in my pocket after getting elected. Not that my philosophy matters, because entrenched incumbents became entrenched because people are stupid and corrupt as well.

        1. I am completely convinced that a Libertarian politician would soon have his hand in my pocket after getting elected.


    2. I’ve simply stopped voting.

    3. When I vote GOP, it’s usually just a vote for gridlock. I rarely trust those devils in office. Government keeps growing, and my rights keep shrinking, regardless of which outfit is hitting me up for protection money.

  8. I turned libertarian and all I got was this Internet Cynic Decoder ring.

    1. Is it shaped like a buttplug?

      1. You get those in the welcome kit on the Reason cruise.

    2. Just keep polishing it.

      1. It’s like a turd in that sense.

  9. So utterly shunned by the “conservative movement” (and by that I mean anyone to the right of Michael Moore, Friedsdorf flees for refuge with the libertarians. Yeah thats’ going to fly.

    Once an assclown, always an assclown. Really why does anyone even read this idiots drivel?

    1. 1:30 and 1:31 above.

  10. If only you knew the power of the dark side.

    1. Racist!

  11. Judging from most of what I read in Reason these days, the lefties won’t have to come to libertarianism, libertarianism is coming to them.

    1. Yes, were all lefties because we don’t hate mooslims and fags enough.

    2. That’s funny, I haven’t seen any recent articles advocating more welfare spending, market-tampering subsidies, an escalation of the War on Drugs, or stimulus spending.

      To what are you referring?

      1. Matt said something nice about the French health care system a few months ago. It’s all downhill from there.

        1. I am not sure why that piece gets slammed all the time. It was damn good. We don’t have free market health care in this country, so I can understand why many would prefer French bureaucratic nightmare vs ours.

  12. Hey look, someone realized that both TEAM RED and TEAM BLUE are complete fucking pieces of shit. Welcome to our world.

    1. They aren’t “pieces” of shit. They’re the whole loaf.

      1. I prefer the term “strivers” – those things that dog’s grunt out on a really cold day that stand up and steam all by themeselves.

      2. I thought they were more like shavings, the bits carved off the loaf that your sphincter wouldn’t let out the back door that aggregate themselves into a second mini-loaf. Because in my metaphor, the big loaf is the entire population.

    1. Hey, I remember that – Quiet Riot, right?

      Mamaaa, we’re all libertarians now!

      1. Slade

        Here is the Runaways cover of it.

  13. “Libertarians lack the power to pass their most appealing agenda items, never mind the extreme stuff.”

    No one has addressed this.

    I agree with a lot that I see on this website, but ultimately it’s just all jerking off by people that have never had power and probably never will. As long as we can sit on the outside and be outraged by what we see in the governing class, I think we are all happy. I’d like to see a true libertarian assume power and see how we all act, see how much he is corrupted by the power and how much of his(her) agenda is actually discussed. Would he actually dismantle the government or if he would suddenly turn into another power hungry king.

    1. We can argue over what a true libertarian is, but Ron Paul has been in congress for how many terms now?

      How much has he been corrupted (“some” would be my estimate)?

      Acton applies to everyone, including libertarians, but at least we might have a few good years first.

      1. If we could get our “program” enacted, there would be less opportunity for abuse, because there would be fewer regulations to massage or circumvent, less of other people’s money to hand out, and a smaller armed forces that would have less of a capacity to invade other countries.

        1. Exactly, because amount of power would be reduced for amount of corruption is reduced proportionately.

      2. I’d say about 20%. That’s really not half bad for one going on two decades.

    2. There are a number of reasons libertarians won’t “assume power,” but the most fundamental is this:

      Few men want to be free; most just want fair masters.

      1. Sadly true.

    3. Under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.

  14. Until Eisenhower set aside the non-interventionist ideals of conservatives (look up Sen. Robert Taft) and Nixon adopted Johnson’s foreign policy, playing policeman to the world was not part of American conservatism.

    1. It is the primary reason the libertarians had to split from the conservatives.

      1. What about Nixon’s imposition of wage and price controls?

        1. No, the libertarians walked out of YAF in 1969 before w&p controls basically because of trad insistence on supporting the draft and war in Vietnam. Nolan was enraged enough to call for the formation of the LP because of Nixon’s w&p controls.

    2. True he was no Taft, but Eisenhower wasn’t that bad. I mean, look at the context. Eisenhower or Truman? Truman or FDR?

      In the span of two presidencies there was a vast improvement. Sure we didn’t get all the way. It’s Kennedy that really marked the beginning of the descent.

      1. I’m afraid Kennedy’s assassination made him untouchable.

        Hardly anyone’s willing to say what a truly godawful president he was.

  15. utterly at odds with the checks, balances, and purposeful limits on presidential prerogatives enactedenvisioned by the founding generation.

    There, fixed.

  16. I retain Burkean concerns with pure libertarianism

    Would someone please tell me whether this means he shares the concerns – in the sense of worries – Burke had about libertarianism, ie that it flouts tradition, or the Burkean concern to preserve liberty? The following sentence suggests the latter, but I’m not sure.

    1. I think he means the former. In the article, he says “Existing institutions matter.”

      1. Yes. Burke was a conservative in the traditionalist sense.

        Burkean concerns would be that unfettered libertopia would dispense with all institutions. Because, as we know, people won’t follow a good idea if the government doesn’t force them to.

        1. Okay, thx. Either of you would have written it more clearly.

        2. I retain Burkean concerns with pure libertarianism

          I retain the far more plausible lovecraftian concerns with pure libertarianism.

          Which is that libertopia will awake cthulu

    2. So, as a Burkean, he wants to lock in all the current offenses against liberty as they are enshrined in various governmental institutions. Which institutions, of course, flout the fundamental libertarian concern with a government of limited powers.

      So, in what sense is he becoming libertarian, again? In my book, No True Libertarian would accede to the current Behemoth State, just so it doesn’t do things that I personally find offensive.

      1. No, I didn’t get that. Like many small “l” dabblers, he likes the idea that if given freedom… other people would do what he would do, but he can’t really bring himself to trust that they really would.

  17. Toothpaste for dinner!

  18. Toothpaste for dinner!

  19. Fuck Sullivan

    That whole bullshit about how the election of Obama lead to protests in Iran was sickening.

  20. A libertarian who supports Obamacare? Wow! Conor wants to lead the socialist wing of the Libertarian party. He will have as many libertarian followers as he has had conservative followers. Perhaps, he ought to contribute to a political movement before he attempts to be a leader or concerned internal critic of it….

    This is the first step of his slow fade to the obscurity he has so obviously earned.

  21. Perhaps if you met him somewhere in the middle and explained the problems with Obamacare (many of which he apparently already sees according to TFA) he might understand and eventually arrive at the pure libertarian position. He most likely carries a lot of baggage from lessons learned from childhood that make him unable to see things quite as clearly as you do.

    Yelling “commie pinko bastard” at the top of your lungs is not going to get you many converts.

    1. Threaded comment fail. This comment was intended as a reply to swampleg|8.20.10 @ 2:35PM, although there are previous commenters who could use the advice.

    2. Isaac:

      You missed the point of my post, which is that Conor is worthless as a convert. Why would I waste my time on something as pointless as Conor? Given the general worthlessness of him and his writing, it is much more fun to deride him as a wannabe leader of the “socialist wing of the Libertarian party.” An Oxymoron…you know a joke…like Conor and his pretense at being a serious thinker.


      PS Some of the most fun I have had is yelling “commie pinko bastard” at “commie pinko bastards.” Some people are not worth the effort to convince….

  22. Libertarianism is like the Herpes of the RepublicOn Party.

    It never really goes away. It is incurable. It is infectious.
    And there will forever be liberaltarian outbreaks caused by disappointment in the Repubicans and because of [L] propaganda. Look at what BIG L liberal-tarians said about Ronald Reagan!!

    This is why they still only get 0.1% of the vote in National Elections.

    Ok so they have increased in numbers recently. But to go from 0.07% up to a whopping 0.1% (1/10 of 1%) is still almost 0.

  23. “Over at Andrew Sullivan’s website […]”


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