Libertarian History/Philosophy

Helping People Understand Freedom Is Key to Libertarianism

Our job is to teach one of liberalism's most groundbreaking insights, namely, that societies run themselves without plan or command-when allowed.

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Market
Wolffstyle

If the libertarian movement is to be the vehicle—actually, collection of vehicles—for the advancement of liberty, then libertarians need to master the art of persuasion. That's hardly news, but it's easily forgotten.

I start from the assumption that we don't want merely to feel good by making hardcore libertarian declarations about abolishing this or that government violation of liberty. Rather, we want to actually eliminate the myriad violations. So what we say and how we say it matter.

Libertarians simultaneously ask little of people and a lot. We ask little when we preach nonaggression, because most people already practice nonaggression in their own lives. They'd sooner flap their arms to fly to the moon than murder, assault, or rob another person. (See my "One Moral Standard for All.") What most people don't understand is that when government officials commit murder, assault, and robbery, these acts have the same moral status as private acts of aggression—or worse, since government officials claim to protect our freedom. We have to get people to see that there is only one code of just conduct applicable to everyone. But they are a long way toward the goal line, and we need to understand that.

On the other hand, we ask a lot when we ask people to believe that free markets work. Most people know nothing about economics. Except in the most micro sense, they do not engage in the "economic way of thinking." If they've taken an economics course, they've forgotten what they heard in class—which is okay because it was probably some variant of Keynesianism, although that is then reinforced by most of what they hear outside of school.

The upshot is that most people have never heard of unplanned, undesigned, or spontaneous order. When they hear libertarians talking about markets unregulated by the state, they can't digest the idea. How can there be order without a top-down designer or regulator? How can markets regulate themselves? Those are reasonable questions for the economically unschooled. The explicit order they are familiar with is associated with someone's conscious plan. Asking them to believe we can have order writ large without plan or command is like asking them to believe that if you quickly removed a table, the dishes wouldn't fall to the floor.

Our job is to teach one of liberalism's most groundbreaking insights, namely, that societies run themselves without plan or command—when allowed. That insight was beautifully summarized by Thomas Paine in Rights of Man:

Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of civilised community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their law; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to government.

John Quincy Adams, when secretary of state in 1821, said something similar, though with a partly religious explanation:

From the day of the Declaration [of Independence], the people of the North American union, and of its constituent states, were associated bodies of civilized men and Christians, in a state of nature, but not of anarchy [by which he meant a Hobbesian war of all against all]. They were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct. They were bound by the principles which they themselves had proclaimed in the declaration. They were bound by all those tender and endearing sympathies, the absence of which, in the British government and nation, towards them, was the primary cause of the distressing conflict in which they had been precipitated by the headlong rashness and unfeeling insolence of their oppressors. They were bound by all the beneficent laws and institutions, which their forefathers had brought with them from their mother country, not as servitudes but as rights. They were bound by habits of hardy industry, by frugal and hospitable manners, by the general sentiments of social equality, by pure and virtuous morals; and lastly they were bound by the grappling-hooks of common suffering under the scourge of oppression.… Had there been among them no other law, they would have been a law unto themselves. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, society runs itself. Violence and discoordination are the result of interference with the natural social and economic laws that emerge through free human cooperation and mutual aid in the striving for individual and community flourishing.

If people don't generally understand that, they also won't understand how prices are formed on the free market, how supply and demand are brought into balance without an external power governing the process. This is hardly an intuitive idea; few people figure it out for themselves. (I and most libertarians I know needed a lot of help from Adam Smith, Bastiat, Hazlitt, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and others.) So of course most people think politicians must act to keep prices from rising too high and wages from falling too low, must prevent depressions, mass unemployment, and monopoly. Otherwise, selfish market actors will exploit the mass of people.

If you tell most people that the government should exit the economy, you'd get the equivalent of this answer: "You want to replace something, however imperfect, with nothing?" Given their premises, it is understandable that they'd think that. We have to get them to examine their premises. But at this point, they lack the requisite social and economic knowledge. This is why Bastiat and Hazlitt spent so much time writing for lay readers who knew nothing about economics.

Finally, most people are bombarded with disinformation that government is their friend, that it acts to protect the vulnerable from exploitative special interests. Part of the libertarian's work is to show that the truth is precisely the opposite. Historically, the state has been the tool of exploitation for the well-connected, allowing an elite to acquire wealth and power, at the people's expense, that would be unachievable in a freed society.

Our objective is not merely to find libertarians or to persuade people to hold pure libertarian policy positions. Rather, it is to help people to understand the freedom philosophy so they will be the best possible advocates of liberty. It's not enough to be able to recite the bottom-line position on any particular matter. We have to understand why that position is the right one. That requires a deep understanding of liberty and society. And that's why the striving for liberty is a life-long commitment.

This column originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  1. The problem is not that people do not understand what liberty is, but that it scares the living bejeezus out of them.

    Two things people hate more than anything else; truth and responsibility. You cannot have liberty without those two, so good luck with that.

    1. Well said.

      I dare say, also, that a kind of elitism creeps in. “Sure, *I* could handle liberty; but most (uneducated, unreasonable, hedonistic, whatever) people need guidance/discipline/assistance/whatever.” And it seems to not occur to such folks that maybe — just *maybe* — a freed society could deal with “most people”.

      1. See my Exhibit 1 below.

    2. People do not seek freedom or justice. People seek order. A predictable hell is preferrential to an unpredictable heaven. The problem being, most do not grasp that they are trapped in an unpredictable hell.

      1. “People do not seek freedom or justice. People seek order.”

        If by seeking order you mean protection against the disorder of private criminals, commercial confusion and arbitrary government, that’s a perfectly fine thing to seek.

        Disorder of the kind I mention is so common in the world that protection against it is a fully understandable reaction.

        The question is who do you turn to to guarantee order? I think Reason has highlighted the research – if you distrust the people and institutions around you, you’re going to turn to the government, even if the government itself is the problem, since at least the government is an organized force. But if there are institutions you trust, like churches and self-help groups, you turn to them as much as to the government.

        So the more civil society you have, the more hope for liberty and order.

        1. “The question is who do you turn to to guarantee order?”

          People usually turn to the one who steps up and makes the trains run on time.

          1. But many Americans have historically* rolled up their sleeves and sought their own order – alone or in company with voluntary institutions.

            At least in this country, the default pro-benevolent-ruler setting was initially replaced with a distrust-of-government and trust-in-oneself-and-allies setting. So we know people won’t always and everywhere want arbitrary government, we need to get back to the old ideas.

            *With disclaimers about slavery, the Indians, etc.

    3. Exhibit 1:

      Over at PJMedia Tom Blumer writes “In the matter before them, it appears overwhelmingly likely that the Supremes will throw out the state of Ohio’s no-harm argument, and that SBAL and COAST will prevail once the matter returns to the lower courts.

      Is all of this for the good? I hope so, but I have my doubts, to a large degree based on my observations of the deteriorating integrity of political parties, candidates, and campaigns ? a problem which is far more prevalent on the left than on the right. Throwing out Ohio’s entire law would incorrectly and I believe dangerously concede a cherished point of the deconstructionist left, namely that there is no such thing as a univerally agreed-upon fact.

      Section (B) of Ohio’s law prohibits ten categories of false statements. Nine of them are specific. In an ideal world, I would keep at least a few of them, while limiting the punishments involved to fines.”

      http://pjmedia.com/blog/facts-…..eech-case/

      Tom thinks that his ideological opponents will abuse free speech and win people over with lies. In a nutshell, he fears liberty because others will abuse it.

      1. Why would it be wrong to outlaw lies in the deciding of one gov’tal function, elections, but not in others, such as trials?

        1. At least make it optional, by providing means for people to make sworn statements relating to elections.

          1. That just means the politically connected will promise ponies under oath and get away with lying (gaining the added credibility it gave them), while the rest will never use the mechanism, for fear of prosecution.

    4. Two things people hate more than anything else; truth and responsibility. You cannot have liberty without those two

      Allowing individual irresponsibility is essential to freedom. If you’re not allowed to fuck up your life, you’re a slave, and the person doing the non-allowing is the master.

      Liberty simply requires not forcing some to subsidize the inevitable irresponsibility of others.

    5. You can’t have liberty without responsibility, but you can easily have it without truth.

      1. Liberty implies responsibility, but some people seem to forget that responsibility implies liberty as well. – P.J. O’Rourke

    6. Fatalistic cynicism is certainly the easiest way to feel superior about yourself.

      In my experience virtually everyone understands and wants liberty. They also understand however that freedom is actually undermined by cronyism – not BS rants about socialism.

      As long as those who advocate freedom do not tackle cronyism head on as the primary threat to freedom, then it is quite reasonable for no one else to trust those advocates in the slightest.

      And honestly, even Smith/Bastiat/Hayek didn’t really focus much on cronyism. The most readable writer who did focus on that was Anders Chydenius (who also explained ‘invisible hand’ notion 10 years before Smith, opportunity cost 80 years before Bastiat, and the calculation/knowledge problem 180 years before Hayek)

      1. In my experience virtually everyone understands and wants liberty. They also understand however that freedom is actually undermined by cronyism – not BS rants about socialism.

        A. There are dozens of articles on Reason excoriating cronyism. At least one (usually more) are published on the subject every week. The discussion threads frequently include exposes of cronyism posted by commenters, particularly in the AM/PM Links.

        B. Socialism is a problem every bit as pernicious and insidious as cronyism. Indeed, crapitalism and socialism frequently go hand in glove in the West. To discount socialism as a threat to liberty is, well, stupid.

        As long as those who advocate freedom do not tackle cronyism head on as the primary threat to freedom, then it is quite reasonable for no one else to trust those advocates in the slightest.

        The person who makes such a claim of libertarians is either hopelessly ignorant or thoroughly dishonest.

        When the problem of cronyism is discussed with leftists the solutions they always offer is an increase in governmental power. When libertarians argue against this solution (for what should be obvious reasons) the leftist haughtily claims that the libertarian is a defender of cronyism. Is that the manner in which you are lambasting us for not recognizing cronyism as a threat to liberty?

        1. Why on Earth would one spend one second arguing with a leftist? If you want to advocate for freedom, then you make your case to waitresses and shopkeepers and others who really don’t care much about politics – and make the case based on how they will personally benefit from it.

          Because I can assure that while you are reading Reason and looking for leftists to argue with, leftists are out there making their case for intrusive government with waitresses and shopkeepers and others who don’t really care much about politics.

          That’s why they’re winning – and we’re losing.

  2. “The upshot is that most people have never heard of unplanned, undesigned, or spontaneous order.”

    Really? I think most people have heard of Darwinian evolution.

    1. They’ve heard of it but many don’t believe it; religious people because of sacred texts, progressives because they won’t accept that it could explain, for example differences between men and women.

  3. ABOLISH REGULATIONS NOW!

    Everybody put that on bumper stickers, buttons, and signs. Those near campus add “SEXIST” or “RACIST” between first and second words.

  4. OT: I listen to Glenn Beck and other political shows like Diane Rehm while driving in the morning, not because I’m a fan but just to hear what others listen to. Beck says some nutty stuff, and uses the word libertarian a bit loosely, but he’s been right about the standoff with that rancher. He has been insisting that fighting progressivism must be done peacefully, and criticized those who showed up with guns. According to Beck, media-propagated pictures of anti-government types pointing guns at the Feds make all of us look bad. He went as far as to say those who are advocating violence “unfriend me on Facebook” (and considering how much he talks about guns and gold, a bunch of preppers probably did).

    I think he’s right about all of this, and strangely, for once he’s the sanest voice out there on this topic.

    1. The Diane Rehm Show as in the one on government radio?

      If any non-government radio network had as many stations as NPR, it would be broken up like RCA’s NBC was the 1940s.

      1. Yeah, that one, in case I feel like learning about how a particular issue is the fault of mean Republicans and income inequality.

    2. Beck says some nutty stuff, and uses the word libertarian a bit loosely, but he’s been right about the standoff with that rancher. He has been insisting that fighting progressivism must be done peacefully, and criticized those who showed up with guns.

      Rather amusingly, I’ve noticed that every modern political movement from the greenest of socialists to the white nationalists have emphasized promoting their agendas “peacefully”. And in every case, their success rate has been pretty much zero.

      We will note that in this case, the guys who showed up with their guns are the ones who won.

      I have no idea who will be holding political power in the future, but my money is on whoever shows up with guns ablazin’, ready to kick ass and take names.

      1. “What will happen if all those people show up?”

        “The same thing that always happens when people without guns go up against people with guns.”

  5. As someone who thinks we need more liberty, though more in the Hayek sense than in the LPNC platform sense, I don’t think it’s enough to go around telling big-government supporters, “I’m right-you’re stupid.”

    Human history is full of individual and collective oppression, and without the right philosophical framework this oppression can look like the result of not having a Benevolent Ruler to keep a firm hand on evildoers of all kinds. No one wants to be the lone individual facing uncaring institutions – including private institutions. If people don’t think there are civil-society and market mechanisms to give them power vis-a-vis the people institutions which screw them, they’ll want to turn to the Good King. That’s why there are traditionally so many legends about good rulers – you want *someone* looking out for you.

    When so many wealthy people have historically got their money through robbery or trickery, it’s an understandable cognitive shortcut when people think *all* wealthy people, including honest businessmen, are in fact thieves who need to be relived of some of their ill-gotten wealth for the benefit of the public. You need a good philosophical framework to tell the difference between the good and bad kinds of rich people. And the question of inherited wealth also needs an explanation, focusing on the morality and practicality of incentivizing people to get wealth so they can pass it to their families.

    1. So without some expectation of having the market and civil society to protect you against the people and groups out there who want to screw you, you’re going to want a powerful king to perform these functions.

      You can deplore this situation and call people stupid, or you can show from philosophy and practical experience (including the American experience) how free institutions can work.

      1. Or you can show from philosophy and practical experience that it is impossible for government institutions to fulfill their claimed purposes.

    2. When so many wealthy people have historically got their money through robbery or trickery, it’s an understandable cognitive shortcut when people think *all* wealthy people, including honest businessmen, are in fact thieves who need to be relived of some of their ill-gotten wealth for the benefit of the public

      … by political thieves who will, if allowed, get everyone’s money through robbery or trickery.

      Most progs just don’t grasp that giving some the ability to legally rob others will inevitably draw con men, grifters, and sociopaths to the job, and crowd out any relatively honest contenders.

    3. When so many wealthy people have historically got their money through robbery or trickery, it’s an understandable cognitive shortcut when people think *all* wealthy people, including honest businessmen, are in fact thieves who need to be relived of some of their ill-gotten wealth for the benefit of the public

      … by political thieves who will, if allowed, get everyone’s money through robbery or trickery.

      Most progs just don’t grasp that giving some the ability to legally rob others will inevitably draw con men, grifters, and sociopaths to the job, and crowd out any relatively honest contenders.

      1. Fucking twin server squirrels.

    4. I’d argue that the reason socialism began to appeal to the poor (esp here in the US) was precisely because the ‘free market’ argument was taken over and coopted and perverted by plutocrats and robber barons. Freedom failed to deliver on its promise – and the new boss turned out to be the same as the old boss – and we won’t get fooled again.

      People nowadays seem to forget that the freedom argument originated in a revolutionary understanding. The rich and the established have ALWAYS opposed freedom. They are the losers in that because freedom means competition and competition redistributes wealth far more powerfully than some apparatchik.

      I’m certainly not advocating that libertarians need to engage in a bit of class warfare. But if freedom is truly to win, then the rich/established WILL oppose that. And it is about time that libertarians accept that reality and choose which side they are on.

      1. I’m certainly not advocating that libertarians need to engage in a bit of class warfare. But if freedom is truly to win, then the rich/established WILL oppose that. And it is about time that libertarians accept that reality and choose which side they are on.

        We don’t need to engage in class warfare, BUT we need to recognize “what side we are on” and fight accordingly. Right? So basically, we do need to engage class warfare.

        The rich are not always the enemy, they don’t always oppose freedom (you do know most of Founders were pretty damned wealthy, yes?), and to collectivize and then attack is, well, its exactly what statists do to advance statism. Is it effective? Sure. It’s hardly principled though, and can (and has) lead to some very ugly events historically.

        1. Kings have always had freedom.
          Nobles have always had freedom.
          Their financiers and justifiers and such have always had freedom.

          Everyone else is who the idea of freedom appeals to. And it appeals to them because they want to be free from the guys above. And if that happens, then guess who loses.

          It’s up to you to decide whether you are actually in favor of freedom (and damn the consequences) or whether you merely want to be the court jester.

          1. Kings have always had freedom.
            Nobles have always had freedom.
            Their financiers and justifiers and such have always had freedom.

            Everyone else is who the idea of freedom appeals to. And it appeals to them because they want to be free from the guys above. And if that happens, then guess who loses.

            Everyone, from king on down, wants freedom. Rich or poor, they all want freedom.

            Unfortunately, it’s an easy desire to twist into what you manifest here–that one has no freedom because someone else has it.

            So freedom moves back and forth and civilization rises and falls over and over again.

            Because blaming someone else is easy.

            With freedom everyone can win.

          2. Are you not in America? I mean, serious question. Sure you can go and make the gigantic disingenuous leap to claiming there exist kings and nobility in this country, but that won’t make it true and it just makes you look like a crackpot moron.

            But thanks for confirming exactly what I suspected, you are advocating we use class warfare.

            Reasonabled. Buh-bye.

        2. And re the founders

          They wanted freedom from England. And the moment that was achieved – and they now had power (which btw they often used to grant themselves enormous tracts of land), they tended to act to restrict freedom from spreading further. Slavery? Hmm too difficult to deal with. Free trade? Hmm not interested. Suffrage? Hmm a bit too dangerous. Why do you think so many people went West – to the frontier?

          Don’t get me wrong. We were lucky to have so many talented and creative pol types at our beginning. But don’t stick them on a pedestal either. Much of our history since then has been a struggle to make real what they were content to merely yap about with words.

  6. in case I feel like learning about how a particular issue is the fault of mean Republicans and income inequality.

    Never forget, Rethuglitards are always and everywhere RACISTS.

    I’m so very very tired of hearing that.

    1. It might help if they quit scurrying under the bed every time the accusation was thrown at them.

      Own it and embrace it! The appropriate response is, “So What?”.

      1. Yeah, I’m sure that’s really going to help the GOP win a majority of the votes in this country

  7. When so many wealthy people have historically got their money through robbery or trickery

    Like the Pope?

    1. The Church has traditionally been more often robbed than robbing.

      This explains a lot of historical Church-state relations. In the name of freeing people from Church tyrannies, government have stolen Church property and given it to their buddies. Henry VIII and his merry men are an example. They seized the monasteries, which at least felt some responsibility to help the poor, and gave the property to courtiers and favorites who became rich, grasping landowners when then campaigned to throw the poor off the common lands.

      Countries throughout the world have done this. This is a literal instance of “poor, minorities hardest hit.”

  8. Primitive cave-dwelling savages

    South Korean President Park Geun Hye accepted her prime minister’s offer to resign over the government’s failure to properly handle the nation’s worst maritime disaster in four decades.

    Haha, principles and accountability are for suckers. You’d never see an American politician do something this stupid.

  9. The Church has traditionally been more often robbed than robbing.

    Good one.

    1. A conclusive rebuttal!

      1. The origin of the word “Dime” is a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe#France

        I don’t disagree with the idea that modern Christianity is a force against the overbearing power of the state, but it is a relatively new development.

  10. It’s good to live in a post-racial society.

    Thanks, Obama! You have saved us from incessant hyperventilating and hysterical fingerpointing over every single example of humans’ desire to sort themselves based on common traits.

  11. America would have never been formed had the founders waited to convince the majority of people of the revolution. Since democracy doesn’t work, why should appealing to the same means for advancing liberty work?

    And sadly Jefferson was right:

    From the conclusion of this war, we shall be going downhill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the People for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which will not be knocked off at the conclusion of the war, will remain on as long, will be made heavier and heavier, til our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion. The people will be taxed for fifteen-sixteenths of their production. They will themselves pay the wages for those who place the shackles upon their own hands and feet.

    1. Alcohol prohibition never would have never been repealed had people just twiddled their thumbs, be good citizens and remain dry until people could changes legislation. In fact, after a generation or two respecting the rule of law, being dry would’ve become the norm and all chances of repeal dissipated.

      The same can be said of MJ prohibition. It took people taking risks defying other people and norms, and as it went on, convincing others about weighing the risks. As per Samuel Konkin III, people need to form the agora themselves, not wait for it to be created for them.

      Of course it’s understandable that it’s hard since everyone’s risk tolerance is different and we have very comfortable lives now, with much to loose. But that is the only it’s going to happen.

    2. Since democracy doesn’t work, why should appealing to the same means for advancing liberty work?

      (lol) Libertarian fascism! How do we advance libetrty if it’s not voluntarily chosen?

      1. False dichotomy.

        Agorism is an option.
        Exit is another.
        The cypherpunks offered another mechanism as well.

        1. Read np again. Or have somebody explain it to you. Obey or leave is NOT a free society. duh

          1. Obey or leave.

            But what are you obeying?

            In Libertopia it’s ‘Do what thou wilt so long as ye harm none’.

            Hard to obey? Bad to obey?

            Can’t really see the ‘fascism’

  12. On FOX, meanwhile, some woman is venting her outrage over those racist bastards at the Supreme Court daring to abandon racial quotas in college admissions.

    NOT FAIR!

    1. I’m guessing she is not Asian. In quite a few universities, having a student populace that exactly mirrored the larger society would mean having to admit MORE whites.

      Perhaps she could also rail against the racism and sexism in the NBA and the NFL while she is at it, demanding that the team owners be forced to hire more non-black players and 50% women players?

  13. Richman has it backwards. It’s libertarians who must learn what freedom is. We now promote libertarianism (for ourselves) instead of freedom (for everyone). We forgot what we once took for granted ? always be pro-liberty, never be anti-gubmint. THAT is the persuasion Richman never discovers. We had no think tanks then, just thinkers.

    Libertopia has not a damn thing to do with freedom. We define “libertarian society” as everyone supporting libertarianism … instead of liberty. So we lose.

    In a FREE society, we can each be whatever we choose, voluntarily ? even hardcore communists, in voluntary communes. (they’ve existed for centuries.) Even Ayn Rand knew that. Hippies’ only mistake, she said, was thinking they had to become farmers first.

    In a free society, we’d have a community of communists right next to a community of anarcho-libertarians. A community of retired Catholic priests across the river from a community of lesbians. THAT is freedom. Not the libertarian tribalism we’re drowning in.

    How would a free society be better for the poor, for minorities, for factory workers …. for every single faction that people believe NEEDS government protection? All we ever say is “get gubmint out of it” or “free markets work best.” HOW AND WHY?

    Katherine Mangu Ward said that Ron Paul is great on principle, but terrible at politics. That’s now true for the entire movement. There’s nobody to blame but libertarians. Look in the mirror.

    1. “We now promote libertarianism (for ourselves) instead of freedom (for everyone). ”

      Most of the people around here think that libertarianism is freedom for everyone.

      1. That’s the problem. You don’t need a society to be full of radical libertarians for it to be a free society. You’re never going to have a society composed mostly or even largely of philosophers of any kind, let alone of one kind.

      2. That’s precisely the problem.

    2. And yet, libertarian ideas are more popular than ever, and more people seem to identify as libertarians than ever before.

      1. Id rather be in a society where those ideas are much less popular, but not needing them to be popular because the society is free.

      2. The majority has supported libertaruan ideas for over 30 years, which is what we saw from the beginning with the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. How have we capitalized on that?

        More people using the libertarian label is debatable, but that label is highly TOXIC, as proven by the Cato/Zogby poll.

        If the label includes exterme social conservatives, like Ron and Rand Paul, then the label has lost all meaning.

        When we cut trough all the slogans, soundbites and rhetoric, libertarianism is TOLERANCE, which has ALWAYS been seen as one of manknd’s noblest virtues.

        How would we GOVERN, is the single biggest question, and I haven’t see that addressed in over 20 years now. Name a single libertarian policy proposal, a real one, not crazy stuff like cutting the federal government by 50%, or “privatizing” Social Security while ignoring the half trillion per year in added deficits (Cato).

        1. Here’s one: Add to the US Code a statement that in Titles 20 & 21 (at least; probably better if not limited to them), a use of a product shall not be determined to be “intended” absent a positive statement to that effect by the purveyor of that product to the general public or a particular prospective customer.

          Another, for any jurisdiction: Stop all undercover enforcement.

          Another: Either replace food stamps with cash, or abolish them and instead have gov’t supply unlimited (but realistically consumable) amounts from a very short menu of foods to anyone who asks.

          1. I’m always amused (or scared shitless) by how many libertarians have no clue what “governing” even means.

        2. A narrower one: Add a broad definition of “soap” to the FFDCA, conforming to the general non-technical use of the term by the gen’l public.

          Another for any jurisdiction: Allow any individual or body publicly sponsoring a specific reduction in gov’t spending (whether by cutting out waste, other saving, or policy change) that succeeds in having it enacted within a certain time period to keep a percentage of the savings for another specified time period.

          1. Just about everyone I’ve ever known who ran for board of anything (governmental or otherwise) has come up with major savings from their budget. Apparently it doesn’t even take a lot of research, although that helps. Employees in businesses of at least medium size see a lot of waste & corruption too, but can’t seem to get anything done about it.

            When it comes to schooling in particular, there seems to be an untoward preference for independence over efficiency.

          2. Proves my point. Not even close to libertarian ideas for governance a quarter century ago. We’re indeed moving backwards.

            Like giving a share to the people who actually CUT spending. Foe example, give seniors the tools and give them 20% of what they save by shopping for lower costs for Medicare.

            Or designate on our income tax returns WHERE you want your taxes allocated, including tax cuts.

            Umm, SPONSORING spending reductions is easy. Both Pauls and Cato do it all the time. They also keep failing all the time.

        3. “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions”
          – G.K. Chesterton

          1. Thanks for proving my point!

            Only fascists, dictators, Nazis and the Klan had convictions. O-o-o-okay.

  14. What I do is work a libertarian argument into a conversation. For example if a teacher complains about No Child Left Behind Act I mention that education policy should be closest to the schools and gosh imagine how much more money we would have if we axed the DOE and block granted it’s entire budget to states, counties or right into school districts?!

    Liberal friend complains about FDA organic food regulations. I say, “Why would anyone trust the government to do that they way they want? Wouldn’t it be better if a group of organic farmers formed a standard on their own?”

    Or for example someone likes ObamaCare. I’ll say, “Sure under Obama you do. The next president could be another Bush! Now you’ve created a power base for him to abuse in ways you wont like. Best not to create that power base in the first place.”

    1. Why do you believe any of that is libertarian???

  15. “Liberal friend complains about FDA organic food regulations. I say, ” “Why would anyone trust the government to do that they way they want? Wouldn’t it be better if a group of organic farmers formed a standard on their own?””

    USDA, not FDA

    long story – private groups did create their own standards

    The USDA got involved to settle their own internal squabbles, and the differences across states with different key-producer industries. The organic dairy people often found themselves completely at odds with organic ‘fruits and veg’ and other groups.

    The end result was something most of the early ‘pioneers’ of the industry decried as a complete nightmare. It probably *should* have been 3-4 different standards. But whatever.

  16. we don’t want merely to feel good by making hardcore libertarian declarations about abolishing this or that government violation of liberty. Rather, we want to actually eliminate the myriad violations.

    Some distinction I don’t know between “abolish” & “eliminate” (literally, “throw out the door”)? Or did you mean to put the emphasis on “actually” (opposing it to merely making declarations) rather than “eliminate”?

    Last night in the car, my friend Bob said the problem with libertarianism is that in such a society, people will increasingly choose actions they think will have good outcomes but actually don’t (at least for the society as a whole, but also in many cases for the individuals doing them), leading to collapse and ruin. He thinks the law is needed to influence the culture to keep people on the right path by outlawing (or making hard or expensive to do legally) various actions in addition to those that directly harm others, and/or by subsidizing culturally virtuous practices. Presumably the legal restraints & encouragements would have to be enacted while that society was especially virtuous, and then made hard or impossible to repeal by legal means so succeeding generations would be bound by the virtuous preferences of their forebears. One of the barriers or hurdles would be put in the way of immigration of persons from cultures not of similar construction or were sufficiently alien to threaten the sense of solidarity of that culture.

    1. So what you’re saying is = we should never have let the @#(@)!@ Irish in, right?

      1. He doesn’t see the Irish as a problem, but does see blacks as one. But the principle would be the same if he thought it was the other and not the one.

  17. Also = this entire discussion is moot because there are no REAL libertarians here.

    / Bo

      1. How would you know?

  18. I don’t preach Libertarianism. The libertarian influence on the major parties is an effective route. Which Rand Paul is demonstrating. I don’t think a libertarian Democrat is far behind.

    1. A libertarian Democrat? How exactly would that work?

      1. Are you joking … or just another partisan stooge?

        When you see a Libertarian Caucus in a state legislature it’s BECAUSE there are both Republicans and Democrats who want one.

    2. Yes – an astonishingly effective route. Reps and Dems get to market themselves as ‘less government’ in some way. They get a token useful idiot to lend some superficial validity to that. They can then proceed to completely ignore that person (most of the time) and mock them (when politically important to do so) – and the useful idiot remains in the party because they have to continually and desperately ‘prove’ their loyalty.

      In the interim, both parties merrily expand government and diminish freedom unimpeded.

      What exactly is the end game here? I understand the DELUSION that is at work here. But I seriously don’t see how this end game is supposed to happen.

    3. Rand Paul only demonstrates how an extreme social conservative can masquerade as a liberatarian — kinda like Rick Sanrtorum with spending cuts. 🙂

  19. Convincing everyone else to let you be free is just another form of asking for permission.

    While it may have tactical merit at times, let’s not pretend it is the only or even the preferred mechanism to increase our own freedom. To present it as the morally correct solution is to fall right into the collectivist trap.

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