Libertarian History/Philosophy

A Primer on Non-Libertarianism


Missed this in the holiday rush, but last week Conor Friedersdorf wrote an amusing turnaround on Chris Beam's New York explanation/takedown of libertarianism, over at Andrew Sullivan's site. Whole thing worth a look, but my favorite part:

Here is how Beam defines the political philosophy for readers of New York:

Libertarianism is a long, clunky word for a simple, elegant idea: that government should do as little as possible. In Libertarianism: A Primer, Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz defines it as "the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others." Like any political philosophy, libertarianism contains a thousand substrains, ranging from anarchists who want to destroy the state to picket-fence conservatives who just want to put power in local hands. The traditional libertarian line is that government should be responsible for a standing army, local security, and a courts system, and that's it—a system called minarchy. But everyone has his own idea of how to get there. Washington-think-tank libertarians take an incrementalist approach within the two-party system. The Libertarian Party offers a third way. Ayn Rand–inspired Objectivists promote their ideas through education. Reason magazine preaches the gospel of cultural libertarianism. Silicon Valley techno-entrepreneurs would invent their way to Libertopia. Wall Street free-marketers want deregulation. The Free State Project plans to concentrate 20,000 libertarians in New Hampshire. "Seasteaders" dream of building societies on the ocean. And then there are the regular old Glenn Beck disciples who just want to be left alone.

This is a perfectly fair if what you're doing is defining libertarianism with the space constraints of a magazine article. But I submit that it has all the flaws and limits of this:

Non-libertarianism is a long, clunky word for the view that even if a person is respecting the equal rights of others, he or she doesn't have a right to live life in the way of their choosing. Like any political philosophy, it contains a thousand sub-strains, ranging from communists to fascists. The traditional non-libertarian belief is effectively that government should operate free of strict limits established by first principles or the Constitution. But everyone has their preferred vision of life in a non-libertarian state. Washington-think-tank non-libertarians take an incrementalist approach within the two-party system. The Green Party offers a third way. Jesus Christ–inspired Catholics promote their ideas through education. Oprah preaches the gospel of cultural non-libertarianism. Ivy League public policy wonks would invent their way to Non-Libertopia. Wall Street corporations want bailouts and regulations that disadvantage competitors. No project is needed to concentrate a majority of non-libertarians in New Hampshire. And then there are the regular old AARP members who just want Social Security and Medicare to continue without any cuts until they die.

Matt Welch took on Beam's article, as did Radley Balko, right here on Hit and Run.

NEXT: Democrats Also Happy to Demagogue Medicare

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  1. We lost when we failed to woo Oprah to the cause.

    1. Oprahtarianism?

      1. Yes. All of our rights are subsumed into the greater glory that is Oprah. Through her total and unfettered freedom, we shall achieve ultimate liberty through our unlimited service upon her person.

        Kind of like the deal Stedman has.

        1. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Dr. Phil, or prohibiting the free time from 4 to 5 PM each weekday; or abridging the freedom of Steadman, or of the Gayle; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble in Her studios, and to petition the Oprah for a redress of a new car.”

          1. Dude, she friggin’ created Dr. Phil.

            I’m curious how her new network is doing. It launched (in place of Discovery Health) on the first. OWN.

            1. Yeah, isn’t there something creepy about Oprah standing on a stage in front of a giant block letter logo that say:



              1. She’s either totally lacking in self-awareness or perfectly self-aware. I vote the latter.

                1. Funny, with the sunglasses on OWN turns into OBEY.

                  1. I’ve been obeying Oprah for years. Why haven’t you?

                  2. They Live!

                  3. let’s chew some bubble gum and kick some ass. bring the bubble gum

            2. I hope I’m not the only person who wants to reach through the TV screen and beat the shit out of Mister Phil.

              1. That’s what Oprah wants you to feel. All part of her master plan. She also, surprisingly, wants you to hate Obama.

                1. He’s a threat to her power. He must be eliminated, but only if Montel Williams is set up to be the fall-guy.

                  1. He’s no threat. He’s part of the plan that will result in her elevation to Empress of Omerica. Once he runs America into the ground, she’ll reluctantly take power, promising–and delivering–a new car to each citizen.

                    Besides, what do you think the “O” in Obama stands for, anyway? That’s why he hides his birth certificate. Because his real name is Barack Bama.

                    1. Curses! Reggie Jackson has already been dispatched to take Bama out. I don’t know how we can stop him now.

                    2. Not since Leslie Nielsen’s unfortunate death. He was our last hope.

                    3. Especially since Oprah framed O.J.

                    4. See? No Frank Drebin to stop him. No Ed Hocken. No Det. Nordberg. The world is doomed!

                    5. Strange how, one by one, they’ve been removed, huh?

                      Now the only hope is Priscilla.

                    6. Ah, but did you see the one with the bees?

                    7. That is probably the most awsome gif I have ever seen.

                      Not counting bouncy, bouncy jeans girl.

      2. I remember an old Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) blog where he speculated that he could win a Presidential election by promosing to do whatever Oprah would do. Not that he would actually involve her in his administration since she is above politics (pre-Obama). The important part was that it was a winning campaign to promise that he would do what she would do.

    2. Rosie was also a blow

    3. Meh. She’s a behemoth again. No fat chicks, car will scrape bottom.

      1. Her power doesn’t stem from her physical appearance. However, if you watch her weight carefully, you’ll notice than she’s thin in times of prosperity, fat during recessions. This is a causative relationship, not mere correlation.

        1. So what would she look like in a true laissez-faire economy?

            1. I believe that covers my comment at 2:03.

          1. The anexoria poster girl.

            1. More good reasons to support a laissez-faire economy.

      2. Ellen DeGeneres then?

        1. If she were less ugly, yes.

        2. I loved her 90’s sitcom except for the last season. I congratulate her for coming out but that last season turned what could have been a wonderfully humorous season in which being lesbian was just part of her character into a bitter and preachy season that lost most of the charm of previous seasons. Sad too, I like her as both a person and a comedian. She just did not handle that last season very well.

          1. Jesus, why didn’t I think of this before? An Oprah sitcom! Like Seinfeld in that Oprah would play herself.

            I can’t believe this hasn’t happened yet. It would get perfect ratings.

            1. That could work. Especialy if her first guest were a towel who recovered from a drug adiction.

              1. Hey, you wanna get high?

              2. Obviously, it’ll be set in Chicago. Stedman is a clear regular. Someone playing Obama will be a recurring guest, of course, taking the mistress’ commands in person.

              3. First guest? It’s only going to be Oprah. Just like the cover of her magazine.

                1. Let’s be fair. Oprah is loyal to her slaves. They’ll get airtime.

            2. And the sitcom would be called The Story of ‘O’?

          2. I thought These Friends of Mine (which later became Ellen was little more than a Seinfeld ripoff.

            1. I liked both it and Seinfeld. They had some similarities – but all sitcoms have some similarities – this is why they can be classified into a genre called “sitcom”. But rip-off? No, it was not a rip-off. I enjoyed Seinfeld and all but the last season of Ellen.

            2. Friends (including title) was a rip off of it.

              Ellen started in March of 1994 as a replacement. Friends started in Sept of 1994.

  2. “over at Andrew Sullivan’s site”

    That tells me all I need to know about whether to take the article seriously. If the website of a vagina obsessed pervert is the only home an article can find, it by definition is not a serious article.

    1. pervert-expert, it’s a fine line.

      1. While Andrew Sullivan may be an expert on many things, I am going to take a wild guess you cannot count “vagina” among them.

    2. I was expecting to be revolted and angry, and was disappointed to find that I kind of liked it.

      1. I read the whole thing, and it actually sounds like something you could read here. Quite decent. If you hold your bile down (it’s not a Sullivan article), you might find it worthwhile to take a look.

  3. Followed the link, then followed two links from it to other blogs taking down Beam. Both of them had their comment sections closed. WTF? I want to know what happened in the comments to cause that universally.

    1. I’ve only been commenting here a year or so, but has reason ever shut down the comment threads here?

      1. You’ve been here a year and you missed “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” comments being closed??

        1. Too bad I missed that one.

      2. Well, there was that Mohammad cartoons business. And the Day of the Commenters. Though the latter just involved certain scripts, images, and videos vanishing, not a whole thread takedown.

        1. I do remember the day with all images.

        2. Well, I’m pissed. I was the one who did some colored text (making a warcraft themed joke), and I don’t get a mention at all (on the wikipage that Urk linked, since he didn’t want to name names.)

          Fucking Ingrates.

          PS: using style code is hardly an exploit. That the blog hadn’t already locked it out was an oversight, nothing more.

          1. When the videos started running, we were within minutes of a SugarFree DEFCON 5.

            1. I’m not saying I brought the technique to it’s fullest usage, just exposed it for others to expand upon.

              1. (inadvertently, I might add.)

            2. DEFCON 5 status indicates no threats and that all is right with the world…unless that is what you meant.


              DEFCON 1 is imminent war, and is codenamed COCKED PISTOL

              1. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

        3. No use. The Urkobold always hangs my browser. Is there some protected mode that works against The Urkobold? Is the Google cache of The Urkobold safe viewing?

          1. Really? That’s annoying. It’s not pornographic or anything.

            Must be some sort of anti-troll prejudice at work at Google.

            1. No, I mean is there a way I can browse The Urkobold without hanging my browser?

      3. There was an incident involving a litigious man who may or may not fuck sheep.

        That comments thread was deleted.

        1. Right, forgot that one.

        2. Was that the lawyer who sued anyone who criticized him, that Reason criticized and who then sued Reason, and Reason blamed the usual pervert commenters?

        3. Actually, I remember I was on that night, and noticed they were deleting certain comments in real time on that thread. Didn’t know they went and deleted all of them.

          1. “The night Reason Died”

            1. I hate that song.

              1. The Night they Drove Ol’ Reason Down?

                1. “For Those About to Reason (We Salute You)?”

                  1. “The Night the Lights Went Out in Reason?”

                    1. “We Built This City”?

                    2. [Makes the sign to ward off the evil eye]

                      You named it!

        4. Those. Comments. Were. Genius.

          One of my life’s regrets is that I was too weak from laughter to archive them.

        5. I’m still in a secure location, at the behest of Warty.

  4. BTW I’m a bit surprised that Reason hasn’t touched on America’s latest media frenzy over the smutty tapes made by the Captain of the Enterprise.

    1. Please, please tell me that by that title you mean the Shat. Please let it be.

      1. Not quite. It’s Picard/Guinan, with a pantless Wesley manning the camcorder.

        1. You mean it’s not Riker in a gay bear video?

    2. What is the libertarian position on green chicks?

      1. It’s a five year mission, or maybe he said missionary…

      2. Reverse cowgirl.


      4. A “Rusty Venture”.

    3. In Starfleet courts, adultery with James Tiberius Kirk is not considered grounds for divorce.

      1. Those words have no meaning when used together.

    4. Yeah-I’ve been following that over at AOSHQ. It was pretty stupid what he did. A senior officer can be a character, but he probably shouldn’t court popularity (and that struck me as what CAPT Honors was doing). Leave stuff like that to the Senior NCOs, and for God’s sake-don’t tape it!

      1. Oh, you mean the real Enterprise. I thought for a moment that 2011 was going to be the best year ever. Now I’m merely bored.

        1. What? What a gyp!

          [mutters and continues work on Janeway sex shrine]

          1. The only good thing about her is that she was in Remo Williams.

            1. How could you have neglected her seminal work in Mrs. Columbo?

              1. I blinked.

            2. Sadly, I watched for two hours but she never got Remo’d.

              1. That’s in the sequel, except she gets Chiuned.

            3. She was in an episode of Police Squad.

              1. The Mulgrew is everywhere.

              2. That’s when Chiun takes her like a Korean.

    5. Fighter jock acts without thinking. Result is both lewd and poor film-making. Dog bites man.

      1. Speaking of which, this costs you your wings.

      2. The fighter jock will be replaced in the coming years by fat kids at drone control panels who never leave the States, much less step foot on a ship.

        1. In all seriousness, you’d think Microsoft would’ve been pressured into giving away FlightSim by now. Or, better, the guys at Xplane.

  5. Chris Beam’s New York explanation/takedown of libertarianism

    You mean that someone would have the mendacity to make an argument against libertarianism through blatant misrepresentation?

    Heaven forfend!

  6. Apparently Sarah Palin tweeted in support of the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell. I wonder if this will get Sullivan to stop reading her OBGYN records.…..ina-trinko

    1. I don’t know who is more obsessed with Palin’s tweeter; you or Sullivan.

      1. I have it on good authority (the voices in my head) that Sarah Palin’s tweeter can sing opera.

  7. “The Trouble With Liberty” by Christopher Beam.

    I wonder if nobody noticed the perfuctory contradiction from that title… as the author was clearly FREE to write it (i.e. an exercise of his LIBERTY.)

    “Since the fall of the Soviet Union, though, socialism isn’t the menace it used to be. Hitler is long gone. Yet libertarians still cite Hayek and Rand with the same urgency.”

    We can all roll over and go to sleep, because socialism is not what it used to be.

    “Libertarian minarchy is an elegant idea in the abstract. But the moment you get specific, the foundation starts to crumble [OM: of course]. Say we started from scratch and created a society in which government covered only the bare essentials of an army, police, and a courts system. I’m a farmer, and I want to sell my crops. In Libertopia, I can sell them in exchange for money. Where does the money come from? Easy, a private bank.

    I do like a writer who can demonstrate his utter lack of knowledge of economics in a straightforward sense.

    Money does not come from banks. It is STORED in banks by people who TRADE IT.

    “Who prints the money? Well, for that we’d need a central bank ? otherwise you’d have a thousand banks with a thousand different types of currency. (Some libertarians advocate this.) Okay, fine, we’ll create a central bank.”

    The author quickly goes astray, again due to his utter and pathetic lack of knowledge of even the most superficial knowledge of economics. Money is not “printed money,” it is whatever the market agrees to be. Central banks only become central because of force, coersion, aggression, not because the market requires it.

    “But there’s another problem: Some people don’t have jobs. So we create charities to feed and clothe them.”

    So the author assumes a person without a job in a libertarian society must be a pauper, instead of someone just switching jobs or enjoying a “sabbatical” or becoming a student or winning a lottery or an inheritance…

    “What if there isn’t enough charity money to help them?”

    I thought there was a central bank available to print it.

    “Well, we don’t want them to start stealing, so we’d better create a welfare system to cover their basic necessities.”

    We don’t want to steal, so we set up a thieving system that we don’t call “thieving.”

    1. “Well, we don’t want them to start stealing, so we’d better create a welfare system to cover their basic necessities.”

      So the whole thing is just one big protection racket?
      ‘Hey, nice little life you got there. Shame if something happened’

      1. More or less…

        There really isn’t that much of a difference between the government, an insurance company, and the mafia.

        (which probably goes a long way to explaining why, having done a pretty good job at bringing the mafia under control, the government now turns its eyes to controlling the insurance companies…)

    2. Good god. The stupid is overwhelming.

    3. Well done OM, I might copy and post that whole posting of yours.
      I hope you don’t mind.

  8. I like it.

    Also, fuck Beam, in his ass, again, with his own dick, if he has one.

    That is all.

    1. Your use of the comma is sheer artistry.

  9. You see, the Chinese don’t need to conquer Taiwan by sinking an aircraft carrier with missiles or nukes. No, all they need to do is make a public stink that they were offended by an Admiral’s racist remarks and the whole US battlefleet will be suspended with pay pending investigation.

    1. Why didn’t I think of that? I had a little bit of help from FDR in Pearl Harbor but then he turned on me that backstabber. I could have used a tactic like you are describing.

  10. I pretty much agree with everything in that first excerpt. Except that Mila Kunis should be my housepet. I promise to treat her well.

    Well, except for all the spankings, that is-I’m afraid that those will be unavoidable.

    1. Now that she split with her longtime boyfriend Macauley Culkin, I’m sure you’ll have a shot at that if you hurry.

    2. I also cannot figure out the purpose of Doherty’s post. Beam’s excerpt is pretty good and fair, while Friedersdorf’s writeup is not funny. Last week everyone was piling on Beam’s article, but there’s nothing to complain about in this particular excerpt.

      1. You might wanna check OM’s fisking above.

        1. OM didn’t fisk the first excerpt in this post. Coincidence, I guess.

      2. Re: Grizzly,

        Beam’s excerpt is pretty good and fair[…]

        You should read Beam’s essay. It goes downhill very rapidly.

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