More on Chris Beam's New York Treatise on Libertarianism


Earlier today, Matt Welch blogged about Christopher Beam's opus on libertarianism in New York magazine. I've been trying to figure out all morning what exactly about the article didn't sit right with me, and I think I've figured it out. I should say first that I've met Beam several times and find him to be a nice guy, and genuinely inquisitive and curious. I don't think there's anything mendacious about his intentions.

The first two-thirds of the article are a sort of tour guide of libertarian personalities, factions, and general philosophy. It comes off a bit like Beam describing to Manhattanites some exotic new species discovered in Madagascar, but I suppose that probably is how libertarians come off to people outside the politics/policy/media bubble. This portion of the article is mostly fair, though are still some revealing word and phrase choices. (For example, the Koch brothers are only "infamous" if you don't happen to agree with them. Just like George Soros is only infamous if you're opposed to the causes he funds.)

Still, the first two-thirds of the article is mostly a quick and dirty introduction to or primer on libertarianism and the movement surrounding it, with Beam largely playing a neutral storyteller, interviewer, and interpreter.

It's in the last third of the article there's a noticeable and disruptive shift in tone. After establishing a certain trust with the reader that casts himself in the role of a mostly neutral observer and chronicler of this libertarian uprising, Beam then stops describing libertarianism, and starts critiquing it himself. The critiques are selective. He picks a few issues, broadly (and sometimes inaccurately, or without appropriate detail) describes the libertarian position, then describes why libertarianism fails on that particular issue. Taken as a whole, these critiques are supposed to support his thesis for the latter third of the article, which is that libertarianism is utopian and impractical. (He neglects to explain how the current system has produced better results, but that's a different discussion.) I don't think much of Beam's critiques, but then I'm also a libertarian.

But it's not the critiques themselves that I found off-putting. If this had been a straight Jacob Weisberg-style trashing of libertarianism, we could evaluate it on those terms. But this is more subtle and, I think, in some ways more pernicious. This was a thrashing disguised as a primer. That Beam makes these critiques himself comes off as abrupt and, frankly, condescending. There's an aesthetic I've noticed among some journalists that libertarianism is so crazy and off the rails that it's okay to step outside the boundaries of decorum and fairness to make sure everyone knows how nuts libertarians really are. (A couple years ago, I emailed a prominent journalist to compliment him on a book he had written. His strange response: He thanked me for the compliment, and then ran off several sentences about how dangerous and evil he thought my politics were.)

I don't think Beam thinks libertarians are evil. I think he thinks we're naive and probably a little crazy. But there's something revealing about him jettisoning the detached tone for the walk-away portion of the article. He could have kept that tone and still provided sound critiques of libertarianism by asking prominent people on the right and left to explain the faults of libertarian approaches to various issues. Instead, the ref felt compelled to step in and call the fight himself. It's as if ensuring that New York readers fully understand and appreciate libertarianism's failings was the article's most important objective—and far too important to let readers come to that conclusion themselves.

NEXT: Reason on the Radio: Ronald Bailey Reveals His Genome on Wisconsin Public Radio

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  1. Only a full-retard libtard would say libertarians are utopians, yet the belief that a magical Government Fairy to be the first and only solution to every problem in America are “pragmatic”. I think liberals are trash-picking fuckwits.

    1. Or this from pseudo libertarian Will Wilkinson “Part of my political maturation was realizing there’s really not that much at stake,” he says. “That our culture isn’t on the road to serfdom, we’re not one step away from drifting into Fascism or totalitarian socialism or anything like that.”

      Said with a smile after being groped by a friendly public servant.

      1. Does Wilkinson honestly believe he will have any choice in the matter should we find ourselves “one step away from drifting into Fascism or totalitarian socialism or anything like that?”

        Because the time to care about such matters might be a little sooner than he anticipates.

    2. Shhhh! You’ll upset the kids, they THINK there’s a Magical Government Fairy! It’ll break their widdle hearts!

  2. AC, don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel.

  3. some exotic new species discovered in Madagascar

    Somehow, I thought Madagascar was gonna be cooler than this, but, meh.

    1. Clearly you have not seen the horrible animated feature films…

      1. Do you…do you like to move it, move it?

        1. I like to move it, move it.

  4. I agree, but a minor spelling correction: “compliment,” not “complement” in paragraph 5.

    1. [pedant]

      I think that’s more of a homonym correction than spelling.


      1. You’re right, wylie, thanks.

        1. No, it’s still a spelling issue. Just because it’s a homonym doesn’t mean it’s not a misspelling.

          1. If the wrong-word is spelled correctly, I would have to disagree.

            1. So if I write, “My but hurts,” that’s not a misspelling?

              1. So if I write, “My but hurts,” that’s not a misspelling?

                Correct. But I think you’re overdoing it to get butt-hurt about it.

                1. The correct word is “butthurt” – no hyphen.

                  1. Is it anal-retentive or anal retentive?

                    1. Yo, no more ad homonyms. It’s Xmas.

                    2. That’s nothing. In the very title of the article Balko misspelled/mishomonymed “moron”.

                    3. I once received an e-mail from a colleague about an “add hock” solution to a pending problem.

                      I assumed he meant to solve the problem by exchanging additional items to his pawnbroker.

                  2. The noun form is butthurt. The transitive verb form is hyphenated.

                  3. The correct word is Yah Baby; I like it to hurt

      2. It would be much more kind to correct such errors in a discrete way.

        I doubt Mr. Balko will show his hurt feelings, but he cannot be unphased by this criticism.

        I believe aisle right him a kind note to smooth things over…as soon as I find my stationary.

        1. Just don’t loose you’re pen.

        2. but he cannot be unphased by this criticism.

          Funny, I figured Radley would have some pretty thick skin, just to be able to do his job every day.

          1. It’s okay. Nobody’s prefect, and we all make my steaks.

            1. mmmm…stake.

  5. May we assume that someone at Reason will be writing a “letter to the editor?” One hopes “New York” is better than “Time” in that they won’t just publish letters fawning all over this article.

    1. You’re still “hoping” in this day and age?

      2008 called, and they said they’re out of you.

    2. Does anyone outside Manhattan even read “New York” magazine? And of those that do… is there a reason why I should care?

      Speaking of utopian and impractical… But It’s been said before, so I’ll leave it alone.

    3. I like how the last part of the article is full of red herrings and already debunked arguments.

      True, the recession of 1920 doesn’t really fit the definition of recession in which libertarian principles guide us through, but the recessions of the early 1870’s, 1880’s, 1890’s, and the recession of 1907 all prove that the keynesian playbook wasn’t necessary to create a rebound. ALso, deflation didn’t simply create a neverending death spiral.

      True, letting the banks fail would have hurt more people than just the bankers. Funny how the policy wonks in Washington didn’t really seem to care about those other people when they were writing up bailouts for the banking sector. I don’t recall any of those bailouts being chained to relieving the customers of the banks. I also don’t see how the bailouts are really helping anybody who is underwater in their mortgage.

      I really wish that these people would do more than simply skim the quotes of libertarians before they write these articles.

      1. I also like the insinuation that people are drawn to Libertarianism in order to appear as “cool” or “rebellious.” Yeah, because if one of my friends dresses up like a hipster with a hammer and sickle on his chest and I walk around with a copy of “Human Action” in my hands, I’m bound to end up with far, far more pussy than him. I wish. Also, as a young person, I have to point out that telling people that you are a libertarian rarely gets a response other than the rolling of eyes or a complete look of dumbfounded confusion.

        1. I just say anarchist or pacifist, which is easier than anarcho-capitalist or libertarian to draw people into an argument.

          Or maybe not, if one wants to go tense or give people a little jolt, libertarian or capitalist helps people bring some preconceptions to the table.

        2. I just say anarchist or pacifist, which is easier than anarcho-capitalist or libertarian to draw people into an argument.

          Or maybe not, if one wants to go tense or give people a little jolt, libertarian or capitalist helps people bring some preconceptions to the table.

      2. I really wish that these people would do more than simply skim the quotes of libertarians before they write these articles.

        But then how would they smear and mis-characterize libertarians?

        1. They could just make stuff up.

  6. What is it with Manhattan liberals that makes them go completely off the rails when they try and talk about libertarianism?

    “But do we want to live in their world? “

    Jesus H Christ is this a a stupid thesis. Go read the freaking constitution that our entire system of government is founded upon. It is a libertarian manifesto if there ever was one. WE ALREADY LIVE IN THIS WORLD. It’s the liberals and social conservatives who are trying to change the reality.

    God I hate this type of obfuscation and mischaracterization.

    1. No, we don’t. We don’t live in anything like a libertarian world.
      By the way, niether did the Founders, their ideals notwitstanding.

      1. So we don’t live under a system of government founded on libertarian principles?

        I admit that we’ve hacked away at these priniciples to the point that we are off the reservation, but the point is that the blueprint of our system is based on said principles.

        1. If I start building a house using the blueprint for a single-story ranch and end up with a 100 storey skyscraper, do references to the blueprints mean much of anything?

          1. Fantastic visual! I’m stealing this.

          2. do references to the blueprints mean much of anything?

            Yes. The foundation is still there. We can always work at dismantling the monstrosity that has been built upon the foundation. That’s what’s so annoying about this article. They act as if the foundation isn’t libertarian to begin with.

          3. Howard Roark would never let that happen.

            He’d dynamite the whole thing.

            1. No. This time, I would stop that crazy s-o-b.

              1. He was willing to kill to get Nora Prentiss; he should have been willing to kill to get Dominique Francon.

          4. Are you kidding? The zoning board would be all over your ass.

          5. The Constitution isn’t a blueprint, it’s the law, and those guys are breaking it, after swearing to uphold it, and ought to be held criminally liable.

        2. The founders weren’t founding this nation principles we might consider “Libertarian” today. Rather, a bunch of powerful representatives from affiliated states got together to form a republic of strong states. And, unsurprisingly, their number one compromise was to create a very limited Federal Government. This is not the same as Libertarianism. If they were Libertarians, the founders wouldn’t have gone home to Slave States, and to their northern states where they proceeded to outlaw sodomy and an entire host of social “bads”.

          The Constitution and the Declaration had a lot of great ideas. And we can use many of those ideas today. But we shouldn’t consider the Founders’ decisions to limit the Federal Government to indicate that they wanted ALL governments limited- especially state governments. Because many decidedly did NOT believe such a thing.

    2. They can live in what ever world they want.

      Private property rights allow them to purchase land for their own use. Contract law allows them to enter into voluntary agreement with other like minded individuals.

      Put the two together and the collectivists can create their own private community where everyone enters into a contract to combine and redistribute their incomes amongst the cult, err… community. Sprinkle in a group health care plan, or better yet, community health clinic and you have yourself a little commie paradise.

      Of course, they probably won’t have any guns so it would be pretty easy to push those lil’ bastards around.

      1. Soon there won’t be private property. See: Kelo and, more recently, the Supremes’ denial of cert in Tuck-It-Away, Inc. v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp.

        Also, no meaningful contract law. See: GM/Chrysler bailouts, etc.

        Unfortunately, this means that the only liberal “Utopia” there’s likely to be is California. Until it implodes and spews the ignorant fuckwits out like so much pus to infect other, healthier, states.

    3. The issue isn’t whether or not we “want” to live in a libertarian world. If you asked Mises, he would point out that we don’t have a choice. THere are certain economic realities that cannot be ignored, no matter what world you would like to live in.

      I wish I had the exact quote from Mises, but he would always point out that he always wanted to see the goals of the left come to fruition. He wanted to see people with good jobs, high incomes, and no crises disrupting their lives. He takes issue with the policy prescriptions laid out by the left and their certain negative effects. THe issue isn’t whether we would “like” everybody to be taken care of by the government. The issue is whether or not the end result of policies aimed at creating such a world will achieve the desired results or not.

  7. It’s funny that statist keep pulling the Somali card as if the other extreme (North Korea or Zimbabwe) isn’t just as rhetorically damaging.

    1. Because they think that North Korea, the Soviet Union, et al. don’t count because they aren’t/weren’t “true communism”. But they have no problem casting Somalia as the true and inevitable consequence of libertarianism.

      1. And besides, they are not communists, they are Progressives. Remember that – they are for progress!

      2. But they are Statist — whether communist, fascist, or ideology-free powermongering.

      3. If they’re going to give inaccurate representations, at least go with something cool like “Mad Max”.

    2. Somalia is simply NOT libertarian. It is, however, a war zone with a UN-backed faction trying to establish itself as the central government fighting against a united front of Islamists trying to drive the UN out. The poor saps that are the civilian population are just trying their best to live in the crossfire.

    3. You don’t understand the critique, then. Of course the writer expects the reader to already know North Korea is as bad. The writer is just saying that both extremes are to be avoided, and that the best you can get isn’t at either extreme but somewhere in between. Exactly where is beyond the scope or the article.

      1. Ask any ThinkProgress commenter and they’ll tell you that the ideal is Scandinavia for some reason.

        1. Hey, if blond white people aren’t the ideal…ehhh, I’m gonna stop there.

    4. I don’t think the “Somali card” is even damaging. Somalia had a government, and it was an awful place. It was easily the worst country in the area. Then the government collapsed, and things improved remarkably. Is it as nice as America or Europe? Of course not. But it is a lot better then it was before, and it is steadily and consistently improving.

      1. See, that they don’t have a government at all is supposed to be a bad thing, ipso facto.

        That North Korea at least has a government at all, by definition makes it a better place than Somalia in their eyes, regardless of any objective evaluation of the living conditions between the two.

        So in a real sense, it’s not so much that these guys think that a particular form of government is necessarily better than another, they just think that the natural way of the world is that somebody has to be in charge, and then they can’t remove their authoritarian glasses long enough to properly evaluate alternatives.

        Authoritarian fanboy shit normally oozes out of these types of articles – not being able to differentiate between anarchy and limited and restricted government – and this one is not any different in that regard.

    5. Your analogy doesn’t work. We have very few examples of Anarchies. We have plenty of examples of States with strong governments that don’t end up like the Soviet Union.

      So historical evidence indicates that we can have strong states that don’t devolve into full on dictatorships. On the other hand, there is little (no?) historical evidence to indicate that anarchy ends in anything other than a crucible producing all sorts of human ills.

      All evidence indicates that in the absence of a government to maintain order, Tough Guys will accumulate enough Means of Force to destroy liberty. I can point to all sorts of Strong states where Liberty might not be where I want it, but where it isn’t destroyed. Can you point to any anarchies that have managed the same feat?

      1. Medieval Iceland, Ireland, etc.

        1. Very little is known about what conditions in Saga Iceland were really like. The evidence we have is that a shitload of castles were built during that time, and that it ended with Icelanders begging the King of Norway to take over their land.

          Neither of these points to a very pleasant or stable place to live in.

          1. I would like to hear about this Etc place…

            And which specific Ireland are we talking about here? If it is Ireland of a period of time prior to being conquered by another nation, then I think it proves the point against anarchies.

  8. Libertarian philosophy is dangerous and impractical. Because of NYC’s dangerous libertarian governance, we’re facing a projected $4.5 billion (and growing) budget deficit in 2012.

  9. i’ve never understood the libertarians as utopians argument. Some of us may dream of a purely libertarian society but that has exceedingly little to do with the arguments and critiques made by libertarians about government and society. Currently both of these are so slanted against us that in practice libertarianism amounts to little more than a plea for just the smallest bit of sanity and reason to implemented. Me thinks this is because liberals are so cowardly (in terms of desiring to take responsibility for their own lives) and have become so accustomed to being governed (or governing) that our world already seems dangerously close to falling into some sort of libertarian fueled anarchy. The fact that they could believe this when government spending is over 40% of gdp, the feds stick their hands down your pants at the airport, the fcc wants to make the internet more “free” by absurdly regulating those who provide this amazing service to us, and a congress and executive branch that have almost completely lost respect for the constitution shows how these critics’ fears have completely detached them from reality.

  10. Madagascar? Why couldn’t we be from SOMALIA!

  11. Libertarianism is like anything that is missing the Holy Spirit. It is soul dead. Lifeless, without inspiration. A vaporous cloud carrying no life-giving water.

    1. Vaporous clouds contain water. Unless, of course, you’re talking about a plume of some other material in vapor form. But that metaphor would be a bit strained, don’t you think?

      1. So the sulphurous clouds of Venus are Godless?

    2. Yes, it’s much more soul-affirming to take what you want from people and force them to do things your way.

      1. You just nailed David’s real argument!

  12. I think a philosophy that requires all-knowing, selfless super men to be in charge at all times is the utopian one. But maybe that’s just me…

    1. Obama and the Czars?

  13. I’ll at least give credit to Beam for acknowledging that libertarianism was America’s founding ideal. (“The American Revolution was a libertarian movement,” he writes.)

    That alone separates him from the legions of nitwits who think libertarianism is some recent, novel idea, and that it’s somehow radical in the broader context of American history.

    Of course, it is kind of sad that this has to be explained in a sort of 101 manner to New York mag readers. What do all these people think the American Revolution was about, anyway?

    1. What do all these people think the American Revolution was about, anyway?

      Britain refused to instate universal healthcare, so The Colonies were all like “Yo, fuck that,” and America was born.

      Right? That’s why they threw tea in the harbor, because caffeine-related illness was driving up the cost of medical care.

      1. I believe this is correct. In fact, the actual quote from Patrick Henry was “Give me liberty or Yo, fuck that.”

        It’s true. I read it on the internet.

      2. That’s why they threw tea in the harbor, because caffeine-related illness was driving up the cost of medical care.

        And because there was no nutrition labeling on the boxes.

        1. Not bad, Norman, but It’s gonna take some time before I can laugh-my-ass-off again like I did at Tman’s retroscripting.

        2. But did they think of what all that tea would do to all those poor cod swimming in the harbor?

      3. They threw tea in the water not because of its high price due to taxes but because the British were trying to undercut the smuggler’s market, through lower prices.

        1. There must’ve been a book written about 1, 2 months ago with this as the central premise…because all of the sudden every Eurotwat and uberLefty brings this up whenever the Boston Tea Party is even hined at. The Hive Mind is strong yes?

          1. hinted at, even

    2. Throwing off the patriarchy of George III?

      1. Why couldn’t those ignorant colonists just understand that George III knew what’s best for them better than they did?

        1. He obviously wasn’t TOP. MEN.

    3. You mean the war for independence.

      1. I think of it as the War for Colonial Secession.

    4. Too bad Joe Biden wasn’t around back to tell all of those rich, white, slave-holding, misogynist, homophobic, [insert insult here] landowners that paying taxes without question is the highest form of patriotism.

  14. I suspect his shift of gears into overdrive was a tribal signal to his fellows that he had not wandered off the reservation.

  15. Those crazy libertarians and their anti-drug war campaign:

    1. Failure to turn up can result in fines, mandatory treatment or other sanctions. In serious cases, the panel recommends the user be sent to a treatment center.

      The War rages on…

  16. He’s not much different than the “friends of friends” I see on Facebook. Gawd some of these people are stupid! They are of the mindset that government must solve every problem, from missed mortgage payments to hair thinning, and that if you disagree “you must surely be joking!”

    1. The other day I read a FB comment saying that people in the third world could “enjoy simplicity” if we weren’t shoving progress down their throats.

  17. I think he thinks we’re naive and probably a little crazy.

    That’s offensive.

    1. Huh?

  18. “Just like George Soros is only infamous if you’re opposed to the causes he funds”

    Actually, I could care less about the political team Soros funds. I hate the fact that his currency speculation thrusted millions further into poverty while he walked away billions richer, yet somehow he’s forgiven by the media (let’s focus on his philanthropism) and the Left (who demonize far less heinous acts by billionaires). The dude was largely responsible for the 90s economic collapse of Southeast Asia.

    This isn’t the “rich man exploits poor people by giving them subpar jobs and investing in their local economies, profiting from their nonunionized labor” story that the Left usually despises. This is “rich man profits from destroying the currency of entire developing countries, setting back progress by decades, killing jobs and making the poor far worse off.” What he did probably shouldn’t be illegal, but he should be universally shamed and should give all of his profits back to the people he screwed through no fault of their own.

    1. Actually, I could care less about the political team Soros funds

      How much less could you care? Ie, given how much you care now, how much care can you subtract from the ‘care’ equation until you couldn’t care less?

      1. Please accept my humble apologies for my inversed phraseology, my pedantic friends. Seppuku time!

        1. Seppuku time!

          Is that the asian version of hammer?

  19. Actually, I could care less about the political team Soros funds.

    Ah ha, so you do care! But how much, exactly? Do you care about it a lot? Or just a little? And what are some of the things that earn less of your care?

    (Sorry, the pedant precedent was established earlier in the thread…)

    1. Dammit, that was supposed to be threaded with the Hobo Chang Ba post. I always get messed up when I reply to a post that’s currently at the bottom of the thread — the comment box is already sitting right there.

      1. And because I screwed up, Paul gets to look like he was first. Bah!

        1. Calm down, some of us read the time stamps while we’re keeping score.

  20. Libertarians are a very powerful and influential group in this country. Government shrinks to dangerous new lows every year. Our influence is felt and seen in every office in every legislature in the land. Governorships, senators, congressmen, regulatory agency heads… the list goes on. This unstoppable force must be confronted, lest our beloved public institutions shrink yet even further, leaving them completely bereft of any effectiveness over our daily lives.

    Everything can’t be legal. People need to be governed. Without the strong, firm, guiding hand of our leaders, the people will stray into any number of errant behaviors, all of which contain their own unique externalities.

    Unintended consequences indeed! Liberty has unintended consequences, and without the guiding hand of government to sweep away those consequences, the people will be as sheep without a shepherd.

    1. [JonStewart]Mmmmm….that’s good satire.[/JonStewart]

      1. I’m not sure about the quality of this satire. If “Government shrinks to dangerous new lows every year” then how are there so many offices where our influence is felt?

  21. Just in time for a Jefferson quote:

    “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

  22. “Taken as a whole, these critiques are supposed to support his thesis for the latter third of the article, which is that libertarianism is utopian and impractical.”

    If you listen to the true believers talking to each other, any movement you want to point at is utopian and impractical.

    Is communism utopian and impractical? Hell yes! How ’bout Barack Obama’s vision of a Progressive America? Yeah, that’s utopian and impractical too. So is the anti-immigration crowd, so are the environmentalists… All utopian and impractical.

    I think libertarianism is fundamentally more practical than other movements in one way–it doesn’t rely on everyone agreeing on much of anything. True believing libertarians disagree on any given foreign policy issue, how to address things like racism, how to address environmental concerns, etc.

    How is that impractical?! Leaving people free to solve their own problems is about the most practical thing in the world–it’s those who insist on making everyone else live by the same rule book that are being utopian and impractical.

    People are generally better off when they’re free to make their own choices–that’s the most practical observation in the world! …and that’s libertarianism in a nutshell for me.

    1. I’d like a subscription to your nutshell.

    2. Chris Beam is preaching to his congregation, teaching Liberals what to think about libertarianism.

  23. That Beam makes these critiques himself comes off as abrupt and, frankly, condescending.

    It’s a magazine article, not a news report. What’s wrong with the writer supplying his own analysis? Isn’t that primarily what he was paid for? Wouldn’t it have been something of a cop-out for him not to? I’d certainly expect the same of my students in a paper: Lay out the facts, then draw your conclusions.

    Besides, his critique was not as severe as you made it seem. He didn’t write that he was against liberty, just that he thought libertarianism, taken to its extreme if it were followed unopposed, would lead to bad things at that extreme. He probably would have the same critique of any -ism.

    And I can live with that. I’d be very happy to get just 90% of the way there. Or even 80%.

    1. “What’s wrong with the writer supplying his own analysis?”

      What’s wrong with the editor of a libertarian magazine critiquing a piece about libertarianism?

      1. “What’s wrong with the writer supplying his own analysis?”

        What’s wrong with the editor of a libertarian magazine critiquing a piece about libertarianism?

        The latter involves a (a few?) monocle(s) and at least one top hat. Ipso egro cum, it’s Evil and Wrong.

      2. Balko was criticizing Beam precisely for, as Robert says, “providing his own analysis.” If you ratchet up to a higher level of abstraction and say that he was merely “critiquing” Beam’s piece, then of course there’s nothing wrong with Balko “critiquing” Beam’s piece. But his critique was a specific Beam: Beam wasn’t fair and balanced. He came down against libertarianism, when he should have done a straight news report or something. But to demand a straight news report from New York magazine, from a piece titled “The Trouble with Liberty,” makes no sense to me.

  24. It was a fairer article on libertarianism than most, so I think it represents progress, despite its breezy, superficial analysis of libertarian proposals. Also, he’s right about Hayek. Hayek disavowed laissez faire, believing in some governmental programs and regulation.

    1. laissez faire

      If we’d only gone cockney over french, we’d already have our libertarian utopia.

    2. Too bad people draw conclusions from The Road To Serfdom, which was after all his most famous piece, that he later wished he hadn’t given them the fuel for. He said he’d been too timid at the time.

      But heck, the degree of gov’t programs & regs favored in even that book are small potatoes compared to what we’ve actually got.

  25. There’s nothing new about Liberals misrepresenting another point of view. That is standard operating procedure in their propaganda campaigns.

    They know their ideas cannot be defended on their own merits.

    Truth? Truth is socially constructed by our betters.

  26. From Beam’s piece:
    “Libertarianism gets caricatured as the weird, Magic-card-collecting, twelve-sided-die-wielding outcast of American political philosophy.”

    Some of that caricature may come from the fact that many of the “crazy uncles of American politics” run for office as libertarians.

    Goodspaceguy is a perfect example of this.

    I hadn’t seen his name on a ballot for quite a while, but he showed up as a candidate for State Senator last fall.
    I was delighted to see that he decided to boot his libertarian affiliation for the Democrats.

    1. “We should already have more than 200 private space habitats in orbit, connected together in different configurations and in different orbits. You have already paid the money required for space colonization, but you have not gotten the space colonies because many of your chosen leaders have not studied space colonization, and so they have misspent your money, not understanding the Fantastic Future that we can build.”

      This would be cool if any of it were true. As it is, it’s just the same tired premise of some of the most un-imaginative and formulaic sci-fi novels.

  27. For information on world Libertarian efforts in space and more see:

  28. That a “journalist” is compelled to be a referee for any dispute is a meme that seems to have infected the mainstream media of late, and evidently Mr. Balco as well. When reporting on the ideas of the “Flat Earth Society” it is not necessary to stay neutral. When a Journalist comes up against something that he or she deems to be untruthful or obviously false, quoting “experts” on each side lends legitimacy to a view that the journalist may not, in fact, consider to be legitimate.

  29. Beam may be a nice guy, as the author states – i.e. he may have a very pleasant demeanor. But it is impossible today for any educated adult to still favor Progressivism over liberty, as a general direction.

    Progressive pundits are not dumb or ignorant or innocently mistaken; they are evil. The evidence of the past 100 years (not to mention the past 1,000) is so clear and so overwhelming, that to still believe the hand of a central government can lead to better outcomes than individuals interacting voluntarily, is not merely a mistake. It’s evil.

    1. Let me guess. You think one of the lessons of the past 100, nay 1,000 years, is that a “central government” leads to terrorizing and subjugating the government’s political enemies. You know, like Stalin and Mao and Hitler did.

      You know what else leads to political oppression? Thinking you’re so goddamn smart and everyone who doesn’t agree with you (a hell of a lot of people, by the way) is evil.

  30. Among the myriad stupid things in this article, why should we have any degree of sympathy for this gentleman who did not want fire insurance?

    No less, he’s right, that it is “no coincidence most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers.” That’s also when most liberals, conservatives, socialists, Marxists etc. begin to explore those respective philosophies, too.

  31. I could take libertarians more seriously if they could show exactly one historical example where libertarianism has thrived, or even limped along competently. I’d accept even a small country, let alone a country of 300 million. I’d take libertarians more seriously if other countries haven’t achieved a high level of overall happiness, health and even social mobility with much more government “intrusion” than ours possesses. Or is the human experience outside the U.S. just irrelevant?

    Yes, libertarianism has some attractive philosophical roots. It also is a popular crutch for rejecting the governing preferences of a country’s people, as expressed through their elected leaders. The government isn’t some “other,” imposed by a monarchy or space aliens. It’s your friends, family and neighbors. It isn’t socialism that kills N. Koreans — it’s the absence of democracy.

    1. What kind of idiot are you? I don’t believe there are too many countries left with more government intrusion than ours, barring totalitarian sh*tholes. Hell, even China’s better than the US in that department.

  32. This is a really good observation but not surprising; as a reader of New York Magazine for a number of years I can say, ALL the writers over there do this.

  33. This retort was just as dangerous as Beam’s original article. By ignoring his arguments, you may create the appearance that they are correct.

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