Being a Libertarian in D.C.

What does it mean to be a libertarian? Matt Kibbe attempts to answer with his bestselling new book, "Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto."


What does it mean to be a libertarian? That's the question Matt Kibbe attempted to answer with the title of his bestselling new book, Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto (William Morrow). Kibbe, a former Capitol Hill staffer, is the president of FreedomWorks, an influential activist group that works to elect liberty-loving candidates and promote their issues. In April, Kibbe sat down with Reason TV to discuss his new book, the right's growing dovish streak, and why it's easier than ever to learn about libertarian ideas.

Q: The title is Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff. Why do you need a whole book after that? What needs to be expanded on?

A: I wanted to translate basic libertarianism into plain English. People would always ask me, "What should I read if I want to understand what libertarians stand for?" And you'd say something like, "Go read Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments."

Q: Which is another way of giving them the finger, right?

A: It's another way of saying: "Don't even think about considering libertarianism." So I just wanted to translate it into basic values, and get them to understand that what we talk about, when we talk about freedom, is really just common sense.

Q: You also talk about taking personal responsibility-that liberty demands that you are responsible. You also talk about the non-aggression principle. It's very basic to your worldview. Explain that a little bit.

A: The whole basis of peaceful cooperation is not hurting people, is not violating their rights, their most basic right to life. And libertarians are a little bit different, because they don't want to start a fight with anybody. They want to be left alone. When you apply that to foreign policy, I'm kind of a Washingtonian. It's practical.

Q: By that you mean a George Washingtonian-not Beltway Washingtonian.

A: Yeah, George Washington. He basically said, "Let's avoid entangling alliances." It was a pragmatic position for him. He was like, "Do we have money to nation-build? Can we actually get involved in all this stuff?"

Q: Are Republicans going to become hawkish again if and when they take the Senate and the White House?

A: It's easy to oppose a Democratic president when he's proposing to bomb Syria, but I think there has been a serious philosophical shift as well. You're going to see more Republicans start challenging a Republican president if he or she starts trampling our civil liberties, if he or she starts proposing this kind of blank check nation-building.

Q: Are we getting to a point where back-to-back you have a kind of nightmare scenario? Republicans blew out the budget. They expanded entitlements. They made war overseas after promising a humble foreign policy. Obama came in saying, "I'm going to close Gitmo." He kept it open. "I'm going to get us out of dumb wars." He tripled troop strength in Afghanistan. He's terrible on civil liberties. Is this setting the table for a great libertarian reaction? To just say, look, we've tried it on the right, tried on the left, now let's try it libertarian style?

A: That is the trend. And a lot of the reason you're seeing so many people interested in libertarian ideas is the failure of the Republicans and the failure of the Democrats, but also the ability to go get the information for yourself. You're not waiting for the RNC [Republican National Committee] to tell you what to think anymore.…More and more young people are building their own curriculums. Didn't get it in high school, didn't get it in college, but all of a sudden, all of the things that I struggled to find when I was a teenager, you can find just sitting at your keyboard.

To watch the full interview, see below.