14th Amendment

Do Libertarians Care More about States' Rights or State Abuses of Power?

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Over the past week, Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan has been weighing the pros and cons of libertarianism. On Friday, he brought his readers into the discussion, publishing several of their negative takes. One comment in particular struck me as worth responding to. Here's what Sullivan published:

A real libertarian should be just as concerned about a State government's infringement of individual liberty as the Federal government's. There should be no distinction. Period. Instead, for some strange reason, American libertarians always rail against Federal power and champion the cause of unfettered State power. Why do you think American libertarians historically champion the cause of unfettered State power in the name of "individual liberty"?

Moorfield Storey

For starters, it is completely incorrect to say that "American libertarians historically champion the cause of unfettered State power." Moorfield Storey, the great libertarian lawyer who co-founded the NAACP and served as its first president, won the 1917 Supreme Court case of Buchanan v. Warley by arguing that a Jim Crow residential segregation law in Louisville, Kentucky violated property rights under the 14th Amendment, which commands, "No State shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Storey correctly argued that the 14th Amendment forbids state and local governments from violating the rights of both blacks and whites.

Take a look at three of the most prominent Supreme Court cases from recent years and you'll find libertarians making the exact same argument in favor of individual rights and against unfettered state and local power:

• In 2003 the libertarian Cato Institute and the libertarian Institute for Justice each submitted friend of the court briefs in the case of Lawrence v. Texas urging the Supreme Court to strike down that state's odious ban on gay sex. In his majority opinion nullifying Texas' Homosexual Conduct Law, Justice Anthony Kennedy repeatedly cited the arguments put forward in the Cato brief. So much for championing unfettered state power.

• In 2005 the aforementioned Institute for Justice brought the case of Kelo v. City of New London to the Supreme Court. At issue was an eminent domain land grab by local officials in New London, Connecticut. Regrettably, the Court got that one wrong. Nonetheless, the libertarians who litigated the case (and thereby brought eminent domain abuse into the national spotlight) did so by urging the federal courts to force local officials to respect fundamental rights under the Constitution.

• Finally, in the 2010 case of McDonald v. Chicago, libertarian lawyer Alan Gura convinced the Supreme Court to strike down Chicago's draconian handgun ban because it violated the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as applied to the states via the 14th Amendment. Once again, this was a libertarian argument which held that state and local governments may not violate fundamental rights.

I happen to agree that "a real libertarian should be just as concerned about a State government's infringement of individual liberty as the Federal government's." But as the facts clearly demonstrate, plenty of real libertarians are concerned with both.

NEXT: Steve Chapman on Rick Santorum's Moral Delusions

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  1. A real libertarian should be just as concerned about a State government’s infringement of individual liberty as the Federal government’s.

    (1) Yeah, when I want to know what “real libertarians” should think, I always ask Andrew Sullivan.

    (2) Apparently, Nuancy Boy Andrew can’t quite grasp the distinction between a federal government of limited enumerated powers, and state governments that have broader powers but are still constrained by the Bill of Rights.

    1. While I do think the states maybe have too much power on paper, they’re easier to grapple with than the mostly unlimited federal government. And, of course, the states have the additional checks of federal supremacy and the incorporation of the Bill of Rights via the 14th.

      1. Don’t forget the states don’t go around bombing other countries. I understand that the main topic here is the abuse of power on their citizens by the feds or states, but the feds’ power to destroy lives all around the world, including Americans abroad, is not totally irrelevant.

        1. That, too.

        2. I heard that they all thank us for bombing them.

      2. As I like to say, I know where my mayor lives. If he becomes Stalin, I can kill him myself.

        Dispersal of power is a good thing.

        1. let’s be honest, if you were really crafty and motivated you could find a way [insert rest here]

          1. [to give yourself a blowjob]

    2. Yeah, I think this thread could pretty much end after RC’s first point. Unfettered State power? Seriously?

    3. @R C Dean, the quote is a reader-submitted comment on Sullivan’s blog forum. He didn’t write it, which you’d know if you actually read things before commenting. Further, you veiled homophobic slur reflects more poorly on Libertarianism than anything Sullivan or his readers might say. You certainly have the right to be a gay-baiting jackass if you so choose. I’m simply exercising my own right to call you on it.

      1. B+

      2. Yes, because being fatuously unconstrained by the protocols of political correctness reflects poorly on libertarians like him, because, you know, they’re not full of shit.

        I totally agree. Here’s a great site you might enjoy and identify with, Clay:

        http://www.cpusa.org

        1. Sensitive little guy, aren’t you.

          1. Sensitive? Sure. I have a minuscule tolerance for bullshit. Little? Not really. 6’3”.

            It would be really ironic if you turned out to be a dwarf.

            1. You write like a little man.

      3. Gaybaiting? Because of “nuancy boy”? Get a dictionary. He didnt say “Nancy boy”.

        1. Dictionaries are published by evil private enterprises that just want to indoctrinate you with their corporate vocabulary. Fucking Nazis!

      4. the quote is a reader-submitted comment on Sullivan’s blog forum.

        My bad. Allow me to correct my comment:

        Yeah, when I want to know what “real libertarians” should think, I always ask check Andrew Sullivan‘s blog.

        Further, you veiled homophobic slur reflects more poorly

        Oh, piffle. I use the “nuancy boy” jape without regard for people’s recereational preferences, which to me fall somewhere between irrelevant and uninteresting.

        1. I was trying to remember where I first saw “nuancy boy” (sorry, gang, I didn’t invent it all by my lonesome). Turns out that Mark Steyn hung it on John Kerry in 2004.

          1. I think the underlying homophobia is less offensive than the suggestion that nuance is a bad thing.

            1. By noting that Sullivan’s commenter missed out on a distinction, I imply that nuance is a bad thing?

              And a quip that was originally directed at John Kerry is homophobic?

            2. If you go back and read the context, you will see that it was anything but a suggestion that nuance is a bad thing. Quote to the contrary, it was pointing out how the commenter had completely overlooked a distinction.

              1. Comprehension fail by Tony ? Say it aint’ so !

    4. “nuancy boy” Good one, RC.

    5. The problem many have understanding the term “states rights” is the term itself. Simply put states do not have rights. States have powers, not rights. Long ago it became common to refer to these powers as “states rights” which seems to compete with a person’s rights. There is no such competition. RC Dean is correct in that many people have trouble grasping the distinction.

  2. Andy boy could point to a guy like Kinsella.

  3. Nuancy Boy…i lol’e out loud at that

  4. Instead, for some strange reason, American libertarians always rail against Federal power and champion the cause of unfettered State power.

    The most effective arguments against libertarians wear overalls and straw hats.

  5. Why do you think American libertarians historically champion the cause of unfettered State power in the name of “individual liberty”?

    I’d add a couple of points.

    1) If I don’t like living in one state, I can move and still stay in the same country. Harder to trap people when they have 49 other choices.

    2) Libertarianism, much like Goldwater era conservatism, resonated as a reaction to FDR, the New Deal and subsequent expansion of federal power.

    While the states’ power has in some ways been reduced over the decades since, the federal government’s power has exploded.

    It’s only natural to focus on the massive expansion.

    3) Ask any libertarian here on this site, who followed the fights over government employee unions and their benefits over the last year at Hit & Run, and then tell me that libertarians don’t care about crimping the power of the states.

    1. Yes. It’s called FEDERALISM.

      If the federal government is properly constrained, states should have at least the capability to exercise more power in the lives of individuals than the federal government.

      I get upset about abuse of state power but…
      1. It’s far easier to roll-back state power through elections.
      2. As Ken notes, you can vote with your feet – I have voted against MA that way.
      3. States can’t print money. If they go far enough off the deep-end, like CA, bankruptcy will follow.

      1. technically, the feds can’t print money either, but they do anyway.

    2. You’re giving these people far too much credit; your assumption, I take it, is that they either didn’t do enough research, or misconstrued the research they did. I believe they’re clueless and full of shit.

      “oh oh oh, like texas bans dildos, and ron paul is texan, and he’s like a libertarian and likes the constitution, and he doesnt like the fed and said somthing aboyt state’s rites, so obviously libertarins hate freedom and support unlimited states rites!! ill go play my litle pony with dada now.”

      Clueless.

    3. Ask any libertarian here on this site, who followed the fights over government employee unions and their benefits over the last year at Hit & Run, and then tell me that libertarians don’t care about crimping the power of the states.

      Every libertarian here who thinks the federal government should use taxpayer money to bail out the state of California–raise your hand!

      I think the government of California should have the power to slash its own budget and lay off tens of thousands of state employees–how’s that for supporting the power of state government?

      1. Clearly, Ken, you just want to get those blacks and Mexicans fired from their very productive government school and filing clerk jobs! What a racist you are!

        OBAMA 2012!111111111

        1. Is sarcasm all you have? It gets old fast.

          1. Not as fast as your shtick. And that’s sad, kiddo. That’s sad.

          2. Are ad hominem fallacies all you’ve got? They get old fast.

            1. Ad hominem doesn’t mean what you think it means.

      2. I think CA should go down in a messy, convulsive, bankrupt failure – as an example to other states.

        1. If CA goes down after a bailout, it will be a more effective example.

          Obama 2012!

    4. If I don’t like living in one state, I can move and still stay in the same country. Harder to trap people when they have 49 other choices.

      But there are 195 other countries to choose from as well. If you are willing to do the paper work. Not that moving from one state to another is without a similar challenge. If, say, you are certified to do a job that typically requires some sort of certification, the state to state reciprocity ain’t always automatic.

      Yadda yadda.
      Really seems a distinction without a difference…once you get beyond robc’s argument above.

      1. Only in your world is it just as easy to move to another country as it is to move to another state.

        1. Only in Jordan’s mind is that what I said.

          1. But there are 195 other countries to choose from as well. If you are willing to do the paper work. Not that moving from one state to another is without a similar challenge.

            Use of the passive voice doesn’t change the plain meaning of your words.

            1. So, your contention is that “similar challenge” now means “just as easy”?

              Life must be challenging for you at times.

      2. I’ve moved from one country to another, and I’ve moved from the east coast to Californistan.

        It isn’t the same.

        Moving from one state to another within the U.S. isn’t anywhere near as radical as moving from the U.S. to another country–even apart from the language barrier.

        Anyway, the question was about why American libertarians within the U.S. don’t seem to be as preoccupied with the power of the states–as opposed to the federal government. And within the context of that question about the U.S. federal government, I think that’s one of the reasons…

        It’s easier to move from state to state, and you can choose a different state and stay within the U.S., but if you want to stay in the U.S., you can’t choose a different federal government.

        1. Sure, sure, but that applies as well to
          if you choose to stay within a state (and move from city to city), you can’t choose a different state government.

          1. If I move from Dallas to Fort Worth, I’m making a conscious decision to stick with the State of Texas’s government.

            1. And if you move from Dallas to Seattle, you are making a conscious decision to stick with the federal government.

      3. Depending on the country you move to (but in all the countries I’ve moved to this applies), moving to another country is a far far bigger hassle than moving to another state. There are multiple trips to consulates for paperwork and fees, police background checks, health checks, residential applications and registration at local police stations, etc. etc., and then in some cases, time wasting trips back to immigration centers to verify residency (pay more bribes) every few months. In fact, it’s the thing that stalls me whenever I think about possible changing countries again, whereas I hardly give it a thought when moving to a new state. Secondly, many of these countries are even more restrictive of individual rights than our federal government.

  6. Oh, one more reason why it might seem like we care more about the expansion of federal power rather than the power of the states…

    Many of us here are from different states.

    If RC Dean is in Texas, and I’m in California, it shouldn’t be surprising that when we talk to each other about the expansion of power, we tend to talk about the government we’re both subjected to–the federal government–rather than the governments of Texas or California.

  7. Andrew Sullivan is just Dave Weigel with a beard: a professional concern trolling fraud.

    1. Sure, whatever, but Sully has done a lot to publicize and defend libertarian ideas.

      1. As has Weigel, although sans beard.

  8. Unfortunately, Ron Paul is currently the spokesperson for libertarianism and he criticized both Kelo and Lawrence for being outside of federal jurisdiction. He does not believe the 14th Amendment applies to the states to the degree it has been interpreted.

  9. When I hear the cliche “states’ rights” I instantly think of the suppression of African-Americans and other minorities. Libertarians should support INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.

    1. Okay, but when I hear the canard that the Federal government protects our individual rights, I immediately think of the Fugitive Slave Act.

      1. I think of the CRA, which did nothing to stop a diner from refusing to serve my family well into the 80s.

    2. Kropotkin and Bakunin,

      You both have valid points. I think we as libertarians should try to avoid using the term “states rights” mostly because of the legacy of the Civil RIghts Era. But we should also stress that devolving power to the states could allow states to protect rights when the Federal Government is the oppressor, the Fugitive Slave Act is a good example of the Federal Government oppressing people – so are federal drug laws.

      1. Don’t forget the Federal Reserve Act.

      2. I don’t like the term “states’ rights”, because as a government entity, the “state” doesn’t have “rights,” but has certain powers.

        I recall reading a law review article or two about the “rights/powers” dichotomy a few years ago, but I can’t find them now. One put forth the notion that it was very important to understand and maintain the distinction; another posited that it wasn’t quite as significant or clear as others made it out to be.

        But if you buy the principles of natural rights upon which this county was founded, rights are inherent in the individual, and “the people” grant certain powers to the government. But “the state” or “government” cannot have “rights”. It can exercise certain powers given to it by the people who created it.

        1. Absolutely.

        2. It’s never necessary to use ‘states rights’ when the word ‘federalism’ is used properly.

          1. Call it antifederalism, just to confuse people that think “federalism” is a euphemism for Jim Crow too.

        3. +1

        4. you don’t have to buy into the principles of natural rights to make the distinction. You only have to understand that a proper right is a negation of state authority. Not even Andrew Napolitano, for example, would call the right to a jury a “natural right”.

    3. I believe that most do.

      1. Anyone who does NOT support individual rights cannot be called a libertarian of any variety.

        1. I see the nuance in Paul’s view: he’s elected at the Federal level and expects the federal government to conform to it’s strict definition (which means to not interfere with state’s rights). He also criticizes the state-level authoritarianism but does not believe the federal government should interfere in deference to the Constitution.

          However, in my opinion, the 14th Amendment is extremely limiting on state governments’ ability to violate rights and you’d think it would give him cover to advocate libertarian judicial oversight. I don’t mind that he’s Constitutionalist, just that he decided an interpretation that is not as expansive of rights as a libertarian probably should.

          1. Paul just doesn’t let himself see rights in the Constitution that aren’t really there – even if he would like them to be.

            1. “Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” is pretty clear wording to me. That’s in a federal document so it’s clear there’s a limiting factor there. Which is why I don’t get Paul’s criticisms of the federal judiciary hearing Kelo and Lawrence when those case are obviously violations of the 14th Amendment.

              1. Sure. And it’s just as obvious that the commerce clause allows the federal government to regulate just about anything, including non-activity, and even forcing individuals to purchase something they otherwise would not want. It’s all so obvious.

                1. COMMERCE CLAUSE, SMASH!!!!

    4. States don’t have rights; they have powers.
      States don’t have rights; they have powers.
      States don’t have rights; they have powers.
      Repeat as needed.

      1. States don’t have rights; they have powers.
        States don’t have rights; they have powers.
        States don’t have rights; they have powers.

      2. “States don’t have rights; they have powers.”

        Yes, I agree.

      3. I guess I didn’t scroll down far enough before I typed my response above.

        1. Considering what I wrote, I’d be pretty hypocritical to object.

  10. Andrew Sullivan has a determinative argument; I don’t need to google this site to look for the  ‘state rights’ mantra.  Counterbalancing his opinion with judicial cases is stunningly naive; lawyers  _______(fill in the blank) rights is just a legal maneuver 

    1. Those examples were to prove the point that libertarians DO want to fetter(?) the powers of the States over individuals.

      1. DesigNate, My point was the confusion of using the apples or legal language to the oranges of political commentary

        BTW, ‘state rights’ = About 10,700 results (0.39 seconds)

        1. And what commentary did those results reveal?

          1. I’m on #69; I’ll let you know when I cum to a conclusion

  11. I don’t support unfettered state power, but there are a lot of things that I think would be better run by state or even more local governments rather than the federal government. Like education – I don’t necessarily think that all education should be privatized (maybe in an ideal world, but it would be pretty impractical to switch from the current system), but it should be localized. Why is there such a premium on private schools? Because students get more individualized attention there, and that could be the case even in public schools. When the authority over a school is held on a smaller level, they will be responsible for fewer students and able to focus more on each one. And then the federal government can focus on pressing economic and foreign issues and stop debating whether pizza is a vegetable. But states should still not get free reign in lieu of the federal government, and, to the chagrin of big government stooges like Rick Santorum, no government should be able to do things like ban homosexuality.

    1. I think most here would agree with you, the main reason it SEEMS like we are all focused on the federal government right now is because that’s where some of the largest abuses of power are taking place. If the fed was shrunk back to a limited and enumerated set of powers and responsibility, you can be darn sure we would be railing against whatever states were passing heinous bullshit laws. (We do this a lot right now anyways)

  12. First of all, if I rail against abuses of state power also. But that said, federal laws are more dangerous than equivalent state laws. Suppose you were a glaucoma patient who wanted to use marijuana as part of your treatment. Suppose also that Dr. Paul has just become president and ordered federal law enforcement to stop harassing marijuana clinics. In this scenario, which would be easier? Would it be easier to try to immigrate to the Netherlands (where it is now illegal for dispensaries to sell to foreigners) or to move to another U.S. state?

    1. Or just buy from dealers.

      1. Unfortunately this can lead to you being thrown in a cage by our local Law Enforcement officers. But that is a risk many are willing to take.

  13. Well, I for one think that keeping states from violating people’s rights is one of the few things that the federal government should be doing. In my ideal world, the 14th amendment should have been much more clearly worded to make that more clear.

    1. Well, I for one think that keeping states from violating people’s rights is one of the few things that the federal government should be doing.

      Ding ding ding.

      Under God-President Dean’s administration, the DOJ will be reorganized so that it spend most of its time investigating and prosecuting state and local corruption violations of civil rights.

      1. surely there are some legitimate interstate commercial fraud, interstate theft, interstate kidnapping, etc that GP Dean DOJ would enforce.

  14. I’m one of those libertarians who is concerned immediately more with abuses of federal rather than state power. The reason is that much of where the federal government meddles in state affairs is at the margins, very few states actively engage in serious rights violations. At the margins, I think the best way to determine the balance of rights is on a local level, to the liking of the people.

    By no means do I like state infringements on rights, and I would fight against them in most every case, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s the place of the federal government to create a homogenous nation. If you’re an anarchist you might think they could (it’s easy, no laws!), but otherwise there’s a practical element of a conflict of different rights that has to be teased out, and that is best done at a local level that allows for people to have more of an impact on those laws imposed on them and that allows for competition between local governments to find the optimal balance of rights.

  15. A real libertarian should be just as concerned about a State government’s infringement of individual liberty as the Federal government’s. There should be no distinction. Period.

    Of course there should be a distinction.

    For one thing, it’s far easier to move in between states if you don’t like the use of state power in one, then it is to move out of the US. For another, it’s genrally easier to influence one’s local legislature than it is to influence the national legislature.

    For another thing, different states have different circumstances that might require more intrusion. For example, there are far fewer restrictions on riparian rights (property rights connected to a river) in the eastern US compared to the drier Western US.

  16. So Andrew Sullivan is either disingenuous or a complete idiot. Who knew?

    1. He is both. But he makes up for it by being insane. He has been a disingenuous idiot for years. The gay left had him pegged as that for years. I guess they knew their own.

      It can never be mentioned enough that Sullivan is a writer who made his career preaching to gay men about the evils of promiscuity and how gay marriage was the answer to get gays to give up their immorality and then was caught running personal ads for anonymous unprotected sex.

      1. Reading the article, I see that the highlighted passage above was a commentator, not Sullivan, who actually makes a few good points. So I withdraw my charge.
        For now.

        1. Says Sullivan:

          The point is that you are more free the more accountable your government is, and states are closer to their own voters than the federal government.

          So he’s got that goin’ for him.

          1. Not that name-calling is not a valid debate tactic at H&R.

            1. It’s all you’ve got.

            2. Speaking of disingenuous idiots…

      2. The gay left had him pegged..

        (snicker)

  17. Anyway, next season I am implementing the Double Secret Modified Sudden Death Overtime Rule.

  18. I have been discovering more and more that Americans have forgotten who and what we are. We are a collection of 50 states, each with it’s own laws (their own countries in many rights) that band together for their common defense, mutual benefit, and growth. We must defend the US Constitution yet we must defend the Constitution of each state. We often forget each state must agree with other states in travel, commerce, law enforcement, etc.

    This has been and probably always will be a controversial issue. The only way the federal gov’t has to pressure states is by removal of funds. That in itself should be illegal. As we have progressed we have become increasingly socialistic (Thanks, FDR) and less the nation of explorers and pioneers that we need to be.

    1. Gay marriage will not be a controversial issue in 20 years. Younger people are already more tolerant of it than their boomer parents.

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/147…..riage.aspx

      Plus, in my own experience (I know, anecdotal evidence), I find it a lot easier to convince people that there is nothing wrong with gay marriage than it is to convince them that the WOD should be ended immediately.

    2. http://www.santafe.edu/media/w…..12-053.pdf

      http://www.santafe.edu/media/w…..08-032.pdf

      Seemed on-topic?

  19. Many great points here, but there is a tricky bit of history here. “State’s Rights” has long been code for what’s left of the anti-civil rights movement and those who would still hoist the Confederate Flag. When the left holds the White House “libertarian” ranks swell with conservative “states rights” types who are comfortably Republican when their team is in office. (and yes, it also goes the other way, just to a lesser degree)….

    1. Lol?

    2. I have to disagree. I see no problem with each state having its own rules. I can move to the state I like.

      The American Civil War consolidated the Union; however, I agree and respect the fact that states should be able to leave the Union. It should be their choice. The Civil War was about state’s rights and unfair levees against goods traded with other countries. It had nothing to do with civil rights which is a concept developed many years after that war. Even women were not allowed to vote until the passage of the Suffrage bill.

      1. Secession was about slavery. Google up “declaration of secession”.

        The war was about federal dominion over the states and had nothing to do with slavery.

        1. OK, now you have confused me, which POV are you trying to defend? The war was about state’s rights, the slavery issue was actually an ongoing affair before that conflict, esp. on the border states (Mason-Dixon Line) The slavery issue became predominant in 1863, but the taxation because Northern companies demanded that southern states buy from them is the real cause.

          1. Who said I was defending anything?

            Secession was about slavery. Do some googling and read some of those declarations.

            The war was waged to put the states in their place (and to collect taxes from them).

      2. The Civil War was about state’s rights and unfair levees against goods traded with other countries.

        Um, no. The tariff was at its lowest level since about 1815 at the time of the conflict, thanks largely to Southern boohooing and saber-rattling in Congress. The Morill tariff was not passed until after the first wave of Southern congressmen took their ball and went home.

        1. The greatest irony of the Civil War today is that so many liberals lisp about how the Union should have let all those “dumb rednecks” remain a separate country, when it was liberal Yankees who fought and died to keep them in it in the first place.

  20. There are two seperate ideas in play here.

    The first idea is that government should be severely restricted in scope and power. This is fundamental to libertarianism.

    The second idea is that we should have a hierarchy of governments: local, state, and national. The smaller the government is the easier it is for individual people to influence it, so it improves the odds that government won’t abuse people.

    So libertarians tend to want to devolve power from the national level to the state level and down to the local level because it increases the odds that government can be kept in check.

    Of course, control freaks of various political leanings want to devolve power from the nation down to the state so they can build their own version of utopia where everyone behaves “the way they should”.

    So proponents of “states rights” could be either of two diametrically opposed philosophies.

    1. The smaller the government is the easier it is for individual people to influence it, so it improves the odds that government won’t abuse people.

      This seems flawed–governments abuse people not necessarily because they are distanced from their influence, but because the people themselves want to abuse other people via government. Visit one of the Christian Taliban communities we have in this country.

      1. Visit one of the Christian Taliban communities we have in this country.

        Well, that’s kind of hard seeing as how they only exist in your mind. And let’s face it, there’s no way anybody sane is going into that fever swamp.

        1. What, you didn’t see the Time Magazine cover of the promiscuous Oklahoma State sorority girl who had her nose cut off by OSU’s chapter of the Young Republicans?

          Oh right, you didn’t see it because that sort of thing doesn’t happen except in the communities of the Vibrant Ones.

  21. “Libertarians are anarchists that don’t want any government at all!”

    “No, we do allow in some government authority, but we believe it should be limited closer to the individual, at the state and local levels.”

    “Libertarians believe in state tyranny and government small enough to fit in your pants!”

    “No, we oppose tyranny and government intrusion at any level.”

    “Libertarians are anarchists that don’t want any government at all!”

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    1. Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

      We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
      -Bastiat
      http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html

      1. Yeah, but Bastiat was white, dude. He obviously hated Obama. Therefore, he’s an invalid source.

      2. And what’s in your heart is all that matters. Sure, there’s no possible way to deliver universal education without state involvement–but you really really wish there could be universal education, so that makes it all OK.

        1. Is English your second language? Because that comment makes absolutely no sense.

          1. No, the one you quoted doesn’t make sense. Whether you favor or oppose education as a matter of principle is irrelevant–how do you deliver it?

            Are you for education, but only for those who can afford to buy it?

            1. You are most definitely what Bastiat would have called a “socialist”.
              Thank you for proving my point.

            2. You assume the false premise of desiring universal education.

              1. So it would seem the accusation has merit.

                1. If your accusation is that I don’t want the state to provide education, then yes. If your accusation is that I don’t believe in education, then no.

                  Protip: Education does not have to be sponsored by any government for a person to obtain said education.

                  1. That’s like saying you believe people should be free from foreign invasion but you’re against state-run armies. Who’s against education? The question is how it’s made accessible.

                    1. Another false assumption.

                      As a libertarian I oppose a standing army. That does not mean I oppose a state-run army.

                      By the time someone gets through all your false assumptions and straw men there’s no point in having an argument.

              2. You assume the false premise of desiring universal education.

                He also assumes the false premise that central planning is the only method of providing universal education, and will only accept an alternative that is centrally planned.
                That is exactly what Bastiat was talking about.

                1. He also assumes the false premise […]

                  He implies this just by stating he desires universal education. How else can you guarantee everyone receives education unless the state forces them to? How can you guarantee it’s an education unless the State certifies it?

                  These central planners all have the same underlying false premise being that the only way to ensure something is done is for the government to do it. “Universal Education” in itself implies it’s the job of every government everywhere to teach their children how to be “good citizens.” And how can the government know their children are being educated if they aren’t the ones teaching the “right” things?

        2. Sure, there’s no possible way to deliver universal education without state involvement

          And here we see Tony’s detachment from reality.

          1) No govenrment school system provides universal education in practice

          2) When places that are ignored by local government school systems (for example the shantytowns of Rio de Janairo) they find a network of small schools (some for profit and some for charity) that ouperform the schools that the state would be willing to provide – at a lower cost.

          If the government had taken it upon itself to provide universal shoe access in the late 19th century, Tony would probably be decrying the unrealistic idea that shoe provisioning could be left to the heartless free market – condemning the poor to go barefoot in the summer as they did in the 19th century.

          1. So reality is a place where large developed countries can achieve the same amount of access to education with for-profit and charity schools as they do with mandates and funding… And where 13 years of rigorous secular education can be had at a cheapness comparable to a pair of shoes.

            Okay. Still, what about compulsion? Should some children be destined to never have the opportunity to be upwardly mobile because their parents chose for them not to have an education?

            1. Still, what about compulsion? Should some children be destined to never have the opportunity to be upwardly mobile because their parents chose for them not to have an education?

              Non-sequitur; people don’t lose the ability to make money simply because they weren’t forced to attend school.

              1. Level of education attainment is a hugely important factor in one’s ability to make money. I don’t see how it’s in the service of individual liberty to make it so that children of rich parents get that kind of a leg up over the children of poor parents. Generational privilege/generational poverty are the opposite of what free capitalist societies are supposed to be about.

                1. Then there’s the false assumption that being poor means not having access to an education.

                  So many false assumptions.

                  It makes an argument pointless.

                2. “Richard Branson
                  A dropout at 16, he founded a mail-order record retailer, which became the Virgin Records stores and music label. Today, his empire includes 200 companies ? airlines, music festivals, mobile phones ? in 30 countries. His estimated net worth: $6.8 billion.

                  Carl Lindner, Jr.
                  This billionaire dropped out of high school to deliver milk for his family’s dairy. In 1984, Lindner bought Chiquita Brands International (formerly United Fruit Company and United Brands Company) and ran it until 2001. Lindner’s estimated net worth: $1.7 billion.

                  Fran?ois Pinault
                  It’s hard to believe that the third-richest man in France ? with holdings like Gucci, Christie’s auctioneers, Samsonite, and Puma ? quit high school in 1947 to work at his father’s lumber mill. Pinault has amassed an $8.7 billion fortune.

                  Kirk Kerkorian
                  This megaresort tycoon, who dropped out to pursue amateur boxing in the eighth grade, is now worth $3.1 billion

                  Amancio Ortega
                  The founder of Inditex, a fashion empire that includes brands Zara and Massimo Dutti, ditched at age 14 to run errands for mom-and-pop shirt stores. Ortega, now the richest man in Spain, is worth $31 billion.”

                  http://www.rd.com/money/5-famo…..-dropouts/

                  Education is secondary to self-motivation.

                3. The only reason making money is based on education level is because people buy into the idea that education via an certified institution is a good education. This is false. I work with plenty of “educated” people, including PhDs who are basically uneducated.

                  I have a degree in computer science that cost me a great deal of money. I’m glad I have that education but once it got me in the door, it didn’t matter at all. My computer science education started many years before through my interest. I purchased books to read and when I couldn’t afford them, I borrowed them from friends or went to Libraries. I also work with people who don’t have a “certificate of education” and they make just as much money as I do and they are just as knowledgeable or more so than I am.

              2. No shit. I work with a guy with an 8th grade education that makes over 50K a year. And this is in a rural (less expensive) area. Anecdotal? Sure, but still proof that learning a useful skill and working hard is all that is needed to be “upwardly mobile.”

            2. Tony, I used to teach freshman Algebra and Physics at a pretty decent college here in Boston. If you think the American school system is producing “13 years of rigorous secular education” you are seriously detached from reality.

              As to providing a good education, there are really good resources out there for peopleof any age who wish to learn.

              Khan Academy, for example leaps immediately to mind.

              Remove the crappy government monopoly schools from the mix, and the stuff that entrepeneurs and the resulting market would be huge. The explosions of entrepreneurship would lead to a provisioning that surpasses any of the fine alternatives we have now.

              1. It’s a good thing the government invented the Internet then. Shall it also subsidize computer access to poor children? For-profit schools have been a universal scandal in this country–I suppose that’s somehow government’s fault though.

                1. It’s a good thing the government invented the Internet then.

                  The implication being that there would never have been any internet without the government, which of course is unknowable and most likely false.

                  Gotta love those false premises, eh Tony?

                  You’d be nothing without them.

                  1. Let’s not forget that about 99% of today’s internet has been created by private individuals.

                    1. Exactly–government provides the infrastructure, the market takes care of the rest. Just like roads.

                  2. There may have been something like the Internet, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have been as free and open if it were invented by for-profit private interests. Such interests are in the process of carving it up for their own purposes as we speak.

                    At any rate the government did it first. The fact is without government investment in basic research we’d have a free market and plenty of employment for typewriter repairmen.

                    1. No, that is not a fact. It is an assumption based upon the false premise that if government did not provide the investment, no one would.

                    2. There are very few modern conveniences or scientific achievements that don’t have some origination in basic research funded by governments. And you can’t honestly describe a mechanism by which a private market would provide for sufficient investment in basic research. It’s not always immediately profitable to do basic research, but that research can lead to innovations in the market.

                    3. It’s not always immediately profitable to do basic research, but that research can lead to innovations in the market.

                      Tell that to the Wright brothers.

                    4. How about Edison, Ford, Tesla…..

                    5. There are very few modern conveniences or scientific achievements that don’t have some origination in basic research funded by governments.

                      LMAO! Do you really believe that shit?
                      Wow. Your stupidity never ceases to amaze me.

                    6. And we see what “13 years of rigorous secular education” has done for Tony.

                    7. I really used to think that it was just a joke that Tony just takes a logical fallacy and runs with it. I now realize the jokes is just simply Tony.

                    8. Once again Tony shows what an idiot he is.

                      There were plenty of nascent networks put out of business by the Internet, including Fidonet, Compuserve, etc. Fidonet, for example, was free. Anyone with a phone line could set up a node.

                    9. See? I told you the Internet and ATMs kill jobs.

                    10. This is like the worst chat room ever.

            3. You know what I learned through my “13 years of rigorous secular education”? That if I wanted to learn more, or if I wanted to learn something different from what 8 people in Austin thought I should know, that I had to find that information myself. Last time I checked public libraries exist and have extensive non-fiction and informational collections.

              1. At least you learned it before you spent thousands of dollars on college.

                Biggest mistake of my life, but I did learn that if you really do want to learn something you don’t need to pay some asshole to learn lots of additional shit that you have no interest in learning to learn.

                1. I learned in college that a lot of what I thought I knew was wrong. My interactions with people show a clear pattern: those with only high school educations are stunted in their knowledge, yet no less sure they’re right about everything.

                  1. those with only high school educations are stunted in their knowledge, yet no less sure they’re right about everything.

                    The irony! It burns!

                  2. Hey asshole, I was quoting you, hence the quotation marks. Next time you want to be a snarky asshole, pay fucking attention.

                    And for the record, I have a Master’s Degree, even though I’ve been doing the job I got it for for the last 10 years.

                  3. I learned in college that a lot of what I thought I knew was wrong. My interactions with people show a clear pattern: those with only high school educations are stunted in their knowledge, yet no less sure they’re right about everything.

                    Or, they were just less susceptible to academic brainwashing than you were.

                2. There is definitely a distinction between learning and being taught.

                3. I was lucky that I learned that in high school. Then I went and decided that I loved architecture and that I wanted to be an Architect, thus necessitating many years of college. D’oh.

                  1. That was to anon. Damn wall on threaded comments.

                    1. I don’t know if you spend any time reading The Atlantic, but a wall to threaded comments is a blessing. I hate when something in McArdle’s comments gets into a 10-in long, single letter wide comment.

        3. Fake Tony is fake.

        4. Sure, there’s no possible way to deliver universal education without state involvement–but you really really wish there could be universal education, so that makes it all OK.

          Communities in the US were able to establish their own universal educational systems long before Dewey and Addams came along.

          Just because it wasn’t run by a bureaucratic monolith doesn’t mean it was an illegitimate system. Christ, Lincoln became President with an eighth-grade level of education.

        5. The state does not provide a universal education in America. It provides a place for children to go to during the day, but the children Tony thinks are receiving the education they supposedly wouldn’t in a free market, are the ones not getting an education. Look at both test scores and graduation rates for poor minorities, Tony. If the state provided a universal education then these numbers would give you dramatically different results.

      3. Also from Bastiat.

        But, by an inference as false as it is unjust, do you know what the economists are now accused of? When we oppose subsidies, we are charged with opposing the very thing that it was proposed to subsidize and of being the enemies of all kinds of activity, because we want these activities to be voluntary and to seek their proper reward in themselves. Thus, if we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in religious matters, we are atheists. If we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in education, then we hate enlightenment. If we say that the state should not give, by taxation, an artificial value to land or to some branch of industry, then we are the enemies of property and of labor. If we think that the state should not subsidize artists, we are barbarians who judge the arts useless.

  22. Individualists don’t fret over what people think of them.

  23. One thing libertarians seem to crave is a certain bright moral dividing line between their beliefs and others. But how is that achievable if they stand for absolute principles at the federal level but are willing to entertain relative tyranny at the state level? They are just lines on a map–some states with bigger populations than the entire US in its past. Is a California legislator really all that much more accountable to a California citizen than a federal congressperson is? Is there a specific number of constituents per legislator that represents freedom, above which is too much distance between citizen and government? If so, what is that number? I’m particularly interested in the opinion of those libertarians who favor abolishing direct election of US senators.

    States’ rights movements have almost always been about a desire to impose more tyranny on citizens than the federal constitution will allow. It’s why incorporation exists. At the very least it’s a wash. There is no logical reason libertarians should think state and local governments are more aligned with individual liberty–if anything parochialism can lead to greater oppression, as anyone who lives in a Bible Belt state can attest.

    I like being protected to some extent from fire-breathing morons who control my state–that protection comes from the US constitution and federal government.

    Root’s defense is welcome, but I do wonder whether libertarians will do more to make clear that Bircher conspiracy theorists and 10th Amendment obsessives tend not to have individual liberty as a priority.

    1. A state is a state is a state.

    2. Because we don’t entertain tyranny at any level. You are being completely disingenuous Tony. It’s not like this hasn’t been explained to you ad nauseum.

    3. “States’ rights movements have almost always been about a desire to impose more tyranny on citizens than the federal constitution will allow. It’s why incorporation exists. At the very least it’s a wash. There is no logical reason libertarians should think state and local governments are more aligned with individual liberty–if anything parochialism can lead to greater oppression, as anyone who lives in a Bible Belt state can attest.”

      Recent states’ rights issues have not been about imposing tyranny. I suspect you are referring to southern states demanding to retain their slavery laws during the civil war. The left always seems to trot out the, “states’ rights are code for maintaining slavery” meme. I doubt you will find any libertarian, or even any citizen, who wants to reestablish slavery in the US. The civil war is done, the issue is settled, get over it.

      “I like being protected to some extent from fire-breathing morons who control my state–that protection comes from the US constitution and federal government.”

      I agree, and that is what the 14th is about, making explicit the restraints on individual states with respect to the bill of rights: No state may abrogate (or even “infringe” in the case of 2A) the citizens’ right defined in the bill of rights.

      “Root’s defense is welcome, but I do wonder whether libertarians will do more to make clear that Bircher conspiracy theorists and 10th Amendment obsessives tend not to have individual liberty as a priority.”

      Regardless of “10th amendment obsessives” internal motivations, it is pretty clear what the 10th says: The federal government has limited power and authority, only the specific things defined in the US constitution as being under the scope of the federal government, all else is in the domain of the states. The 14th explicitly applied the BOR as boundaries against the states.

      At least, that is the way I see it.

      1. That’s not what the 10th means according to established case law, it’s just what you want it to mean.

        1. That is what the 10th says. Case law is just what you want it to say. Just like 2A: what it says is clear and the 14th (redundantly) applied it to the states, yet it wasn’t until McDonald that the courts “applied 2A to the states”.

        2. That is what the 10th says. Case law is just what you want it to say. Just like 2A: what it says is clear and the 14th (redundantly) applied it to the states, yet it wasn’t until McDonald that the courts “applied 2A to the states”.

          1. Actually I don’t have any say whatsoever in what case law says.

            1. Don’t be a wuss, Tony. You do have some influence, actually. By joining the throngs objecting to obviously bad decisions (Kelo, slaughterhouse, etc) you let our masters know that you are paying attention.

    4. Tony, unlike many here, I realize you must really like us, otherwise, you wouldn’t be trying to give us such great information.

      Did you read the article? I think it in itself was an explanation to your question. No one here is championing states’ rights to impose tyranny.

      Using the power granted to the states via the 10th amendment (and not given to the Feds) to overturn Federal laws which minimize freedom does not mean that one discounts the 14th amendment which states:

      “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

      I think if you take a look into recent history, the most recent 14th amendment cases dealt with incorporation of the 2nd amendment.

      I’m assuming that this is part of your “being protected to some extent” argument. All Part of “The Constitution According to Tony”. Those silly Founders. Why didn’t they understand that guns are so dangerous?

      I, on the other hand, want the Feds to protect me to the full extent they can from the morons that control my state and those adjacent to me with whom I’d like to visit and or do business.

      To bring up the Birchers and others is just a case of politics making strange bedfellows.

      While they may have a similar goal to reduce the Fed Govt’s size and scope that does not mean we are one and the same.

  24. States’ “rights” when the could potentially curb Fed abuses.

    State abuses… when they are abuses.

    States are invoked simply as a strategy largely.

  25. Most importantly for me: I can move to a different state with about zero restrictions on that decision. I have a freedom of mobility to move away from a more powerful state government to a less powerful one.

    I have considerably less freedom in choosing where I want to live internationally.

  26. The libertarians in these people’s heads sound like real assholes.

  27. I’ve only recently begun using the label “libertarian” to describe my beliefs. In the short time that I have been doing so I’ve had to come up with rational reasons why I have changed stances on many issues, but have not on others (I come from the Republican side).

    To me a “libertarian” is one that always chooses maximum “liberty”. While to the outsider, “libertarian” circles may seems to be made up of capitalists, anarchists, pacifists, atheists, and a whole bunch of other “ists”. None of these individual labels can really define what it means to be a libertarian.

    I want government (people acting collectively) to enforce rules and regulations which maximize liberty (e.g. property rights, civil liberties, etc.). I want the Feds to keep the states from abusing the power they acquire and vice versa.

    In the end, if people are doing something that cannot be proven without the shadow of doubt they are harming anyone else but themselves, they can do so. But they cannot also expect anyone that does not want to do so to bail them out when they are faced with the effects of their poor choices.

    1. Your poor decision not to have health insurance means I have to pick up the tab when you have a heart attack or are hit by a bus. Your poor decision not to get your children educated means they (through no fault of their own it must be said) will grow up being a drag on the economy and more likely to require assistance that will end up costing me all the same.

      I suppose this all assumes a minimum level of compassion for fellow human beings and practicality (we don’t want to be checking people’s pockets for insurance cards before they’re given emergency medical treatment). And I don’t see how the poor choices of one’s parents ought to dictate one’s own outcomes entirely. Of course children are the giant can opener of all libertarian thought: we can have a free society in which one’s decisions are the only factor in their prosperity or failure (assume no children).

      1. But they cannot also expect anyone that does not want to do so to bail them out when they are faced with the effects of their poor choices.

        Tony reading comprehension fail.

        1. So a free society is one in which your pockets are checked for insurance cards before you’re given emergency medical treatment… and lacking a card, your corpse is left to rot?

          1. Another false assumption – that no medical providers would give charity care or that no charity organizations would pick up the tab.

            1. I think that’s a pretty safe assumption–the burden of proof is clearly on you claiming that private charities would be sufficient to provide universal access to healthcare.

              Anyway the types of societies that rely on charity for access to basic needs are typically not ones you’d like to live in.

              1. Now you’re moving the goal posts (logical fallacy) by going from emergency care to universal care.

                Besides, it was in the 1980 that the law requiring any provider that accepts federal dollars to give emergency care went into effect.

                Are you saying that before the 1980s there was no emergency care except to people with insurance?

                1. I’m saying the existence of EMTALA confirms that uninsured patients were going untreated before. Combating patient dumping is the whole point of the requirement.

                  It is an unfunded mandate, so 55% of emergency care goes unfunded–the costs are either shifted to other patients or are written off.

                  So the question becomes, I guess, a moral one: do you think it would be better to repeal the EMTALA and go back to the practice of patient dumping, i.e., only those who can afford treatment get it (except when charities step in–though I wonder just exactly at which point the patient’s pockets are checked for insurance cards).

                  Or should people simply get the emergency care they need when they need it? If that sounds like an imposition on individual freedom, then your moral priorities leave something to be desired. If however you do think it’s a freer society in which you are given the treatment you need before you’re asked to pay for it, then it would seem the only question that remains is how to pay for such a system in the cheapest and fairest way. That has not proved to be the private system.

                  1. I’m saying the existence of EMTALA confirms that uninsured patients were going untreated before. Combating patient dumping is the whole point of the requirement.

                    Ah, here’s one.

                    “Patient dumping” originally referred to transferring a patient from one hospital to another without the consent of the patient and/or the receiving hospital. A patient who was dumped still got emergency care, just on someone else’s tab.

                    You’re gonna need, I dunno, some data to show that pre-EMTALA, patients were left rotting on the sidewalks outside emergency rooms.

              2. I think that’s a pretty safe assumption–the burden of proof is clearly on you claiming that private charities would be sufficient to provide universal access to healthcare.

                They still -are- sufficient today. Examples include various cancer non-profits.

                Anyway the types of societies that rely on charity for access to basic needs are typically not ones you’d like to live in.

                Pretty sure the vast majority of americans didn’t rely on charities to own health insurance pre-2009. Not that this part of your argument is even relevant.

                1. Pre-2009 we had the highest per capita healthcare costs in the developed world. The only segment of the population whose costs were increasing at a lower rate were the elderly–those with access to universal socialist healthcare.

                  Suppose we abolished Medicare and Medicaid–you think churches would be able to pick up the resulting burden? Why is it freedom to impose that kind of burden on churches?

                  1. Pre-2009 we had the highest per capita healthcare costs in the developed world.

                    Non-sequitur. The cost has nothing to do with availability. For a counter to your logical fallacy I provide that costs are higher and less people are covered after government action on the subject.

                    Suppose we abolished Medicare and Medicaid–you think churches would be able to pick up the resulting burden?

                    You assume that churches would be the only people trying to provide a -huge- market with a service. Why do you not believe that someone would try to profit off of all the newly released capital available?

                    1. It never ceases to amaze me that people like Tony can think profit and markets are the devil incarnate, actively destroying peoples lives. And then turn around and bitch about those same things being completely ineffectual.

                  2. The churches or other charities would pick up the burden. However, charities and those that give to charities don’t look at helping those less fortunate as a burden, it is a duty. We have high healthcare costs because we have the best healthcare and because we don’t hold people accountable for going to the ER for a hangnail or a cold! The way we use health insurance is another reason healthcare costs are high. If we used auto insurance the way we use health insurance, an oil change would cost $1000.00.

                    If you can afford insurance and don’t have it, it is not my fault or the doctors if you die on the street.

              3. Well since there are hundreds of charity hospitals around the country and since there are thousands of doctor’s like Ron Paul who feel it is their duty to go into the community and help the less fortunate, I guess that makes you a disingenuous fucktard.

                Oh, and if you like the societies where the government takes half of your income to take care of everyone else, fucking move there.

                1. and since there are thousands of doctor’s like Ron Paul
                  Drink!

                  1. Okay, I admit that when I was typing that I couldn’t think of any other doctor’s. In my defense, I don’t know any and it’s not like the media is out there profiling them.

                2. And if you like societies where access to basic needs is based entirely on whether you can afford it, there are several third world shitholes for you to choose from.

              4. I think that’s a pretty safe assumption–the burden of proof is clearly on you claiming that private charities would be sufficient to provide universal access to healthcare.

                Somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the hospitals in this country are charitable. Your for-profit chains are concentrated in big cities (which invariably also have big charitable hospitals) so access to a emergency care on a charitable basis is nigh universal.

                Any other facts I can help you out with, Tony?

                1. This charity business is just so strange. It’s absurd on its face to suggest that charity alone could provide for people’s basic needs in an equitable and cost-efficient way.

                  If that were so, why do you need me to pay for your government guns and contract enforcement to secure property rights? There’s clearly demand, so why can’t you get those services via private charity?

                  Why do you get government for the things you need but nobody else does?

                  1. Because the government is supposed to protect everybody’s property and rights. If you are using the government to tell me how to live my life, I’m not being protected very well now am I?

                    Oh, and thanks for making the anarchists argument for them.

                    1. Government is supposed to provide people with universal access to basic needs like healthcare. There, I’ve provided exactly the amount of support for my argument as you have.

                    2. Government is supposed to provide people with universal access to basic needs like healthcare.

                      What counts as a “basic” need? What if there are only finite amount of resources to fulfill these needs, not enough for everyone? Where is government supposed to get these resources?

                      Pretend money doesn’t exist and you live on an island with 20 people. How do you create government that “provides for everyone’s basic needs” in such a society?

                      Everyone passes around a conch and votes for manna until manna falls from heaven?

                    3. Where does the government get the resources to pay for police and courts to protect your precious property rights? It taxes people. Since healthcare is cheaper when it’s government-run, my question is why do you think people should pay double what citizens in other countries pay for healthcare that isn’t even available universally?

                      In case you were wondering, there is no way out of this contradiction. You think government guns should protect your property and contract rights, but needs that are much more basic like food, shelter, and healthcare are out of the question.

                    4. “Resources” != “taxes”.

                      After all money is just a means of exchange. The government can tax all it likes but it still cant buy everyone a cloned body and a brain transplant, because they don’t exist.

                      When you are talking about throwing money at finite, limited resources, and demanding that enough money be spent to provide for the basic needs of all human beings – which constitute the majority of all consumption, your talking about taxing in unlimited amounts due to the price inelasticity of the resources in question.

                      Suppose there was a famine? Should the government just raise more taxes to buy more food that doesn’t exist? Government taxation cannot call goods and services into being.

                      All you can really say is that government could distribute the same limited resources differently. Nobody would have a “right” to any of it. If would simply be a question of which system is more “fair” , and then we could have an argument about what constitutes fairness.

                    5. So you DO advocate forcing restaurants to feed people and construction works to build houses for people.

                    6. Healthcare is not cheaper when it’s government run. There is more fraud because the government doesn’t care where the money goes. There is more abuse because people don’t care how much they are spending when it’s other peoples money. Just wait, you’ll see how much government run healthcare costs and how fast quality goes down.

                    7. Besides the laughability that healthcare is a right, and if I granted the notion that I should care about your health (because of some idea that your productivity at teaching art history or whatever could affect my job or what I want to consume), it is still INTRINSICALLY RETARDED to give the government control of your healthcare.

                      Because if your productivity somehow affects my life and my tax dollars are used to keep you healthy I have every right to expect you to live as healthy a lifestyle as you can. That means no fast food, no alcohol, no tobacco products, no speeding, no riding bicycles in the street, no overexerting yourself, ad infinitum.

                      But that’s been your goal all along, hasn’t it?

                    8. You could ask the same of people on private insurance–the costs are socialized in healthcare no matter what. Having a single payer handle it is simply the most streamlined and cost effective way. I don’t think government should “control” healthcare, I think it should just ensure universal access like every other civilized country on the planet.

                    9. And every other country that tries and provide universal access not only control’s that access (long wait times for “non-emergencies”, rationed care, etc.) and, in the cases of places like Great Britain, have begun to control other aspects of people’s lives in order to reduce the cost burden they place on the system.

                      If you want my tax dollars to pay for your open heart surgery, I damn well get to tell you if you get to smoke or eat fried food in order to lessen the tax burden.

                    10. private insurance is socialized with my consent, not at the barrel of a gun.

                    11. Here I must disagree. Healthcare is a right. If it is not a right, man or government can stop me from having it. I just can’t force you to pay for it or the doctor to give it to me for free. I can dispense healthcare on myself or pay/barter a provider to do it for me.

                      It may be semantics but it really irks me to hear people say that healthcare, educaiton, etc, are not rights.

            2. Why do “progressives” always seem to believe that all public school teachers are benevolent altruistic people that chose their occupation to help others, but that doctors and nurses are merely money-grubbing sellouts?

              When you build governmental systems you cannot expect the private sector to fill in the gaps that have been filled.

              1. Why do “progressives” always seem to believe that all public school teachers are benevolent altruistic people that chose their occupation to help others, but that doctors and nurses are merely money-grubbing sellouts?

                Because public school teachers work for the government.
                Progressives believe that as soon as someone becomes part of government they become selfless angels, existing only to benefit others.
                If doctors and nurses were government employees, they too would become benevolent altruistic people.
                Even the very ones who are currently money-grubbing sellouts. They would transform in an aura of soft white light from market driven demons into government angels.

                1. IRS agents are like archangels then right?

                  1. If it weren’t for IRS agents there would be no schools, children would starve, only the very wealthy would get medical care, there would be no roads, no airports, no internet, no technology, no innovation, no research, no nothing.

                    Government is god, and yes, IRS agents are like archangels.

                    1. Thanks a lot for the laugh.

      2. No one here is advocating not teaching their children. Just that the federal government doesn’t need to be in charge of it. But we know your tired old song and dance: Total State guide us. Total State teach us. Total State protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours.

        1. Why do you guys insist on replying to the sockpuppet?

          You do know that “Tony” isn’t real, right?

          1. I know, it’s part compulsion, part venting my frustration on the sockpuppet since I can’t on the morons I encounter in daily life.

          2. It’s always fun to demonstrate other peoples’ ignorance.

        2. Education is largely a local thing–to bring it back to the subject of this piece. I suppose states’ rights libertarians are OK with states and localities mandating and funding education? I do think federal requirements are a good thing just to place a floor on the level of education universally available. I don’t see how it’s in the interest of freedom (which includes mobility) to force children in rural and poor areas to have a crappy education.

          1. I don’t see how it’s in the interest of freedom

            I don’t see

            /argument.

          2. We can imagine that “federal requirements are a good thing just to place a floor on the level of education universally available” – but how’s that working out for you so far? The answer is, it’s terrible.

            Better to let the states alone. Better for the states to leave the local governments alone. Better for the local governments to leave parents alone.

            There is a reason why home-schooled students score on average at the 85th percentile on standardized tests, and government-schooled students average at the 50th percentile. It is the home-schoolers who are left alone, and the government-schooled who are micro-managed and badgered and seldom left alone to actually engage in learning. Most children naturally enjoy and excel at learning – until they are taught to dread it by the highly unnatural linkage between learning and compulsion.

      3. “I have to pick up the tab when you have a heart attack or are hit by a bus.”

        “more likely to require assistance that will end up costing me all the same.”

        So wait, I thought you were a “compassionate progressive”, Tony?

        I guess it’s all about money to you! You inconsiderate, selfish bastard.

        1. Having more compassion than your average libertarian is nothing to write home about–libertarianism is the sociopathy disguises as political philosophy–I prefer to base policy arguments on practical concerns, since moral arguments are subjective.

          1. I prefer to base policy arguments on practical concerns, since moral arguments are subjective.

            I don’t know what that means. Are you saying government should ignore morality? If so, what “practical concerns” ought it to concern itself with?

            1. Indeed. The left has a long history of ignoring morality in favor of “practical concerns”. After all, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

          2. Being generous with property that does not belong to you does not make you compassionate.

          3. Moral arguments are definitely subjective. So then why do you describe libertarians as sociopaths?

            Sociopathy
            [s??s??op??th?]
            Etymology: L, socius, companion; Gk, pathos, disease
            a personality disorder characterized by a lack of social responsibility and failure to adapt to ethical and social standards of the community.
            Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. ? 2009, Elsevier.

            I’m only a sociopath if the standards do not provide those within the community freedom and liberty. Many libertarians are also compassionate.

            To say we are not a compassionate lot is very disconcerting. I think that is where you misunderstand us most. It’s not a lack of compassion that motivates us but rather a compassion for those that could improve their lives if it weren’t for the damn government getting in their way.

            Incorrect policies too frequently are disguised as “compassion”.

            The public education system, the drug war, the minimum wage, and the welfare system have worked to disintegrate the black community more than a KKK mob could ever dream about.

            1. Libertarians lack compassion because libertarians believe in property rights.
              We don’t want to share things that don’t belong to us, and that makes us big bad meanies.

          4. Tony Logic 101:

            “Uphold individual rights, live and let live” = sociopathy

            “Control other people’s lifestyles and violate their individual rights” = good government

          5. “I prefer to base policy arguments on practical concerns, since moral arguments are subjective.”

            Agreed. Which makes me wonder why you bring up any form “equality” – all of which stem from morality.

      4. “And I don’t see how the poor choices of one’s parents ought to dictate one’s own outcomes entirely. ”

        They don’t. Many kids who grow up in awful circumstances grow up to be honest, trustworthy and admirable. Probably many on this board did not have Ward Clever as their father.

        1. It’s clearly not the case that children of poor parents have an equal shot at succeeding in the marketplace as children of rich parents, and there’s all sorts of data to back that up.

          1. I agree. Being born rich is a great advantage. So, what is your prescription, the equal distribution of poeverty to level the playing field, or making everybody rich?

            1. My solution is to provide a universal safety net and access to education so that the children of poor parents have some means of escaping poverty. The children of the wealthy will always have an advantage–I just don’t see why we should maximize that advantage.

              1. I just don’t see why we should maximize that advantage.

                Who the fuck is WE?

              2. A voucher system so the money follows the child and allows parents to choose would provide more opportunities Tony.

                1. The problem with such a system is that it takes power away from government and puts it in the hands of parents under the assumption that they know what’s best for their children.
                  They can’t possibly have the same qualifications as the legions of teachers, administrators and social workers in the government school system.
                  How can parents possibly know what’s best for their children?
                  They’re not government certified “experts”.
                  What do they know?

                  1. If I had kids, and lived in a world with cash vouchers for their education, I would wind up using the voucher to get high speed internet, pay a tutor to and teach for a couple hours a day every couple of days, and have SFC B Jr. spend the rest of the time learning about whatever interests him at the moment and stuff through a service like Khan Academy. I figure in this scenario SFC B Jr. would get a better education, in less time, and have an actual appreciation of learning for learning’s sake, and it would cost me a fraction of what I’m currently spending through taxes.

              3. Someone did you a grave disservice when they told you that “life is fair”.

                I wasn’t born rich. I’ve had to work hard at it, and I’m still only lower middle class. Tough shit for me.

                If I was like you, I would rail against this, and be jealous of those who were born with more, and demand that they give me money from their pockets to punish them for the crime of falling out of a more advantageous vagina than I did.

                Thankfully I am not like you.

              4. Sounds like your solution is the system we have. It doesn’t seem to be working out so well. Any other ideas?

          2. You mean the marketplace that has been distorted by the government by their intervention in order to keep poor people downtrodden?

          3. “and there’s all sorts of data to back that up.”

            Yet you don’t link to any.

      5. Your poor choice to support state education means that I have to keep picking up the tab for the children who are *not* getting an education there and who will end up being a drag on the economy.

        Your poor decision to support a highly regulated health care industry means that I have to keep picking up the tab for continually rising health care costs – a result you get when you interfere too much with the competitive process in a market.

        Dude, you’re not just a poor decision maker, you are incredibly selfish and lacking in compassion. Look at what you are doing to those children you insist on sending to public schools who fail to get educated there.

  28. if someone voluntarily participates in a theocracy, socialist or police state, why does it matter to libertarians?

    the truth is: a libertarian state constitution & liberally practiced nullification are the only practical instruments available to those of us who want to turn the circle jerk of how things should be to a real live working libertarian reality in these United States.

    1. I know the only reason I care is because people aren’t content to go live in those places and leave our Constitutional Republic alone. Instead they are all jockeying to turn us into some variation of those places.

  29. This radical federalism where the national government can do nothing while the state government can do everything, is nothing new in libertarianism. As long as you keep to discussion of the Federal Government, it can be quite hard to distinguish libertarians from constitutionalists, dominionists, neo-confederalists, etc. None of this is helped by a certain faction in Auburn using a fusionist strategy to mate libertarianism with these non-libertarian ideologies.

    Decentralization of power is a tactic, not the goal.

  30. Show of hands: how many minds were changed in this thread?

    1. It’s just planting the seeds.

      In my teens and 20’s I was victim to statist logical fallacies. I now know better, and it sure isn’t because I didn’t talk about it.

      1. I too used to feel as I was instructed by government schools.
        Now I think.

      2. +1. If we all were just talking heads and nodding at each other, we’d be Republicans or even worse, Democrats.

        Nuanced debate is necessary, even amongst libertarians. It’s great to have Tony’s around to stir us up and make us think about subjects fully.

        Also the comments might be read by future generations trying to determine where the nation went wrong (or how they got it right) when someone searches “Libertarians States’ Rights” and comes up with this article.

        1. All I could see was goal-shifting and fallacies being tossed around. I know there is intelligent progressives (or anti-libertarians in general) but they don’t seem to be here.

          1. But that’s how you learn to debate. If you don’t see these tactics employed by the other side and call them upon it, you’ll be mincemeat when you come up against the intelligent ones that know how to disguise them better.

            Or even worse when they arise in your own mind. I doubt many of us here were raised within totally libertarian households. I know I wasn’t.

            My upbringing did make me open to libertarian principals, but I certainly used to believe in the government’s “necessity” to intervene and make moral judgements on everyone’s behalf. e.g. Drugs are bad, prostitution, etc.

            I’ve matured and can now see that government, doctors, teachers, etc. are not divine and do not have the answers.

            Whereas I now believe the simple proverb, “Live and Let Live”, is one of the best solutions to improving others lives. Let them be free to make choices and truly learn from them. Then I can be free to make the best life for myself and my loved ones that I can.

            1. What?
              That’s like saying debating children will prepare you for debating, well… adults.

              It’s not like the left (or whomever) is purely disinegnous. Many are perfectly intelligent people who will honestly argue.

              As opposed to above where there is absolutely no substance or nuance. Folks like that should be argued with, but only because it’s fun to watch the non-sequitur and contradictions fly.

              People like that obviously have no interest in the truth, but rather bullshit. (See H.G. Frankfurt)

  31. I think the trouble is some confusion between libertarianism and constitutionalism. There is a lot of overlap here and libertarians themselves don’t always consistently define the difference.

    When it comes to federal law, libertarians frequency involk the 10th amendment against legislation. However, this is often not a philosophical principle in itself but a legislative tactic. Libertarians generally prefer smaller government at every level, and believe the founders put the 10th there out of a generally libertarian sense that the power of the federal government needed to be limited. But this does not mean libertarians favor unfettered power at the state level. It’s just a constitutional mechanism to fight unfettered federal power.

    Most libertarians think power should be devolved lower and lower, from states to cities, and from local governments to non-state entities, and even to an extent from social structures to individuals. However, we also favor more federal power in a certain sense – more federal protection for liberties via the courts, including liberties that free individuals from social oppression.

    So it’s not even necessarily true that libertarians always favor state power over federal power. We just want a certain kind of centralized power, a power that limits itself to protecting individuals from all the other levels of government, and enforcing equal treatment of individuals by all other levels of government. What we don’t want is a federal government that embarks on collective national missions be they economic or military.

    1. Very well put.

  32. Fire Warning: DO NOT GO NEAR ANDREW SULLIVAN’S BLOG WITH MATCHES, LIGHTERS, OR ANY OTHER OBJECT WHICH COULD IGNITE COMBUSTABLE MATERIAL.

  33. Libertarians tend to favor states over the federal government because we understand that 50 states experimenting and competing against each other provide a sort of self-policing against abuses or bad policies.

    The states are a market, the feds are a monopoly.

    But yes, of course, a state can infringe your freedoms too, as can a city.

    1. While it’s certainly easier to move to a different state than it is to move to a different nation, it’s STILL not easy! People has ties to their local area (family, friends, jobs, mortages, etc), and moving away is simply not an option for most people.

      It’s like saying it’s okay for your boss to grope and fondle you without permission at work, because you can always go get another job. Funny thing, I’ve heard so-called “libertarian” make this argument. Now go drink.

  34. I thought this is why libertarians, much less those terrifying “Real Libertarians”, are not always members of the Federalist Society? I mean, we may agree on some things, but this is an obvious example of how we differ.

  35. The Sullivan commenter is obviously just attacking a strawman, who sounds more like a 10th Amendment conservative than a 9th Amendment libertarian.

    1. Not a strawman, because I have run across a great many “libertarians” with exactly this attitude.

      1. So sayeth Brandybuck the All Knowing.

  36. It’s worth noting thought that libertarians focus on federal power more often in part because it’s the federal government that has grown so vast and onerous.

    It’s not the state governments that are draining our pocketbooks and our paychecks. It’s not the state governments that are waging a drug war. It’s not the state governments starting wars. It’s not the state governments who run the entitlement programs.

    People feel the oppressive presence of the federal government MORE than they feed the state government, because the state government just aren’t doing as much oppressive shit.

  37. Please Damon…..States don’t have rights. libertarians believe individuals are not subordinate to a state, ruler or another individual. To believe in such subordination is a believe in mastery …Please do not clutter liberty with the notion of the superiority of someone over another…that is pure sophistry….

  38. I don’t really like the states rights argument. There are only one set of rights, individual rights. People automatically turn off to the states rights talk because it is associated historically with segregation and Jim Crow. It is either a right or it isn’t. It isn’t a function of the size or locality of the government.

  39. Actually, I think that would be an interesting point to research (not really within your field though), because you might (and I do) wonder if, in fact, large agencies with numerous resource that they can bring to bear might be able to respond faster to changes.

  40. The problem for libertarians is that Ron Paul is their most prominent spokesman, and Paul is clearly more of an anti-federalist than a libertarian. He’s opposes the incorporation doctrine of the 14th amendment, he’s tried to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts to hear cases concerning the right to privacy and church and state, his position on both the Lawrence and Kelo cases is that the federal government had no jurisdiction to protect those particular individual liberties, and he’s written against the 1964 civil rights act. His position on abortion is that it’s a “states rights” issue, a philosophically empty position that respects neither an individual right to choice for the mother nor the individual right to life of the fetus.

    In my mind at least, those aren’t libertarian positions. But as long as libertarians embrace Ron Paul, his positions will be associated with libertarianism.

  41. I am one of many libertarians who oppose state and local abuses of power just as I oppose federal abuse of power; this seems like a most natural position to me.

    If one is arguing from the Constitution, I would say that the federal government is to guarantee a “Republican form of government” – which means to me a government where people are free to do “anything that’s peaceful and honest,” at least in private; Republican government is about the public sphere, not the private; the libertarian idea of minarchy seems like a good fit.

    In addition, the Fourteenth Amendment was written specifically to oppose Jim Crow usurpation of negative rights, such as the right to keep and bear arms, or the right to travel.

    The problem I have with Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence is when it is used to impose “positive rights” on the states, such as “welfare rights.”

  42. Ron Paul may be an imperfect advocate of libertarianism, but he’s a good sight better than Romney or Gingrich or Santorum. Since he is running for a Federal office, a hands-off version of federalism can do little harm. I do not anticipate any great rush by the States to re-impose sodomy laws. Ron Paul wrote a book called “End the Fed”, there is no book in his oeuvre called “Restore Sodomy Laws” – it’s just not part of his plan to restore America. In fact, he has written a great deal in support of individual rights to do whatever is peaceful and honest. His federalism merely means that he would respect the sovereignty of the States; it’s a non-interventionist domestic policy, the counterpart of the non-interventionist international policy.

    1. Well said…

  43. I’d like to live as a libertarian within a libertarian town in a libertarian county in a libertarian state in a libertarian union. For me, it’s libertarianism all the way down.

    There’s a dispute among libertarians as to whether the union can force states to be more libertarian. I lean toward the idea that the states should be something like franchises; if they want to be part of America, they ought to provide a “Republican form of government”, which is to say, a libertarian form of government.

  44. Every one care about States’ Rights or State Abuses of Power.

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  46. I have to say this is a very good article

  47. I like the examples cited, but I think the article would be more credible if it addressed the criticism honestly. Segregationists also believe in States rights. Prominent Libertarians like Rand Paul seem to believe that states should decide things like Civil Rights. So there does seem to be a divide among Libertarians when it comes to States rights.

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