Michael Gerson Explains Why Libertarians Should Want to Ban Everything



Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson argues that libertarians are objectively pro-government because they want to legalize marijuana and gambling, which as taxable industries provide revenue to Leviathan:

Two of the larger social trends of our time—the growth of payday gambling and the legalization of marijuana—have two things in common: They are justified as the expansion of personal liberty, and they serve the interests of an expanding government….

Libertarians are now, paradoxically, providing ideological cover for irresponsible government. State officials just want the money, however it is blessed, without requesting it through the normal democratic process. Rather than building social competence and capital, politicians increasingly benefit when citizens are addicted, exploited, impoverished and stoned.

By Gerson's logic, a true libertarian would want to criminalize as much commercial activity as possible, the better to starve the beast. The less there is to tax, the smaller government will be, so when all peaceful transactions are banned, we will be living in a libertarian paradise.

Speaking of which, Gerson declares that "libertarian utopias are always childless," an old canard that assumes anyone who cares about children will want adults' choices limited to those appropriate for a 10-year-old. If you reject that prohibitionist agenda, if you believe that adults should be free to indulge in adult pleasures despite the risk that they might overindulge, you obviously hate children, and probably puppies too.

Gerson's alternative to the libertarianism that he faults for expanding the size of government is an authoritarianism that depends on government to instill proper moral values in the younger generation. He regrets that "parents no longer expect much help from government in reinforcing the cultural and moral norms necessary to the raising of responsible, successful children." The vagueness of Gerson's rhetoric conceals what that mission means in practice: kidnapping people at gunpoint and locking them in cages for providing goods and services that offend Michael Gerson. 

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  1. How does libertarian support for drug and gambling legalization provide ideological cover for an expanding government? Are libertarians pushing for legalization because they want to increase government revenues from those sources?

    1. I see the beginning of his argument- hey, if we legalize weed and tax it, now the govt has more money and more regulatory bodies. He is right, the state will tax and hire new regulators etc.

      But then he gets lost along the way. He seems to think that the reason libertarians want to legalize marijuana is to add to the tax coffers. I don’t use, but I see it as a matter of controlling your own body.

      1. That’s my point.

        Sure, some things libertarians advocate will likely lead to some new kind government interference.

        The thing is, I’d prefer certain kinds of government interference over others. The prospect of being fined and imprisoned for ingesting a mind-altering substance strikes me as morally and practically worse than the prospect of new taxes and rules on such products.

        Gerson seems to be saying that libertarians preferring the latter to the former is some kind of ideological cover for statists. What nonsense.

  2. Gerson is a curious breed of moron. It is not that there isn’t an element of truth to what he says. It is that he takes that element and manages to derive epically stupid claims

    Gerson is right that sin taxes and legalized gambling are being used by crooked state legislatures as a way to enrich their cronies and avoid doing anything to foster actual economic growth. At best these sorts of projects divert money from one form of entertainment to another and bring previously underground economic activity above ground and subject to taxation. The do not, absent a miraculous appearance of our Lady of the Multiplier effect, do anything to increase overall wealth or the health of the state economy. So Gerson is right about that.

    It is when he thinks that bit of truth means that states shouldn’t legalize gambling or that it doing so somehow precludes them from making positive reforms to their tax and regulatory policies that he goes into epic stupid territory. Yes Micheal, legalizing vice is not the road to economic prosperity. You have that right. But prohibiting vice isn’t either.

    1. our Lady of the Multiplier effect

      Im stealing that.

      You even spelled it correctly.

    2. John|7.16.14 @ 4:03PM|#
      “Gerson is a curious breed of moron.”

      He’s close to our resident imbeciles; willfully misinterpret a statement, ramble off several furlongs in the wrong direction, and then claim that’s what ‘libertarianism’ is.

    3. The do not, absent a miraculous appearance of our Lady of the Multiplier effect, do anything to increase overall wealth or the health of the state economy.

      They do a little bit. The black market is dangerous and not just because of cops. Dealers get killed and robbed and have no where to turn. That has a cost to the wider economy.

      I am not a pure anarcho-capitalist. I do think government keeping bandits off the road produces more good then it takes away and I do think private endeavors at doing it have largely failed and have failed for systemic structural reasons.

  3. Freedom is slavery.

    It’s a standing joke here, yet there it is. You can no longer determine actual argument from sarcasm.

    1. Just as this idiot Gerson did, I have heard the ‘freedom is slavery’ bit stated outright at least a dozen times in the last couple of months.

      It might be a standing joke, but no one is laughing.

  4. “….the legalization of marijuana…… justified as the expansion of personal liberty, and they serve the interests of an expanding government….”

    As opposed to the increasingly militarized war on drugs. This guy is a fucking idiot. It is amazing to me how people tie themselves into knots to explain why they oppose liberty, and more amazed at how many people buy their lines of shit.

  5. He regrets that “parents no longer expect much help from government in reinforcing the cultural and moral norms necessary to the raising of responsible, successful children.”

    Funny, I always thought it was the parents who were responsible for fostering those “cultural and moral norms.” God forbid we trust them with ‘our’ future, right?

    1. It takes a village to ruin a child…er…raise a child, DR. A VILLAGE. Of government officials, apparently.

    2. And perhaps people are just not real happy with the “norms” the government is trying to help them foster. I am thinking the day government fostering norms and helping parents came to mean giving third graders condoms and telling them how oral sex works, a lot of parents lost interest in the government’s help. But that is just me.

    3. Ceausescu approves.

    4. Exactly when did parents expect government help in this? It wasnt in the pioneer days, thats for damn sure.

    5. …parents no longer expect much help from government in reinforcing the cultural and moral norms necessary to the raising of responsible, successful children.

      Proof that Gerson has been living under a rock for 30 years. That is practically ALL today’s parents do, is let a very willing school and social service system absolve them of their parental responsibilities.

  6. Dude, Michael Gerson went full Tony. You never go full Tony!

  7. Jesus fuck me but that’s a lot of stupid to handle from just one person.


  8. It’s too bad his combover can’t cover his doughy chin.

  9. Goddamn libertarians, they want you to smoke weed so you can be complacent when the robber barons make their move to enslave the workers! /prog

    1. +1 Soma

  10. I’m legitimately baffled that someone was actually paid to right something so nonsensical and ridiculous.

    1. Wasn’t Gerson a GWB speechwriter? You could excuse him for thinking there was a market for nonsensical and ridiculous. (And he’s right!)

      1. Yes he was. Gerson is a big white doughy exemplar for the people who claim both parties are the same.

    2. It is shocking, but this is nowhere near the bottom of the barrel. Have you checked out Salon? Vox? Jezebel?

      1. No. No. and Hell No.

        I try to avoid the links to those that people post here.

  11. Also, anarchists should want strictly enforced curfews for some reason.

    1. Everyone knows statists plot the hardest when they’re out after curfew. It just goes right to their heads, poor dears.

  12. Speaking of people who spew utter shit, Harry Reid proclaims that the border is secure.…..-Is-Secure

    1. Well, I’m sure Nevada’s borders are pretty secure.

      1. They’re porous as fuck. Californians can just waltz right in, settle down, become citizens and keep voting in assholes like Harry Reid.

  13. To revive an old tradition from around these parts:

    Shut the fuck up, Michael Gerson.

  14. To condense the derp here, Gerson is saying that Libertarians, because they support legalizing vice, are responsible for the fact that State Legislatures are legalizing vice in such a way to generate taxes and various crooked crony schemes. You see since Libertarians support legalization, they also necessarily support the various horrible ways that states are implementing such.

    By Gerson’s logic, anyone who supports defense spending necessarily also would support launching a nuclear strike on Canada. Yeah, he really is that stupid.

  15. Mike Broomhead, one of our local radio morons, made a similar argument about MMJ in Arizona. Instead of talking about taxes, he concern trolled the regulation angle.

    You see, MMJ is regulated, and we will have more regulations if MMJ is legal. If it remains illegal, the regulatory agency responsible for making such rules need never come into existence.

    Of course, the same is true of, well, virtually anything that you can purchase legally in the United States.

  16. Alternate headline:

    In case you forgot, the right has plenty of sophist assholes, too!

  17. This is the same argument as “gay marriage advocates want more government control of marriage”. It’s equally stupid and wrong.

    1. No. They want more government control of how people cohabitate. Before the recognition of gay marriage and the defacto recognition of it in the form of gay palimony, gays were free to form any relationship they wanted. Since their unions were not recognized by law, all of the conditions and terms that the government enforces on straight unions, didn’t apply to them. Once you have gay marriage, that is no longer true. Gays are no longer free to form the unions they wish and are forced to form the government approved ones.

      Oh sure, they can still in theory form their own unions. So can straight people for that matter. But those unions are only good until one side gets mad and doesn’t like the terms and goes to court. As soon as that happens, the court is calling them married by common law and changing the terms of the union to comply with how the state thinks it should be, not how it was originally agreed upon.

  18. His “logic” is demonstrably stupid. But it actually doesn’t infuriate me like the ubiquitous “stop focusing on pot legalization, it’s not what’s important” bit. That’s way more prevalent and insidious coming from the crypto-SoCon camp. Wet noodles who can’t be bothered with taking even the most tentative steps towards ending the drug war which pretty much has causes or correlations with just about every basic libertarian issue domestic or foreign.

  19. Memo to Mr. Gerson: If your idea of what constitutes “healthy social norms” needs to be imposed on people at gunpoint, it’s a shitty fucking idea.

  20. He doesn’t seem to comprende that you can legalize something without imposing excise or other special taxes on it.

    He also no comprende that the WOD is a big source of revenue to the Total State via asset forfeitures, fines, etc.

    He is, in short, a big bag of incomprehension.

  21. Where do they get these people? It’s like you can’t be a columnist without your head up your ass.

  22. Absolute prohibition = Less government
    Taxes and Regulation = more government

    Apparently Stalinist USSR was an anarchist utopia.

  23. Unfortunately, the only way to legalize anything that is prohibited is to tax and regulate it. “OK, we won’t lock you in jail anymore” just isn’t an option. The only option is “Ask permission and obey orders, and we might not lock you up.”

    1. ^What sarc says.

      I think that’s where Gerson’s coming from, but instead of asking for clarification, he’s making the assumption (ass, you, and mption).

      It is, admittedly, one of those things that can make you scratch your head: Someone who claims to be libertarian makes an argument for legalized drugs that can be “taxed and regulated”, but then rails against taxes and regulations in virtually every other matter. When nuances and variations in philosophies aren’t discussed, you get people like Gerson making stupid claims.

    2. And if you want it legalized, you automatically support it being done so in the most crooked and destructive way.

      That is what Gerson is saying. Like I said above, it is the same thing as saying anyone who supports having an army by definition is presumed to support our invading Canada. I mean you wanted an army, didn’t you?

      1. Or invading Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or dropping bombs on Libya. Or droning people in Yemen or Pakistan. Oh wait. I’m sorry. You support all those things.

        1. Go fuck yourself. And when your done, go and look and see what I said about Libya and drones. And last I looked invading Afghanistan was in self defense and was the “good war” for most of the 00s.

          If you want to be stupid, that is your choice. But do me a favor and be stupid projecting onto someone else.

          1. Blah, blah, blah…

          2. If the military did it then you support it. You have to. That’s what it means to be a socon.

  24. Gerson manages to write a whole column about legalizing consensual crimes and somehow never mentions the not putting people in cages angle. He talks about “cultural norms” and “social competence” ad nauseum, but can’t be bothered to mention criminal penalties or the erosion of civil liberties.

    When the Libertarian Party of Colorado came out in favor of marijuana legalization, there were some who said we should oppose Amendment 64 because of the excise taxes. I don’t know how you score your liberties, but for me, not throwing people into cages at gunpoint is more important than the tax rate on marijuana. We maintained our support and were the only political party in the state that endorsed legalization.

  25. When arguing about the Hobby Lobby case on another forum a progressive tried to deploy similar “logic” against me. “So you support the government colluding with corporations to deny people birth control? How LIBERTARIAN of you, denying people their freedom” etc. etc.

    I had to calmly explain that, no, mandating that employers cover birth control for their employees is not a libertarian position, and to call me when Hobby Lobby actually starts searching people’s homes for birth control.

    1. These people suffer from Tony DIsease: the conviction that declining to pay for someone else’s shit is the moral equivalent of denying them the ability to buy it themselves.

  26. I’m fine with legalizing marijuana without taxing it. Really.

  27. I thought maybe Jacob was quoting out of context, distorting what Gerson wrote, although I’ve never noticed Jacob to be prone to that sort of thing. So I read the article. Yes. Gerson really. Is. Saying. That. As dumb as it appears.

  28. The important thing is legalization. It is SO easy to grow your own marijuana, that all taxes and regulations become irrelevant. Just plant it, share it, and stop worrying about govt.

  29. Sadly this bozo is becoming (in many publications) the token voice of the GOP — the primary (sometimes ONLY) Republican-leaning column that many liberal newspapers will carry.

    As a former Libertarian, I’ve switched by voter REGISTRATION to the GOP. But I’m one hell of a prickly Republican — still pushing liberty at every turn. I vomit when I see this guy being trotted out as the voice of the GOP.

  30. why is Reason obsessed w/ giving us articles about progressive commies telling us all about Libertarianism and what us good libertarians should want?

    seriously, im beginning to wonder if the zionists have bought off/ infiltrated Reason, just like the other sites that used to be good.

    this bullshit is getting old.


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