Libertarian History/Philosophy

Is Liberaltarianism Dead? Or Was it Ever Alive in The First Place?


Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner riffs off the recent departure of Reason contributing editor Brink Lindsey from Cato to talk about the troubled proposed merger of liberals and libertarians under the banner of "liberaltarianism."

Lindsey's project—building political alliances between libertarians and liberals—is (or was) a bold one, and not impossible in theory. Cato and the Left generally agree on constraining federal surveillance powers, reforming detention of terror suspects, and humanizing our criminal justice system. Gay marriage, abortion, and embryo research also provide common ground. Lindsey coined "liberal-tarian" in 2006, and many Beltway libertarians vocally supported Obama in 2008.

But then Obama's presidency happened. Obama immediately passed the largest spending bill in history, and then he fired an aide who was trying to close Guantanamo.

He nationalized General Motors and stuck his hands into Chrysler's bankruptcy while escalating the war in Afghanistan. Obama required every American to buy health insurance and increased government control over health care. He's increased federal control over finance, mortgages, tobacco and food while fighting to get his hands on political speech, energy, and manufacturing. Obama is the greatest enemy of economic liberty most Americans have ever seen…

Lindsey, when he admitted in 2006 that invading Iraq was a mistake, still billed himself as "extremely controversial" and open-minded in the face of dogma. [David] Frum [who resigned from AEI], today, basks in the Left's praise as an independent thinker. But Lindsey and Frum, in backing Bush's invasion then and supporting Obama now, were the opposite of dissidents: They consistently supported those in power who were fighting for more power.

This pattern doesn't make Lindsey or Frum sycophants, but it undermines their claim to be dissidents.

Washington personnel moves are hardly the stuff of headlines, but this one exposes some dysfunctions, fears, and myths that will guide politics over the next two years.

Carney's col is here and, as always, worth reading in full.

I don't know anything about the process by which Lindsey, who I regard as a colleague and a friend, separated with Cato. And I'm not convinced that his or David Frum's shifts from one think tank to another place in the DC firmament means anything at all.

I do think that Lindsey's recent essay in Reason is absolutely essential reading if you care about the future direction of the libertarian movement (whether you agree with him or either of the other contributors to the discussion). And I also think that Carney is right about Obama. He's as terrible for an alliance between liberals and libertarians as he is for the country at large. There is basically nothing libertarian about the guy whatsoever on any issue (he's even a food and video game noodge, fer chrissakes).

As for the larger question of alliances across ideological boundaries, they're always worth talking about but rarely realized in any meaningful sense. Why should they be? It's heartening to see liberals (such as Matt Yglesias) rethink their knee-jerk reactions to deregulation and licensing laws, just as it's heartening to see some conservatives rethink their knee-jerk hatred of gays or GOP-initiated wars. But there's a helluva long row to hoe before either of these worn-out ideologies start to seriously sniff around for a truly different way of thinking about things, one that dispenses with right-left feints and starts to think along, say, a choice versus control axis (bold as love).

NEXT: Stagliano on Obscenity, Justice, and His Upcoming Animated Video on the Federal Reserve

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  1. I would like to think the Ascended One would cause the scales to fall from the eyes of even the most devoted progressive do-gooders. Hope denied stings like a motherfucker, and all that.

    But I don’t see it. And I certainly don’t see them jettisoning their faith in top-down one-size-fits-all overlordism. They have merely come to the unhappy conclusion that this is not the droid they were looking for. They will continue to search.

    1. +1 Jedi mind trick

    2. Hey Reason, that flashing Border Wars add is pissing me off.

      1. So install adblock and live a merry life.

        1. Is the whole internet economy based on people who don’t block ads?

          1. No. Some of it is based on people who answer spam.

  2. Obama is certainly bad for any cooperation amongst TEAM BLUE and libertarians, but mostly because they can’t let go of their partisan impulses and still try and defend him (or do a but…but…Bush!), when he is so abjectly terrible, both in a policy sense and in a libertarian sense.

    If TEAM BLUE can’t even admit that their guy, who is a fucking abject disaster on issues that he promised TEAM BLUE, is a fucking abject disaster for libertarians, well, fuck them.

    TEAM RED did the same with Bush. Which just goes to show you how any “alliance” with partisans is just not possible. There’s no “I” in TEAM RED TEAM BLUE.

    1. QFMT.

      Just as the current administration is a demonstration of the pointlessness of a libertarian alliance with Dems, the previous administration showed the pointlessness of an alliance the other way around.

      1. It is clear that we have two sets of enemies. We’re kind of in the role the UK used to be in with Europe. We can occasionally make common cause in a limited manner when one group is busy trying to conquer the continent, but all bets are off if that group becomes too powerful.

        So, clearly, what libertarianism needs is a powerful navy.

        1. Rule Libertarian! Libertarian rule the waves!

        2. You just want a cabin boy.

          Or at the very least a flying cupcake spits tobacco juice.

          1. I fear you’ve misread my intentions. I just want to prevent the French or the Germans from dominating the continent.

            1. Which are you most in favor of: rum, sodomy or the lash?

              1. Of those three? Rum. In fact, you can keep the other two.

                1. I hate to tell you, but you can’t have a navy without at least two.

                  1. Really? Even now?

        3. Shhh! They’ll figure out what the Seasteading Project is really about if you keep talking like this!

        4. “What libertarianism needs is a powerful navy,” is going to be my new motto. I’m thinking bumper stickers. Or at least a Facebook status update.

          1. Yes, I like that too.

    2. i agree.
      Team red is insanely lock step. Team blue teensy bit less, but the team concept makes any team red and blue (bipartisanship) cooperation only possible when increasing benefits (We propose that eating chocolate cake with fudge frosting is as healthful as eating carrots).
      Any cooperation on principals like restraining gubermint never gets anywhere because there are so few principaled members of either team.

      1. Team red is far from lockstep. There was a lot of dissent from right-wingers. Why in the world do you think the dems took such solid control of congress 4 years ago? Was it because of the overwhelming libertarian voting block? Seriously? Some of you have blinders on.

    3. There’s no “I” in Teamocil… at least not where you’d think.

    4. “There’s no “I” in TEAM RED TEAM BLUE.”

      No, but there is “Murder Meat”

      1. The really threatening (and, you know, legit) anagram is A DEBATER MELT EMU. Partisans- not content to fuck us, now going for our emus?

        1. I bet they’ll melt them with laser vision they will vote in as part of their health benefits package on the hill.

  3. If Libertarianism represents freedom them then hooking up with Liberals is looking for love in all the wrong places. The thing is that the Vangard, Elite, Philosopher Kings, whatever you want to call them are all for freedom for themselves, just not the rest of us. Let them eat cake and all of that.

  4. Libertarians are too contrary to throw their lot in with either of the major parties. We affect the discourse (no small thing, we’ve had victories) and when we openly ally ourselves with Team Red or Team Blue our voice of independece and reason is ignored by half of the electorate,half of the elected officials and taken for granted by the one’s we do support.

    I’ve no problem saying “I’m not a Democrat/Republican but I agree with them on ____________. Here’s why.

    We aren’t going to elect a president, we aren’t going to get a significant block in the House or Senate. All we can realistically hope to do is move the debate in a free market and personal liberty direction. That’s difficult enough.

  5. Lindsey’s project – building political alliances between libertarians and liberals – is (or was) a bold one, and not impossible in theory.

    Yes, it is impossible to reconcile the belief in State-sponsored thievery with the belief that possessing property is a right.

    One of the most ABSURD ideas I have ever heard is that you can have personal freedom with little economic freedom. One thing cannot exist without the other. So-called liberals are NOT, they are eleutherophobes of the first order; they just pay lip service to personal freedom in order to confuse and ensnare the politically unsophisticated.

    1. eleutherophobes ??? holy crap man. good one.

  6. “And I also think that Carney is right about Obama. He’s as terrible for an alliance between liberals and libertarians as he is for the country at large.”

    I suppose you could blame everything on Obama. But I don’t think that is fair. The guy is a liberal. Maybe liberals are bad for the country and the alliance between libertarians and liberals.

    Nick, I know you and Lindsey love liberals culturally. And you both desperately want to believe that you are one of them. But why don’t just face it, they are just not that into you.

    1. they are just not that into you
      Now if Nick got some chaps to match that fabulous jacket…

  7. OK, just to be contrary, I will say that I have no objection to limited, purely tactical alliances on very specific issues where interests align.

    The idea, however, that you can build a broader strategic alliance or common movement out of “liberal” statists and libertarians is risible at best. Since the impetus seems to be coming mostly from the left, the whole thing is probably nothing more than another bait and switch.

    1. The impetus seems to be coming mostly from Libertarians like Lindsey and Wilkersons. I don’t see where the Left is that interested in reaching out to Libertarians.

      Culturally people like Lindsey want to be liberals. They just want to fit in. But they can’t compromise their ideals. So, they just keep imaging liberals are really something that they are not. As I said above, at some point Nick and the rest of the beltway Libertarians are going to have to face the fact that Liberals really are not that into them. How many times do liberals have to not return libertarian phone calls or show up at midnight looking for a cheap lay before Beltway Libertarians get some self respect and stop calling them all the time?

      1. “Culturally (they) want to be liberals.”
        What does that mean? I know plenty of liberals – people who think the government should take care of the less fortunate, even if it means taking money from the more fortunate –
        who ride horses, hunt, bbq, listen to country music, live in West Texas, or do all sorts of things that don’t distinguish them from our stereotype of a conservative. Nor does liking opera, drinking Pinot Noir, and not knowing a home run from a touchdown signify someone who just can’t possibly be a conservative.

        1. That is a good point creech. I think when I say they culturally want to be liberals, it is not so much what they do as how they identify themselves. Wilkerson and Lindsey want to be considered liberals. But they won’t give up on Libertarianism, so they keep dreaming that the liberals will come to them. It is more that they want to be a part of the liberal brand, than they want to do this or that particular thing.

          1. I wanted to be a liberal because I foolishly thought that it still meant not interfering with other people’s lives.

            1. I wanted to be a liberal because I thought it would get me laid.

        2. What I’ve read is that they want to fit in with their friends who not only have those ideas but also fit those stereotypes.

  8. Fuck liberals.
    Fuck conservatives.
    Fuck alliances.

    We’re going to win in the end because all their policies are going to fail. We’ll win by default. Better then to not be associated with the failures at all.

    1. By win… you mean will not be blamed for the inevitable dystopia of the future I hope? Outside of that, I don’t see any tangible victories for libertarians until society had crumbled and enough of us have hoarded automatic shotguns (Reference: The Expendables). We are like the Puritans in England or the Huguenots in France. I.e. FUCKED.

      But yeah, fuck this alliance bullshit. Let’s go down as the stubborn bastards we are.

      1. If you don’t think we’ll be blamed by either team red or blue for the coming dystopia, I feel for you.

        Somehow it will be our fault.

        1. Yeah, I was admittedly grasping for some sort of “victory” we could possibly claim. I guess we can take solace in the fact that the state will have destroyed itself (along with others) when we make first contact with the Vulcans.

        2. I agree. All the bad economic fallout from the last ten years is due to radical laisse-faire policies you know.

          And the tea-party folks are really scary because they have libertarian influences.

          So when (and if) the collapse happens, we can smugly feel that we have been vindicated but it will all be blamed on the free market and that we did not follow Krugdorks advice and quadruple the magic stimulus.

  9. The interesting reality behind the “what team should Libertarians play for” argument is that liberals have been successful at portraying their social freedoms supporting ideals as a contrast against republicans and their social conservative values. Liberals make no excuses that their economic agendas are completely anti-libertarian.

    The problem for republicans (and therefore libertarians) is that TEAM RED has strayed so far from their economically conservative roots that they have nothing left to offer libertarians except long ignored principles of government of which they hardly even pay lip service to any more.

    The even more depressing part here is that TEAM BLUE under the leadership of McHopey Change are also straying from their socially liberal policies that they promised to support during their campaigns.

    I would argue that the Republicans have a better chance of returning to their classical liberal conservative principles than Democrats have in delivering their socially liberal ideals in to actual legislation.

    Either way we’re kinda fucked at the moment.

    1. Real Republicans understand that without economic liberty, other liberties are worthless. A Liberal Democrat will never understand that, and will fight it tooth and nail.

      That’s why I make common cause with Republicans.

      1. I agree. I just wish that more libertarians would realize -as John says- “they just aren’t that in to you” and give up this flirtation with the right.

        All Conservatives aren’t this ridiculous bible-thumping caricature that Nick likes to draw. Any true conservative should argue for limiting the power of government, period.

        As PJ O’Rourke says in this excellent essay -“How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism ‘R’ Us”

        The purpose of conservative politics is to defend the liberty of the individual and-lest individualism run riot-insist upon individual responsibility.

        1. – should say – “give up this flirtation with the left.


          1. No, I think you were dead on. Need to give up the flirtation with both.

      2. That’s how I felt in the 80’s (often voted republican) but I can’t tolerate the religious right republitards when they get into power.

        Now that I know dozens of gay people but even before that, I can’t tolerate the anti-gay marriage nonsense and the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism, and the pro-military interventionism mindset are all so much worse now.

        And the anti-stem cell, anti-evolution, etc.

    2. I would argue that the Republicans have a better chance of returning to their classical liberal conservative principles than Democrats have in delivering their socially liberal ideals in to actual legislation.

      That could be true if for no other reason than the rubber band effect. We’ve come so far so fast in terms of socially liberalizing that it’s hard to pull farther in that direction, while on economics the rubber band is now pulling toward liberaliz’n. I think some people on either side have been hoping the band would break.

  10. knee jerk hatred of gays

    Nick, I love you (no homo!), but this kind of thing isn’t helpful. Conservatives don’t hate gays. I’m a quite conservative libertarian, and I’ve yet to meet a gay I haven’t liked, or another conservative/libertarian who hates gays.

    Being in favor of restricting “marriage” (not civil unions) to one man and one woman does not mean that you hate gays. Assuming that it does is a form of ad hominem against those who hold the position. One may, for example, have Hayekian reasons for wanting to preserve “marriage” in its traditional meaning, and having that position says nothing about whether you hate gays or not.

    1. But in Nick’s world anyone who doesn’t believe in judicially mandated gay marriage has a knee jerk hatred of gays.

    2. Define traditional marriage. Is it:
      a) polygamous
      b) a merger of families
      c) arranged
      d) unbreakable
      e) within your race

      All of those were traditional marriage.

      1. Don’t confuse him, Mo! As we all know, “traditional” means “certain conservative values from about 50 years ago” and nothing else.

      2. Marriage gets redefined. You are right. And we can redefine it now. But the public ought to be able to chose that through their government not via judge.

        1. Do you oppose miscegenation? That was imposed by judge.

          1. It should not have been. It should have been imposed by law.

          2. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean I think a judge should do something about it.

          3. miscegenation was always a part of tradition marriage. Hell, there are two books of the bible specifically praising it.

        2. FALSE. The public ought to not be able to choose anything of the kind.

          1. If you want the public’s sanction, they you are going to be subject to the public’s will. Understand we are not talking about criminality. It is perfectly legal for gays to get married in this country. Unlike polygamists you can be gay and hold yourself out as married and not break the law. This debate is about government sanction. If you don’t want to be subject to the will of the people, don’t ask for government sanction.

            1. But the point of the government is to protect against such a tyranny of the majority. It is to ensure that the equal rights of the minority aren’t trampled on or ever-changed by the will of the public majority.

              1. Then marriage is whatever you decide it is and polygamists should get the same rights.

                1. Yes, absolutely polygamists should get the same rights. Any type of group marriage should be possible through contract.

                2. Of course. To deny this is philosophically and morally hypocritical.

              2. No–it is to insure that majority rule does not become tyrannical. It is to ensure that you have the same rights as everyone else despite your status as a minority.

                It is not to allow the minority the ability to dicate to the majority. Unfortunately, this is what it has turned in to.

                1. Dictating equal rights? I’m not sure I get your point as it pertains to this Azathoth.

                2. Dictate to the majority? Who is being forced to get gay-married?

      3. Read The Fatal Conceit. Hayek’s entire point is that you let these things evolve naturally; that the worst disasters in mankind’s history have result from attempts of an elite (c.f. Communism) to impose a new social order that they “know” is superior. Having a judge impose same sex marriage by fiat is the Hayekian nightmare scenario.

        1. No one is forcing people to marry people of the same sex, they are merely allowing people to have the option of it. I’d be pretty upset if elites forced me to marry a dude. I don’t particularly care if they allow me the option to.

          If social structures are going to be destroyed by gay marriage, then allowing civil unions would have the same functional effect and they would logically oppose those laws as well. Functionally, civil unions and marriage are the exact same thing. Most of what same sex marriage advocates are fighting for are the same government benefits and protections afforded to straight couples.

          1. Are they allowing their insurers and any other 3rd party who refers contractually to their “spouse” the option of considering them married or not?

            1. If you are against that, you should be fighting government recognition of marriage, not gay marriage. Gays get married now, whether anyone likes it or not. If government is going to recognize marriages as a special status, then it needs to recognize all of them. The best thing would be to get rid of civil marriage as it exists now. I hate having common cause with idiots who say “marriage [meaning state sanctioned marriage] is a fundamental right”

              1. Irrelevant. It’s all about when someone takes someone else to court, being able to prove one of them is married. If someone wins a case saying they’re married, that’s gov’t recognition of that marriage. Fighting gov’t recognition of marriage would mean trying to make it that the court always rules that somebody is not married. And I doubt that’s what you mean.

      4. To me it makes more sense to abolish Marriage as a political reality than to start dictating which groups can and can’t practice it.

        1. I agree with you there. Of course, I would like a pet unicorn. And abolishing government sanctioned marriage is significantly less likely than the pet unicorn (they’re doing wonders with genetic engineering these days).

          1. Both are far more likely than ending social welfare incentives for immigration.

      5. e isnt. See my other comment.

      6. e) within your race

        Not true. That was peculiar to the US, and not even all states within the US. Miscegenation laws were a local anomaly that has nothing to do with the definition of marriage.

        1. That was peculiar to the US to enshrine so clearly in law, at such recent an era, and with a scientific disguise. Most cultures, though, practiced and ordered marriage within the same ethnicity or religion (of course, same as in the USA, many people broke the rules anyway).

    3. I agree that many (most) conservatives don’t hate gays, it doesn’t help to deny that there are many powerful conservatives who do. People who compare homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum, do hate gays. People, like Scott Lively, who help craft and support the Ugandan Death Penalty for Homosexuals bill, do hate gays.

      Ignoring them is willful blindness.

      1. A lot of Muslims hate gays to. Is ignoring them willful blindness? Are you unPC enough to be as hard on them as you are on Santorum? Maybe you are, but most liberals are not. And thus have no right to say much of anything about anyone.

        1. I don’t think I’ve ever claimed that there aren’t prominent Muslims that hate gays. I disagree with them strongly on that. Hell, I’ve had arguments with uncles and aunts re: gay marriage. I know there are many Muslims countries that treat them monstrously. It has nothing to do with being PC.

          Of course, I still think that people, no matter their opinion on homosexuality, have a right to build a house of worship wherever they like, so long as they own the rights to the property.

          But great non-sequitur though.

        2. When there are Muslims who hate gays helping to define public policy in this country, everyone here will speak against that as well.

          1. You mean Obama isn’t one of them Muslims?

    4. gay civil unions I can accept although I used the term gay-marriage above.

      However, no one is saying that churches can’t do what they want, it’s just the legal forms.

  11. They come at you all sweet, innocent, perfumed and genitalia all tucked in with masking tape now, but remember, this time last year when they held all the cards they were treating anyone who raised a peep at a town hall like a terrorist, much like the mainstream right is doing to Muslims now. Get lost, you harlot.

  12. Liberaltarian, because Cosmotarian just not catchy enough.

  13. Cato and the Left generally agree on constraining federal surveillance powers, reforming detention of terror suspects, and humanizing our criminal justice system.

    Sorry, but the left is only concerned about these things when a republican is in charge.

    1. In other words they are not going to expend political capital on matters that do not expand their base through raiding the public treasury.

    2. No shit. What left are they talking about? Glenn Greenwald and his boyfriend? Seriously.

      It is the classic example of the kind of double standard on Reason that drives me nuts. Reason will rightly point out that not many republicans are not serious about deficit because they ran up a deficit when they were in charge. But they will never apply that logic to the Left. The Left has been in charge for almost two years now and have just made civil liberties worse. Yet Nick will still say with a straight face that “Cato and the Left generally agree on restraining federal surveillance powers”. What the fuck is he talking about? He just can’t admit that the Left really don’t mean what they say and really don’t care about such things. He is so in love with them that he will always make an excuse for them. It is just pathetic after a while.

      1. In just a few years time, the Left has gone from being highly skeptical of Federal internet surveillance to demanding the government take over and manage the entire US internet.

        This would be hilarious if it weren’t so fucking scary.

        1. A few years ago they didn’t control the government, so it wouldn’t have been them running it.

      2. John, it is important to keep in mid the distinction between regular people who identify as liberal/progressive/left/ and political establishment of the left.

        1. Sorry but i don’t buy it. At some point you are responsible for your leaders. And even if that distinction is valid, and I think it to some degree is, Reason always makes that distinction with regards to liberals, but never makes it with regard to conservatives.

          1. We have common ground with conservatives in a lot of areas and with liberals in a lot of areas. I classify myself as a classical liberal and I was influenced strongly by Hayek’s essay “Why I am Not a Conservative”.

            I used to vote Republican but have NEVER voted for a Democrat. Now I don’t vote or I vote libertarian or rarely for a republican nationally. Locally I vote for the best candidate for Mayor. But as far as the national reputation I would hate to say I am a Republican because of all the policies I disagree with in the last 10 years on civil liberties and many scientific issues. Plus, even on economic issues they don’t really follow many free-market issues like they should. Many in my family are conservatives or conservative/libertarian but I can agree with all the liberals in my everyday life on civil liberties stuff and hope that the more centrist ones aren’t completely oblivious to the obvious benefits of a free market.

  14. Isn’t conservative libertarian really just a code word for “conservative”?

    I mean, aren’t all these people typically socially conservative and fiscally… well, liars?

    The conservative libertarian is a lie.

    1. I don’t think that’s true. I think conservative libertarians tend to fall in the constitutionalist/minarchist camp. Usually socially conservative as a personal choice but not out to euthanize gays or ban drugs even if they are uncomfortable with them. Often religious but not really seeing it as a part of the state. They usually take the anti-abortion stance in the great libertarian abortion debate.

    2. And the liberaltarian isn’t a lie?

      1. No, it IS a lie too. They both are lies in practice. While Bingo might be theoretically correct in what he described, I think this is a rare bird indeed and wouldn’t need to describe itself as a conservative libertarian, but simply a libertarian full stop.

        1. You need to get out more. They’re all over the South and Southwest.

    3. You are absolutely right. So in alaska this november rather than vote for the conservative libertarian on the Republican ticket, vote for the real libertarian on the Libertarian ticket.

    4. No, what I think you’re missing is that the theocons are typically the noisiest and get the most ink (since it does the Left good to portray them as the mainstream of conservatism). I can’t make sweeping generalizations, but I consider myself a libertarianish conservative. The only real break I have with orthodox libertarianism is in foreign policy, because I think isolationism is hopelessly naive. As much as you might like to believe that free markets will liberate the entire world, there are a lot of bad people out there with serious weaponry who aren’t going to give up their ill gotten spoils easily.

      Aside from that….not religious, pro immigration, in favor of gay marriage, want to eradicate the deficit, kill off this health care monstrosity before it does permanent damage, end the nanny state telling me what I can eat/drink/smoke/fuck/whatever. And really, among people I know, the only one of those things that’s the subject of much disagreement is immigration. I think there are more actual conservative libertarians than you think – they just don’t get in the headlines the way Glenn Beck does.

      1. But doesn’t that just mean you’re a libertarian who has independent or conservative views on foreign policy? That doesn’t make you a “libertarianish conservative- that makes you a libertarian.

        So, maybe there are just more libertarians who- for whatever reason- still cling to the conservative label.

        1. It’s hair splitting, I guess. I’ve been through the wringer before with quite ardent doctrinaire libertarians who assured me that I was in no way a libertarian due to my belief in the necessity of a robust American military and at least some level of political engagement internationally. I’m not a purist by any means, and I can’t say I’m an expert in political philosophy (nor do I care to be one), so I kind of shrugged and said “OK, then I’m not a libertarian.”

      2. Once you get beyond Nolan chart analysis — which only libertarians apply, barely touches international relations, and was never more than an approximation in distinguishing “left” and “right” — you realize there are a lot of distinct tendencies out there. They may be labeled “liberal” and “conservative”, just because those are the labels that’ve gotten the most publicity, but classifying them that way isn’t always very meaningful. And by “distinct tendencies”, I mean clusterings of ideas that indicate more than chance is at work brining them together.

        You can start by trying to eliminate your own biases and use pure cluster analysis to identify such groupings, as in the Times-Mirror surveys of the American electorate. Or you can look for principles other than, or in addition to, those used to score people along axes such as Nolan’s. Or you can use some combination of these analyses.

        Here’s one I discovered years ago: what I call “libertarianism in one nation”, tha nation being the USA. These are more or standard radical libertarians except that they attach great importance to national sovereignty, which affects their views regarding immigration and sometimes international trade. I saw this tendency a lot among bikers, sovereign-patriot-pro se litigant types, and libertarian radio talk show emcees of that era. Actually there’s long been a “radio talk show tencency” that since Bob Grant at least in the middle 1970s affects all strains in terms of concern about illegal immigration, and libertarian radio talk show hosts may be viewed as having had a mixture of the libertarian tendency and the radio talk show tendency, which was all about immigration to the USA. But outside of the talk show hosts, it seems like much more than chance was at work creating this combination of beliefs. Part of it seems to have been the idea that extreme liberty is a fundamentally American thing, and that it is therefore corruptible by outside influences.

        But here’s another interesting and influential axis that doesn’t figure in the Nolan chart: elitism vs. populism. It seems to me a lot of people organize their thinking either around embrace or rejection of the hoi polloi, heedless of “left” or “right” considerations.

  15. Bold as Love instrumental.

    It kicks in around the 3min mark.

  16. I think Libertarians are going to have to make a choice:

    A> Vote republican and have the taxes increased to pay for war and deal with the liberties that conservatives are willing to give up.

    B> Vote republican and hav the taxes increased to pay for haelthcare.

    1. Re: Alice Bowie,

      Vote republican and hav the taxes increased to pay for haelthcare.

      1. Re: Alice Bowie,

        Vote republican and hav the taxes increased to pay for haelthcare.

        I don’t want my taxes increased to pay for haelthcare . . . I don’t even know what that is! Sounds scary!

    2. Or vote for the libertarian party.

    3. C> Vote with a bullet.

  17. Somehow I think it’d be easier to seperate TEAM RED from religion based legistative ideas than it would be to seperate TEAM BLUE from their ‘the state should control everything’ ideas.

    Theocratic conservatives are a minority in TEAM RED, and many are more than willing to accept a ‘hands-off’ government so long as they are able to preach their creeds without a state sponsored effort to undermine them.

    TEAM BLUE, on the other hand, has statism as a core precept–losing it means ceasing to be TEAM BLUE.

    1. Azathoth, not only do you bubble and blaspheme at the center of all infinity, I find that you post a lot of good ideas on Hit and Run.

      By the way, is the monotonous whine of accursed flutes getting to you yet?

      1. Gotta love the flutes, man

    2. What about Team Red law and order, the cops are always right, types and the military is the solution to all foreign policy issues groups? Those two groups do a lot to increase the size of government and reduce liberties.

      1. They will only be convinced, if ever, upon seeing the real world effects of the policies. Both things are correct in theory – and only in theory.

      2. Y’know, I gotta say I don’t see a lot of TEAM RED saying the military is the solution to all foreign policy issues–I do see TEAM BLUE using the military in things like that Somalia screwup.

        TEAM RED seems to use the military for war. TEAM BLUE seems to use the military as an armed social service.

  18. Apart from agreeing a few smaller issues, the fundamental disagreement between liberals and libertarians as to the role of the state is too strong to be overcome.

    Not that I’m advocating that libertarians become the “goddamned hippies” wing of the Republican Party, either.

    One of the biggest difficulties in any alliance between libertarians and conservatives is the uncertainty over what a “conservative” is anymore. There is an inherent cognitive disconnect between advocating smaller government on the one hand, and military maximalism and moralistic/law & order social policies on the other. Until conservative thinkers get that shit figured out, allying with them is useless or counter-productive.

  19. I’m reposting this. Yes, I know, tl;dr.

    Here’s the problem with the liberaltarian movement. It didn’t have a way of dealing with the wedge issues between liberals and libertarians. The big ones are regulation and the environment. When I chatted with Brink Lindsey, all he talked about was social issues. Great.

    The reason why social issues are a weak point is because fundamentally, liberals tend to take a utilitarian view. Liberals tend to not be held back by things like the constitution. So a libertarian can argue about the ‘wrongness’ of government intervention until blue in the face, but if the libertarian doesn’t confront the liberal with an outcome that agrees with the ‘laundry list of things to believe’ then the argument is over.

    That’s why the conservative-libertarian alliance is generally stronger. For example: Inasmuch as an evangelical christian would love to have all the world live a sinless life and come to Jesus, young evangelicals and intelligent evangelicals will always show respect for a consistent philosophical position, even if there is disagreement over the underlying philosophical axioms. It’s built into
    the solo scriptura doctrine. And that’s a foothold for libertarianism.

    For a libertarian to convince a conservative moralist over to the
    cause, the argument is simple. Want people to act the way you want them to? Get off your ass, do it the hard way, by going grassroots, don’t use government to do so. I’d say most conservative moralists would even be up to the challenge.

    For a libertarian to convince a liberal over to the cause, it’s not so easy. Because liberals often come from an ‘ends-justify-the-means’ point of view, you have to show them that 1) government is not doing a good job 2) government is unlikely to do a good job 3) getting government out is likely to lead to a good solution (and provide a
    suitable alternative) 4) every time we’ve tried to get government out
    we’ve failed because of reason X. A loss on any of those points means
    game over.

    Example: Do we need the FDA? No. Of course not. It totally helps out big pharma. But then what happens when people get sick? Well the knee-jerk libertarian answer is let them get sick. Wrong answer. You’ve lost the liberal.

    Instead, you need to propose an alternative. Strategy: Point out
    that shoddy workmanship on lightbulbs would cause them to explode (because there’s a vacuum inside). Which government agency regulates lightbulbs? None of them (for now). Lightbulbs are tested by Underwriter’s Laboratory – which is a private organization that
    monitors the safety of (among other things) thousands of consumer electronics products. Why can’t there be an Underwriter’s Laboratory for drugs?

    Example: Without capital regulation, the environment will be destroyed and natural resources will be depleted.

    This is tougher. It think you have to point out that the hyperconsumptive nature of contemporary capitalism is not inherent to free markets but a result of a policy of secular inflation. It’s something very very hard to convince because the solution which is to go to sustainable monetary policy kills a whole bunch of liberal
    fantasies (coerced redistribution of money to the less fortunate).

    The thing is, it’s far easier to tell a conservative that getting government out of the bedroom is a good idea, because most of them know it’s true. Heck, many of them are probably don’t exactly hold true to their ideals anyways (Albeit not by choice, I’m probably a better bedroom conservative than most Christian conservatives). It’s also true that liberals don’t hold true to their ideals, but the cognitive dissonance is built up in a different way because the things that liberals are hypocrites about are social issues where it takes all of society to
    effect a ‘measurable change’ and so the knee-jerk reliance on top-down solutions seems natural, versus personal issues – where to the intelligent, grassroots, non-coercive efforts seem more natural.

    In the end, libertarians shoot themselves in the foot by proposing
    that society would make itself better solely through selfish motivation (or, like Brink, not addressing them at all). It’s the easy thing to believe, but completely counterproductive. We might even be poisoning the well by being so closely allied with the objectivists. If you want to build a bridge with the liberal, you have to instead argue that government redistribution comes with unsustainable
    overhead, and propose that social services be covered by voluntary
    wealth redistribution (and argue that it not everyone would have to
    contribute for it to be successful – I’d estimate if 20% of the people
    gave 5% of their time or money that would be enough). Then you have
    to make (the limousine liberals anyways) feel guilty about not
    volunteering at the food bank or the homeless shelter. It’s painful.
    You may make enemies and tear down bridges faster than you build them.
    And, honestly, none of that works as an arguing tactic unless the
    arguer both believes and practices what he or she preaches, and I
    don’t think that Brink Lindsey is volunteering at any of DC’s
    volunteer institutions for helping the less fortunate.

    1. well i don’t know why the linebreaks came out funny, but may be i should pass it off as creative artistry a la e e cummings.

    2. Also evangelicals get fucked with by the state a lot more than liberals. An evangelical will support something like school choice long before a liberal will because the evangelical wants a way to get his kids out of public school. Even with the most recalcitrant evangelical or social conservative, you can at least get them to agree that the federal government needs to get out of things even if you totally disagree with them about what the States should be doing.

      Frankly, I see no reason beyond the cultural prejudices of the two sides (evangelicals think Libertarians are dope smoking porn loving hippies and Libertarians think evangelicals are evil fundie witch doctors) why there shouldn’t be a strong libertarian evangelical alliance at the federal level even if they hate each other at the state and local level.

      1. Yeah, but liberals generally just get fucked more than evangelicals.

        1. They don’t have all of those kids because they don’t like to screw.

    3. That’s why the conservative-libertarian alliance is generally stronger. […] For a libertarian to convince a conservative moralist over to the cause, the argument is simple. Want people to act the way you want them to? Get off your ass, do it the hard way, by going grassroots, don’t use government to do so. I’d say most conservative moralists would even be up to the challenge.

      With Christians who actually read the Bible (yes, I know many don’t), it’s even easier. What Jesus did could be considered grassroots, and same with Paul.

      Overall I agree with your post. While evangelicals can still get caught up in groupthink with their churches, at least it’s localized. They aren’t taking things on the absolute individual level, but believing that a small group of people knows what’s right for their own lives better than city officials (who are still better than county officials, who are still better than state officials, who are ) should be close enough even for purists.

      Contrast with liberals, who think we just need to get the best genius leaders into national offices and everything will somehow work out.

      Non-libertarian evangelical Christians are one layer of bureaucracy removed from libertarians (and even that’s arguable), but liberals are five layers removed–the feds know better than the states, who know better than the counties, who know better than the cities, who know better than the communities, who know better than the individual. Sometimes it’s even worse than that if they want allied countries or a one-world government.

    4. What you and the others said. A government large enough to punish sodomy is large enough to force sodomy.

    5. Example: Without capital regulation, the environment will be destroyed and natural resources will be depleted.

      Of course we don’t have an answer to that problem and neither do they because it is based on dystopian fantasy nonsense, and therefore, is no more a legitimate part of a debate on the economics of resource management than the Book of Revelations is a guide to understanding the dynamics of the Middle East.

      The best thing you can do is to fight to limit their power over us because they are lunatics not worth engaging in debate. Also, you are not doing them any favors by treating them as normal. They are no more prepared for life in these United States in the immediate present than Marie Antoinette was before losing her head. If you have friends of the left stripe it is your duty as a friend to shake them up.

      1. Maybe if she had a soothsayer working with her over a course of a few years she would have been better prepared to live life in these United States in the year 2010, but that would still have been quite a dramatic change.

        You know what I meant!

      2. There are plenty of eco-libertarians, green libertarians, and even just plain libertarians (like myself) who consider protection of the environment is an individual, position that we’re morally obligated to work toward. But since it’s a moral obligation, government should butt out.

  20. Having access to power brings out the worst in both conservatives and liberals. Any inherent differences in ideological affinities are dwarfed by what each side suddenly finds ok when it’s their guy in charge.

    I’m not sure what is going through Lindsey and Wilkinson’s minds, but arguing for liberaltarianism today is like arguing for the merits of fusionism in 2002. In both cases, it’s rewarding bad behavior on the part of the party in power and it shouldn’t be suprising if people start questioning whether it’s advocates are more interested in promoting liberaltarianism/fusionism than libertarianism itself.

    1. Good point.

      Outside the West, political parties typically represent specific constituencies rather than ideologies. In other words, when X Party gets into power, the tribe/clan/kinsmen/ethnicity/etc. that it represents exacts a form of political smash-and-grab against the constituencies represented by the losing party. Hence the volatility of politics in such country.

      One of my biggest worries for politics in the USA is the gradual rise of such permanent political constituencies here. It then becomes nothing more than a numbers game, with the ideologies being a surface game to mask the real political process going on below.

      1. Even in the West, parties began that way: the Dixiecrats in the USA are an example. In Europe, many parties have roots in peasant movements, small business movements, landowner movements, and yeah, trade unions, even if they are today close to 100% defined by ideology. Who knows whether Western parties will revert to older patterns, or non-Western ones will become more ideology-defined, but I thought I should point that out.

        1. Didn’t you once do a Jefferson Airplane cover? I recognize you from somewhere.

      2. Democracy has the inherent weakness of being very volatile due to its winner take all nature. While people have a quasi-religious attachment to elections and voting, it’s worth pointing out that older examples of democracy were based on lotteries, as jury duty (sort of) is today.

        Such a system would not only elevate ordinary voices to positions of leadership but also ensure that in the long run, the balance of power tends to correspond to views in the electorate — the 51% majority gets 51% of the power, statistically speaking. In both respects, it is far more representative than the modern election-based system. Of course, random choice works better for group-based positions like juries or the House of Representatives, versus the Presidency (however, random selection of electors for the Presidency would work just fine).

  21. There is an inherent cognitive disconnect between advocating smaller government on the one hand, and military maximalism and moralistic/law & order social policies on the other.

    A libertarian case for military non-minimalism exists, and it covers the ground most conservative voters occupy. You can go there an talk to them about what it entails. That’s not where the problem is.

    Both parties/ideologies are equally moralistic law-and-order state-totalizing things, but the difference among their voters (the ones I know, anyway) is that TEAM RED!’s aren’t into it. They don’t care if their cultural/etc. identity is enshrined in law and imposed on anyone else, so long as the state isn’t going out of its way to crush it, specifically. Libertarianism starts there, psychologically. Democrats absolutely need their enemies driven before them. That’s what they’re about.
    If you’re teaming up with who’s already out there, you can work with the teabaggalos?and mostly fail, largely because liberaltarianism by whatever name has made them rightly think libertarians are full of shit?or get worked by TEAM BLUE!, whose commitment?because it is one?is stronger than yours.

    1. Sure, a case for military non-minimalism exists, but it does little to create rapproachment with the “making the world safe for democracy” crowd that ruled the GOP during the last decade.

      Thankfully, the Tea Party crowd generally seems less interested in foreign adventurism, and it may be that a workable libertarian/conservative alliance on foreign policy could be created with such folks. A realization that the country is headed over the cliff has a way of focusing the mind on more pressing issues.

      1. RE: military non-minimalism….I think there’s some common ground about what we USE our military for. I believe strongly in having a military powerful enough to fuck up anyone who threatens us, but I believe in being judicious and restrained in unleashing said military, eschewing costly and fruitless nation-building. This was generally the conservative position on military/foreign policy until 9/11, after all.

        1. Well, the last decade was the only one when that position was predominant in the conservative TEAM, but it wasn’t a new position. Though Ford erred on the other side, I seriously think Reagan was too adventurous (though in the end he proved to be right in so being, I will admit). Then Bush I got us in Iraq without such a pressing need to do it – and leading to the conditions which made Iraq II harder to avoid. So it’s certainly not a new idea for conservatives, even though it is ultimately Teddy Roosevelt / Wilsonian.

          Oh, and of course, though Jews are closer to the Democratic party, in general, there have always been some influential Republican-leaning Jews whose closeness with Israel/Zionist lobbies has brought foreign intervention positions to the agenda. No, I don’t mean it’s all a big conspiracy. It’s pretty natural, and it’s the same as with the Cuban lobbies. Just that Cuba is not Israel in any of the senses that make it such a crucial point of American foreign policy.

  22. Alright, first I’m going to take major issue with the silly notion that Obama is the worst enemy of liberty in the history of America. He’s horrible, no question. But this is the sort of ignorant statement that gets back to David Boaz’s column that there was never a golden age of libertarianism, and though at one point the federal government was more limited in it’s economic controls, at the same time, it was in the business of tracking down fugitive slaves and returning them to their slavemasters. I’m sorry, but that is a far, far worse violation of human liberty than anything Obama has ever done and will ever do. Andrew Jackson (and other presidents) practiced actual genocide against Native Americans. FDR imprisoned a whole race of non-criminal people (Japanese-Americans). Up until recently, someone could be thrown in jail for homosexuality. So come on. As bad as the modern government is, stop this revisionist history crap and get some perspective.

    Liberaltarianism can only work if libertarians make the compelling case that liberal big government policies are regressive, bad for small business and good for megacorporations. The only way to decentralize wealth is to stop artificial government economic protections that encourage fraud and violation of property and liberty without consequence and overregulation which encourages conglomeration or exportation of jobs overseas. These things can only be accomplished through a laissez faire market with significant information. I am convinced with the major advances in technology that have expanded information, we have far less need for government oversight than ever before, and the market is more self-regulating than it has ever been due to the wide array of consumer information via the internet. We have to beat them with economics if we want them to come on our side. The arguments for economic Leftists supporting a truly laissez-faire system are plentiful, and it’s a fight worth having. In my humble opinion, teaching liberals economics is easier than teaching conservatives social openmindedness and pacifism, because the former is built on miseducation instead of religious indoctrination and machismo.

    1. In my humble opinion, teaching liberals economics is easier than teaching conservatives social openmindedness and pacifism, because the former is built on miseducation instead of religious indoctrination and machismo

      Are you a shut in who has never actually met a leftist? The froth on the mouth you see at the mere mention of free markets, much less talking about the advantages of the market compared to coercive means, doesn’t come from a mere ‘miseducation’, it is nothing short of a raison d’etre for them to oppose it.

      1. I graduated from what is consistently voted most liberal college in the country. Many of my close friends are unabashed Marxists and left-anarchists. I spent years marketing my philosophy to them, and these people are much further Left than your average Obama voter. I always felt they were open to rational debate and I talked quite a few into voting libertarian. Several things that help libertarians market to the Left:
        – distancing oneself from Ayn Rand and her disdain for the “unproductive” trapped in cycles of poverty largely created by the government and the public education system
        – avoiding revisionist history and speaking to the historic oppression by government, and the racist/sexist/homophobic roots of much modern government policy
        – pointing out that communism can only be successful and non-authoritarian on a small scale, and in a laissez-faire system, many individuals would naturally organize themselves into voluntary cooperative communities and can contract terms and conditions to live within that community. Thus, they could live their ideal lifestyle unmolested by government interference as long as they don’t violate the rights of others.
        – Point to Adam Smith and Thomas Paine’s disdain of corporations as artificial, inefficient entities that are not creatures of a free market. Argue that laissez faire would most closely resemble a “Nation of Shopkeepers” where proprietors are the only business owners and would hesitate to monopolize and conglomerate due to increased liability.
        – propose a land value tax and a corporate value tax as the only two justified taxes, both of which are naturally progressive and are the least unproductive taxes (because you are taxing inefficiency and fake legal protection.)
        – Highlight that the problem of the perpetual welfare state is that it disincentivizes people from seeking wealth, education and advancement, resulting in permanent mediocrity and perpetual poverty. The only handouts that actually make any one wealthy are to the politically connected elites. Point out that food stamps is the last piece of excess government you’d cut (for me that’s a true statement).
        – demonstrate the racism of the public school system, where poor minorities are disproportionately trapped in failing schools with no alternative.
        – etc. etc.

        Appropriating the Left’s lingo and knowledge of the things they care about are important when trying to convince them to abandon their kneejerk reliance on state solutions.

    2. Pick apart any legislation offered by the Democrats since gaining the majority, and you can divide it into three stacks:

      1) that which favors interest that donate, typical corporatism.
      2) that which redistributes from the market to favored interest that vote
      3) that which is designed to shackle the market out of hostility to the market.

      With Republicans you can put it all safely into the first pile.

      You think it is easier to make common cause with a group that hates the market out of principle compared to the group that is merely cynical? You’re nuts!

      1. Actually, I’d argue that the Republicans support all three things you listed. They continually support corporate welfare. Trickle-down economics is just a regressive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the politically-connected wealthy. And they support the very notion of corporations, which are inherently government-created legal protections that protect the market from taking responsibility for its costs and damages. If the Right truly supports Adam Smith’s view of a free market, why not get rid of corporate protectionism? Oh, and plenty of Republican policies are designed to shackle the market. How many Republicans voted against the impossible-to-enforce anti-market ban on lead in any household products? Oh yeah, pretty much none of them except Ron Paul. Sarbanes-Oxley was passed in a Republican Congress (Senate vote: 97-0) and signed by a Republican President, which is as bad or worse than anything Obama has passed. So pardon me if I think you’re the one who is nuts…

        1. Trickle-down economics is just a regressive redistribution . . .

          You see that? You lose people when you do that because it is retarded and lazy rhetoric. It only makes sense in a discordant realm whose limited locality exist inside a tweed jacket, so don’t do that. You just got sneered by several hundred libertarians whose eye rolls could have powered Chicago that second. ‘Trickle down’ took tens of millions of people off the federal income tax rolls so fuck that disingenuous shit they still spew a quarter of a century after the fact at the undead factories of academia, okay?

          Sarbanes-Oxley was passed in a Republican Congress (Senate vote: 97-0) and signed by a Republican President, which is as bad or worse than anything Obama has passed.

          Touche, excellent example and you had me by the nut sack, but then you fucked up your game by easing up at the end. No. Porkulus and TARP are worse than S&O. S&O is a constant ignoring hum that wears one down, but the other two were wrenches in the gut to the market with TARP twisting the rules of moral hazard into its anti-universe equivalent, and porkulus sustaining the worst malinvestment in our history, public employment.

          Disinvest in Public Employment, Already!

          1. ‘ignoring’, ‘annoying’, yadda, yadda

          2. Where I disagree with you is that the inefficiencies created by SOX encouraged and resulted in significant conglomeration, which contributed to “too big to fail”, which was the reason for TARP (also pushed by a Republican administration and much of the GOP leadership, not Obama). And it’s far more than an annoying buzz in the background for smaller businesses (although it might be merely annoying for mega-corporations which devote only a relative fraction of what the small businesses spend for compliance). GOP get credit for opposing the Obama stimulus, although the half-as-expensive-yet-still-completely-unaffordable/unnecessary stimulus they were proposing as an alternative should not be forgotten. Free markets for the GOP is more about rhetoric than reality. They support excessive regulations intended to maintain stability and disclosure and are not couched in anti-business rhetoric.

            Re: trickle-down economics. There are plenty of conservatives who advocate the wealthy should pay lower tax rates than the poor (since lower tax rates could still involve paying more in net). Look at payroll taxes, for example. The poor and middle class pay 6%; Warren Buffett pays a fraction of a fraction of 1%. Corporate welfare is also an inherently regressive redistribution of wealth. It cuts both ways, and Republicans’ hands have been in the pot all along. Oh, and find me more than a handful of elected Republicans willing to cut deep into the welfare state. They like complaining about progressive redistribution of wealth, but they have zero courage to actually fix it.

  23. I’ve made this argument before, but I think a lot of people get it wrong when they talk about “liberals/Democrats believe in A, B, C, etc.” and “conservatives/Republicans believe in D, E, F, etc.”

    From what I’ve observed, each group instead has a very narrow range of interests they actually want to pursue, and everything else ostensibly on their platform is of little relevance.

    Whatever liberals/Democrats _say_ about the drug war, or gay marriage or military adventurism, these things are mostly beside the point. What matters are social programs and everything else is eligible to be sacrificed toward that end.

    For conservatives/Republicans you can talk about spending and gay marriage and abortion, but what really matters is military spending. Everything else (including abortion) can and will be sacrificed toward that end.

    Because of this, there really isn’t any common ground with either party for libertarians. What areas of “common ground” that ostensibly exist within each are treated as mostly unimportant by the demonstrated actions of the party once in power.

  24. Please see
    for information on Liberal-Libertarian initiatives underway.

  25. You just got sneered by several hundred libertarianseureka dvd whose eye rolls could have powered Chicago that second. ‘Trickle down’ took tens of millions people off the federal income tax rolls so fuck that disingenuous shit they still spewlittle house on the prairie dvd a quarter of a century after the fact at the undead factories of academia, okay?

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