American Revolution

What Libertarians Get Wrong About American History

American history is not an essentially libertarian story.

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Photo Phiend/Flickr

Understanding history as best we can is important for obvious reasons. It's particularly important for libertarians who want to persuade people to the freedom philosophy. In making their case for individual freedom, mutual aid, social cooperation, foreign nonintervention, and peace, libertarians commonly place great weight on historical examples most often drawn from the early United States. So if they misstate history or draw obviously wrong conclusions, they will discredit their case. Much depends therefore on getting history right.

Libertarians naturally sense that their philosophy will be easier to sell to the public if they can root it in America's heritage. This is understandable. Finding common ground with someone you're trying to persuade is a good way to win a fair hearing for your case. Well-known aspects of early American history, at least as it is usually taught, fit nicely with the libertarian outlook; these include Thomas Paine's pamphlets, the opening passages of the Declaration of Independence, and popular animosity toward arbitrary British rule.

The problem arises when libertarians cherry-pick confirming historical anecdotes while distorting or ignoring deeper disconfirming evidence. The drawbacks to grounding the case for freedom in historical inaccuracies should be obvious. If a libertarian with a shaky historical story encounters someone with sounder historical knowledge, the libertarian is in for trouble. The point of discussing libertarianism with nonlibertarians is not to feel good but to persuade. If the history is wrong, why should anyone believe anything else the libertarian says?

The damage done to a young person new to libertarianism is particularly tragic. Discovery of the libertarian philosophy, especially when combined with the a priori approach of Austrian economics, can make young libertarians feel virtually omniscient and ready for argument on any relevant topic. When such libertarians venture into empirical areas—such as history—they are prone to use ideology or the a priori method as guides to the truth. If libertarians with this frame of mind run into serious students of history, the results can be traumatic. The disillusionment can be so great that a young libertarian might decide to keep quiet from then on or give up the philosophy entirely. A libertarian who might have become a powerful advocate is lost to the movement. Thus we owe young libertarians the most accurate historical interpretation possible. Gross oversimplification sets them up for disaster. It's like sending a sheep to the slaughter.

Where are libertarians likely to go wrong when it comes to history? By and large, it's in presenting American history as an essentially libertarian story. [This goes for the industrial revolution in England also.] We've all heard it: British imperial rule violated the rights of the American colonists, who—fired up by the ideas of John Locke— drove out the British, adopted limited government and free markets through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and pursued a noninterventionist foreign policy; this lasted until the Progressives and New Dealers came along. It's not that everything about this overview is wrong; it contains grains of truth. Americans were upset by British arbitrary rule (which violated the accustomed "rights of Englishmen"), and Lockean ideas were in the air. But much of the rest of the libertarian template is more folklore than history.

For one thing, the early state governments were hardly strictly limited. Libertarians too readily confuse the desire for a relatively weak central government with the desire for strict limits on government generally. For many Americans a strong central government was seen as an intrusion on state and local government to which they gave their primary allegiance. But that is not a libertarian view; it depends on what people want state and local governments to do. (Jonathan Hughes's The Governmental Habit Redux is helpful here.)

Libertarians also wish to believe that the early national government was fairly libertarian-ish. With the exception of slavery and tariffs, it is often explained, government was strictly limited by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Slavery of course was an egregious exception, which was enforced by the national government, and passionate opponents agitated against it. Tariffs were part of a larger system of government intervention, which many libertarians simply ignore. Nor were these the only serious exceptions to an otherwise libertarian program. But before getting to that, we must say something about the Constitution.

Libertarians of course know that the Constitution was not the first charter of the United States. But many of them rarely talk about the first one: the Articles of Confederation, which was adopted before the war with Britain ended. Under the Articles the weak national quasi-government lacked, among other powers, the powers to tax and regulate trade, which is why I call it a quasi-government. It obtained its money from the states, which did have the power to tax. So while it could not steal money, it nonetheless subsisted on stolen money. [The Articles were no libertarian document.]

Advocates of a unified nation under a powerful central government, such as James Madison, tried immediately to expand government power under the Articles but got nowhere. The centralists eventually arranged for the Federal Convention in Philadelphia, where the Constitution—the acknowledged purpose of which was to produce more, not less, government—was adopted. The libertarian Albert Jay Nock called the convention a coup d'etat because it was only supposed to amend the Articles. Instead, the men assembled tore up the Articles, crafted an entirely new plan that included the powers to tax and to regulate trade, and changed the ratification rules to permit merely nine states to carry the day, instead of the unanimous consent required for amendments to the Articles.

The Constitution that was sent to the state conventions for ratification drew the opposition of people who soon were known as Antifederalists. (Those who favored the Constitution's strong central government were the real antifederalists, but they grabbed the popular "federalist" label first.) The Antifederalists lodged many serious objections to the proposed Constitution, only one of which was the lack of a bill of rights. They saw danger in, among other things, the broad language of the tax power, the general-welfare clause, the supremacy clause, and the necessary-and-proper clause—all of which, in their view, harbored unenumerated powers, contrary to Madison's declaration. The Bill of Rights, which the first Congress later added to the already-ratified Constitution, did not even attempt to address the Antifederalists' major objections. [History, I submit, has confirmed their predictions of tyranny.]

Many libertarians who presumably know this story are strangely silent about it. On the rare occasion they mention the Articles, they say little more than that unspecified problems with them prompted the Philadelphia convention and adoption by the assembled demigod-like Founding Fathers of that ingenious architecture of limited government we know as the Constitution. Then, the story continues, the libertarian masses' objection to the lack of a bill of rights led to the adoption of the first ten amendments to protect our liberties. All was well until …

One would expect a "government" that lacked the power to tax and regulate trade to be of more interest to libertarians. One would also expect libertarians to be suspicious of a plan to address those alleged deficiencies. Instead, the Articles typically are shunted aside and the Constitution is lauded as a historic achievement in the struggle for liberty. That is odd indeed.

I think we can explain this lack of interest in the Articles by noting that it fits poorly into the mainstream libertarian narrative about America. After all, it would be hard to praise the Constitution as a reasonably good attempt to limit government while acknowledging that it replaced a political arrangement under which the government could neither tax nor regulate trade. In that context the Constitution looks like a step backward not forward.

This also explains an otherwise inexplicable phenomenon: the lack of interest among many libertarians in the most libertarian of the early Americans: the Antifederalists. [Admittedly, not all Antifederalists were as libertarian as the best of them were.] Libertarians who have what has been called a Constitution fetish could hardly embrace the principled libertarian opponents of their beloved Constitution. The story wouldn't make sense. [See Jeffrey Rogers Hummel's "The Constitution as Counter-Revolution" (PDF).]

Many libertarians also like to paint the early national period in pacific colors, quoting Washington, Jefferson, and Madison against standing armies, alliances, and war. In contrast to today, we're told, the American people and their "leaders" hated empire and imperialism. But this is misleading. From the start America's rulers, with public support, were bent on creating at least a continental empire, including Canada, Mexico, and neighboring islands. Some had the entire Western Hemisphere in their sights. Americans were not anti-empire; they were anti-British Empire—or, more accurately, anti-Old-World Empire. They did not want to be colonists anymore. America's future rulers saw their revolution as a showdown between an exhausted old imperial order and the rising imperial order in the New World. [Of course, it was called an Empire of, or for, Liberty.] Continental expansion—conquest—required an army powerful enough to "remove" the Indians from lands the white population coveted. "Removal"of course meant brutal confinement—so the Indian populations could be controlled—or extermination. This government program constituted a series of wars on foreign nations in the name of national security.

Continental expansion also was accomplished by acknowledged unconstitutional acts, such as the national government's acquisition of the huge Louisiana territory from Napoleon, which placed the inhabitants under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government without their consent. The War of 1812 was motivated in part by a wish to take Canada from the British. [See my "The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State," part 1 and part 2.] A few years later, American administrations began to built up the army and navy in order to bully Spain into ceding another huge area. The U.S. government thus gained jurisdiction over a vast territory reaching to the Pacific Ocean, from which the navy could project American influence and power to Asia. [In light of this empire-building, the Civil War can be seen as empire preservation.]

National security was always on the politicians' minds: the exceptional nation, whose destiny was manifest, could never be safe if surrounded by Old World monarchies and their colonial possessions. American politicians generally hoped to acquire those possessions through negotiation, but war—which major political figures believed was good for the national spirit—was always an option, as Secretary of State John Quincy Adams let the Spanish know in no uncertain terms in the years before 1820. Had Spain been more defiant of Adams, the Spanish-American War would have occurred 78 years earlier than it did.

We can acknowledge that leading politicians were domestic liberals, relatively speaking, in that they did not want the national government to intrude (as the British did) arbitrarily into the private affairs of Americans. The resulting personal freedom can account for the rising prosperity. But libertarians tend to push this point too far. In fact, with the War of 1812—slightly more than two decades after ratification of the Constitution—America's rulers, including former Jeffersonians, favored expanded powers for the national government, including a central role in the economy to create a national market and a national-security state. A pushback by the older Jeffersonian wing of the American political establishment took place briefly, but the centralists soon won the day for good. Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay were surely smiling.

The government's role in the economy came in the form of aggressive trade policy, internal improvements (with land grants to cronies), and more. The trade wars preceding and associated with the War of 1812 convinced most Americans that government was indispensable to making the United States a global commercial power. Free trade did not mean the laissez faire of Richard Cobden but rather a comprehensive government effort to open— by force if necessary—foreign markets to American merchants. In short order the objective changed from open markets and reciprocity to neomercantilism. Privileges for well-connected business interests were present all along the way. [Grover Cleveland complained about this in 1888.]

I am not saying that if early Americans could have seen today's America, they would have been pleased. Some clearly would not have been. I am saying that what they favored—national and commercial greatness—prepared the way for what America has become, whether or not they would have favored it. If you will the end, you will the means. You cannot build a continental empire and a worldwide political and military presence without planting the seeds of powerful government at home, a national-security state, and all that they require, including income taxation, regulation, central banking, and a welfare state to ameliorate the worst hardships of the system's victims, if only to tamp down radical resistance.

If libertarians mischaracterize this history, they discredit the case for liberty not only by appearing uninformed, but also by associating the freedom philosophy with a story that is more corporatist and imperialist than libertarian. As I've said before, the good old days lie ahead.

This piece originally appeared at Sheldon Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

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330 responses to “What Libertarians Get Wrong About American History

  1. America’s rulers? Go fuck yourself Richman. You are an ignorant, hateful douche bag.

    1. Are you just objecting to Richman’s use of the term “rulers”, or do you disagree with one or more of his points? If the latter, could you please elaborate (ideally, with something other than ad hominems? I’d really like to know what you think he got wrong. Unless you’re a troll, in which case never mind.

      1. Richman obsesses over the dark cloud in any silver lining.

        1. I believe Richman is either missing the obvious truth, or an incredibly pompous ass.

          I believe in the ideals of Liberty. So it’s natural that I would point out statements and achievements that related to American history, while fully recognizing that American history had many places where it was not in line with those ideals. Just because others weren’t able to carry out those ideals does not make them wrong. Neither does it make anyone “ignorant” of American history.

          He’s just full of assumptions about other folk ain’t he?

          1. Or?

            Think a little bit more inclusive.

            Richman does not believe in the ideals of liberty, at least understood and expressed by the people who founded this nation.

            He’s a collectivist kernal, wrapped in libertarian window dressing.

      2. John tends to get really fucking angry at little things. But if he’s going to sink his teeth into someone, it might as well be Richman, king of the overreactive strawman position (I see no difference between Richman and Adam Lanza wearing a Nazi uniform).

        1. Though a lover of history, I am not certain that our past matters. Is it not what we value today that creates what is around us? If we want to change our present reality how does the past matter? How is the constitution or the bill of rights relevant anymore? It certainly hasn’t mattered to many of those who have governed us for the past 100 years. A libertarian society will not happen because someone says, “but the constitution said…” Another approach is required.

      3. The argument Sheldon makes here runs counter to what Ive been taugh about the founders (Madison and his supporters specifically) but I admit this is by far the most compelling piece Ive seen from him at Reason. There is not enough space in these pages to adequately reinforce the points he is making – a book would be required for that. That said I have regularly lamented how many liberal scholars gloss over moves by the Founders that are clearly statist in the extreme (the Alien & Sedition Acts, et al). One point I agree with whole heartedly is that societies like todays America do not evolve from Libertopia. If anything that should give us hope for the future.

    2. John, don’t you go on about ‘elites’ at times? I think that’s what he means by rulers.

    3. I prefer rulers. Leaders implies consent and people following them.

      1. They were democratly elected. So they had that. That is what made the use of the term rulers so offensive.

        1. At least in early America, “democracy” was just for white males with a certain amount of property.

          1. Yeah, I wonder about that sometimes.

            Most libertarians, myself included, love the idea of the constitution viewed through our modern moral structure. We often don’t remember that some people weren’t really people back when the people writing about people in the constitution didn’t think that the people we think are people were actually people.

            1. True, but the principles remain sound. The “libertarian” edit to the Constitution should be an asterisk after “people” which points to a note reading, “this means everyone”.

            2. Who “weren’t really people”? A voting franchise is not a trait of person-hood. I can’t vote in a New Jersey because I’m not a resident. That doesn’t mean New Jersey doesn’t think I’m a person. All republics have limits on who is given a vote, and the American version was not particularly restrictive.

        2. Elections simply replace the Divine Right of the King moderated by the clergy with The Will of the People moderated by judges.

          Only the costumes have changed.

          1. Amen Sarcasmic Dude!!! You rock!

            Elections erections schmemections! Let’s put it up to the vote: “I the voter am more righteous than the next bastard, so I should make his charity choices for him, at the point of a gun… The policeman’s gun. since I am way too CLEAN to barge into my neighbor’s house, and announce that I will make his charity choices for him.”

            To the voter, another proposal: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fella, behind the tree!”

            And we all (or too many of us) fall for it…

            Democracy sucks big-time, I am just not quite sure what to replace it with, besides intelligent voters…

          2. Rule by the Booboisie.

        3. My mayor was elected. But considering the “permits” I’m required to get for business construction, they seem much more like rulers than leaders. And they have been easy to work with, but even their language says “we rule”.

          Also, we elect “representatives”. I dont elect them to lead me but to follow me.

          1. There is nothing divinely sanctioned about the decisions of 50+1.

          2. But your mayor is not responsible for the permit requirements. Those come from the hydra created by the non-elected, city public employees. They expand their powers and their size faster than any political body. I know this well because it’s where I work.

            Your mayor isn’t even responsible for those employees. The city manager is.

            But your mayor, is responsible for the city manager.

            Do you see an opportunity here?

        4. They were democratly elected…

          Cites? Evidence that they were elected by a majority of the population, or at least a majority of eligible voters? Was voter turnout always 100%?

          A sad fact of our “democratic process” that is very often overlooked or understated is that it is hardly democratic (i.e. of a majority). Voter turn out for the 2012 presidential election was around 57%, so, unless the vote is nearly unanimous, it is unlikely, by far, that a majority of eligible voters, much less of the people, are selecting Dear Rulers elected office-holders.

          It is Democratic Theater where a majority of the votes carries the day, regardless of whether or not the majority of the people agree.

          1. Non-voters are allowed that choice. Or do we promote Obama’s mandatory voting?

            1. Non-voters are allowed that choice…

              You are absolutely correct, but don’t pretend it is “democratic” when barely a majority of eligible voters bother to participate and, in many cases, not even a majority of those are making the “decisions”.

              By definition, it is not majority rule if the “decisions” are not made by a majority of the people.

          2. Which is why I’ve always said we need a standard “non of the above” candidate in all elections.

            If it receives the majority of the vote, the position is eliminated.

            We effectively formed the government by voting. And then, lost control. We can thus eliminate it the same way. One election at a time.

    4. Forget about it, John. It’s Sheldontown.

    5. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
      http://www.work-mill.com

    6. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
      http://www.work-mill.com

    7. John, you have issues. Serious emotional issues. Time to see a shrink.

    8. “America’s rulers? Go fuck yourself Richman. You are an ignorant, hateful douche bag.”

      I think you’ve established who the “ignorant, hateful douch bag” is, and it isn’t Richman.

  2. Muslim cab driver missed memo that in 2015 America gays are a sacred class.
    http://althouse.blogspot.com/2…..g.html?m=1

    1. So when will the SJW crowd twitter mob him into hiding?

      1. right after they notice last week’s story about the white on a horse beaten into submission by the LAPD.

        1. They’re not going to notice that, the story is useless to them unless it includes racism. It’s ok for law enforcement to beat or kill white guys. Nothing to see there, move along.

          1. But. . .wait. . .what if the guy that was killed was a racist?!

            1. Then it’s that much more ok.

          2. Kelly Thomas agreed 🙁

    2. At least the Muslim driver did not refuse him service because he was blind and wanting to take his guide dog with him.

    3. Muslims are also a sacred class. The proggies are going to come down on the SJWs pretty hard if they dare to offend one of the other useful classes.

      1. Add to that, the feminist regime of the prog elite also think that the Muslims are on their side, in the fight against the patriarchy.

        The unhinged SJWs are causing too much trouble for the left. They’ll have to be reigned in at some point before they cause more damage. They’re like a bunch of blind monkeys with torches on the loose in a paper factory.

        1. Or a bunch of college women with eggs and hotdogs?

          1. Exactly, different analogy, same conclusion.

        2. What’s your opinion of #Gamergate and the Sad Puppies?

    4. Im glad we avoided a principled discussion of the relationship between libertarianism and the history of American Constitutionalism to return to the regularly scheduled comments bashing muslims and team blue.

      Great work everyone.

  3. If only America could have in Richman’s eyes lived up to the high bar of justice and freedom set by Hamas and Iran

    1. You have to love your country like an adult loves somebody, not like a child loves its mommy. And right-wing Republicans tend to love America like a child loves its mommy, where everything Mommy does is okay. But adult love means you’re not in denial, and you want the loved one to be the best they can be.

      1. Listening to Bo talk about adult love is like hearing a gay man extol the virtues of pussy.

      2. If only I could love my country like an abusive husband the way you and Rickman do. You only need it because you love it. Go troll somewhere else and try to develop a more interesting act

        1. Abusive husband? I guess we’ve given the country the proverbial ‘black eye?’ Lol

        2. Go troll somewhere else

          Not when it has so many on the line. Throw the hook, John. Just swim away and ignore the bait.

          1. It’s fascinating how the guy who agrees with and defends the Reason contributor is the troll but the people who show up to curse or insult the contributor is not. Bizarro world has nothing on this place!

            1. Weigel was a contributor too.

              1. Will Wilkinson, Brink Lindsey, the AIDS-truther Democrat guy…

                Hell, Nick Gillespie runs the place.

            2. I usually call troll as a function of how often said commenter comments about the other commenters, instead of the articles or ideas directly.

        3. John,
          You realize you’re engaging an insufferable twit, right? Do you think this time the twit will somehow respond in a manner other than assholery?

          1. It’s easy to come to that conclusion if you’re not familiar with the symptoms of Asperger’s. He needs encouragement to seek help, not name-calling, even if his Aspy comes across via this medium as him being a twat.

            Asperger’s- symptoms and treatments

      3. Yes BO true loves involves obsessing on every flaw of your loved one and wanting to totally transform them into something else.

        1. VG: stop criticizing mommy!!!

          1. Shorter Bo. Iove America. It is just that I hate everything about it and want to change it completely. Your act is pathetic but makes up for it by being tiresome

      4. And right-wing Republicans tend to love America like a child loves its mommy, where everything Mommy does is okay.

        Thank you, Senator Franken.

        1. Actually, that is a better description of democrats. Republicans treat it like a father.

      5. “You have to love your country like an adult loves somebody, not like a child loves its mommy. And right-wing Republicans tend to love America like a child loves its mommy, where everything Mommy does is okay.”

        I would say more like a daddy. Right-wing types view the government as a stern daddy, while left-wing types view the government as a nurturing mommy. But in both cases, there is a need for a commanding pack-leader entity. This need is rooted in our biology as a pack species. As the evidence continues to pile up, it looks like Julian Jaynes may have been right, even if he got some of the details wrong.

    2. “America, love it or leave it.”

      I hadn’t heard that in over 50 years

      1. You are old.

      2. I hear it constantly. You can’t have best friends who are liberals without hearing that at least once a week.

        Usually in the form of a hateful, vitriolic curse.

        1. You can’t have best friends who are liberals without hearing that at least once a week.

          ftfy

        2. The difference is that “friends” part…

      3. I know you can still get the bumper sticker because I’ve seen them abroad.

    3. That’s always the Proggy playbook – hate America and love the leading totalitarian thugs opposing America.

  4. This is going to be a fun thread.

    1. Richman’s prone to hyperbolic nonsense at times, but his singular ability to stir the hornets nest of the Hit and Runpublicans that camp out here makes him a great asset here.

      1. I like to read Richman because I like it when someone tells me how I think based upon my self-identification with group that primarily concerned with liberty.

        This reads like Richman attended a party, had a conversation with someone who said they were libertarian, the dirty libertarian did not “know” his history, so Richman went home, made a cup of coffee and then typed up this really thought provoking think piece in order to educate me.

        I am glad that he posts here, and I am glad that you are here to not only interpret his writing, but also my reaction to it; it is very helpful.

        1. It’s not like you won’t hear some seemingly unqualified praise for our Constitution or the Founders in libertarian circles sometimes. Richman’s just saying, what’s up with that given the Constitution was the result of a move towards more federal powers among other things.

          1. Thank you for explaining that to me; it is very helpful.

          2. Some of us are antifederalists and still praise the constitution as better than what most countries have.

            1. Antarctica has a better form of government, I suppose.

              Can’t think of any others.

        2. Sarcasm (and some fine sarcasm at that, I must say) aside, while I think Richman offers some valid points from time to time I do get tired of Uncle Sheldon’s Sunday School sermons. It’s starting to feel like my grandmother warning me about “computer viruses that steal your Hotmails”; out of touch and irrelevant, albeit well-intended.

          1. I’d be way more open to the weekly Richman sermon if he was actually consistent, understood any kind of nuance, and didn’t constantly overreact in absurd ways. ‘Tragic’ and ‘traumatic’ are not words I’d use to describe someone disagreeing with my position or arguing something else based on their research. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I reserve those words for actual bodily harm. Or when I’m attempt to criticize the interpretation of a person’s actions, I don’t immediately compare them to Nazis or serial killers. Richman really doesn’t understand the concept of subtlety.

            1. Well, there’s also the fact that he damns some targets (U.S., Israel) for exactly the same behaviors, or more likely much more modest examples of behaviors, that he excuses other parties (Iran, the Palestinians, Russia) for.

              If you’re pushing differing standards, it’s kind of hard not to arrive at the conclusion that you’re advocating for principals rather than principles.

            2. The real problem with Sheldon is that he lies. He lies about Iran not wanting nukes or having never attacked other countries. He lies about ‘Israeli apartheid’. He just lies.

      2. You got us Bo. We are all secret, socially conservative, republicans around here. That’s why we Bo, the last true libertarian to set us straight.

        Boring Bo.

        1. I certainly wouldn’t think there are a lot of social conservatives here.

      3. “Richman’s prone to hyperbolic nonsense at times, but his singular ability to stir the hornets nest of the Hit and Runpublicans that camp out here makes him a great asset here.”

        Hit-and-Runpublicans? Are they the same as the yokeltarians? If not, how do they differ?

  5. And right-wing Republicans tend to love America like a child loves its mommy, where everything Mommy does is okay.

    This is what Bo actually thinks of the commentariat here, never mind the hundreds of posts each day of caustic derision for every government action.

    1. I was actually replying to John specifically there, but whatever keeps your fevered juices flowing you’re probably going to run with anyway…

      1. Never
        I don’t that I have just as many criticisms. But it is not like the truth ever stopped you before.

  6. If libertarians mischaracterize this history

    Like Richman, the Howard Zinn of libertarianism.

    1. Matt Damon reading Howard Zinn on civil disobedience.

      My take: teachers need to be paid more, and people who pay taxes should be more than happy to pay them more, no strings attached. Also, teachers unions need to be more powerful.

  7. Some Chick from OH? My Sock meter is going crazy.

    1. As in puppet? Nah – I just usually lurk here & rarely comment. There are almost no female libertarians (TAANFL.)

      1. Come here often?

        1. Don’t scare her away, CJ.

          1. You are right! Sorry, I do not want to ruin it for everyone else.

            I will take my smooth moves back to purrsonals .

            1. I find myself strangely fascinated by that website.

              1. This is my other go-to site for meeting sweet, sensual ladies. Combined with purrsonals I do pretty damn well.

                1. This one had a gay Reason contributor on the front page.

                  Male , 45
                  Seeking Male
                  BruceMajors4DC
                  Washington, Washington DC
                  I am a realtor and blogger in DC. Very occasionally I write something for reason magazine, the Daily Caller, the American spectator etc. I’d really like to find gay hiking and drinking buddies – kayaking, beaching etc – as much as dates. Though I admit it is a slippery slope. …

  8. What Libertarians Get Wrong About American History

    That teh joooos were secret puppetmasters the whole time.

    / Shedon Rhichman

    1. It’s always worth pointing out when our resident Rev. Al shows up with this that Richman is himself Jewish.

      1. Self-loathing seems to be common on the left.

        1. He in not self-loathing; on the contrary, he thinks of himself as quite superior.

          All you’re responding to with poor Bo is the reflexive Jew-hatred that is a symptom of Asperger’s. See my link above for symptoms and treatments.

          1. That’s just it. Just as much as there is a tendency for some people in a group to hate others outside the group, there is also a phenomenon, often confused with self-loathing, of denouncing the group one is part of to establish one’s superiority within the group.

          2. That’s just it. Just as much as there is a tendency for some people in a group to hate others outside the group, there is also a phenomenon, often confused with self-loathing, of denouncing the group one is part of to establish one’s superiority within the group.

          3. He in not self-loathing; on the contrary, he thinks of himself as quite superior.

            Bingo.

            The Proggies show their superiority by hating people like them.

    2. Read the comments for this, was not disappointed. Bonus points for Bo bringing up that Richman is Jewish, as if that matters at all.

  9. I guess the commentariat is so used to the usual Richman foreign policy articles that they can’t shift gears for this one.

    About my only disagreement is the implication that most libertarians applaud the Constitution and think it would be hunky dory if only the statists would get out of the way. There is something to that only in the sense that there is a lot of protection in the Constitution which has been brushed aside in the name of state power; such as the 9th and 10th amendments being ignored in favor of inventions like rational basis.

    And while the Articles of Confederation were better in having no federal power, they weren’t a shining light.

    Sheldon RIchman about nails this one. If John has real objections, not just knee jerk hatred of anything Sheldon RIchman writes, he ought to say so.

    1. Yeah, I think a mistake Richman makes is not seeing that when libertarians seem to be engaging in unqualified defense of the Constitution or the Founders they’re usually doing so in defending the better parts of both against attacks by leftists who would like to undo those parts. But to the extent to which he reminds us not to fall into that too deeply it’s useful.

  10. SoCons, Birchers, and the patriot movement love them some antifederalists.

  11. Any yokeltarian who has read his Rothbard would have known all this.

  12. ” A pushback by the older Jeffersonian wing of the American political establishment took place briefly, but the centralists soon won the day for good. Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay were surely smiling.”

    Mercantilism like Socialism is dependent on central planning. If this is what Richman is saying, then I agree with him.

  13. I suspect that John feels that Richmond came dangerously close, with his throwaway comment about the “Civil War”, to justifying deep dish pizza.

    1. “Rich man”, not “Richmond”

            1. Stupid-head.

      1. He was referring to the capital of the Confederacy, which wanted to go back to athe Articles of Confederation.

    2. Fuck you with rusty barbed wire rubbed between your testes and nail files shoved in your urethra. There is deep-dish. There is pizza. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “DEEP-DISH PIZZA.”

      1. *Hangs head in shame*

        I forgot the quotation marks…

      2. I had deep dish last night. I confess that I very much liked it. Had the leftovers this morning.

        Papa Dans in Palm Desert. Buttery, flaky crust. 5 stars, would eat again

        1. Deep dish can be wonderful. Lou Malnati’s is our go-to. But… it’s deep dish. It’s not pizza. May as well call it “deep dish waffles” or “deep dish casserole.”

          Hmmm, deep dish waffles. That has me thinking…

  14. Pitiful. Apparently, we’re supposed to pitch libertarianism to history majors.
    That would rank among the dumbest ways to promote libertarianism.

    As long as everything we see is how to talk with other libertarians, the libertarian brand will continue being rejected by 91% of libertarians.

    How would liberty improve people’s lives, better achieve their dreams for themselves and their family. We have nothing to say on anything of interest to average Americans, which why the greatest obstacle to a libertarian society is … libertarianism … the endless masturbation of a closeted commentariat..

    “How would libertarians govern?”
    Let me explain Austrian economics for you.
    “How can we best restore the economy?”
    Read Atlas Shrugged.
    “Why don’t you have any specific policies to expand liberty.”
    Government policies? Government can’t fix anything. We are NOT fucking statists,
    “So how do we achieve a free society?”
    Once everyone is conversant in the libertarian philosophy, it will happen on its own.
    “If that’s it, the dustbin of history seems more likely.”

    1. Seriously, how old are you?

      1. When the first fish managed to crawl its way out of the sea onto land with its primitive fin-limbs, Hihn was there to call it a dumbfuck.

        1. I have seen the amazing truth that is SteinsGate. I understand your handle now.

          That show moved me to tears more times than I care to admit.

          1. The show and I actually both got the name from an early internet hoax that I learned about on old Coast to Coast AM recordings. His future was vaguely libertarian-ish so I rolled with it. I watched Steins Gate afterwards and it is absolutely fantastic.

            El Psy Congroo.

            1. +1 Don’t fuck with the timeline!

        2. Hihn was there to call it a dumbfuck.

          And prove it.

          https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_5224286

      2. Crusty

        Mike is 73 years old. Plus or minus a year.

        1. Mike is 73 years old. Plus or minus a year.

          73. Nearly 50 years as a libertarian, elected twice, won a local tax revolt, first (only??) paid director of a state LP, developed, managed and/or trained over a dozen libertarians elected to local office, listed in the history of the LP..

          An electoral libertarian.

          1. Could you refresh me on the percentage of people that are but don’t identify as libertarians? I seem to have misplaced that value in my mind.

    2. As long as everything we see is how to talk with other libertarians, the libertarian brand will continue being rejected by 91% of libertarians.

      There it is. Way to pound that message, Captain!

    3. This fuckin’ guy.

    4. “91% of libertarians.”!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. BTW, that only leaves 9%, which is real close to 8%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      2. In our Zogby survey we found that only 9 percent of voters with libertarian views identify themselves that way.

        http://www.cato.org/policy-rep…..-2004-2006

        (snicker)

    5. That does seem to be the pitch Sheldon is giving. Actually, I think that in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is better to engender good feelings than to persuade, not vice versa. You get on someone’s good side, eventually you can tell ’em anything & they’ll grunt, yeah, sure?which is all you need. Hell, it works on me!

      A lot of discussion among children’s football coaches online concerns preparing a team that’s already beaten 80% of opponents to beat the other 20%. Many teams will never even have the opp’ty to get into competition stiff enough for those details to matter, and even if you do get the opp’ty, frequently the difference will be made not by the coaching but by the fact that several of the players miss a game for any of various personal or family reasons.

      But this is not to fault Sheldon per se (although he does make it explicit). Rather, it’s a mindset activists, and not only of the libertarian stripe, fall into a lot. I know I sure have done so frequently.

      1. I should explain that in the avg. children’s football league with equal talent, your team can win a quarter of your games just by being gen’ly well organized, which many teams are not, even if you do nothing particularly well. Then by knowing how (& being able or even allowed) to teach a few basic skills & having practice organized well enough to give you a decent amount of actual time working on them, you can get your W-L up to even?again, w nothing else. Then teach them to contain sweeps & end runs on defense, and you should have a winning record. Add to that an offense that’s any kind of systematic, you’ll be 75% winning.

        However, no matter how much the coaches like to flatter themselves, a big enough difference in aptitude & attitude by the players can be the difference between 2-6 & 6-2.

    6. There are different libertarian writings for different audiences. I agree that we libertarians don’t pay enough attention to “retail libertarianism” – getting the word out to the average person who is not ideologically oriented. Instead of trying to sell a general philosophy we need to show, issue by issue, how the application of libertarian principles can make things better.

  15. I don’t agree with the conclusion of this article. Some of the founders, including Jefferson had some very libertarian ideas, and at the time the country was founded, it was probably the closest thing to a libertarian nation that has ever existed. That’s been eroded by the left to the point that it’s hardly recognizable today, with all of the disregard for and trampling on of the constitution and the rise of an imperial like presidency.

    But like Rand Paul, our founders were close enough to libertarians for me. No one said the USA was ever a libertarian paradise, but it was as close as the world has ever seen for a nation.

    1. Like the founders wanted you to have an AK-47 assault launcher. Or the ability to speak out against a government. Or the ability to openly support a religion, any religion, of your choice. Get the fuck out of here. Those are outdated concepts.

      1. Well, communism came around later, so it’s the newer idea. Newer = better. You just have to change the name every few decades.

        1. Communism aka collectivism is hardly a new idea. But I think you know that.

          1. Oh come on, why do you think they call themselves progressive? It’s shiny and new! Just like the Cankle Beast.

          2. Hey the first American colony tried that, I don’t think it worked out very well for them.

      2. Who doesn’t support reasonable, common-sense limitations on DEATHKILL assault weapons and hate speech? sheesh,

    2. The country’s economy depended on having a huge slave labor population. The country came into existence by stealing land from its inhabitants. Can you really just brush these under the rug and celebrate how free society was for wealthy white men?

      1. The country’s economy depended on having a huge slave labor population.

        Except that the part of the country without slavery, economically crushed the part of the country with slavery.

        1. The part of the country to which you refer crushed the other part militarily, even though it too depended on slavery economically, though perhaps not as much as the Southern forebears of “leave me alone!” politics.

      2. Every country’s economy depended on slavery to some extent. The world is fortunate that it had Wealthy White Men who worked hard to abolish the institution.

      3. Poverty, starvation, war and slavery have always been common to the human experience. Only through innovation have these become surmountable over the past several centuries. And they’re still extant in other parts of the world, precisely because of the lack of technological development (development is more than merely adopting another culture’s advanced technology).

        Strangely enough, the philosophy that you leftists push would put human civilization back under these horrid conditions just to save the environment.

        1. the philosophy that you leftists push would put human civilization back under these horrid conditions

          IOW, Choney wants “to put ya’ll back in chainz!!11!”

          Now we know where Comrade Joe got the idea!

      4. The country came into existence by stealing land from its inhabitants.

        As did those previous inhabitants (savages) and every other nation on Earth.

        1. So brushing under the rug it is.

          1. Nope, I don’t need to brush something that is totally irrelevant.

          2. Nope, I don’t need to brush something that is totally irrelevant.

          3. Nope, I don’t need to brush something that is totally irrelevant.

        2. Seems like an ecological niche sort of idea to me; Cool! I always wanted to be an invasive specie.

      5. Tony

        King cotton was a myth. Exactly why zero countries assisted the Confederacy on any substantial manner during the Civil War.

    3. Some of the founders, including Jefferson had some very libertarian ideas, and at the time the country was founded, it was probably the closest thing to a libertarian nation that has ever existed. That’s been eroded by the left to the point that it’s hardly recognizable today, with all of the disregard for and trampling on of the constitution and the rise of an imperial like presidency.

      Agreed. The Constitution was a good first attempt. The founders simply failed to realize just how vile and mendacious politicians can be and didn’t place nearly enough limitations upon them or provide adequate mechanisms for the people to punish the violators. Next time, we’ll do better.

      1. Or keep the government small.

        Or keep the collectivists away from the levers of power.

        1. I rather think the point would be to have either no levers of power, or to make those levers so short they could barely move a bowel.

    4. My impression was that from the get-go it was Hamilton’s push for a strong central government v. everyone else.

      I think Richman is ‘correct’ in saying Hamilton is smiling today.

  16. I’d have to say that I’m a bit suspicious about an article generally describing what’s wrong with whatever group the author labels as libertarian, without a single specific reference to raise any of the points of argument.

  17. I’d have to say that I’m a bit suspicious about an article generally describing what’s wrong with whatever group the author labels as libertarian, without a single specific reference to raise any of the points of argument.

    1. You can say that again.

      1. I know, right?

        1. What?

    2. You can say that again.

      1. And you did.

        1. Hyperion! I never got the chance to thank you for posting your hosting sauce recipe. I used it when I cooked for my employees, and it was universally praised, even by people who don’t normally eat hot wings. I posted the recipe on my blog, as well (giving you credit, of course).

            1. Your hosting sauce, unfortunately, is decidedly lacking.

          1. Hot sauce recipe?

            My mother grew some Thai chilies this last summer, and gave them to me since they were too hot for her. So I dried them out, and when I want some hot sauce here’s what I do.

            I grind some of the dried peppers, seeds and all, in the mortar and pestle with salt, garlic, honey and a splash of vinegar.

            That’s it.

            Holy cow it’s good. Especially on fish for some reason.

            1. I’ll publish it forthwith.

      2. I know, right?

  18. What Crusty Juggler and rogerfgay said. Richman creates a strawman and then just beats it to DEATH.

    Yeah, I’m sure “someone” “sometime” who identified him/her/itself as “libertarian” made “one or more” of Richman’s “points”. [ that is one awesome collection of scare quotes, if I say so myself, which I do]

    But…who the fuck is he talking about? I’ve read/heard all the objections about the Const/Founders that he sites, here and elsewhere, and agree with many/most. Jefferson was a two-faced weirdo who thought and spoke out of both sides of his head, “libertarian” when he felt like it, and an utter, authoritarian, shithead slaveowner typical of his age when that suited him. Wasn’t really fond of Washington’s response to the Whiskey Rebellion. Adams? Much as I love my favorite Founder (why? I don’t know – I’ve just always liked Adams), “Alien and Sedition Acts” much?

    But – with all that said, I’d take any and all of them ahead of today’s dictators from either TEAM.

    That doesn’t mean I, nor anyone else, makes the arguments or holds the views Richman purports, and provides no evidence of.

    So, as usual, fuck yourself, Sheldon, you weak-sauced, strawman-building-and-killing hack.

    1. There is something amusing about an article on libertarianism that collectivizes an entire ideological movement’s views on history and removes all the nuance of individual positions to construct an easy to beat down strawman.

      1. You erroneously make the assumption that those who self-identify as libertarians are prone to think for themselves. Libertarians are well-known for their propensity to agree with whatever their betters tell them.

        1. Since when?

          1. There is soooooooo much irony happening right now I can’t even stand it. I feel like I’m actually witnessing the formation of the cosmos, it’s that big a deal.

            1. What the fuck does this have to do with Rand Paul?

            2. *taps sarcometer a couple times, takes it in for recalibration*

    2. “[ that is one awesome collection of scare quotes, if I say so myself, which I do]”

      But isn’t this better than one of the Judges articles? Don’t you think ii has more declarative sentences? And fewer rhetorical questions?

  19. Also, I hereby rename Botard Botox. Cause it invades and slowly destroys from within.

    I name it originally – I’m renaming it here. Botox – begone!

    1. First they came for the SoCons, and I laughed at them and told them to fuck off, because I was not a SoCon.

      Next they came for the psychopathic juvenile Gamergaters, and I laughed at them and told them to fuck off, because I was not a psychopathic juvenile Gamergater.

      Then they came for the racist white men, and I laughed at them and told them to fuck off, because I was not a racist white man.

      Whatever Botox calls us next, I’ll be ready to laugh at them and tell them to fuck off, because it sure as hell won’t be grounded in any kind of reality.

  20. I feel like most American political movements attempt to appropriate the Founders.

    1. George Washington signed off on the ACA, why not you?

    2. General welfare clause clearly meant that _________ should be provided by the gonvernment.

      1. Maximum Liberty

        Everything else being a lesser consideration.

  21. Admittedly I’d probably be way more into Richman’s more sane articles if he wasn’t so damn inconsistent. He holds the United States to a standard that he refuses to even consider for other nations, It’s an attitude entirely driven by familiarity breeds contempt. If he at least broadly applied the ideals he espouses I’d be more willing to say he’s arguing in good faith (even with the constant strawmen and open-ended nonsense). He’s at least consistent in his inconsistency: nationalism is bad, except when its Palestinian nationalism against Israel, Russia is not an aggressor because the Ukraine DARED to try to pull themselves out of its geopolitical sphere, the American government lies on a regular basis but the pure-hearted Iranian government would never do such a thing, etc. I sense a pattern here, almost like Richman is fundamentally unwilling to hold other national groups to his high standards as long as they’re actively challenging the American hegemony he despises.

    Also, this might be my asshole academic side showing, but an article that discusses history filled with the author’s own articles as citations is questionable and self-aggrandizing at best.

    1. It’s the Critical Theory version of Libertarianism.

  22. In my opinion, it wasn’t the Constitution or politicians–libertarian or otherwise–that kept the Fedgov from accruing power for so long, but rather the presence of the Frontier, which allowed people to move beyond the Fedgov’s reach.

    1. I agree.

    2. Which was the idea behind Niven’s Belter stories, even though he didn’t care for libertarianism(which he confused with anarchy).

    3. Canada’s own frontier history seems to support this argument as well. Large scale state expansion and socialism only really emerged as a position in the early 20th century (and was heavily influenced by the emergence of labour movements in the U.S.).

      1. *labor. You people…

        1. Just because you colonial upstarts ran out of u’s in your printing presses you think you can determine the Queen’s English, ha!

          Now go back to your NASCAR races or whatever you people do on the weekend.

          1. I can tell you what we do not do: adjust our toques while drinking a bag of mik and reminiscing about Don Cherry’s greatness!

            TAKE THAT! This is America!

            1. You can shit on our toques and Don Cherry as much as you like, but how dare you insult our bags of milk! Milk is supposed to be in bags, I can’t fathom the depravity of such a barbarian culture that puts it solely in cartons.

              1. Not solely in cartons: There are also jugs. You can’t argue that milk doesn’t belong in jugs! (As a chick, I can say this without being microaggressive or triggering or whatever the hell.)

                1. Then show us your jugs! With or w/o milk, machs nix…

      2. John Titor,

        Bingo.

        I like to remind Americans who tend to ‘bash’ Canada’s socialism that it was imported from the USA. Until then, Canada was pretty ‘libertarian’.

        1. Did Canada have a dog in the WW1 fight other than being a satellite state of England?

  23. This article reads like concern trolling.

    No one should be surprised to see people react to it as such.

  24. “If libertarians with this frame of mind run into serious students of history, the results can be traumatic. The disillusionment can be so great that a young libertarian might decide to keep quiet from then on or give up the philosophy entirely. A libertarian who might have become a powerful advocate is lost to the movement.”

    How dangerous is this, comparatively speaking?

    Among aspiring undergrad historians, I bet there are a dozen naive socialists for every naive libertarian.

    The socialists should be more worried than we are about their charges hearing the truth.

    1. Socialism/collectivism works on emotion, making it impervious to the truth. It feels right. No amount of truth can change that.

      1. Richman seems to be worried that naive libertarians are going to hear the honest truth from socialists!

        1. I think the argument is that socialism attracts new members on emotion. libertarianism should be attracting on what works and not harming others; getting facts correct is more important.

      2. All -isms work primarily on emotion.

        1. Even rationalism?

        2. Rapism isn’t emotion as much as it is genetic (in white males).

    2. The other day someone wrote about an encounter with a college student that said at least Lincoln ended the crazy republican rule that preceded him or something to that effect.

      1. That is classic:)

    3. That’s why I like open carry. Almost everyone agrees with me.

  25. The Whiskey Rebellion, socialism, libertarianism? What say you?

    1. It was libertarian.

      It sure as hell wasn’t statism.

    2. The rebellion itself, or the Fedgov’s response?

  26. There’s more real liberty for any given American today than ever before (except perhaps prisoners). This is due largely to technology, including the technology of modern social institutions. There was never a functioning libertarian society in the past here or elsewhere because it just doesn’t work. It’s a kooky theory depending on the assumption that simplicity is a virtue in managing a society. But the simplest regimes are the most brutal.

    Richman’s point about local versus national government is all-important. If you really care about government not being too intrusive, you start with the local one. But libertarianism is fixated on the idea that bigger is less free, specifically that the US federal government is the main source of oppression because of its size. But American history is dotted with instances in which the federal government acted to rectify abuses happening at more local levels. Obsessing over states’ rights and local control has been the pastime of people who were pissed off that the feds were telling them that they couldn’t own people, or impose apartheid on them. I’m all for a libertarianism that concerns itself with government abuse, but it all too often seems like just another word for neoconfederate interests.

    1. But the simplest regimes are the most brutal.

      Liberty is tyranny!

    2. Obsessing over states’ rights and local control has been the pastime of people who were pissed off that the feds were telling them that they couldn’t own people, or impose apartheid on them.

      Um, yeah. Because libertarians support owning people and imposing apartheid by force.

      Suuuuuuuuure.

      Retard.

    3. “There’s more real liberty for any given American today than ever before (except perhaps prisoners). This is due largely to technology, including the technology of modern social institutions.”

      Tony almost got something right.

      But he’s so stupid, he ignores the obvious–that technological advances that improve our freedom and standard of living are all about libertarianism and capitalism.

      He must not have checked with his handler before writing that one. I bet Tony’s handler thinks he’s an idiot, too.

      1. I may have left off a close italics tag somewhere.

      2. -that technological advances that improve our freedom and standard of living are all about libertarianism and capitalism.

        You didn’t build that!

    4. There’s more real liberty for any given American today than ever before (except perhaps prisoners). This is due largely to technology, including the technology of modern social institutions

      You’re equivocating by using the term “real liberty” to simultaneously refer to (1) “choices people have available to them” and (2) “degree in which government restricts individual choices”.

      If you’re trying to make a meaningful statement about (1), it’s irrelevant to compare the amount of choices over time; they increase even under totalitarian regimes. You need to compare the amount of choices people would have had available in a more libertarian society to what they actually do have available, and we have lost a great deal: people would easily be several times as wealthy and technology would be far more advanced if not hindered by government intervention.

      If you’re making a statement about (2), you need to compare degrees of regulation over time, and they have clearly increased greatly.

    5. Obsessing over states’ rights and local control has been the pastime of people who were pissed off that the feds were telling them that they couldn’t own people, or impose apartheid on them.

      And for good reason: slavery was created and perpetuated by the federal government, until the politics shifted and the federal government ended it. Your implication that slavery was a creation of evil states that was then ended by a benevolent federal government is bullshit; with more states rights, slavery would likely have ended sooner and in a less bloody way than it did. Similar comments apply to segregation.

      1. And abolitionists were individuals that associated with other like-minded individuals that did illegal acts in contrary to the federal government. Libertarians did not pass the Fugitive Slave Act.

    6. Richman’s point about local versus national government is all-important. If you really care about government not being too intrusive, you start with the local one

      No, not at all. Local “government” will always be highly restrictive, because you need to live close to your neighbors and that means agreeing with them on a lot of things. That doesn’t change in a libertarian world. Libertarianism simply replaces local government with HOAs. While that’s a good thing to do for many reasons, it won’t result in more individual liberties in your home or your neighborhood.

      It should come as no surprise that you like this point of Richman’s; he is as confused on it as you are.

    7. the technology of modern social institutions.

      DUR TONY NOT KNOW WHAT TECHNOLOGY MEANS

    8. Obsessing over states’ rights and local control has been the pastime of Democrats who were pissed off that the feds were telling them that they couldn’t own people, or impose apartheid on them

      It behooves us to make that fact plain.

  27. I just want to take a moment to gripe about the recently published “80th Anniversary Edition” of Monopoly?.

    The money and prices are no longer denominated in dollars; a strange symbol consisting of an “M” with two slashes through it is used instead.
    The Chance and Community Chest cards use the wrong illustrations and changed the wording (“Your Xmas Fund Matures” becomes “Your Holiday Fund Matures”, etc.).
    The Income Tax Space no longer offers the option to pay 10% instead of $200, and the Luxury Tax space has been bumped from $75 to $100.
    The houses and hotels are the same color.
    The title deeds no longer say “Title Deed”.
    The dog and top hat tokens are not included. The car token has been changed to a racing trophy.
    On the plus side, they’ve started using the image of Uncle Pennybags (“Mr. Monopoly”) smoking a cigar again, which they changed for the standard sets to him throwing money in the air.

    1. The thing I don’t like about Monopoly is that it perpetuates the myth of the zero-sum economy. All accumulated capital comes at the expense of someone else, so someone getting rich cannot happen without someone else getting poor.

      1. It is, in fact, a version of roulette in which the participants can trade numbers with each other.

      2. It also emulates the Federal Reserve’s injecting new money into the “economy”.

      3. That’s probably because it was designed by progressives with the goal of demonstrating the evils of land ownership.

        1. Actually, it was invented by a student of Henry George, who argued that the only thing that should be taxed was the price appreciation of land.

          1. You got it sort of right and then added an incorrect interpretation:

            The history of Monopoly can be traced back to 1903,[1][3] when American Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George. It was intended as an educational tool to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_(game)

            Henry George is a progressive, trying to use taxation to combat inequality and business cycles through his “single tax”.

            1. Henry George was misinformed about monopolies if he thought that they could form sans the government. I had read somewhere that he was a proponent of Free Trade, so I assumed he was more or less on the side of the Free Market. As an aside, Mises.org has a good article critiquing the rules of the game Monopoly.

  28. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

  29. i stopped reading this article when Richman began saying that the Articles of Comfederation wasn’t a libertarian document and referring to taxes as “stolen money.” To my understanding of libertarianism, libertarians are not anarchists. Ignoring the fact that under the Articles, states were not required to actually pay any money to the Federal government, The stolen money/tax argument falls down when you consider that taxes are not automatically “stolen” just cause they are taxes unless people are not receiving a fair return for their money. The government is so inefficient and wasteful that we generally don’t get a fair return and its gets worse as the government gets bigger. Just the mere fact of having a tax doesn’t go against libertarian philosophy.
    For an article that is supposed to be setting us straight about History and Libertarianism, it seems to lead off with a perspective that ignores important details about both. So I was done reading.

    1. Tariffs (of the “low revenue” kind) are not a bad method of funding a government, if you must have one.

    2. Just the mere fact of having a tax doesn’t go against libertarian philosophy.

      Uhm…

      Taxation is the state coercively appropriating the property of others by threat of force. That is, by definition, diametrically opposed to libertarian philosophy.

  30. Richman seems to think that the existence of policies (unwise foreign intervention, slavery, expulsion of Native Americans, etc.) is inconsistent with the idea that the US was libertarian. But libertarianism guarantees a just society no more than Christianity guarantees a society free of sin. Slavery in the US often started out as a free market transaction based on economic pressures: people in England took on debt, couldn’t pay it off, and were shipped to the colonies. Native Americans made unwise deals giving away their land, often not understanding what they were doing. Richman also fails to understand how libertarianism and local government relate. While libertarianism argues against strong government at all levels, at the local level, governments would simply be replaced by the equivalent of HOAs, organizations not exactly known for upholding individual liberties. Someone who understands libertarianism acknowledges that, but still considers it a worthwhile tradeoff.

    Libertarianism is indeed somewhat corporatist and can result in the dispossession of people and peoples who don’t understand markets. Denying that only opens up libertarians to criticism by its opponents. What we as libertarians need to do is explain that these problems occur in all forms of government, and that libertarianism tends to reduce their impact and effect.

    The sooner relics like Richman retire and leave the libertarian movement, the better for libertarianism; Richman is incompetent.

    1. Slavery in the US did not start off as a ‘free market transaction’. It started off the same way it started everywhere else. As a military conquest where the subjugated prisoners turn into the spoils of war – where people become property because they couldn’t fight back strongly enough. I mean yeesh – this is a perfect example of the historical stupidity of libertarians. Indentured servitude – and even criminal transportation – were NOT the roots of chattel slavery.

      Politically in fact the existence of both elements in the southern US was why the political strategy of divide and conquer worked so well there – from colonial times to really the civil rights era.

      1. Indentured servitude – and even criminal transportation – were NOT the roots of chattel slavery.

        They were the roots of slavery in the US. England treated its American colonies the same way it treated its colonies everywhere else and shipped its criminals and debtors there. That system gradually turned into treating people as property. Those were “the roots of” slavery in the US. Since England couldn’t supply enough people, colonial America turned to other sources, including Africa (the founding of the US put an end to that). African slave traders generally also didn’t obtain their slaves as prisoners of war.

        I mean, how do you think slavery in the Americas started?

        The other large system that treated human beings as personal property, namely European feudalism, also didn’t derive from enslaving prisoners of war, but evolved gradually out of economic and social structures.

        It started off the same way it started everywhere else. As a military conquest where the subjugated prisoners turn into the spoils of war

        Neither the US nor England enslaved prisoners of war to my knowledge, but feel free to try to come up with historical references.

        I mean yeesh – this is a perfect example of the historical stupidity of libertarians.

        You are historically illiterate. Get yourself an education before you accuse others of “historical stupidity”.

        1. Chattel slavery in the US started because indentured servants time ran out and they went elsewhere and because the criminally transported headed west to the frontier. The key element of chattel slavery is that their CHILDREN are born slaves – not free. There was never a speck of belief that the children of the transported or indentured were anything but free. For slaves, the explicit rule was ‘if your mother is a slave you are a slave. If your mother is free, you are free’ Which allowed slaveowners to sell some of their children as property while the other children become heirs to the property (including their half-siblings). For purposes of divide and conquer, those descendants of indentured/transported were turned into ‘poor white trash’ so the landowning elites could sic them against the poor black slaves. The anti-miscegenation and no slave marriage laws were created not out of racial animus but to ensure that those two groups would become more visibly distinct over time – rather than less visibly distinct.

          And yes, every single African brought to the US was basically a prisoner of war. They may have changed hands a few times by the time they got to the Caribbean where the US/English bought them and brought them to the US. But not a one came over because they had ‘debt’ problems.

          Feudalism has more to do with mutual obligation than it does about ‘property’. Enclosure was about notions of property but enclosure is what ended feudalism.

          1. Chattel slavery in the US started because indentured servants time ran out and they went elsewhere and because the criminally transported headed west to the frontier.

            I.e. chattel slavery in the US had its roots in indentured servitude, as I was saying. That is, indentured servitude created the economic and social systems around forced labor, and later, Africans were used to substitude for indentured servants. Incidentally, it’s not that they completed their time of indentured servitude, they simply died.

            And yes, every single African brought to the US was basically a prisoner of war.

            You’re changing your story. Your original claim was: [Slavery in the US] started off the same way it started everywhere else. As a military conquest where the subjugated prisoners turn into the spoils of war. Fact is that slavery didn’t start off the same way. African slaves may or may not have originated in faraway African conflicts, but that’s a different statement (and rather questionable too).

          2. Feudalism has more to do with mutual obligation than it does about ‘property’.

            Serfs were for all intents and purposes the property of their feudal lords: they were attached to the real estate, and could not move or marry without their feudal lord’s permission. The system started out with “mutual obligation”, but so did the system of American slavery.

            Enclosure was about notions of property but enclosure is what ended feudalism.

            What ended feudalism was that it wasn’t economically viable anymore and that the serfs were running away to other European countries and America.

            In any case, good that you are starting to do your homework. Keep it up.

        2. I mean, how do you think slavery in the Americas started?

          Slavery in the Americas began with the Spanish. First they enslaved the natives, and when they died off due to overwork and disease, the Spanish imported slaves from West Africa.

          IIRC, it was the Dutch who started the North American slave trade. But the Spanish brought the first slaves.

          1. I wasn’t asking about the absolute first slaves on the soil of the Americas; I was asking about the mechanisms that started slavery as a major institution across the Americas. You are absolutely right that the Spanish tried to enslave Native Americans and started the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In fact, the vast majority of slaves went into Spanish colonies.

            In North America, slavery started off because Southern colonies started off relying on indentured servitude, just like other colonies. When the indentured servants ran out (they mostly died, Brits don’t do so well in the heat), those colonies started importing African slaves, piggy-backing on the already established trade routes by the Spanish and Portuguese. Only a small fraction of slaves in North America were brought to US after the US was founded, and importation of slaves was abolished as soon as the US Constitution allowed it.

            The point is: you really can’t blame the US government for the institution of slavery in the US or infer anything about how libertarian they were. You can be as libertarian as you want, if you actually have to govern, you have to worry about how you can transition from where you are to where you want to go. If you start your political reign off by disowning lots of people, no matter how justified, you throw your society into chaos and likely have your revolution fail. Yes, politics is ugly. Welcome to the real world.

            1. Agreed. Only one problem. This doesn’t fit the narrative, so it must be wrong.

            2. And while slavery probably would have died out in the U,.S. too on its own like much of the rest of the world, The secession of the southern states over the issue lead Lincoln to go to war which ended the issue.

              Of course the real issue for Lincoln (contrary to what is taught in school) was that preserving the Union was the main issue with slavery being a good POLITICAL EXPLANATION for things that presidents going even back to him knew how to use for their advantage.

              So as not to stir things up again, his Emancipation Proclamation ONLY APPLIED to those states that were still in the confederacy (and haven’t yet given in). It didn’t apply at all to states in the union which still had slaves ! This is perhaps a clue to how Lincoln really felt.

              1. In fact, slavery was already ending on its own, as slaves were successfully escaping to the North throughout the first half of the 19th century, where they were very much needed as workers and well paid. Congress then passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which forced non-slavery states to return fugitive slaves, and required only an affidavit from the purported slave owner to put any black man into slavery. That’s an illustration of how even unilateral liberty and freedom of movement can cause regimes to collapse. Of course, the logic behind that was roughly the same as behind the original compromises on slavery: Congress wanted to avert a civil war.

                The lesson from this history is an essentially libertarian one: slavery was perpetuated because the federal government was too strong. If it had simply lacked the power to force Northern states to enforce the system of slavery, slavery would probably have ended on its own and the Civil War would have been averted. Even secession wouldn’t really have helped the Southern states: they lacked the industrial base, it would have devastated trade, and their slaves would still have been running away to the North, and now with the aid of Northerners hell-bent on hurting the South.

  31. I like the article generally. And at core it is probably why I think of myself more as a classical liberal than a libertarian. The 19th century roots of most modern ‘libertarian’ thought is either anarchism (sillier even than Marxist assumptions about human nature) or Lost Cause revisionism about the freaking Civil War. Of course it doesn’t have much to do with anything that actually occurred in the US before the 20th century.

    The 20th century roots of libertarianism seem to mostly be a reaction to Marxist/Fabian socialism or American progressivism – which coopted the term ‘liberal’ in order to provide a friendly smell for the manure they spread around. Because of that reactive obsession, from a practical perspective, Rand more easily descends into plutocracy than she does reflect/resurrect classical liberals like Bastiat, Smith, or Chydenius. That reactive obsession also means that libertarians rarely create the public agenda. When some new issue pops up, the left is quickly able to jump all over it and define it – and libertarians are left to oppose that. Not a very useful way of advancing anything and in fact it is more akin to the tactic of conservatives that Hayek wrote about. And Austrian economics is almost blissfully contemptuous of empirical/pragmatic reality with its devotion to its praxeology (basically extreme Cartesian rationalism). Not exactly an easy sell in the US which is probably the most empirical/pragmatic culture on Earth.

    1. from a practical perspective, Rand more easily descends into plutocracy

      Rand is not a libertarian, and she is a peripheral figure among libertarian thinkers.

      And Austrian economics is almost blissfully contemptuous of empirical/pragmatic reality with its devotion to its praxeology (basically extreme Cartesian rationalism).

      Praxeology assumes purposeful behavior, not rational behavior. Furthermore, although libertarians advocate free markets, they do so for moral and philosophical reasons, not utilitarian reasons. The fact that free markets also produce good outcomes is a nice bonus.

      And at core it is probably why I think of myself more as a classical liberal than a libertarian

      Too bad that you’re actually neither, because you clearly have no understanding of either.

      1. I agree that Rand is intelllectually lightweight, but the reality is that libertarians frequently cite her as a reference. Her books are easily the most common recommended by libertarians to non-libertarians. And I’ve even heard that some prominent libertarian pols name their children Rand.

        It doesn’t matter what praxeology assumes. It rejects the very idea of empirical data – which is the only thing anyone has in the real world to provide falsifiability to any public policy prescription. Which is why Austrian economics is irrelevant outside academia – and not very relevant even inside academia. If one favors free markets, they should be favoring actual free markets in the actual world we live in and be subject to those who judge the utility (not utilitarian) of them in the real world.

        1. Here – let me hold your shovel for you. You’re digging such a deep, deep hole for yourself – you must be exhausted!

          Tell me again how US slavery started from “prisoners of war”……fascinating….

          1. Are you aware of how individual Africans actually came to be slaves back in Africa? Everything about the slave trade itself is merely buying and selling a prisoner-turned-property and moving them far far away from where they come from.

            1. Everything about the slave trade itself is merely buying and selling a prisoner-turned-property

              There is a big difference between “prisoner” and “prisoner of war”. Slaves, obviously, start out as “prisoners” no matter how they were captured. But “prisoner-of-war” has an entirely different meaning. Your statement was even more ludicrous: “As a military conquest where the subjugated prisoners turn into the spoils of war”.

              Are you aware of how individual Africans actually came to be slaves back in Africa?

              Historians debate that, but it appears to have been mostly through abductions and kidnappings, as punishment, as existing or hereditary slaves. Military conquest was rarely involved. Incidentally, Africans frequently raided the Mediterranean coast of Europe to enslave “white” people.

              However, where African slaves came from is not relevant to this discussion. You said that “Slavery in the US started with prisoners of war”, which is bullshit. The African slave trade predated widespread slavery in North America by centuries, slavery in the colonies started out as indentured servitude and then gradually substituted other forms of forced labor, and slavery in the colonies predated the founding of the US by centuries as well.

        2. Rand was an intellectual giant, and you are a worm, like all those leftoid vermin who trash her more than anyone else on the right. They do so because they consider her the biggest intellectual threat from the right (which she absolutely is), and they know she had their number.

          But you do so for different reasons, though both camps cling to the traditional failures of Western philosophy. Most of you have hung your hats on the self-delusional philosophy of subjectivism; the fact that reality exists independently of whatever you want it to be, is a bridge that you do not (yet?) possess sufficient strength and maturity to cross.

          1. I am indeed a worm. It is far beyond my power to take the kool-aid away from the cult.

            1. The only cult here is the Cult of the Collective.

          2. This. It’s even more annoying listening to Rothbard types talk about Rand as a lightweight, as if Ronthtard were fit to clean her shoes.

            1. Rothbard had Rand had a personal thing between them too . So I let much go on that.

              Rothbard himself was one of my most respected libertarians for awhile and I bought all his books at the time.

              His Man, Economy, and State I read from start to finish at least two times while NEVER managing to finish Human Action once despite owning that book too.

              One of Rothbard’s great sections in his book was on the fallacies of modern day economics . That section helped me understand the fallacies I heard in college but that I was incapable of responding to logically. It drove me “insane”. lol

        3. I agree that Rand is intelllectually lightweight, but the reality is that libertarians frequently cite her as a reference.

          So, libertarianism is a politically flawed ideology because some libertarians like Ayn Rand?

          Her books are easily the most common recommended by libertarians to non-libertarians

          I have no doubt that her books are “the most common [sic] recommended” among the “libertarians” you know. But you know what? I wouldn’t put too much trust in your friends.

          And I’ve even heard that some prominent libertarian pols name their children Rand.

          I only know of one prominent pol who could be remotely considered libertarian. He has a child called “Rand”, short for “Randal”, and that has nothing to do with Ayn Rand. Sorry, but you’re confabulating again.

        4. It rejects the very idea of empirical data – which is the only thing anyone has in the real world to provide falsifiability to any public policy prescription.

          You got your reasoning all mixed up.

          You seem to believe that libertarians are drawn to Austrian economics because they think it works, but Austrian economics is wrong because it rejects empirical data.

          In reality, libertarians intrinsically reject empirical data as the basis of many economic arguments. That is, to a libertarian, it doesn’t matter whether forcing person A to give money to person B improves overall happiness, what matters is that forcing person A to do anything is wrong.

          It rejects the very idea of empirical data – which is the only thing anyone has in the real world to provide falsifiability to any public policy prescription.

          Well, luckily, while the Austrian school itself may reject empirical data as the basis for economic reasoning, that doesn’t automatically invalidate their conclusions. Pure mathematicians also often reject numerical mathematics as the basis for drawing conclusions, yet their conclusions are still valid, even for numerical mathematics.

          And, in fact, empirical data backs up many Austrian ideas, while contradicting the views of Keynesians and other economic ideas popular with governments and rent seekers.

        5. Libertarians cite Rand because Rand dealt with more than mere political belief. While she had flaws, her Objectivism was certainly not light weight.

          Libertarians dismiss her because Rand too quickly considered libertarians socialist for their “anarchist” view.

          Ever since then it seems libertarians are “taught” to dismiss her as pay back. Those ass hole libertarians need to re-think their logic and position !

          Just my view of things. 🙂

          1. I don’t dismiss Rand. I think she’s an interesting character with some interesting ideas.

            But that doesn’t change the fact that Rand wasn’t a libertarian and that her writings do not describe (and aren’t intended to describe) libertarianism, even if there is some overlap.

            1. While I consider myself a very strong libertarian, I don’t forget that it is only a small part of what philosophy is about.

              If your view is the “libertarianism is everything” type of view, I have to say that is foolishly wrong.

              1. While I consider myself a very strong libertarian, I don’t forget that it is only a small part of what philosophy is about.

                What is that relevant to? We are talking about the meaning of “libertarianism”, not the meaning of “philosophy”.

                If your view is the “libertarianism is everything” type of view, I have to say that is foolishly wrong.

                Libertarianism is a political ideology, no more and no less. It has very little to do with philosophy.

  32. the men assembled tore up the Articles, crafted an entirely new plan that included the powers to tax and to regulate trade, and changed the ratification rules to permit merely nine states to carry the day, instead of the unanimous consent required for amendments to the Articles.

    That may be how you read it, but that’s not how it appears to me. The Articles of Confederation did not forbid additional compacts between the states. This one became effective on 9 states when adopted by them, but they were adopted by all 13.

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  34. Aside from the Bill of Rights, American history had very little to do with my foraging among the Libertarians.

    When central planning turns into a truckload of acronyms it has outlived its usefulness. This truth (imo) apparently zips over the forehead of progressives and conservatives- which leaves neither political force palatable to my bohemian misgivings about muscular governance.

    I appreciate the love for conservatives here but I sometimes I wonder if conservatism’s tolling bells in the quaint valley during a sun-drenched church picnic with all the pretty Christian girls and milf’s have played mistress with the Libertarian heart.

    Like American history, conservatism’s lore about liberty is ripe for connecting with the wandering nomad that is the Libertarian spirit. But also like American history, conservatism’s lore has some very dark and anti-liberty aspects to it that are hidden beneath all the taglines, polo shirts, and polished shoes.

    At least the progressive won’t lie to your face about their frank desire to utilize state violence to control that which offends and demoralizes them.

    1. Good points. Yeah, I think a lot of people get sucked in early on to conservatism because of the limited government messages they expound so profusely at election time. It sometimes takes a few election cycles to realize that they are just flat out lying. Of course even then your alternative is voting dnc ie insane idiots or backing the libertarian ie no chance in hell of winning. So yeah, your fucked, and not in the good way.

      1. Fucking Nomads wandering the most beautiful philosophical glades. That’s us. Not mattering a single whit among the brilliant beams cutting through the lonely wind-swept paradise.

      2. Most people get sucked into conservatism when the tide’s running strongly against them. When the changes you see occurring are bad, you tend to project that to all future changes, and start to oppose change in gen’l.

    2. I appreciate the love for conservatives here but I sometimes I wonder if conservatism’s tolling bells in the quaint valley during a sun-drenched church picnic with all the pretty Christian girls and milf’s have played mistress with the Libertarian heart.

      What an image! And such a well-turned phrase also.

  35. Enlightenment is not a switch one all the sudden flips on to a bright light. It’s more like a very slow and arduous dimmer switch where after a hundred years you may notice it a little brighter. Unfortunately it
    can also move the other direction. No one confuses those who wrote the Magna Carta as fighters for freedom for all but it advanced liberty forward. Similarly we’re all fully aware that the founding fathers owned slaves and that governments federal, state, and local have been up to anti-libertarian shenanigans from day one. Certainly also the Bill of Rights only applied to the tribe as was customary for the day. That does not mean the constitution was not another advance of freedom and those same ideals were referenced in the abolition of slavery not long after by historical standards.

    1. Freedom was not a concept remotely considered before the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but freedom afterward at least moved into the momentous position of ‘afterthought’.

    2. I don’t believe in whitewashing history but at the same time we need to recognize that the ideals that have advanced liberty forward can still be acknowledged and embraced no matter their source. Just as we can marvel at Roman ingenuity even though they put their slaves and pow’s in arenas to be eaten by lions or to fight one another to death for circus amusment. No doubt in the near future people will look back on us and judge us. Hopefully, they can learn from us as well, not just from our mistakes but from our successes in advancing the dimmer switch forward.

      1. Dimmer switch philosophy. Loving the analogy.

        However, I view history as not necessarily American or the last two hundred but rather a sinewy planetary roller coaster of philosophical and scientific inertia unfolding, refolding, bounding, rebounding, and exbounding over the last three thousand years of really matters in terms of human intellectual ‘development’ to a present state of expanded intelligence that will be harshly tested by a future of happenings and occurrences.

        So as two chaps, you and I, chill in a forum on this day somewhere on today’s massive scale of everywhere there is zero guarantee based on the centuries of preceding planetary history that at this moment improvement, stagnation, or decay is occurring.

        The only way to determine this will be with your dimmer switch future way out there where time cracks its bored knuckles.

        The Constitution isn’t nearly as powerful as some say it is and it isn’t nearly as reprehensible as others say it is. It is merely an improvisational enhanced thought construct written into law that will likely pass on the winds of time, but also one that two chaps in a forum can enjoy the minor fruits of until death or current events rips it from us.

        1. Truth. The only constant inevitability is change. Bask in the present, hope for the future.

          1. Truth is a nebula on the galaxy of time, bro.

            1. You are both pretentious dilettantes. But at least JB doesn’t seem to be on drugs every time he posts.

              1. Gisrh, yeah you really have us pegged asshole. The cognitive dissonance necessary for you to call anyone a pretentious dillettante given the tripe you post is truly craptastic.

              2. The world is a screed, bro, and I just zapped you fonts of peace.

        2. So this means you must not be a libertarian, Almighty JB, cause you’re denying what libertarians get wrong about US history.

          /Richman

          1. Obviously:)

        3. I enjoy reading your posts Cyborg.

          1. AC is the Boss.

            1. AlmightyJB is heroine shot into the veins of thread.

              1. I would have said “heroin” but that is why you are the Agile one.

          2. I just used the post office to send you a galaxy. If you open the envelope carefully there are directions on how to use that galaxy most sanguinely, bro.

            1. You guys rock! Fuck the squares! The hippies were right… Make life and love, not war! Government Almighty is all about war! War pigs die, peace freaks rule! I will sign on to a war on war (but not a war to end all wars… Each generation must decide for themselves; we delude ourselves when we think otherwise). Let’s wage war on war, let this be our jihad! But only for our time… Otherwise we get mired in ideological idiocy, this illusions that we can “decide for all time”. (Woodrow Wilson can suck my reproductive parts just as hard as Hitler and Stalin can).

  36. “American history is not an essentially libertarian story.”

    The closest I’ve ever seen any libertarian come to this idea are the Reason writers with their ever approaching libertarian moment. But generally, I think libertarians see American history as one long rejection of the first principles the country was founded on.

    1. ” I think libertarians see American history as one long rejection of the first principles the country was founded on.”

      One long *series of* rejections… lots of little ones, dotted by a few big whoppers, always made for sake of political expedience, often due to demands made by war.

      but otherwise i think that’s a far more apt characterization than anything Richman wrote.

  37. Did this really require 4 paragraphs justifying its own existence? I was ready to close the damn before getting to a single actual point.

  38. Btw, I didn’t read the article. I tried though. I haven’t even tried to read a Richman article in probably almost a year.

    1. Wait, are we supposed to read the articles before commenting, or something?

      1. I always go to comments first, then I might read the article.

      2. I heard if you read Richman’s article to the end you will go blind.

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  40. I don’t read Richman articles. How many times did he lie?

    1. My guess it’s more senility than lying.

    2. He said that he was there sippin’ whiskey at the Whiskey Rebellion…

      He’s lying, ’cause I was there as a ticket-taker and bouncer, and I never once laid eyes on him…

    3. Or more accurately, how man times did he step on your pecker?

  41. Best article I’ve read in a while.

    1. Best for me would trace back to the stapled yellow pamplet “magazine” that came out of MIT Camridge Massachusetts.

      These were almost totally dedicated to libertarian theory and were far more interesting and radical in my opinion. 🙂

  42. The Constitution is in pretty plain language and can be understood to be more Libertarian than any other foundational government document before or after. You could write your own super duper libertarian document in your basement and nobody will give shit. The founders faced the same issue in their day as anyone would face today. No matter how libertarian that document may be you must get enough to agree to implement it.

    Is there any doubt any attempt to codify lockean rights today would never be able to come half as close as the Constitution? The fact that the Constitution got those principles in writing to the degree they did shows just how prevalent libertarian ideals were at the time. At it of course explains the economic success of the U.S.

    1. I agree . Tho I have come to believe that “real” libertarians oppose the coercive monopoly state with a good secondary reason being you can’t support the state and freedom of association at the same time.

      The last helped change my mind back permanently to a “voluntary” government view after switching to a limited statist view having been initially an “anarchist” with too many doubts to maintain it.

  43. Persuasion/debate is like a chess match, you have to think several moves ahead. The takeaway from this article is that when you say “America was historically libertarian”, be prepared to respond to “The Transcontinental Railroad was a government program”.

  44. Long story short – Americans in the Founding era, set high standards for their country and themselves, and they and the country frequently violated these high standards.

    Standards like limited government, rights, separation of powers, equality of opportunity, etc. We can enumerate the violations.

    But look what happens to a country which *doesn’t* set up such ideals for itself. Surprise – those other countries end up worse, as a rule.

    1. The higher you aim, the better, in other words.

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  46. Left libertarians are always trying to fuse libertarianism with egalitarianism. It doesn’t work. Why do I still come to Reason.com?

    1. To keep up to date on all the news about global warming?

      Er, I mean climate change?

      But really, because 20% of their articles aren’t terrible.

    2. Are you reading the same Reason.com that I am? Check your device for viruses.

  47. I thought it was a nuanced piece. I do get tired of people on every side who always refer to “the Founders” this or the “Founders” that as if they were some monolith. The fact is there was great dissension among the authors of both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution not to mention interpretation of the important amendments after the Civil War. The Constitution itself is filled with tension among different articles not to mention obscure writing (just listen to Supreme Court oral arguments to get a better sense of just how much interpretation is required.) That’s OK for the debate is probably essential to a healthy society. One might even make the argument that a democratic or republican form of government is inimical to libertarian thought because the people have a tendency to form associations that then use their power to vote privileges and rules for themselves at the expense of others and independent living.

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  50. Sheldon, WTF? This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever written. Apologize, immediately.

  51. It is true that the US did start out as a “small government” country, but this certainly ended with the Civil War (1861-1865) with the federal (and state governments) playing a larger role in people’s lives. And much of what the government did in the latter part of the 19th Century certainly can not be considered “libertarian”. In that the federal and state governments increasingly “favored” the wealthy and big business over the interests of the rest of the population. A policy that continued on into the 20th Century with an increasing government role over people’s lives while at the same time passing laws that increasingly restricted individual freedom.

    Consider our drug laws. Our prescription laws that give doctors a legal monopoly over access to medical drugs The licensed professions and their legal monopoly over the provision of services. The expanded role of the ATF and the FBI along with the NSA along with “Homeland Security”. We are increasingly becoming a police state with a militarized police force that is becoming more and more an “out of control” para-military force today that kills unarmed people and most of the time faces no adverse results from doing so. Our government spies on us, behaves like it has the right to interfere in the affairs of any other nation on Earth, and has in this century alone been responsible for aggressive military actions against other nations who never attacked us.

  52. OK, that is all very interesting, but at this point a return to the Constitution would be a huge improvement to the current Progressive Welfare State – and then we’ll deal with the power to tax and other issues when we get there.

    Why would you want to align yourselves with obscure historical losers and cede the Constitution and the Founding Fathers and the American Dream and all the rest of it to the “progressives”?!

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  54. Great piece. It’s also an effective refutation of anti-libertarians who claim that libertarians want to roll back the clock to a halcyon era of laissez-faire which never existed. The constitutional fetishists who claim that the primary purpose of the secret convention was to create a document that protected freedom, are historically ignorant. As Richman has explained, the purpose of the constitution was to created a strong centralized government.

  55. “The point of discussing libertarianism with nonlibertarians is not to feel good but to persuade. ”

    I don’t want to discuss. I don’t want to persuade. I want to be left alone to my own devices.

    That is the epitome of libertarianism.

    Hey, hey. You, you. Get off of my cloud!

  56. Sheldon mentions several areas of history which libertarians are not accurately representing.
    What about the reason for the Civil War? Is the libertarian position that it was about tariffs wrong?

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