Libertarian History/Philosophy

My Pants Are Baggy, My Shoes Are Tight, My Balls Are Post Is Swinging From Left to Right


The Dark Side version of this song has been in my head, nonstop, for 10 days

So, the Washington Post Opinion section has decided to sort its contributors into categories marked "right" or "left." This is certainly not new–I remember the L.A. Times having "Column Left" and "Column Right" for much of the '90s, and probably some of the Naughties–but what is kind of fresh is the immediate derision with which the move is being greeted, including by people you might consider as resting comfortably within one of the two tents. A quick trawl through my Twitter feed picks up raspberries from Matthew Yglesias, Adam L. Penenberg, Steve Silberman, Hamilton Nolan, and many others. As Penenberg says, "Shouldn't we reject binary labels like left + right?…Many of us embrace positions that veer all over the political map." More from Nolan:

Goodbye, nuance. Adios, iconoclasts. Sayonara, free thinkers. WaPo columnists are now assigned one box or the other, and that's where they'll stay. […] Anyone whose beliefs fall anywhere outside of these boxes is simply not to be taken seriously.

In Somalia, natch

I think there's something more interesting going on here than just the usual I-am-too-a-snowflake special pleading. For one thing, well, we are special snowflakes, each and every one of us, with rapidly hyphenating identities in every other realm, from music to the workplace to sexuality to socal media. There is no natural reason that politics as experienced and expressed on the individual level would or should be immune to this happy speciation of modern life. It's no wonder that the non-affiliated are now a larger bloc than either Democrat- or Republican-leaners and growing by the minute. This is a major theme of Nick Gillespie's and my upcoming book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, which you can pre-order today!

Libertarians, of course, have a special relationship with this pigeonholing. Was a time when I used to expend energy trying to correct people's mislabelings and agitate for a more multitudinous framework to describe individuals. But now I think the battle has been won, or at least the onus of getting it right has shifted from us marginalized weirdos to them institutional crust-buckets. Insisting on a binary left/right framework in political journalism in the year 2011 is like entering your own name in the newspaper death pool.

NEXT: Jury Nullification Activist Can't Get Arrested in Orlando

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  1. Naughties

    How is it that I went the enitre decade without using that word once? I feel cheated!

    1. On point though, the problem that I see is that even when you can get an independent minded individual to understand libertarianism they still want to side with one or the other. Not just for practical purposes either. I have had unaffiliated voters argue that they have more political clout than a third party…no kidding. The problem with the approach of “a little this and a little that” is you will be defined by others and I think libertarians do a poor job of fighting the “define or be defined” battle, hence our current predicament.

      I am optimistic though that this old false dichotomy seems to be breaking down. (for some pessimism, see what happened in Germany when Schroeder was ousted…the L v R simply stopped fighting each other and merged to defeat the third choices threat…I can see the Ds and Rs merging and I would laugh, a lot).

  2. The Chattanooga Times Free Press puts the lib columnist on the left and the conservative columnist on the right. The only problem is the cartoonist, he’s a Democrat Obama lover. Oh how I hate that cartoonist.

    Marxists need to move to San Francisco, have them bound and gagged at the Folsom Street Fair, but for the love of God, get them out of the South!


    1. You are so fucking stupid, that I think you gave me cancer.

      1. I think you gave me cancer

        If only!

        1. If only you were capable of getting Calculon references.

        2. I see what you did there.

      2. We can only hope, Epislarch. I must warn you, though, while I do not protest funerals I might consider pissing on your grave. I hope you enjoy my golden shower, Obama-lover!

        1. You have to be a spoof. Have to be.

          1. Gregory Smith is the monstrous love child of Donderoooooo and Thomas L Friedman. Publicly declaring that he is into watersports is just his way of demonstrating his GOP closet-case bonafides.

            1. Right, because only Republicans can be into bondage. First of all, I was making a joke, against someone who insulted me. Secondly, if more like a child of Ann Coulter and John Stossel with a dash of Larry Flynt.

              1. Bondage? Oh Gregooooooo you so crazy.

              2. So, literally a pot-smoking Republican? Well, I guess that’s what they mean by “the exception that proves the rule”.

          2. It’s Neal!

        2. I love how angry you make these idiots by calling yourself a libertarian; it’s priceless.

          1. Thanks. You must be a real libertarian unlike them.

            1. You sound interesting. Maybe you live close by. Are you into other guys?

              1. Welll, there was that Folsom Street bondage thing…

        3. Epi what kind of beer do you like? Gregory could give you some used [insert name of your favorite adult beverage here]!!

          1. I doubt I drink the beer that a “real American” and “libertarian” such as Gregster drinks. I mean, piss in, piss out, right?

            1. There was an opportunity for a Blue Velvet joke, right there, Epi. What happened?

              1. I just did one yesterday. My stalker would hassle me for being repetitive, and you know how much that matters to me.

                1. PBR though. You just can’t get that close to the ground piss in the mouth taste experience without it. Best when warm.

                  1. Ranier is even worse.

                    1. But their commercial with the guy on the motorcycle with the soundtrack that mimics the shifting of gears as the bike accelerates…”rrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaiiiiii—nnnneeeeeerrrrrrrrr—beeeeerrrrrrr,” was epic.

              2. Are you calling me gay? I didn’t know libertarians were allowed to be homophobic. Then again, socialists and Marxists are often homophobic, which one are you?

                1. Are you retarded? I called alan gay.

                  1. He is retarded. Especially if he can’t figure out the difference between the personal and the political which is at the heart of libertarianism.

                    1. I’ll call Gregory teh gai just to keep the fight going

                      GAITARD GREGORY!!! FAAAAAAAAAAG!!!

                      *sits back to continue to enjoy the bitch fight*

                    2. Whatever Almanian, you’re just like those stupid liberals who call me racist just because I defend the confederate flag and the rights of southeners to celebrate their history just like blacks celebrate Kwaanzaa (an invented holiday btw).

  3. Is there anyone who gives the slightest shit what the Washington Post does?

    1. Appletini-swilling Beltway insiders like Matt Welch?

      1. I’m still trying to get over being insulted at being lumped in with “independents”.

    2. Only in their sports section, which sucks. I like reading papers. In DC I get both WP and WT. WT stopped sports, and Saturday and Sunday service a few years ago. Limited to WP for sports. God they suck!!!

    3. We do?

      1. Both of you?

        1. That’s funny every time!

        2. What is: 17 times more people than read Reason?

    4. Gregory Smith?

  4. This is a major theme of Nick Gillespie’s and my upcoming book…

    Is this whole post an excuse to hawk your book? You sneaky rightwingers…

    1. Better get used to it…

      This seems more an attempt for the Washington Post to make a false claim for ideological balance on its op-ed page, after years of accurate criticism that it leaned heavily to the right, particularly on foreign policy. Anyway, the biggest problem isn’t the “I’m a Special Snowflake” argument, but that the Post will avoid actually having any sort of debate on the Issues of the Day by sticking a hack like Richard Cohen or Charles Lane in the left column.


        1. That’s funny every time!

          1. You’re not funny every time! Amazing!

            1. I don’t pretend to be!


    2. Is this whole post an excuse to hawk your book?

      Freedom Bitches: Coming to a Store Near You

      says, “It’s no Atlas Shrugged you narcissistic douches”

      Episiarch says, “Obscure Dune reference, and get cancer”

      rather says, “read all about on my blog, needle dick”

      Tulpa says, “I don’t think that you guys used proper MLA citation rules for all of your references, and furthermore blah blah blah…”

      capitol l says, “Fuckity fucking cunt shit fuckers, line em’ up against the fucking wall shit and stuff”

      Gregory Smith says, “Welch, you remind me of a fagixstott, that would be a faggot marxist, and i bet your shitty book is 300 pages of oballatio, that’s Obama fellatio.

      1. *claps, crescendoing as the crowd joins*

      2. This is the best thing posted here in weeks. Bra-fucking-vo.

        1. Well, ProL is the Dune reference guy, not me.

          1. *sigh* ok, Elric reference. Better? Speaking of which….

            1. “Hello lady or gentleman of the house. My name is insert name and I am the one and only Moon Master, savior of…uh… Oh man. They already talked to you, didn’t they? Dammit!”

              1. Oh, right. SugarFree is the sci-fi / fantasy reference person. You’re Adult Swim.

                “Those dogs can smell anything. That’s why you gotta kick ’em in the throat!”

                1. You’re so obsessed with putting people into categories. What are you, the WashPo?

                  1. putting people into categories

                    TEAM RED/TEAM BLUE!

      3. Episiarch says, “Obscure Dune reference, and get cancer”

        I notice Shrike is missing from that list.

        Also, Mr. Episiarch would say: “TEAM RED and TEAM BLUE can suck my freshly lasered, tortoise shell slick balls. Because, naturally, they are. With beer. Perverts. [Then insert obscure pop culture reference]”

        1. Shrike is too obvious. Christfags-Fat Rush-Palin-etc yawn.

      4. Somehow I transformed into an English professor in this version, but OK.

        Swap out MLA ignorance with giving decimal approximations instead of exact answers (damning evidence of CALCUL***R usage).

  5. Also Matt, truly excellent alt-text.

  6. The new left/right paradigm effectively doubles the number of previous WaPo categories: statists.

  7. Here’s something to get in your head, Matt. Ron Tagg rocks!…..ded#at=243

    TAGG Plays the Pennant East (Brooklawn, NJ) This SAT March 19th, 2011 with Stone and Diamond Dogs!


    1. Obsess much?

      1. If he’s going to obsess, he could at least be funny and/or clever.

        1. I have many times lamented the quality of my stalkers. If only I could hire NutraSweet to stalk me; but I did take that restraining order out on him.

          1. Market Failure!

          2. If you would like Epi, I can boil a beloved family pet for you.

            1. Are you at least better looking than Glenn Close?

              1. I’m better looking than Glenn Close.

                1. I’m better looking than Glenn Close.

                  So am I.

              2. Well, yeah. But that’s a pretty low bar. 75% of Reasonoids can even meet that standard.

                1. Fine, jerks. Are you better looking than Yvonne Strahovski?

                  1. According to my family, I look like this chick:


                    1. That’ll do.

                    2. Cote has a cute chin and that is an under rated feature. I hate that show though, and how they make her wear her hair on it which over emphasizes her pointy hair line. Otherwise, good lookin’ woman.

                    3. According to my family, I look like this chick…

                      Really? *clears throat* …have I told you about my collection of rare Gibson banjos?

                    4. *swoons*

                  2. Dude, nobody on here is better looking than her.

      2. I come here to make the puppets dance.
        Funny puppets!

        1. You’re definitely a puppet, but not a funny one.

        2. Terrible. At least try, dipshit.

          1. Both of you danced!
            Obedient puppets!

  9. I think there’s something more interesting going on here than just the usual I-am-too-a-snowflake special pleading.

    My guess is that this is simple data mining. By doing this they can get a better idea of what kind of people are visiting their site. As an added bonus, they can now also find out which category of people are going out of their way to seek out self-reinforcing opinions more often.

  10. Is it really too much to ask for a “Pro-Government” “Anti-Government” split? You could find plenty of fodder to get the bored to write Op-Ed Letters with that. Imagine the first time the Greater Washington Area read “Dismantle our Standing Army”. That would get the chatter up.

  11. For one thing, well, we are special snowflakes, each and every one of us, with rapidly hyphenating identities in every other realm, from music to the workplace to sexuality to socal media.

    Yet another reason to hold out hope that global warming is real. Special snowflakes indeed. Pa-tooey.

    1. So what do you think? We are all interchangeable meat-machines?

      1. We are all interchangeable meat-machines?

        Loaded question much? I think this type of mental coddling has given us a generation of entitled hipster doofus slackers more interested in “finding themselves” in useless social content soup degrees than more marketable courses of study and endeavors. In your sense “interchangability”, yes, a good many jobs can be performed by a large amount of the population. Diversity is a good, not a goal unto itself.

        1. So they made a subjective value judgment that “finding themselves” was more important than being marketable. As long as they don’t pick my pocket or break my leg, so the hell what?

          1. As long as they don’t pick my pocket or break my leg, so the hell what?

            Public Sector Unions? Odds are, these “found” ideologues will be picking our pockets (too late) and then even have the gall to bitch about what has been provided. IOW, the entitlement mindset.

            1. So I’m not, nor have I ever been a snowflake. “big frowny face”

            2. I don’t know, that’s a pretty blanket statement. I have a softy degree in medieval / renaissance history, and I work for a bank. Doesn’t say much for the value of the degree, but I’m certainly providing taxes, not taking them.

              1. I don’t know, that’s a pretty blanket statement.

                You’re right, Jim. And to be fair, I work in an area that requires skilled training, so I am probably being somewhat unfair. It’s moreso the entitlement mindset that gets my goat, and that “we’re all little snowflakes” nonsense doesn’t help. I doubt seriously your bank cares if you are a “snowflake” and worried about your self-esteem. They care that your bank is solvent, ledgers reconcile, and clients’ accounts are in order with prudent loans issued. Unless your bank happens to be The Fed. (grins)

                1. I’d love to see a political spectrum of college degrees. Useless degrees like art and theatre would heavily gravitate in the thievery part of the spectrum.

                  1. I have a completely worthless theatre tech degree. I knew I wasn’t going to work in theatre around my sophomore year when I realized that I would have to join a union and work with whiny, overly-dramatic twats.

                2. Pffft, I was thinking about not mentioning that my bank took MASSIVE bailout money, which I suppose means I owe my job to the gov’t. But hell, it’s not like I ever stopped paying taxes, or signed up for a hand-out. I can truthfully say the only two things I’ve ever “taken advantage of” are 1) federally subsidized student loans (which I haven’t defaulted on), and 2) the mortgage interest deduction.

                  I got the degree in hopes of writing for some specialty publishers, like Osprey. So far, nothing, but I’ve only had one manuscript that I submitted, so I need to get cracking on a second effort.

      2. Let’s leave the Sybians out of this, shall we.

        1. I agree, goats need no scape goating.

  12. This is an argument you largely can’t win.

    Libertarians are increasingly being labeled as “The Far Right”.

    It doesn’t matter what you call yourself, someone else is always happy to label you.

    1. But of course! Libertarians do share some positions with the far right, or are you gonna tell me that libertarians support gun control, the progressive income tax, regulation of businesses and the invasive measures of the EPA?

      Face it, to the left you’re all a bunch of heartless people. It’s with the right you can negotiate! Ask John Stossel, if it wasn’t for the right his career would be kaput.

      1. It’s with the right you can negotiate!

        As long as it’s not about teh gayz, reducing military spending and foreign adventurism, or getting your nutsack groped by the TSA in defense of liberty. Oh, and ag subsidies, protectionism, and the War on Drugs.

        Otherwise yeah, the GOP are totally fucking libertarians.

        1. I think two of the last three both Team Red and Team Blue stand against you, and protectionism is more Team Blue than Red.

          Libertarianism is going nowhere until it develops a team color. And plaid, no matter how appropriate, doesn’t count.

          1. Green’s already taken, so that leaves something in a pinkish or brown hue.

            1. fuck it. Lets steal green from the greens. We’ve alrady had liberal stolen from us. Plus, pissing of a bunch of greenies might be one thing we can actually accomplish.

            2. I like the idea of using brown. No one else really wants it, and it will give TIME magazine the opportunity to run a cover story about the swelling brown movement in American politics.

              1. It’s taken. And, “swelling brown movement,” indeed!

              2. You do remember that brown already has unfortunate historical political connotations, right? Something about supporting a certain Austrian paper hanger.

                1. You do remember that brown already has unfortunate historical political connotations, right?

                  The proper formulation is, “You know who else liked brown?”

          2. Gold. For Ron Paul.

          3. As a True Scotsman, I say we pick Tartan. Preferably Clan Maclean tartan, since it is known and acknowledged by EVERYONE within Clan Maclean that Clan Maclean is superior.

          4. Lilac. The best of Red and Blue, only less. And it’ll show we don’t hate teh Gayz.

          5. Libertarianism is going nowhere until it develops a team color.

            Lavender is the right color for you pussies.

        2. There are plenty of Republicans who oppose the TSA, foreign adventurism, ag subsidies, protectionism and the War on Drugs. In fact, when opinion polls were taken most republicans did support ending DADT.

          Yet when the Democrats get in power, they raise your taxes, they impose draconian enviromental laws, they persecute the industries that create jobs while rewarding the ones that don’t, they raise government spending to obscene levels, and they declare war to legal drugs like tobacco and e-cigarettes.

          So yes, Republicans aren’t perfect, but between the Marxism on the left and the Patriotism on the right, I think I like the right better. And between guns and same-sex marriage, I think guns are far more important. Even if you’re gay you can’t get married if you’re dead.

          Rango Smoking Controversy: Common Sense from A Parent.

          1. There are plenty of Republicans who oppose the TSA, foreign adventurism, ag subsidies, protectionism and the War on Drugs. In fact, when opinion polls were taken most republicans did support ending DADT.

            So I guess they just don’t vote. Otherwise how can you explain John Boehner as SOTH, and John McCain’s continued existence in the Senate?

            1. Speaker is largely a seniority/jockeying amongst other reps thing…and John McCain nearly lost in the primaries.

            2. Damn, beat me to it. “Polls” are meaningless; most dems polled support ending the WoD also, but you don’t see Team Blue pols lining up to vote it away. What the rank and file tell a telephone pollster is utter crap; what matters is who they elect. And both teams elect douchebags.

      2. Stossel actually came from the left.

  13. Goodbye, nuance. Adios, iconoclasts. Sayonara, free thinkers. WaPo columnists are now assigned one box or the other, and that’s where they’ll stay. […] Anyone whose beliefs fall anywhere outside of these boxes is simply not to be taken seriously.

    That ship sailed some time ago. We might as well label the teams.

    1. I don’t buy eggs unless it says right on the carton, eggz.

  14. Why does the WaPo think it only offers two flavors of wrong?

  15. OH! I thought that they were saying they liked “snowBALLS”, and I was thinking I dig chicks that are into that….

    Snow FLAKES. Got it.

    My bad. Never mind.

  16. A lot of the ‘no labels!!!’ cry would be a lot more heartening if it wasn’t being made by folks who have a profound stake in selling liberal punditry under centrist guise.

    That’s not a Right/Left preference shot; the faux-centrist thing is quite the deal with a number of pundits.

    1. Lol! I’ve already forgotten about those ‘No Labels’ guys. Fresh me up on what they are about again, if you please?

  17. Two things:

    1) When the fuck is that book by Matt and Nick coming out, anyway? It’s been on my amazon wish list for months.

    2) Did anyone happen to see the “featured columns” on the WaPo opinion page? Check these four leads:

    Big words, little action on schools
    Obama has a strong education rhetoric, but where’s the policy to follow through?

    Mad Hatters
    In state legislatures, Tea Partyers take democracy to absurd lengths.

    We’re not infallible
    Japan’s disaster ? and the financial crisis ? underscore the need for regulation.

    Call me a deficit panda
    It is possible to worry about debt and believe in a compassionate government.

    What exactly do they need a “right” category for in the first place?

    1. I don’t know, based entirely on the lede, the education one could be criticizing him for not pushing legislation to ban federal funding for schools where teacher unions have collective bargaining powers. Or conditioning it on states implementing school voucher plans.

      (Okay, it wasn’t. But it could have been, if this was something other than the WaPo!)

  18. It isn’t so much left and right anymore as it’s pro-president and anti-president.

    It’s been that way for a long time.

    I wish people could be broken down philosophically, but as Reason’s made so clear over the years, the differences between Bush and Obama, for instance, are mostly cosmetic.

    There are people who are for the president and people who are against the president, and I think most libertarians have been squarely in the anti-president column, whoever was president, for decades!

    Being against the emperor is like our natural habitat.

    So, anyway, if the Washington Post were honest, they should dump left vs. right for pro-president vs. anti-president.

  19. The irony of that cover is you’ve got Palin down as a social conservative, even though there’s very little evidence her views on government actually are socially conservative, even if her personal views may be. Prejudice, indeed.

    1. I am pro-life and I believe that marriage should only be between and man and a woman. I am opposed to any expansion of gambling in Alaska.
      Source: Campaign website,, “Issues” Nov 7, 2006

      1. That’s not hardcore social conservatism there, MNG. Plenty of moderates take those views. See what she thinks about prayer in schools, abstinence education, intel design in schools.

    2. Here are the five statements in the personal freedom section:

      Government should not censor speech, press, media, or internet.

      Military service should be voluntary. There should be no draft.

      There should be no laws regarding sex for consenting adults.

      Repeal laws prohibiting adult possession and use of drugs.

      There should be no National ID card.

      One can choose Agree for 20 points, Maybe for 10 points, and Disagree for 0 points.

      Calling for the death of Julian Assange gives her a 0 in the censorship column, not to mention her antics with the Wasilla public library system and her inability to comprehend the 1st Amendment re: Laura Schlessinger and Westboro Baptist. 20 points for disagreeing with the draft (I can’t find anything substantial on her opinion, so I’ll err on the side of her running mate). 20 points for laws regarding consensual sex–again no source but I don’t see her opposing which Republicans are usually vocal about. 0 points for repeal of drug prohibition laws (she just supports less enforcement, she still thinks drugs should be illegal). She supports Real ID–0 points.

      That puts her at 40 points on the personal freedom spectrum. She should be one more square left-diagonal than she currently is.

      1. Ron Paul should be at the top then. He doesn’t disagree with any of those questions.

        I seem to recall there being an immigration question in the test…did that get swapped out for RealID?

  20. Labels are subjective, parties are not — they should just stick with Republican, Democrat, or Independent/Third Party. If the writer is registered, they should use their affiliation. Otherwise, they can pick whichever category, though the editor should send it back if he thinks their choice of label is misleading to the audience.

  21. Libertarians are a team, they are a just a small team compared to the two big boys. Independents are not a teamT they are all the small teams plus all the people who cannot be bothered to pick a team. Independent & Libertarian are not the same thing.

  22. The album art reminds me of a scene from Tolkien’s “Children of Hurin.”

  23. “Some balls are held for charity
    And some for fancy dress
    But when they’re held for pleasure
    They’re the balls that I like best
    My balls are always bouncing
    To the left and to the right
    It’s my belief that my big balls
    Should be held every night”

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