Local Government

I Was a Teenage 'Libertarian of Convenience'*

Half-assed, selfish opposition to regulation is actually a good start.


Nowadays we call them "bear cubs"

Aaron Renn of the Manhattan Institute has a lengthy, somewhat-frustrated analysis at City Journal about the semi-but-not-really-libertarian tendencies of the privileged urban left. In short, progressives who live in our urban centers have discovered the dark side of regulation in city planning, but only so far as it thwarts their interests or threatens their hobby horses:

People identifying as urban progressives increasingly find their own goals stymied by laws and regulations, and they're demanding that these restrictions be overturned or limited. In other areas of city policy, though—typically, when they don't hold a personal stake—they often push aggressively for ever more regulations and a more intrusive government. Call it a libertarianism of convenience. What these part-time freedom lovers don't understand is that, absent a wider culture of liberty, calls for selective liberty will probably go unheeded.

Renn's primary example is of noted progressive writer Matt Yglesias discovering how "draconian central planning" has driven up housing prices and rents in cities and makes it impossible—or at least impractical—for developers to build more housing. But Yglesias is nevertheless a supporter of a full list of other progressive causes that require the heavy hand of government regulation.

There are many other areas, like food trucks, the sharing economy, marijuana legalization, and the "tiny house" movement, where liberals align with libertarians in wanting less regulation. These also happen to be elements of the urban marketplace in which these folks enjoy and like to participate in. You will not find them at a McDonald's, or working in a plastic bag factory, or apparently getting their nails done cheaply, and they don't particularly like these elements, so they don't see any downside to these other regulations and are unlikely to personally experience the harmful after-effects.

I saw what Renn talks about first hand when I attended The Atlantic CityLab's "Urban Solutions to Global Challenges" conference last year here in Los Angeles (Renn also invokes CityLab writing to bolster his argument). Urban leaders love a certain kind of urban dynamism in which they and people like them get to participate and benefit. That's not the same as believing in a truly free marketplace. In fact, even the success of disruptive, uncontrolled innovations that urban leaders embrace won't really challenge their need to control. The attitude at the conference about ride-sharing and room-sharing services was to embrace but regulate. Whatever they try to implement will likely drive up the cost of these services, making it harder for lower-income people to participate in these services. Renn is frustrated at the apparent contradictions:

In Texas's cities, by contrast, progressives often share, to some degree, the state's pro-freedom, pro-market ethos. That's why Houston, though hardly without restrictions on building, has no zoning per se and a pro-market Democrat, Annise Parker, for mayor. Unsurprisingly, it remains an affordable place to live, as do other low-regulation cities, such as Indianapolis.

At least some on the left appreciate the principle of liberty when it comes to things like free speech: they understand that odious opinions have to be tolerated, or everyone's liberty is at risk; and that selective free expression isn't really free. But they fail to see that selective economic freedom brings its own injustices and inequities. Progressives should embrace a broader principle of economic liberty for American cities—not only for the sake of their own pet causes but also because it's the right thing to do.

But there's no reason for us to simply leave things this way, to be exasperated at the oblivious self-absorption of the "regulation for thee but not for me" crowd, as Renn calls them. It's a start. When Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch write about the Libertarian Moment, they're not talking necessarily about people becoming actual self-identified libertarians and free market evangelists, but rather a general trend toward decentralization and individual choice. Don't despair at the selfishness of progressive flirtations with libertarian philosophy. A shift toward more freedom has to start somewhere, and its personal impact is always going to be more compelling to many individuals than abstract philosophizing.

I, too, was once a "libertarian of convenience." I rarely described my politics and never belonged to a political party, but up until my late 20s and early 30s I would have described myself as liberal when pressed. It wasn't that I loved regulation, per se. I was all about the social safety nets. I grew up very poor, and then we became a lot less poor when my father was able to make a shift from being a car mechanic to working on the earliest home computers (after the fact, many years later, I realized how the lack of centralized control over this new employment field helped him with this transition).

I was one of those people who just assumed that regulation and redistribution was done for the benefit of the poor and needy and to keep the powerful from taking advantage of the powerless. Like many young adults, I was completely oblivious about the huge gap between the amount of money taken from Americans for this purpose and the amount that actually got into the hands of the needy and why that happened. Much later, as a small-town newspaper editor, I watched as a federal grant program that was supposed to provide money for programs for the poor embedded with so many fees and spending rules that in the end only about $15,000 actually made it to the actual programs for the needy. It was actually a grant program for government bureaucrats. A chunk of it ended up being used to repave parking lots for city parks. They said they had to, because of the rules.

And then there was the gay thing. There was a time that I felt that I had to be selfish with my politics entirely because I was gay and there were actual policy proposals about how much freedom I should have. This wasn't identity politics; at least not to me. It was entirely about how much freedom I as a gay man should be "permitted," based on whatever social attitude won the day.

In a very unusual, roundabout fashion, the public debate over homosexuality is what led me further down the road to fully embracing a libertarian identity. In 2004 I voted for John Kerry for president. I didn't actually like Kerry; I was just that appalled at George W. Bush. Bush obviously won. At the same time, a bunch of state-level ballot initiatives banned recognition of same-sex marriage. They all passed. I was very angry at the whole thing. I had a very small blog I occasionally wrote on with a friend at the time. I posted a furious rant apologizing because my penis, and what I did with it, was why we were getting another four years of Bush (and war). That probably wasn't true at all, but it was definitely a piece of conventional thinking—that social conservatives helped keep Bush in power and the anti-gay marriage votes brought them to the polls.

But then a realization slowly began to develop. It wasn't a switch flipping or anything so direct. It was a mental process that slowly spooled out over time. It went like this: "I wanted people like me to win the election so that people like me could use the government to help create a society I want to live in. Since people like me lost the election, doesn't it logically follow then that the people who oppose me have earned the right to use the government to help create the society they want to live in?"

I knew that the answer had to be no, because a lot of those people who opposed me wanted to live in a society that didn't include me at all. But that wasn't a logical or ethically consistent worldview. The need to have a consistent worldview was what ultimately brought me into libertarianism, along with those experiences of seeing how government regulation harmed others.

As a result, I maintain a position that gay couples have the right to demand the same government recognition as other couples, assuming we're going to have any. But I also believe that we have no right to demand that anybody outside the government have anything to do with it. That's using the government to control others, and it's wrong. We have a right to government recognition. We do not have a right to order people against their will to provide cake, or flowers, or photographers. Or pizza.

I did not come to libertarianism from reading the works of libertarian philosophers. I didn't even know who they were at the time. Like many other people, my embrace of libertarianism started with what Renn calls "convenience," an interest in maximizing my own, personal freedom. That's not wrong. It's just important that it doesn't stop there. It's important that we call out the harms caused by the anti-GMO crowd, who want to control what others can do to push their idea of a perfect world. It's important that those who hold that the family is the building block of society realize how much harm the drug war and mandatory minimums have done to those very families.

What Renn describes is actually a positive development, but yes, it can absolutely lead to a world of unequal regulations. So we keep providing examples and explaining the true costs of regulation. Urban elites love ride-sharing? Good for them. Here's what they should know: It's not just for elites, and if they actually care they'll keep it that way. I took a Lyft ride to downtown Los Angeles a year ago with a relatively new driver. She told me about a recent passenger who had been in a bad fight (possibly an abusive relationship) and needed to just get away from where she was. Lyft's decentralized system let her get out of there in minutes rather than having to wait for a cab to be dispatched or bringing in friends or the police. She was not a rich person. She was not an elite. Nevertheless the existence of the service helped her, cheaply and efficiently, in a way the status quo could not.

That Lyft would be helpful in dealing with such a situation did not occur to me, and I suspect probably not to anybody who hasn't had this sort of crisis. If the cost of a Lyft ride rises due to regulation, will future abuse victims from poorer backgrounds be denied another useful tool?

These are the stories that free-marketers need to keep pushing. Rather than despairing over the selfishness of urban progressives, keep pushing. Keep them thinking. Keep giving them more chances to realize the importance of economic liberty. It's probably very unlikely that Yglesias will ever be calling himself a libertarian, but there's a whole new generation just learning how civic government actually works, and therefore an opportunity to open their eyes to a whole host of misguided decisions.

(*Actually, late-twenties)

NEXT: Did Jeb Bush Misunderstand a Question About Whether He Would Have Authorized the Iraq War? Does It Matter?

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  1. It is only a good start if they are capable of understanding the larger principles involved and having some empathy for other victims of regulation. Color me skeptical they will. The urban left are some of the most close minded and profoundly stupid people on earth. The idea that they are capable of judging something based on principle and not on whether the right or wrong people profit or suffer respectively is laughable. Of course they don’t want regulations to harm them. They are special and hold the correct views. Regulations should not affect people like them but that in no way means evil fundies and corporations and business men and other undesirables should not continue to be held in check by the strong and just hand of government.

    I find your faith in these people laughable and a little disturbing Scott.

    1. The libs are altering the deal
      pray they do not alter it any futher

    2. The idea that they are capable of judging something based on principle and not on whether the right or wrong people profit or suffer respectively is laughable.

      The level of unrecognized irony in this comment is making my head hurt.

      1. On your part, sure. If there are cases of my judging not based on principle, provide links and make your point mean something. You of course won’t be doing that.

        Come on Stormy, I know you are a troll, but that is Bo level work there. You can do better than the smug “look at the irony” line. That is a sorry effort.

      2. The level of unrecognized irony in this comment is making my head hurt.

        1. It’s unrecognized irony all the way down?

    3. It is only a good start if they are capable of understanding the larger principles involved and having some empathy for other victims of regulation.

      I disagree. It’s sufficient if they get things to move in the direction they want, &:

      (1) other people w other interests say, “Hey, why not me too?”
      (2)they get their reforms enacted, & disinterested persons say, “Hmm, that worked, why not try similarly w.r.t. other things?”

  2. In short, progressives who live in our urban centers have discovered the dark side of regulation in city planning…

    In the upcoming workers’ paradise, the city-dwelling left expects to be those animals deemed more equal than the others.

    1. Do you think Shackelford is trolling here or does he actually believe this? Could he live down to the Cosmotarian “but all of my lefty friends are cool and are going to understand some day” stereotype if he tried?

      1. Did you completely not get what Scott was saying? You really, completely, didn’t get it, I guess?

        1. I understand his saying that because these people are seeing the downside of regulations in their own lives, they will see the downside of regulation in general. That is nothing but saying “but the urban left likes Uber so they are totally going to start to understand why OSHA is bad”. Who the fuck is Scott kidding here?

          1. Seems to me that he’s hoping for a better future. Where people start to realize just how much regulation fuck people. Like he did when he was younger.

            I didn’t seem that hard to follow.

            1. It is not that it is hard to follow. It is just wildly naive. We may in fact have a better future ahead. I like to think we will. I find it hard to believe that it will be better because the urban left somehow reforms and stops being leftist. Anyone who can live in a city amidst the failures of big government and still be a leftist, is very unlikely to change their mind because the Taxi drivers want to get rid of Uber.

              The best hope for the future is for the urban left to not have any children and die off of old age leaving no intellectual progeny behind.

              1. John you do realize that in an article where Scott was talking generally about trying to get everyone to be more live and let live, and how do we do that, you have focused like a laser on his one-off example of urban left Uber users and are sitting here attacking the urban left as a collective other that needs to be eliminated.

                I don’t think you’re really feeling the gist of his article.

                1. I agree with the sentiment. I am just skeptical that the urban left is ever going to buy into it beyond getting a few of their ponies. Our whole society seems to be based on social signaling. And you can’t base your life on social signaling and also have a leave everyone alone sentiment. The whole point of social signaling is to tell everyone how you are not a member of whatever the “bad group” is this week.

                  1. I am just skeptical that the urban left is ever going to buy into it beyond getting a few of their ponies.

                    I think anyone who isn’t already on the pubsec/free-shit gravy train is trainable. Me and most of my circle, for example. Most city folk are raised in a leftist atmosphere but in later years they begin to see the truth IF they’re not tied to the system and if they’re not unhinged from reality.

                  2. And he even said that, John. A few sentences from the end
                    that Ygliesas or wtf his name is will probably never be a
                    libertarian. What he said is to look on the bright side – that
                    they get it in this one instance – and by providing them with
                    more examples, SOME of them may come even further.

                    Rather than ridiculing them for their hypocrisy (which IS fun!).

                2. John you do realize that in an article where Scott was talking generally about trying to get everyone to be more live and let live,…

                  But, it doesn’t strike me that Shackford is doing that. It strikes me as he’s saying that the trend of progressives being upset with restrictions on their lives is plausibly going to lead to a situation of them taking on a more live and let live attitude. The evidence is wildly against that. The article Shackford cites notes their increasing stridency for control on the very same areas they feel their own liberty is being infringed upon.

                3. John does this from time to time. I really don’t know why.

            2. And beyond, Shackford’s personal tale, where’s the actual evidence that this is at all likely to happen? My impression is that Shackford’s generally a pretty unusually thoughtful and intelligent guy, at least as far as people inclined toward the left go. Assuming his experiences reflect a pattern, rather than an outlier, is not a very solid ground to base an argument on.

              1. Having enjoyed a cocktail with Mr. Shackford on a couple occasions, i can attest to the fact that he is a very thoughtful and intelligent guy. He also has a good dry sense if humor.

                John is having a little bit of reading conprehension fail.

                1. LBC,

                  I didn’t say Shackford wasn’t thoughtful or that he was dumb. I said he was naive to the point of being delusional. The urban left isn’t changing or getting any better any time soon.

                  1. John,
                    I get that. I was just responding to Bill Delasio. And i didn’t mean you had a reading comprehension fail. You just seemed to have launched into “Progessive Hate Mode” and kind of seemed to point a lttle at Scott.

                    But your comments downthread are more thoughtful and make better arguments. See it’s just one big love fest at HyR.

          2. He’s not kidding completely cynical skeptics like you.

            I’m on Scott’s side here. One thing I have learned in my long life is that most people want to do the right thing, but they are put in situations where knowing what is the right thing is just about impossible. Either bosses treat them as too dumb, or bureaucrats don’t want to take the time and trouble to explain, but it doesn’t really matter: it is almost entirely due to a system where accountability and authority are so tremendously out of whack, with cops, prosecutors, judges, and politicians immune to all but the most blatant crimes, and cronies indistinguishable from politicians.

            Things have to start small. If that means hipsters and millenniels learning the hard way, and slowly, that a government with the power to help them also has even more power to annoy them, well, that’s a start, and it’s better to start from the bottom up than hope for a top down change which doesn’t just swap cronies.

            1. I think most people do. And that of course creates most of our problems. You can’t turn against government until you start seeing people who are the victims of it as individuals. And you can’t do that until you walk away from our mass culture of social signaling. The whole point of social signaling is to show the world you are in the good group and are not in the bad group. As long as your personal identity is based on that, you are not going to care if some bad group is getting fucked by the government.

              Maybe we as a society will get tired of this bullshit and step away from it. I think we will and certainly hope we do. If we do, however, the last group of people to do that will be the urban left. No other group in society is more committed to social signaling than they are.

              1. John, I think the internet’s enabling of a whole new level of social signaling is what you’re seeing here. These are, very possibly, growing pains we’re feeling right now. It may be that we just need to kind of stumble through this for a while and get a whole new grip on how to do human socialization on this much wider, internet scale. Hopefully in 20 years we’ll look back and go “oh man that was a retarded time, we were all so stupid back then”.

                1. I hope you are right. My fear is that we will get freedom based on fashion. If whatever you want to do is fashionable and cool, you will be free to do it, be that a lifestyle or running a business or whatever. If it is deemed “uncool”, the very same powers of the internet that gave others their freedom will be used to crush you.

                  1. Sounds like high school.

                    1. Yeah. That is a good description of it and most people’s mentality these days.

                  2. Freedom based on fashion (or on anything but its own right) is still better than no freedom.

                2. I do not see it. People are demanding more shackles. The dystopia coming will be more brave new world than 1984 is all. People want their soma and vids

            2. ‘If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not Conservative by 40, you have no brain.” Erroneously attributed to Churchill, but appears to be the gist of Shack’s argument.

          3. Naw, John. You missed it.

            Scott is saying if he, who was once a totalitarian asshole, can ‘see the light’ -‘ANYONE can.

            Even Tony.

            1. Miracles happen, just not very often.

              1. You’re just not praying hard enough, Cupcake 🙂

      2. I don’t know if you’re joking when you write “Shackelford”. Rusty Shackelford is an alias of Dale Gribble from King of the Hill. Scott Shackford is a writer for Reason.

        1. Oh, and the problems it created when the real Rusty Shackelford turned up.

        2. It’s a John typo. Just bask in it.

          BASK IN IT.

          1. Basque inuit!

  3. Let me guess:
    “I can handle freedom responsibly, but those other apes need to be kept on a tight leash, or they’ll do something icky.”

  4. The thing is, “freedom for me but not for thee” is, unfortunately, very, very human. I’d even go so far as to say it’s “baseline” humanity. It’s my contention that all people, at their core, are individualist anarchists regarding themselves and then a whole range of other things for other people. Towards their friends and family? They’ll be anarchist/libertarian…unless their child is addicted to drugs and they don’t know what to do. Towards the people in their town who they generally know and have met? They’re probably pretty libertarian…unless they don’t like them or are in competition with them in some way. To people who are like them (fellow regional/countrymen, say) but who they don’t know, they’ll be more statist…because those people are understandable, but still not personally known. And those weird foreigners? Well, keep those fuckers out, maybe even kill them. And so on.

    The way I see it, to change this in a sizable way is to try and change human nature. Which is exactly what statists are all about. Whether it’s social engineering or controlling behavior or whatever, it’s inimical to liberty. The only thing that would probably help is to get more people to view more of the people in the world as individuals and to therefore empathize with them. That’s about it.

    1. It is certainly part of human nature. It is however possible to rise above that. If it wasn’t, neither you nor I would be able to see the reason to do so. People rise above their myopic self interest to have empathy for the victims of government. It doesn’t happen enough but it does happen.

      The problem is that those people are never leftists. To rise above that, you have to see other people as individuals not members of some desirable or despicable group. And you can’t be a leftist and not think that way. So these assholes will wake up tomorrow and want their Uber but totally think that the undesirable classes should be fucked by government at every opportunity.

      1. John, you do realize that in the same paragraph in which you say “To rise above that, you have to see other people as individuals not members of some desirable or despicable group”, which is very true, and then your very next sentence is “And you can’t be a leftist and not think that way”, which is…seeing leftists not as individuals but as a despicable group. You immediately go to some caricature of them wanting Uber but hating undesirables.

        I figure, in a discussion about how we would all be better off, liberty-wise, if lots more people saw others as individuals, maybe we should try doing that too.

        1. maybe we should try doing that too.


          1. I saw the New York Faggots on tour with Danzig a couple years ago. They were just ok.

        2. No Episiarch. I am judging the ideology not the people. The nature of leftism is judging people by class not as individuals. Therefore, if you are a leftist, you will never rise above that and remain a leftist. Of course, it is possible for people to stop being leftists and rise above that. But if they don’t stop being leftists, they won’t.

          So when I say “you can’t be a leftist and not think that way”, I don’t mean everyone who is a leftist can never change. I mean the only way they can change is to stop being leftists. And I find that unlikely, at least in regard to the urban left.

      2. I know and constantly argue with several leftists who are part of the way there. I still argue with them over the ways in which they’re not. I like to think sometimes that I had something to do with the parts where they have come over to “our side”, but that’s arrogant and naive – I probably just uncovered that aspect of their personalities by making them answer pointed questions a certain way.

        Leftists, despite some of our caricatures of them, are not nearly a monolith.

    2. The average person thinks “I want to be free. In order for me to be as free as I want to be, those people need to have some freedom taken away. If they don’t, they might do something that limits my freedom.”. Unfortunately, they are incapable of understanding that those people are thinking the same thing.

    3. That’s why I don’t share Scott’s optimism. “I should be free to do what I want” is, as you said, pretty much the baseline. Even Nazis would agree with that statement.

      1. I think it is more of Scott’s “how to” rather than “this is what will happen, inevitably”.

        I am trying his way. And if I can get one person to open their minds, as happened to him, I will count it a success.

  5. Throbbin Yobbin (4th comment in the comment section) knows exactly how to solve this problem:

    “The lack of affordable housing is caused by the greed of the real estate barons. profit should be illegal in something so essential as housing. Our society needs to affirm the right of all people to housing.”

    Real or fake: you decide…

    1. The only thing that made me think “trolling” was the use of the word “baron”…if they had used 1% or such, I would say “real”

      1. I don’t know, man… In leftist orthodoxy, the “robber barons” of the olden days are like mythical beings of pure evil to them – white, male KKKapitalists running roughshod over the broken backs of the working people in that horrible, unregulated environment!

        It wouldn’t surprise me at all if “Throbbin Yobbin” was entirely serious. I just took a class called Introduction to Healthcare Delivery in college, and it included discussions with the class about the problems facing healthcare today. About 50 percent of the answers were some variation of: “healthcare is unaffordable because the corporations are taking all the money, so it should be illegal to make a profit on healthcare. The government should force the corporations to offer healthcare for free.”

        I know that here in the Reason comments section, we often make hyperbolic jokes about the crazy shit that “progressives” think, but I’m not exaggerating one bit. People seriously wrote stuff like that.

    2. I have plenty of affordable housing available in the Cleveland, OH area. Plenty. As in: PLEASE SOMEBODY RENT MY FUCKING HOUSES!!!!

      i didn’t know being a real estate baron would be so stressful.

      1. Nobody wants to live in Cleveland? Shocking!


    3. I have mixed feelings on real estate. Sure, the libertarian ideal is to let the market run unfettered, but then you have the dichotomy of “everyone wants to live here, but you gotta pay $3000/month for a shithole and Big Macs are $20” or “rent’s cheap, but there’s no jobs”.

      The only real solution is less regulation in housing and let homeowners rent rooms out to others for cheap. Of course the HOA’s and mansion owners won’t let that happen. So we’re stuck with mandated affordable housing.

  6. I find that getting a little older, and especially getting out of college and seeing the deductions on your first real paycheck, can go a long way towards clearing up a lot of people’s minds.

    1. Then you’ve got the ones that claim they’re happy to pay all that cheese because of the social contract.

      1. They’re liars. Or their main source of revenue is from gov’t.

    2. There is no more frustrating and asinine thing than dealing with city’s and their myriad building codes and development regulations for something you supposedly own. You would think every fucking architect and developer in the world would be a libertarian, it drives me nuts that I feel like the only one most of the time.

  7. Call it a libertarianism of convenience.

    Or holier-than-thou-ism. Six of one…

    Also- as long as the Manhattan Institute harbors that odious authoritarian cunt Heather MacDonald, I will disregard any pronouncements they might make regarding libertarianism.

    1. I would love to walk up to McDonald and ask her if I could do a stop and frisk on her. Sure I am some strange guy. But I am a respectable citizen. I won’t harm her. And what is the big deal? She is totally fine with black people being groped by strangers at random. Why not let me do the same to her?

    2. I will disregard any pronouncements they might make regarding libertarianism

      To be fair, she is by far the worst authoritarian there (or almost anywhere). They have a lot of other writers who are well worth reading.

      1. She’s awful. Why do they keep her?

        1. Because they do lean that way when it comes to L&O – she just takes it to whole nother level.

  8. I can’t believe that what Scott is saying is in any way controversial. But somehow, apparently, it is.

    1. Scott has been deemed a cocktail party sympathizer or something. Therefore no matter what he actually says, he has to be attacked, regardless of content or meaning. That’s how this works, Warty. I know that steroids make you retarded so you can’t really get it, but trust me.

      1. I think it might have to do with many of the Reason commentariat not actually having leftist friends they care about who listen respectfully to their views.

        I’ve got two lefty GFs who I have had many respectful conversations about my political views, plus a son who is also mildly leftist, and I find the prog hate here a bit disconcerting. Some progs are closeminded and stereotype libertarians, some just respectfully disagree with us and can be perhaps convinced over time.

        Stop hating on the latter. The government school indoctrination can be hard to overcome.

        1. Yes. This is part of what I was trying to say in the college=communism shitshow of a thread.

          1. What the fuck even was that thread.



                1. My mother, a registered Democrat, hated Libertarians. Especially me being one. “You sound like a Republican” was her common criticism for decades. Then…

                  Mom: I like John Stossel.
                  Me: He’s a Libertarian.
                  Mom: Oh.

                  Mom: I like Drew Carey.
                  Me: He’s a Libertarian.
                  Mom: Oh.

                  Mom: I don’t like Ron Paul.
                  Me: Why? Did you ever listen to what he says?
                  Mom: No.

                  Mom: I don’t like Rand Paul.
                  Me: Why?
                  Mom: I don’t know. I just don’t like him. Or his hair. He’s like his father.
                  Me: Did you ever listen to what he says?
                  Mom: No.

                  Mom: I listened to Rand Paul on TV. I like what he says.

                  Sometimes it takes a while. In my case 30+ years.

        2. I know and am friends with lots of leftists. Most of them are what I call soft leftists. They think the way they do because it is easier. The left has made being a leftist very socially acceptable and easy and being anything else, very hard outside of really segregated areas.

          I don’t consider those people to be progs. When I say progs, I mean the hard core ones in academia and the media. Those people are not reasonable. They are craven cowards at best and downright fucking evil at worst. Sadly, they avoid being seen for what they are because they control the culture.

    2. It is not that it is controversial. It is that it is funny. It would be like you getting on here saying how sure you are that the Browns are going to win the next two super bowls. It wouldn’t be controversial so much as it would be amazingly out of touch with reality.

      1. You just wait till you see the new Manziel. SOBER POWER

        1. He moved the burbs and found God. They should have signed Tebow to be his mentor. A born again, clean living, Jesus loving Manziel would be even more annoying than the East Texas gangster Manzel.

          1. A born again, clean living, Jesus loving Manziel would be even more annoying than the East Texas gangster Manzel.

            It won’t last! He’s one poor start away from being caught drunckenly fornicating in a back alley, on a soiled mattress with a transexual prostitute.

            We could see a spectacular auguring in during preseason!

            1. “He’s one poor start away from being caught drunckenly fornicating in a back alley, on a soiled mattress with a transexual prostitute.”

              It got Namath into the Hall of Fame, so why not?

          2. This thread is why there are no libertarian women.

            If it’s not sports, it’s science fiction trivia. Now, I can quote “Ode to Spot” from memory, but c’mon boys. It IS boring.

        2. Manziel is nothing until he gets suspended without pay for four games like Brady.

          1. In fairness, he would have to get into a game before he could be suspended for cheating in one.

          2. Oh, just you wait. There’s no way he’s done with antics yet.

            1. I don’t know, man. He has been an astounding letdown in every way possible. He doesn’t even play much if ever, let alone in an awesome or awesomely terrible way. He hasn’t gotten into massive trouble with drugs and hookers (that was the one I was looking forward to the most). And he hasn’t done anything else spectacularly meltdownish.

              I’m bored. Johnny Football has managed to bore the shit out of me. That’s boring.

              1. He punched some drunk fan in the face last season and then missed a game because he was partying too much the night before. That’s a decent start, isn’t it?

                1. BORING

                2. damn, with actions like that, he should have been signed to the Cowboys.

        3. Is SOBER POWER gonna make him four inches taller and fix his shitty footwork and delivery?

          1. If SOBER POWER is a new street name for meth it might help a little.

    3. I don’t think it’s controversial. I think it’s a very optimistic and encouraging viewpoint that makes me feel better about a possible future. I 100% HOPE he’s right. I have yet to see compelling evidence that makes me 100% THINK he’s right, though.

      I believe that he and others on the “Left” can make this evolutionary change. I did it from the “Right” and I find those two extremes usually meet in the same place on a circle instead of being on opposite sides of a line. I guess the problem I have is that there’s a lot of rose-colored glasses involved in believing that the natural state of all people will accept having their ideas and identities challenged such that they will come to the admirable place that Scott has.

  9. (after the fact, many years later, I realized how the lack of centralized control over this new employment field helped him with this transition).

    Glad to hear it. Both that your dad saw a new path with better opportunity and seized upon it, and that you recognized the deleterious role government “consumer protections” play in people’s finding and exploiting opportunities of that sort.

  10. People who want to control others chafe at being controlled. Film at 11.

  11. A simple question, Mr. Shackford – who the hell doesn’t support their own freedom to do what they want? I’m sure that if you polled Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Adolph Hitler and Genghis Khan, you’d find wide support for the proposition that they should be free to do as they wished.

    And the same thing applies to the people you’re citing. At the same time they’re complaining about the law infringing on their their right to do what they want, they’re placing increasing demands that the law coerce “those yucky people”.

    Honestly, the only place you’re actually starting to see the process you’re describing en masse – people complaining about infringements on their rights and leveraging that to the recognition of broader principles – is the GOP. And, somehow, I don’t think that’s what you had in mind.

    1. I dunno – I liked his ridesharing example – if you can get some urban hipster to recognize “yes, you should be free to use such a service….and everyone else too” then it is not an impossible (if difficult for many) leap to “do you not think there are other such examples of services, activities and such that others would like to be free to pursue, use or such….just like you in this case?”

      1. Okay. How do you make the leap from that to “someone should be able to start a business in their home without getting a license or submitting to some regulatory scheme”? My guess is you go down that road right up until someone mentions “but what if they make an unsafe product?” and you are done.

      2. Responded below. Screwed up the threading.

  12. A lot of this seems to be about the direction people are heading – and whether they keep going that way – as opposed to where they are at now. So an Yglesias who wants everything regulated is horrible. An Yglesias who wants almost everything regulated but recognizes that regulating housing is causing problems and there needs to be a change there is a little bit less horrible. And, maybe, it causes him to look at the next issue a little bit differently. TBH: I don’t have much hope for public liberals because they have so much invested in the status quo. But maybe some no name, say Yatt Mglesias goes through the same process and keeps moving.

    I think we get into problems when we keep looking for a road to Damascus type conversion. Incremental change is more likely.

    1. I think a major problem is that a lot of people have become de facto religionists regarding the state. As long as their viewpoint is that without the government, it’s going to be literal hell, not a lot can change. And the government members–politicians and bureaucrats–of course encourage a religious commitment to the state. Because it makes them indispensable. They are the high priests, the clergy.

      People aren’t normally inclined to like the government. Throughout most of history, people have generally disliked the government. Our current state of having so many people think it’s essential is an aberration, and it needs to change. Hopefully it will. How did we get here in the first place? That’s a whole other discussion in its own right.

      1. Essential or necessary evil?

        1. In a situation that people would otherwise consider abhorrent, far too many will give the government the benefit of the doubt. That to me says “essential”, even “intrinsically benevolent”, certainly not “necessary evil”.

      2. Most people dislike government, but they want to be part of a tribe and they fear other tribes.

        Things really took off when agriculture allowed for larger populations and specialization of labor. It’s a lot harder to boss people around if you have to find your own food, make own clothes, build your own house, etc.

        Once a tribe gets big enough to have a separate warrior class, it doesn’t take long for warriors to found a government.

        1. I am a tribe of ONE.

  13. When Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch write about the Libertarian Moment, they’re not talking necessarily about people becoming actual self-identified libertarians and free market evangelists, but rather a general trend toward decentralization and individual choice. Don’t despair at the selfishness of progressive flirtations with libertarian philosophy. A shift toward more freedom has to start somewhere, and its personal impact is always going to be more compelling to many individuals than abstract philosophizing.

    A crucial unstated precondition to this is trust. Trust in other people, and the willingness to let them do as they wish as long as they afford the same courtesy to you.
    Which is why I characterize myself as a “Golden Rule” libertarian.

    1. I feel that the silver rule is much more the essence of libertarianism, and sort of speaks better to this…. but I get your point.

      “Do unto others” is easily used as justification for all kinds of prog think.

      “Do NOT unto others”… well that might slow ’em down a bit.

      1. Yeah, that just goes to show how screwed up we’ve made the golden rule. “Do unto others” is an extension of the pre-existing silver rule (“don’t hurt others”), it doesn’t undo it. Don’t just refrain from doing evil to other people, also do good to them.

      2. “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” ? Confucius

        1. “I’d never want to buy food at McDonald’s, or smoke in a bar, or get my nails done for less than $40 anyway.” – Average statist

    2. You gotta be an optimist to be a libertarian. And humble.

  14. Scott:
    I’m just curious about how many libertarian intellecutal writers you have read since coming to consider yourself a libertarian, since you say you didn’t get there by reading writers.

    If your interested, I would recommend starting with Hayek and Nozick and skipping Ayn Rand.

  15. ….it is not an impossible (if difficult for many) leap to “do you not think there are other such examples of services, activities and such that others would like to be free to pursue, use or such….just like you in this case?”

    Such an example might be even plausible, if the proggie urban hipster find the person involved sympathetic, doing something he doesn’t necessarily mind.

    But, that’s not really freedom, is it? Freedom is people you don’t like doing things that bother you (but don’t interfere with your rights).

    Just watch how quickly those same proggies jump to the barricades to ban “those goddamned SUVs” or “stop that fucking Wal-Mart from ruining the neighborhood. Then tell me about their live-and-let-live attitude.

    1. Sure, some progs will finally make the connection. I know lots of libertarians, former conservatives, who “saw the light” through the Vietnam War. But based on more than 30 years experience with the left who proclaim “a woman owns her uterus” but never, ever advance that principle any farther, the number who come over to our side will be few.

      1. This is sort of the process I was talking about. Abortion has been a progressive issue for the last, what, 30 years? And the arguments shut off completely when it’s not them or someone they like or when it’s an activity they don’t like.

        1. Basically, “progressives” focus primarily on rights concerning sex. The government better keep its hands out off your reproductive system, but it can regulate your digestive system, your vocal cords, your respiratory system, etc. all it likes. It’s forbidden from poking its nose into the bedroom, but your kitchen and your garage are fair game, to say nothing of your office.

          1. It’s forbidden from poking its nose into the bedroom

            I see you haven’t met “affirmative consent” yet.

          2. We want just as much regulation in the metaphorical bedroom as we do the kitchen, i.e., enough to ensure that people are reasonably protected from harm in society so that they can live their lives with more freedom than they would otherwise have. So put a label on the fish so we know how old it is, and, say, provide healthcare and education so people don’t start STI epidemics. Oh we want to bedroom too. We just don’t give a shit what Jeebus has to say.

            1. You mean, you’re a gutless wonder, afraid of both the boogeyman and a Glock.

              Got it.

              Bitch to be you.

              1. I’m not afraid of anything, except maybe traffic cops and public speaking, I just want people to be as free as possible. And I know that this doesn’t happen by magic.

                1. Oh, you’re afraid. That’s all you’re about – fear.

                  Look, you’re a reasonably intelligent guy. You probably don’t need a government label to figure out what fish is good, what is crap.

                  But you are afraid that the label is needed because – you don’t trust your own intelligence. And if you can’t trust yourself, you figure, no one else can figure it out either.

                  So you need that label to tell you: yup, good fish.

                  Because you have no confidence.

          3. You misspelled “orifice”.

      2. But based on more than 30 years experience with the left who proclaim “a woman owns her uterus” but never, ever advance that principle any farther, the number who come over to our side will be few.

        In a similar vein, the privacy doctrine established in Roe v. Wade (you and your _____ can do whatever because it’s a private transaction) should have been the greatest boon to economic freedom in the past century, if it was applied honestly.

    2. stop that fucking Wal-Mart from ruining the neighborhood

      This raises the point that to some extent, the urban prog left have been hijacked by the union/free-shit brigade, who basically run the city and are very, very good at getting their message out. It is not a difficult matter to convince the “soft” left that such people do NOT have their interests at heart.

      1. …the urban prog left have been hijacked by the union/free-shit brigade…

        It isn’t clear to me at all. Neither Trader Joe’s nor Whole Foods are unionized, yet the urban progressives flock to both of them.

        Really, it’s about signaling. They’re very interested in broadcasting to everyone that they’re someone who doesn’t have to shop at Wal-Mart. Because, eeewww. It’s really not much different from the SUV hatred. They’re letting everyone know that they’re not dull suburbanites who need a big car to lug their kids around and bring home the week’s groceries. Why else do you think the very same people were in line mocking the minivan before SUV hatred became de rigueur. They’re broadcasting their status. And their using the pretense of a politicized morality to give them the cover to do so.

  16. Shorter version:

    People are selfish. They want government to stay our of their way when it inconveniences them, but then want government to inconvenience others to make them feel good.

    1. Like the plastic bag ban!

      But those Lefties figured out plastic bags were handy for disposing cat litter.

      So, now there’s the Catch-22: the bag stays, so the cat can stay.

      But getting rid of the bags ultimately leads to more feral cats and/or an increase in Chinese Food Restaurants with “Happy Family Surprise” on the menus.

  17. “who live in our urban centers have discovered the dark side of regulation in city planning, but only so far as it thwarts their interests or threatens their hobby horses:”

    Sums it up nicely. Seattle Times wrings hands that pot shops may be taxed out of existence while calling for greater taxes on the wealthy.

    1. U Street hipsters complaining about the evils of bankers in the housing market while sipping microbrews and living in neighborhoods that have been gentrified. The cognitive dissonance is strong in these people.

  18. In order to be a libertarian, one must be an optimist.

    Government shillers are basically sad and unhappy people, always worrying that ‘something bad will happen’ if government doesn’t do (fill in the blank). The elderly will starve. The poor will be screwed by the rich. The earth will warm. Comets will destroy us!!!

    So, maybe Scott fell in love and that has improved his outlook on life.

  19. “In Texas’s cities, by contrast, progressives often share, to some degree, the state’s pro-freedom, pro-market ethos. That’s why Houston, though hardly without restrictions on building, has no zoning per se and a pro-market Democrat, Annise Parker, for mayor.”

    That’s what’s so great about progs – they get graded on a curve.

    I bet Parker *does* count as pro-free-enterprise by prog standards.

    But she’s the same mayor who pushed through protected-class status for gays and trannies, and is fighting like the Dickens to prevent the voters from deciding the question:


    And until there was a national backlash, her administration subpoenaed [name of profession omitted] to disclose information about their First-Amendment protected activities:


    1. Bakeries?

      1. If I mentioned their profession, I’d be bringing up you-know-what.

        1. Mohels?

    2. Would that be Mercedes trannies, Ford and GM trannies? Or all trannies?

  20. I would just like to point out that you people living in low-regulation places are one real estate boom from becoming California.

    Just sayin’

    1. Nah, man. Not until the Hippies die out.

    2. It makes me weep for Colorado.

  21. Jesus wanted to protect his people from harm. A should regulate the way Jesus would have things.

    1. Jesus who? Jesus Rodriguez? Isn’t he the President of El Salvador?

      1. Do you mean my Mexican buddy that we call “Zeus”?

        1. Hey! Sues!

          Yo quiero Taco Bell

    2. Tequila makes her clothes fall off, Jesus.

      Like that? Regulate like that (wink wink).

      (I never believed you were celibate, wink wink,)

  22. Leftists, despite some of our caricatures of them, are not nearly a monolith.


    1. Yeah, Scott! What kind? I’ve yet to find one who doesn’t follow the rest of the herd.

      1. that was

        Timon 19|2015/05/12 15:36:24|#5294258~new~

        Brooksy’s insistence on “never threading” is both admirable and confounding.

        that said =

        repeated, informal polling of the “gamergate” audience showed most to be Left of center.

        hell, Sargon recently said he’d voted Green in the UK elections.

        There is some fragmentation between the ‘Cultural’ left and the more generic ‘Apple user’ that is left-leaning because they simply never thought that hard about anything (aka the “Moe Tucker” voters)

    2. THE WORST!

  23. I endeavor to persevere.

  24. One of the most encouraging signs was one I noticed ~20-25 yrs. ago in the opinions expressed by Dean Edell, the medical advice guy. (WABC used to take his dailies & run them in “strip” weekend format). He was emphatically not a libertarian philosophically, yet he took libertarian positions on many issues, and authoritarian positions on none.

    1. The point is, of course you favor liberty, you’re a libertarian. Non-libertarians dismiss your views because you’re a libertarian. But when non-libertarians favor liberty, that’s news, and the ideas can spread to other non-libertarians, because they can’t dismiss non-libertarians as libertarians.

  25. In the fight against Prohibition I’m getting the Left to fight against State Power.

    Which is another way of saying I’m double crossing them. Openly. And they LOVE it.

    And I add this in for good measure:

    Every tax, every regulation comes with it an army of bureaucrats and behind that an army (with guns) of enforcers.

  26. Our country was born libertarian from selfish necessity. You only get that when none of the statists can get control and have to settle on agreeing to disagree as a better option than losing. It helped that they needed to unite against a common statist enemy.

    Libertarian approaches to governance allow conservatives, liberals, and libertarians to live in peace and happiness (I guess the statists would be left in peace–not sure they’d be happy). Statist approaches guarantee some of them are losers, and sometimes that all of them lose, and it’s all a continual battle for dominance.

    I have both liberals and conservatives in my family, and as far as I can tell, these are inborn personality traits that provide great benefits to society. “Liberal” = generous, culturally adventurous, etc. and “conservative” = thrifty, traditional, cautious. Nothing wrong with either one, as long as they don’t go around using violence and threats to force their views on others.

    You can have a liberal or a conservative personality (or some of both) and still practice libertarian politics. Freedom brings us together.

  27. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.Jobs-Cash.com

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