Libertarian Party

Advocate Libertarian Philosophy with This One Trick! (It's the Socratic Method)

Making the case for less government to people who want alternatives to authority.

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Gary Johnson
Gage Skidmore via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Even before last weekend's big Libertarian Party National Convention in Orlando, Reason has been making note that the horrible general election reality of Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump has prompted people and the media to take a closer look at the most prominent third party in the United States.

This naturally puts libertarians (both within and independent of the party) in the position of explaining the libertarian mindset to people who don't really think too much about it or are exposed only to stories dismissing it as craziness. And obviously there are people who are very politically invested in making sure libertarians are seen as total nutters and unserious, holding an untenable philosophy that only crazy or selfish people would believe in.

But sometimes it doesn't help when some libertarians attempt to argue from an assumption that all people are operating from the same mindset or values of liberty. The coverage of the libertarian debate didn't help not because the questions were odd (though they kind of were), but because it was primarily for the purpose of appealing to people who are already libertarians. It really wasn't that much different from the Republican or Democratic debates. Well, there was no slam poetry from the establishment folks, but I could imagine an increasingly desperate Jeb Bush resorting to it if he thought it would help his numbers.

Ken "Popehat" White has a post up this evening worth highlighting, as it suggests a good way to approach arguing for libertarian philosophy to maybe at least get others thinking about why libertarians believe what we do beyond a superficial idea that we're all beholden to major corporations and marijuana:

I'd like to propose presenting libertarianism as a series of questions rather than a series of answers or policy positions. Even if I don't agree with people's answers to these questions, getting them to ask the questions and confront the issues reflected in the questions would promote the values that I care about.

White suggests 10 questions that are mostly designed to get people to think about the impacts of the expansion of government authority. I'll point out the one I've been using ever since George W. Bush was president, and we saw the expansion of the deference given to the president in war-making and surveillance:

What would your worst enemy do with this power?

Aye, there's the rub. Think of the politician you hate and mistrust most. Do you want that politician administering enforcement of the law you propose, particularly in a time when other branches of government are aligned or weak?

That a lot of people only seem to be thinking about this now that Trump is a nominee is pretty telling. As a libertarian, I can point to another presidential candidate (or actual president) over the past 15 years that has either suggested doing everything Trump has suggested (in a manner more "acceptable" to the establishment) or has actually already done it.

Read White's questions here.

I would like to add two questions that I think about whenever I'm making the case for libertarian limited government to my friends:

Do you really want to punish, fine, arrest, and jail people over this issue?

I often end up bringing up this question when debating more liberal friends over whether wedding-related businesses should be required by law to serve gay couples. It's interesting having to bring up this question in this context because I used to bring it up decades ago when arguing with conservatives about sodomy laws. Do you really want to put gay men in jail over sex?

And really, the answer is frequently no, they don't. They want the behavior they don't like to stop. While I have seen some people expressing glee at the idea of a religious baker or florist being fined, in reality, most supporters of these public accommodation rules don't actively want to punish anybody. They just want people to shut up and bake the cake or arrange the flowers.

And back years ago, yes there were some people who actually did want to put gay men in jail. But really, what many conservatives wanted was to use the government to send a cultural message of what sort of sexual activity was appropriate because they believed that homosexuality was learned behavior that was harmful to the self. They didn't want to imprison gay people, but they wanted to make sure their kid didn't turn out gay.

But these people often don't stop and think about the fact that the law can't actually accomplish what they want to accomplish if it's not enforced. If they're not willing to punish bakers or florists with fines or potentially put them out of business, they can't actually force them to comply with this demand. They have to be willing to turn to the police and courts to cause harm to others in order to get their way. If they find this objectionable, that leads to my second question. (If they don't find this objectionable, note Popehat's question above about one's political enemies):

Is there a way to resolve this conflict without getting the government involved?

If people do pull back at the idea of sending police and prosecutors after their adversaries, does that mean they can't get what they want? Again, going back to the bakers and florists, this is why I'm frequently having to point out that there are many, many alternatives available, and this very specific, fairly rare form of discrimination does not resemble the type of organized, widespread public accommodations discrimination that faced racial minorities. Why is there the assumption that the response needs to be the same?

This usually leads to a "What if . . .?" argument. With bakers and florists it tends toward a scenario where allowing people to discriminate against gay people for any reason will lead to a situation where some isolated gay person in a rural community is denied service from everybody. Be sure to challenge these premises. In this case, many states still don't cover sexual orientation in their public accommodation laws. If there was any interest in refusing to serve general goods to gay people, it would have already been happening.

I would conclude by suggesting that always treat people as though they actually legitimately believe the things they say they believe, even if you think college professors or preachers or parents or television commercials or whomever unduly influenced them. There's a famous saying that you can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't reason themselves into. There's a built in assumption in that saying that you're the reasonable one and they're not, which makes it easy for anybody to use that saying as a weapon. You have to at least consider that your debate partner here believes that the position that he or she is taking is reasonable. People don't just randomly believe things. You also can't reason somebody out of a position if you dismiss the idea that they legitimately believe said position.

Of course, if you question some people too hard, they might accuse you of being a sea lion.

NEXT: Another Johnson/Weld PAC in Action, via Cato Institute Founder Ed Crane

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  1. I’m working on it …

    1. Oh good because: No Ticket.

    2. I like this article. But as I’ve been saying like a broken record, I think the most important part is that libertarians stop describing themselves as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” Neither one of these distinctions, as commonly used, aligns with “against government interference,” and it’s getting even ever less so by the day.

      I think this is supposed to be a good “foot in the door” to appeal to the kind of young college graduates we’re used to interacting with, but in reality it just feeds the delusion that libertarians love to have about their surging popularity; we’ve hardly scored a meaningful victory if our young “libertarian” expresses his “social liberalism and fiscal conservatism” through green-energy corporate welfare and Draft Bloomberg campaigns. After all, the Tea Partiers (catch up with them at your nearest Trump rally) called themselves libertarians, too.

      We may also be missing the opportunity to convert a lot of the most creative, thoughtful, and energetic people this way, by having them think of us as weed-smoking plutocrats instead of as a distinct poltical philosophy.

      1. 1. You jumped in line. Not. Cool.
        2.

        I think this is supposed to be a good “foot in the door” to appeal to the kind of young college graduates we’re used to interacting with….

        I can’t remember the last young college graduate I’ve interacted with. Maybe I should mentor some poor shmuck. Ha, jokes on him, I don’t have anything to teach!

        1. What, jumped on line? OP was the article author; I was addressing **him**. Did I commit some sort of breach of etiquette here? I do not post much so I don’t know for sure.

      2. I don’t mind it as a functional definition, but it misses the connection (nonagression) that most people would agree with.

  2. I see what you did there.

    1. You won’t believe what happens next!

      1. Number five will shock you!

    2. Gary said vote for the person “isidewith”, so on the first ballot i should have voted for Darryl W. Perry, but I voted for Austin instead.

      Even with all the others out of the race I still only “side with” Gary 83%. And like 53% with the Berning Man… I suppose that fits aince Johnsom said he matches Bernie 73% of the time.

      Gary is tilting hard for disaffected Sanders voters. I wiah him the best of luck with that. I think reformed socialists will help the LP get over its (well (or is,it Weld) founded) Republican paranoia.

  3. Let me think of how one’s interlocutor could reply:

    “Does the United States Constitution permit the government to do this?”

    Sure, the general welfare and the Commerce clause.

    “What would this power look like if it were expanded dramatically in scope or in time?”

    AWESOME!

    “What would this obligation look like if exercised indifferently by unaccountable people?”

    This is why we need to educate the voters so they won’t elect people from [name of party].

    “What would your worst enemy do with this power?”

    He’d screw me if I hadn’t taken the precaution of screwing him first.

    “Does this power make a choice about morals, ethics, or risk that individuals ought to make?”

    Look into the eyes of a parent who lost their son/daughter to X, and tell them that their loved one should have made that choice!

    “Here’s another way to ask this question: how does this law treat you with respect to your ability to make decisions, and are you happy with the government constantly treating you that way with respect to other decisions?”

    I don’t do X, so why should I care?

    “Does this power represent the government putting its thumb on the scales to prefer some competitors over others, perhaps based on their relative power and influence?”

    I hope so – America first, don’t let foreigners take our jobs!

    1. “Does this power set up a conflict between laws and rights?”

      No-one has the right to break the law!

      “Are we giving this power to the right level of government?”

      Shut up, racist!

      “If we must give the government the power to do this, what part of the government should get it?”

      I’m sure they’ll work out those details, why are you nitpicking?

      “Are we acting out of fear, anger, or self-promotion?”

      No, you are by defending X and wanting it to stay legal. Also, racism and homophobia.

      “Is there any evidence the government is any good at this?”

      The government has never been enlightened enough to do this before, so that’s not a fair question.

      1. 1. Dude, you’re replying to yourself.
        2. It’s obvious from your comments that you did NOT read the article.

        1. It linked to a Ken White article, whose questions I’m quoting.

            1. Oh the article? I thought you posted before the article showed up.

            2. It does now, I was just quicker on the draw.

              1. Faster than the speed of Scott Shackford.
                You know who else used the abbreviation”S.S.”?

      2. “Do you really want to punish, fine, arrest, and jail people over this issue?”

        Yes, I’d strangle those X-lovers with my bare hands!

        “Is there a way to resolve this conflict without getting the government involved?”

        Yes, strangling those X-lovers with my bare hands, but since I can’t strangle them all myself, I’ll let the government do it.

  4. Does anybody want a link to “47 Photos of Retro Beach Fashion That We Still Love Today”?

    1. Might be better that the link I just clicked.

    2. I am more interested in dead transgendered celebrities. It’s the nexus of a very interesting popular liberal culture Venn diagram.

    3. Sure. I dig chicks wearing one-piece swimsuits.

      1. From what I can discern, you are a two-piece, highwaisted swimsuit kind of guy.

          1. I saw the #Virginia Postrel tag. Nicely done.

  5. The Socratic Method is an excellent tool for exposing the logical inconsistencies in people’s beliefs; this is why people hate it being used on them.

    1. Plus, “thinking is *hard*!”

      1. So is math.

        1. And laundry.

    2. Exactly. This goes back to the concept of appealing to people who are already libertarian. Team Red and Team Blue don’t give a shit about logical inconsistencies. They are driven by beliefs; not reason and logic. When you demonstrate the logical flaws of their positions, it doesn’t make them rethink those positions; it just makes them think you’re an asshole.

  6. Brie Larson as Captain Marvel? It’s because Katheryn Winnick is Canadian, isn’t it?

    Also, this is Scott’s most gangster post. Respect.

    1. Where is Sasha (the bear)?

      “I don’t know, she ran away.”

      *closes fridge door hiding the bear head*

  7. Oh look, the article itself showed up. But we’ve already started commenting. Di we go read the article? Or just keep the snark going?
    I DON’T KNOW THE PROTOCOL!!!!!

  8. I guess since he’s not smoking the ganja anymore, we’re now running only Angry Johnson photos. I hope the campaign will get serious enough that we start seeing Hard Johnson photos.

    1. Please Google “Hard Johnson Photos”. I’m feeling lucky!

  9. Question for regular commenters: I’m seeing a lot of Trump defenders commenting, especially on articles about the big guy. Do a lot of these people actually fancy themselves to be libertarians, or are they just here because the Trump Army signs up to comment on every article from First Things to the Daily Worker that mentions their candidate?

    1. Were you around for the Ebola-lypse?

    2. more than anything, it’s our contrarian streak coming out, combined with the fact that we’ve seen lazy hit jobs done on libertarians for years and it’s especially irking to see a libertarian media outlet adopt the same intellectual laziness.

      Reason has been cheerleading for years for outsider candidates who break the political mold just for the sake of shaking things up and ending the stuffy two-party dichotomy and ending the old rules…except when it’s Donald Trump, apparently, because he’s eww icky gross.

      If Reason writers can get away with making a libertarian case for Obama, I don’t see why it’s suddenly disallowed to be a libertarian Trump supporter. Especially if you think the symbolism of Trump is more important than the actual policies, which is what I believe.

      even more galling is the fact that Reason has also been saying for years that politics should not matter that much to the average American, but then the writers get all shirty when someone dares to lack a proper cosmopolitan (yeah go ahead and have a drink) style. Reason is supposed to be the cool kid in the back of the class smoking and saying, ‘you fucking sheep none of this matters’, but people like Suderman and Dalmia are acting like Reese Witherspoon in “Election.”

      1. “If Reason writers can get away with making a libertarian case for Obama, I don’t see why it’s suddenly disallowed to be a libertarian Trump supporter.”

        They didn’t get away with it, so the remainder of your ‘argument’ is irrelevant.

    3. I think Trump is an idiot. I also agree with John(gasp) that Trump is no worse than any other politician.
      And, I hate Hillary. I mean really hate her. I think she needs to be doing hard time.
      Combine those, and yeah, if Trump gets called on some bs that’s really just bs, I’ll defend him.
      But I don’t think Trump is the first choice of anybody here.
      We all make our political calculations:
      Some people say “my vote doesn’t matter in regard to who wins, so I’ll vote my conscious.”
      Some add that, “if enough people do that, then maybe the LP candidate will be included in the debates and pools.”
      Some say “Trump sounds like a fascist, and I’d rather have a crook then Mussolini.”
      I say “better Trump then Frump.”

      1. I also agree with John(gasp) that Trump is no worse than any other politician.

        this is a key point I forgot to make. the disproportionate and ridiculously emotional response to Trump is wholly unwarranted because he just is not that different from other politicians. if there weren’t pants-shitting five-a-day posts on Mitt Romney or Obama or Bush or McCain, then why is this different?

        because style.

        1. The style thing really puts into place the disconnect between the public and the pundit class. His style is the single greatest reason his supporters have for backing him, and it is the single greatest reason that opponents – like many scribes – hate him.

    4. Lots of pro-mcAafee noise too and we see how that ended. One of McAfees close confidants told me that the Johnson/Weld deal was a Trump scam because Weld and Trump played Golf together. That may sound damning and dangerous, but Golf with Trump is not sex with Magic or Charlie Sheen.

      With regard to Trump. I know some people who orbit the libertarian sphere are indeed trumpets and trumpazi. Walter Block, Wayne Allen Root, Peter Thiel, Patrick Buchanan, etc. In fact Pro-Trump articles appear more prevalent at Lewrockwell than those that are anti-trump.

      It is not hard to make the leap that the overlap of reasonoids and lewrockwellians is a sizeable number, and of that number many will have rationalized the support of naked popularist nationalism.

      1. One of McAfees close confidants told me that the Johnson/Weld deal was a Trump scam because Weld and Trump played Golf together.

        and people laugh when I say TDS is a thing.

      2. This is interesting. It’s true that, while Reason is one of the most “unpaleo” places in the libertarian universe, the commentariat does seem to be a lot less uniformly so–and it varies greatly from article to article depending on the subject matter (I’ve seen a lot of truly awful shit dominating on some). Not that Trump is paleo by any means; he kind of gives you all the ugliness with none of the actual libertarianism.

        I guess it’s that I understand why the Tea Partiers have gone over to Trump: It’s because “liberty” was just the latest cause to hang their communitarian resentment on, after “social conservatism” and “hawkishness,” with Trumpism being actually the least artificial fit (and in a certain sense, the most rational choice) for them yet. But more mysterious and interesting to me is what’s going through the minds of people who are just a bit more thoughtful and less communitarian. Your Peter Thiel, for instance–libertarian in some ways but so unlibertarian in others, and certainly not fitting any common knee-jerk mold of Trumpbro.

    5. They are pod people and you mustn’t trust them.

    6. They are Hit&Republicans;, or Yokeltarians, if you will. Essentially Republicans who think they are libertarians because they agree on one or two issues but side with Republicans on 90% of the rest.

      Or Trolls like SIV.

      1. *sigh*

        no, that’s just your way of trying to deal with something that makes you uncomfortable: reasonable, thoughtful people aren’t necessarily all Team Orange all the time.

        1. If they are principled, they are.

          1. there is such a thing as prioritizing.

            1. By putting up giant border walls, setting up “deportation forces” and passing religious tests to enter the country — in gross violation of the First Amendment? There is no “libertarian case” for that, IMHO.

              When I would hear Ted Cruz talk immigration during the debates, there would be one big government policy after another coming out of his mouth (spend billions of dollars to hire thousands of new government agents, tracking/biometric systems, national registries, fines of thousands of dollars to business owners, forced E-Verify, mandatory compliance for new government regulations, etc.), and then he’d turn around and push “small government.”

              1. had he balanced border security with “and I’m going to pay for that by doing away with X, and shifting the money over,” would that have worked? On the one hand, someone would openly be talking of cutting something. On the other, the open borders people wouldn’t care because open borders.

                1. Open borders people wouldn’t care because open borders is not a pressing issue.

                  1. they wouldn’t care about a candidate making the border, including a pricey approach, a central issue? The evidence hear, at least, says otherwise. I imagine if he said “it’s paid for by dialing back the welfare state” it becomes pressing to a lot of people, but he didn’t so moot point.

                    1. hear = here.

                    2. wareagle, I agree with commodious spittoon about the border not being a pressing issue. It’s not that I think there’s “absolutely nothing wrong” with open borders, but I’m nowhere close to the “WE’RE LOSING OUR COUNTRY TO THESE FOREIGNERS” mass hysteria of conservatives/nationalists.

                      A lot of them come to work shitty low-wage jobs that Americans can’t get (or won’t do) because they’re only “affordable” jobs if they’re illegal jobs. (High taxes, regulations, and minimum wage forces even small businesses to use “illegal” labor).

                      They also pay taxes, provide productivity, report crimes anonymously (sanctuary cities), and are fleeing socialist countries, so I assume they’re at least open to capitalism.

                    3. The thing a lot of people don’t get is that any attempt to crack down on illegal immigration will just turn into another giant money-wasting, freedom-destroying clusterfuck like the War on Drugs. Of course, there are sadly many people who think the reason the War on Drugs hasn’t worked is because…wait for it…they did’t *try* hard enough.

                      Another thing a lot people don’t get is that tariffs always hurt more than they help, because when Americans buy fewer foreign goods, foreigners buy fewer American goods. This isn’t hypothetical. The Smoot-Hawley tariff caused US imports and exports to fall by about 60% each. There isn’t a single example of a country becoming more prosperous by restricting trade.

                      So those are the 2 main dumb ideas from Trump.

                    4. Derpetologist|6.3.16 @ 1:00AM|#
                      “The thing a lot of people don’t get is that any attempt to crack down on illegal immigration will just turn into another giant money-wasting, freedom-destroying clusterfuck like the War on Drugs. Of course, there are sadly many people who think the reason the War on Drugs hasn’t worked is because…wait for it…they did’t *try* hard enough.”

                      By golly, he HAS it!
                      Yes! A gov’t program to restrict the freedom of the labor market is as destined to failure as the gov’t program to restrict the freedom of any other economic good!
                      We have a WINNA!
                      So, D which of these….?

                2. had he balanced border security with “and I’m going to pay for that by doing away with X, and shifting the money over,” would that have worked?

                  In my own view as a libertarian? No.

                  Because any sort of “temporary” new government spending or general growth of government will not only never go away, it will eventually find its way into the hands of someone who will definitely take that authority much further.

              2. I wasn’t talking about Trump’s policy priorities. I was talking about the fact it’s possible to be a Trump supporter and a libertarian because you think the symbolism of an outsider, for example, is more important than four years of a possibly terrible President, because we’ve survived plenty of those.

                1. I wasn’t talking about Trump’s policy priorities. I was talking about the fact it’s possible to be a Trump supporter and a libertarian because you think the symbolism of an outsider, for example, is more important than four years of a possibly terrible President, because we’ve survived plenty of those.

                  A lot of libertarians view Trump as the epitome of an insider crony capitalist. Hell, the guy even brags about paying politicians so they’ll owe him. A principled “outsider” wouldn’t engage in such nakedly ambitious wheeling and dealing.

                  1. At the confluence of style and symbolism, it makes sense to look for some substance and this is where some will jump off the Trump train. I enjoy the theater of it but have no real idea of what he would do. Nothing catastrophic would occur and the pants-shitting is a bit overwrought, but someone might say that is as much speculation as the parade of horribles than others fret over.

                    If you want the system disrupted, he seems the right choice. The question is, what would that disruption look like, and I don’t think anyone can say for sure. Today, he’s here; tomorrow, he’s there. And yes, politicians flip/evolve/change over time, but it’s usually a longer time span that the period between speeches or interviews.

                    1. I enjoy the theater of it but have no real idea of what he would do

                      One thing he will certainly not do…and that’s further the cause of liberty.

                  2. A lot of libertarians view Trump as the epitome of an insider crony capitalist.

                    And…? Some don’t.

                    A principled “outsider” wouldn’t engage in such nakedly ambitious wheeling and dealing.

                    a principled outsider? are you holding out for a unicorn?

                    1. a principled outsider? are you holding out for a unicorn?

                      Did Ron Paul bribe politicians?

                      The worst thing he did IMO was take pork. Which was still bad since it hurt his credibility (sort of my point about Trump).

                      I am not holding out for a unicorn. But Trump is not a small government guy. His whole campaign is centered around his power of personality in “getting things done” because goddamnit, he’s such an awesome tough guy. I don’t see a POTUS like that being an “outsider” or someone who will view the constitution as a restraint.

                    2. Oh, good, you want to pretend voting for this illiberal hack isn’t an immoral gesture. Well, not everyone is going to affirm your choice. Be an adult, live with your choice.

          2. that explains Team Orange’s guy being a bit flaky on freedom of association and his running mate sounding like president of the Hillary Fan Club .

            1. …which is why there’s a small-l and big-L distinction in the first place.

            2. Yep. There is such a thing as libertarian enough to support. Johnson is dead wrong on public accommodation, but he’s better for the cause than McAfee and he’s 69,000X the libertarian Trump is.

              His running mate, while not a libertarian at all, is immaterial as he’s not going to win. The goal isn’t to win, it’s to get heads under the tent and introduce them to libertarian philosophy and force Republicans to the table. Weld brings money and skills to do that.

              1. that kinda makes my point – if you’re trying to get heads under the tent, how does bucking certain parts of libertarian philosophy yourself help?

                Maybe it’s all academic; no one is going to be 100% and it’s foolish to think so, but it seems this is more Pub-Lite, more so than last go-round.

                1. if you’re trying to get heads under the tent, how does bucking certain parts of libertarian philosophy yourself help

                  Because McAfee can’t do it. You don’t need to convince libertarians. They’re already on board. You need to engage and convince Independents, Republicans and even the odd old school liberals that liberty is in their best interests.

                  I love McAfee, but the “straights” will hear “wanted for questioning in connection with a murder” and that will be all they hear.

                  Johnson is closer to what the straights expect in an executive. And he’s NOT Pub-Lite.

                  ANd if you don’t believe the chart, read his positions. He’s more libertarian than Rand.

                  1. You need to engage and convince Independents, Republicans and even the odd old school liberals that liberty is in their best interests.

                    Same guy, up-thread says:

                    They are Hit&Republicans;, or Yokeltarians, if you will. Essentially Republicans who think they are libertarians because they agree on one or two issues but side with Republicans on 90% of the rest.

                    Or Trolls like SIV.

                    So, which is it? Big Tent, try to convince others, or Real Scotsman for the win?

                    1. So, which is it? Big Tent, try to convince others, or Real Scotsman for the win?

                      I also said:

                      We need to round up a bunch of Is/Rs/Ds and get them thinking about liberty. And THEN we can work on making them principled libertarians.

                      H&R is well past the “and THEN” part. If you’re a regular here, you are well aware of libertarian principle. If you’re coming here to espouse the goodness of Trump, or positions in direct opposition to libertarian principle, you’ve either rejected that principle or you’re a fucking troll.

                      Please recall the original question was:

                      Question for regular commenters: I’m seeing a lot of Trump defenders commenting, especially on articles about the big guy. Do a lot of these people actually fancy themselves to be libertarians, or are they just here because the Trump Army signs up to comment on every article from First Things to the Daily Worker that mentions their candidate?

              2. There is such a thing as libertarian enough to support.

                ohh there’s a principled stance.

                1. ohh there’s a principled stance.

                  What, exactly, is unprincipled about selecting the candidate that will do the most to further the cause of libertarianism?

                  Mcafee is a purist. I like him alot and all else being equal, he’d be my guy. But all else isn’t equal. McAfee has a shit-ton of baggage. Johnson comes with the credibility (target audience credibility) of having been an executive and is already polling at 10-11%.

                  And Johnson is less than libertarian on ONE FUCKING ISSUE! Public accommodation.

                  At this point in history, purity isn’t what’s best for libertarianism. We need to round up a bunch of Is/Rs/Ds and get them thinking about liberty. And THEN we can work on making them principled libertarians.

                  1. What, exactly, is unprincipled about selecting the candidate that will do the most to further the cause of libertarianism?

                    being pragmatic, I thought, was the opposite of being principled. you’re making my point for me.

                    1. being pragmatic, I thought, was the opposite of being principled.

                      You can be as principled as the day is long, but it’s not going to win recruits if you can’t get anyone to listen to your message.

                      I am personally, a purist. I am, however, not arrogant enough to believe that being a purist is how you attract recruits. Liberty is scary. It means you’ll have to accept all kinds of nasty things like bigamy, prostitution and legal heroin…I simply suggest we not start there when trying to win favor amongst the straights.

                  2. to be clear, you support Johnson because he’s “libertarian enough”, so it’s possible to make some concessions to further a greater cause.

                    which is what Trump supporters could be doing.

                    1. you support Johnson because he’s “libertarian enough”

                      The difference is that Trump isn’t libertarian AT ALL and will not further liberty AT ALL.

                    2. Except they’re supporting a corporatist who has lied from day one to ingratiate himself among people who are anti-liberty, and support for him seems to devolve on the fact that he could behave in a manner contrary to all evidence and assertions he himself has made.

                      I figured hope and change wouldn’t be a compelling slogan after eight years, especially for this crowd, but apparently I’m wrong.

                  3. Then why do you constantly throw out yokeltarian every chance you get, Francisco?

      2. I think some of them just overlap (slightly) on foreign policy, with the Trumpkin “libertarians” being Jacksonian (and not “noninterventionist” as the media likes to say).

        Donald Trump regurgitates GOP boilerplate about how “We need to make the military so big and strong that they’ll never mess with us!”

        Remember when Rand smacked down Rubio for pledging almost a trillion dollars of new “defense” spending? I don’t think the “Yokeltarian” Trumpkins are opposed to that. They just hate things like messy interventions, treaties, ground wars, etc. because “DURR WHYCUM EVRYTING FORIGN N NOT MURIKAN?”

        1. oh yet-another thoughtful critique.

          you do realize all you’re doing is aping the style and intellectual dishonesty of a Jezebel or an Alternet, right? DURR TRUMPIES SOOOO STUPID. yeah, that’s really original.

          1. I read Breitbart (unfortunately). And I skim the comments of other “nationalist” sites.

            They are obsessed with this idea of a “nation-state” which basically means you get fucking nobility or royalty bestowed onto you by the government ? because “America.”

            I once posited the question: “Should an American be given a job over an immigrant/foreigner even if the American is less qualified?”

            Almost unanimously, the answer was that anything less than the American being given the job over the immigrant was treason, and the business owner should be arrested.

            So, affirmative action. But only for “the workers.”

            1. wouldn’t that be expected of the nationalist sites? If that’s what you’re seeing at more mainstream conservative places, that would be surprising, especially if you’re putting qualifications on the table. Some might ask about legal status as well, but hard to imagine the call for arrests.

              Keep in mind the bulk of those in Camp Trump were the same folks voting for Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain, and Romney which admittedly is its own “some of these are not like the others” quiz.

              1. I only *skim* the nationalist sites (I’d never comment there), but I tend to actively read (and used to comment at) Breitbart. Many of the posters identified as either conservative or nationalist and held the view that even if an immigrant is here *legally* and did everything by the book, the American still gets “first dibs” on all jobs. They seemed more than content with creating waiting lines for jobs based on immigration/citizenship status.

                That’s some scurry shit, IMO

                1. A fun question to ask such people is: in the past 20 years has the US lost more jobs to China or to automation?

                  Hint: a automated steel mill only needs half as many workers.

                  I guess the Yellow Peril trumps robophobia.

                  1. Steel mills have been a staple of productivity in America for many years. As globalization occurs, steel mills have the opportunity to reevaluate their methods of production. No longer are paper and pencils necessary to calculate the right mix of iron ore. Robots have arrived.

                    After a wave of globalization in the 1980s, an international steel market was created, which strained less-profitable mills causing them to close.

                    In 2008, Burns Harbor Steel Mill in Indiana was rejuvenated after being abandoned a decade before. A hypermodern mill in Belgium was the inspiration; Burns Harbor is now enjoying record output. Steel is made out of iron, ore, coal and limestone here, and the furnaces are run with Belgian software. Steel mill workers are making the same amount of steel with half the employees, and productivity is soaring.

                    link

  10. It is up now! Nobody took the opportunity to pre-misrepresent what I said. Sad!

    1. Scott just wrote that everyone misrepresented what he said before he posted the article. That guy…smdh.

    2. Scott, your Donald Trump style postings crack me up.

    3. Nobody took the opportunity to pre-misrepresent what I said.

      John doesn’t normally stay up this late.

  11. The “punish, fine, arrest and jail” question really works. I used it recently while talking to people about the gay bathroom situation, and they had no answer for that question.

    It’s like my favorite counterpoint to people who are for gun-control. “The police are the only ones who are allowed to have guns?” There is not an easy, preprepared team-spin answer.

  12. My balls are so sweaty!

    1. Fresh balls. Your life has been changed forever. You’re welcome.

  13. Er… lemme try.

    Fuck you, cut spending?

    Did I do it right?

    1. Cut fuck, you spending?

      1. Fuck spending, cut yourself!

        1. *Breaks out his do-it-yourself home Bris set he found behind a shut-down clinic*

          Okay, here we go!

  14. Totally agree with Ken, and with Scott’s additional questions. If I proselytize, I do it almost entirely by asking questions. If nothing else, I can hopefully get the person to realize why I and other libertarians are uncomfortable by this or that conventional wisdom or statist solution.

    And on Scott’s second question, I like the line, “Before resorting to politics…” Political / government / coercion should be the last resort to a problem, and requires robust justification. Freedom does not.

    1. And no, I am NOT Andrew Napolitano!

      1. I won’t argue with success.

      2. What if you were Andrew Napolitano?

  15. Salon beat you to it

    (trigger warning – Salon)

    “11 questions to see if libertarians are hypocrites

    “Eleven questions that expose their contradictions and faulty logic…

    “Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”?”and if not, why not?…

    “Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?…

    “Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?…

    “Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?…

    “Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate….

    “Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?…

    “Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?…

    “Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?…

    “Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?”

    Consider yourselves rebutted!

    1. 1. yes
      2. yes – that’s what wages are for
      3. yes
      4. no – also, assuming the conclusion
      5. compound question – why should a democracy necessarily need to regulate anything?
      6. what?
      7. no
      8. you can’t have a marketplace predicated on force
      9. no – also, assuming the conclusion
      10-11: garbage questions not worth addressing

      god I forgot how terrible Salon is.

    2. 1) “Spontaneous order” is not always and everywhere a fruitful thing. This is why the marketplace, both of goods and ideas, is where we hash out the legitimacy and productivity of human endeavors.

      2) Yes, that’s why we believe in markets.

      3) Yes, of course, you lovable dweeb, but in neither case should they be allowed to enact their demands at the point of a gun.

      4) Would those be regulations imposed on companies by consumer democracy or regulations written by and for companies? Something tells me you yourself haven’t really thought through these questions.

      5) Libertarians are advocates of many social orders, but in the main libertarians believe in democracy subordinated by intentionally anti-democratic institutions, because we favor mob rule just as much as we do authoritarians: not at all.

      6) Government cannot exist absent wealth transfers from productive people. Government is, after all, “the things we choose to do together”… poorly.

      7) Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Unlike progressives, libertarians are allowed to debate among themselves.

      1. 8) Don’t be absurd. As the old chestnut goes, “democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.” If you believe democracy is a marketplace, you believe that grocery shopping involves a plebiscite in which a handful of carts are pushed through the aisles with a few managerial types apiece tossing in various items. At the end the voters decide which basket is divvied up among them, with most of the produce going to a relative few and most of the voters walking away with less than they had. This sounds like grocery shopping in Venezuela, but not a marketplace.

        9) Large corporations are perhaps the only bulwark remaining against the kleptocratic behemoth you idiots have helped expand.

        1. Good God that last one is a doozy. I’m not sure I’ve seen that much derp front-ended in a question since the last time my tiny inquisitive niece came to visit. These people are children, full stop. Well, worse than children, since they haven’t got the excuse.

          If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?

          “If you believe in free markets [and that’s being fucking generous on my part, since the idiot dweeb obviously meant but was too intellectually dishonest to write “marketplace of ideas,” a wholly different concept], why aren’t you stupid rubes willing to accept that the markets have been hobbled for nearly a century?”

          Really? Hey, the markets have been reamed by incompetent and corporatist bureaucracy, why can’t you just get over it? Really?

          1. And answering it re: “a marketplace of ideas”… dude, you’re asking us why, despite the many successes of intransigent special interest groups in winning over the hearts of the American electorate (if not their minds, as you aptly demonstrate), we continue to militate against the rents they enjoy as a result, and to edify our countrymen? This guy is arguing for plutocracy. Fucking… wow.

    3. “Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”?”and if not, why not?…

      when your first question conjoins things that are not alike, i.e. unions with heirarchies and rigid rules and force agreement/acquiescense vs elections that can be unpredictable and span a finite period of time, why am I supposed to take either you or the rest of your list seriously?

    4. Can a libertarian create a politician he doesn’t hate?

      Do libertarians feel bad for hating women and minorities?

      If politicians are elected by people then how is everything they do not the full will and voice of the people?

      If a train leaves Cleveland at 6:10 am and another train leaves Houston at 4:15 pm, how can the trains run on time if the government doesn’t make them?

      Why won’t libertarians let me try their ice cream so I can see if I want the same flavor?

      Answer that, losertarians.

    5. “Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?…

      Democracy isn’t a form of a market, because democracy enforces zero-sum outcomes.

      “Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?”

      Absolutely. And it’s all because of big government.

    6. “Let me expose your faulty logic with an incoherent and internally inconsistent* set of questions, not to mention laced with assumptions not in evidence!”

      * [if not incomplete, which may be likely as I have little idea what the hell their referents are; “democracy,” “libertarian,” “corporations,” “intellectual properties,” “freedoms,” on and on?” We’re really speaking a different language, quite probably.]

      These are the kinds of things where there’s so much bullshit to unpack, you’re just rendered speechless?”and thereby look like you’ve lost the argument, I guess.

      And maybe we have.

      The glaze of smug is what makes it unbearable.

    7. Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?…

      I’ve officially been triggered.

  16. Why does putting a question mark at the end of your argument make it more persuasive?

    1. It’s called the Socratic method, or alternatively, begging the question.

      1. But can’t that get really annoying?

        What if people did it all the time?

        Would we have a comment board full of Judge Napolitanos?

        Who wants that?

        1. I mean, one of him is great, I’m just asking should everyone use his rhetorical style?

          And didn’t Socrates get in trouble for his method?

          1. Teaching youth to really think for themselves corrupts society, amirite?

        2. Well, it’s not really Socratic in any event. As I recall, Socrates demurred as to whether he was in fact the wisest man since wise came to wisetown, preferring instead to suggest that he learned by listening to others. Thus the questions weren’t meant to be leading but opening up a dialogue.

          That said, I like the idea of answering arguments with questions and forcing people to define their terms, because that’s where you separate chaff from wheat. But let’s not pretend it’s not begging the question.

        3. Yeah it’s a fairly patronizing way to argue politics. People act like they have some crushing “gotcha” trap set up when it’s just some stupid half-truth you can see coming a mile away. Like a leap from actual slavery to “wage slavery”.

  17. Holy shit, I just read the best thing from a youtube commenter.

    Describing social justice dweebs and their histrionics:

    Apparently no one told them that behaving like wrestling heels isn’t the way to win (sane) people over to their cause.

    Interrupt the fan favorite, snatch the mic, taunt the crowd, and then play the victim at the end. Vince needs to sign these people to WWE contracts.?

    Alternatively, rodeo clowns.

  18. Are we not all dust in the wind?

    1. Fuck, I was just Googling around and guess what I learned?

      1. The saddest news you have ever posted.

  19. Walls dripping with dna graffiti… vertical cracked canvases guiding the disinterested squints of state authority squeezing off zipping tickets to a favorite forever… one line staggering after another. Tumbling into shadows under the ceaseless stroll of omission. Wings bursting behind the deathly sheds of states. Impaled visions led into echoes by ghouls wearing Gucci and monk straps.

    When the earth of the adversary spins in reverse honest questions are grated into worthless chaff. The tongue has never been more desperate to utter keys that tumble authoritarian locks. The sighs of the pope and his contemporaries skitter feebly into the angry yaw of roiling steel seas that stretch darkly along the groans of another future.

  20. but should we video it and upload it to YouTube? that’s how things get really effective.

  21. Until people accept that positive liberty is not liberty at all nothing will change.

    1. ^This^

      If government has to *give* you special protections or certain advantages, it’ll have to eventually expand it to everyone else (because “equality”). In which case there’s nothing “special” about that liberty because it’s nothing more than granted privilege that can just as easily be taken away.

      I always love it when progtards roll their eyes at the “Nazi cakes” dilemma, quickly twisting themselves into pretzels over how “political views” (neo-Nazism) aren’t protected from discrimination but sexuality (wedding cake for gay couple) is. You can discriminate against a neo-Nazi because the First Amendment doesn’t apply, but apparently some “updated version” of the Fourteenth Amendment *does* apply.

      1. Tell you what. I’ll stop rolling my eyes at the “Nazi cakes” dilemma when the status quo stops obligating me to serve Christians?.

        Or, to put it another way… a core assumption of the “Nazi cakes” dilemma is that everyone would be aghast at requiring a Jew to serve a Nazi. But that assumption forgets that I am *already* obligated to serve people whose religion calls for my death.

        So yeah. I roll my eyes. Because your hypothetical? Is my status quo. And there is no serious effort to roll back that status quo.
        ________
        ?Remembering that Christianity *literally* calls for my death. And if you think that’s an unfair understanding of Christianity, blame the Christians who keep telling me so.

        1. “?Remembering that Christianity *literally* calls for my death. And if you think that’s an unfair understanding of Christianity, blame the Christians who keep telling me so.”

          Is that the sort of justification that is going to make your’s a winning argument?

          Isn’t it just like the statists who having found a self-proclaimed libertarian willing to declare he “really does want to push grandma off a cliff in order to eliminate Medicare,” says that all libertarians are in favor of pushing grandmothers off of cliffs?

          Broad brushes for everyone!!!

    2. They don’t care. Either they’re ignorant and they don’t care about the distinction between positive and negative liberties, or, more likely, they embrace positive liberties as a necessary and good thing. Either way, liberty is something to be subordinated to their will. They don’t want liberty, they want regime.

      1. They don’t want freedom, they want a benevolent master.

        1. Honestly, I’m not even certain it’s that. I get a whiff of straight-up brownshirt from these statist fucks. What they want most of all is legal cover to begin smashing faces.

          1. They are rather angry these days, that’s true.

          2. “Honestly, I’m not even certain it’s that. I get a whiff of straight-up brownshirt from these statist fucks. What they want most of all is legal cover to begin smashing faces.”

            Not seeing active sadism, more the vain hope that if only the right men….
            IOWs, a mindless, perhaps willful, ignorance of history and the pathetic hope that mommy can take care of all of us.
            Put another way, less evil than a juvenile desire to avoid moral agency.

  22. Now someone just needs to do this with Johnson and Weld…

  23. Inside the gigantic iron cocks of the powerful stand arrays of throbbing machines stamping stormy temples filled with bolts and thorns. Outside the gigantic iron cocks of the powerful fields of submissive breathing things lie on their back, mouths agape. Taut with the concrete creams of domination the gigantic iron cocks of the powerful lower their thick bulbous staves between endless jaws breaking hinges, ripping tendons and teeth as founts of thick glistening fuck oil rippling with bureaucratic forces drowns with murderous efficiency the hopes, dreams, and imaginations of yet another generation.

    FUCK humans and their collective self-mutilation through the blades, prison bars, and bullets of tyrants…

    What remains and saves the husks of countless generations are the jeweled tassels of philosophers and dreamers fevered with trips winding between angels spreading blossom wisps fluttering with silken dragons through soaring incantations released from mental altars of the liberty journeyer as he walks alone with the stars on the topmost cliffs where suns sit at the feet of the universe.

  24. “I’d like to propose presenting libertarianism as a series of questions rather than a series of answers or policy positions. Even if I don’t agree with people’s answers to these questions, getting them to ask the questions and confront the issues reflected in the questions would promote the values that I care about.”

    Given an honest interlocutor, this is a wonderful method of arriving at the truth of the matter or something damn close to it. Given a dedicated lefty or magical ‘thinker’, you’ll get more bullshit than eddie manages to peddle in a day, and a similar dishonest response.
    We pretty much all know that science is a process rather than a set of data (regardless of the requirement that we must know some data to use the process). Which affects the catastrophists of ‘climate change’ not one iota; as far as they are concerned, ‘science’ says the government must run the economy.
    Oh, to deal with honest people!

    1. Exactly. Most progs aren’t interested in the search for truth, they’re interested in signaling their bona fides for the right ideas and punishing those who disagree with them. If you make them start thinking about the consequences of their ideas they’ll just shut down the debate by calling you racist or an idiot and walk away with a smug self righteousness.

      1. Of course, you shitlord TEAbagger Kochsucker!

        /progtard

      2. “If you make them start thinking about the consequences of their ideas they’ll just shut down the debate by calling you racist or an idiot and walk away with a smug self righteousness.”

        In our midst:
        Commie-kid. Rags on Trump, as if that blow-hard has support here. When questioned on the D candidates, well ‘Denmark, Sweden, etc!’

  25. Musk psycho-trekked on some seriously fucked dank dysfunctional matrix shit. Living simulation is constructed from the shrewd ethers of bureaucratic factories, the which deftly immerses your personal existence in a swamp of letters channeling shame and alignment- not a moment remains in a lifetime untouched from the constant molecular insertions of social architecture.

    Collective imagination and will is designed from above and without active resistance will quickly erode the independence of even the most avid deviant.

  26. Painting toy pigs and sad cats on the motherfucking questions might help. Questions are chisels piercing tombs. Fucking can’t get past their motherfucking self-help manuals and goddamn party bylines. Scratching the mysteries of man into some level of clarity with questions is like fucking your hot stepmom.

    1. Hey Pops, you gonna eat the rest of that?

  27. “Electing Trump would be ‘historic mistake,’ Clinton says
    SAN DIEGO (AP) ?” Previewing a rancorous fall campaign, Hillary Clinton assailed Donald Trump on Thursday as a potential president who would lead America toward war and economic crisis. She portrayed her own foreign policy as optimistic, inclusive and diplomatic, born from long experience in public life.”

    That would be “long experience in public life” cadging bribes from all and sundry while Bubba dips his wick here and there. Is there a more despicable couple in public life? Outside the Kardashians, I mean.
    No, commie-kid, I’m not defending Trump.

    1. Hillary’s foreign policy accomplishments:

      1. Letting 4 Americans get killed in a terrorist attack on a US consulate
      2. Looking the other way when Russia decided to take a big bite out of US ally Ukraine

  28. The strategy least likely to work is to attempt to use the Socratic Method.

    The Socratic Method pisses idiots off and makes them want to kill you. That’s what happened to Socrates, at least.

  29. The Salon article is actually pretty good – Johnson needs to abandon the fringe, even if it helped him get on the ballot. And stop being so defensive. Just articulate the libertarian positions of socially liberal and fiscally conservative and not worry about what other people say. Because other people just want to undermine him and the party to preserve the status quo. Once you realize that, you can start to inspire others to let go of their prejudices and ignore the ones who are stuck in the mud. There is a real opportunity here to make some progress. A leader needs to lead, and not be ashamed if they think sometimes drivers licenses are a good idea. To put it differently, the job of party members is not to convince people of libertarianism, but to shut down the opposition so the leaders can lead. Having said that, if Johnson is not willing to take the mantle then game over.

    1. I thought elected officials are supposed to serve.

      1. You also probably believe cops are supposed to protect and serve. Our politicians do serve but it is only the lobbyists with the most hard cold cash.

    2. I call “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” libertarians “Nolan chart libertarians” which the LP prominently displays on its website. The Nolan chart is intended to show most voters are somewhat libertarian, while avoiding the more controversial aspects most voters may not agree with. There is a more in-depth quiz called “The Libertarian Purity Test”. http://www.bcaplan.com/cgi-bin/purity.cgi

    3. To be fair, it seems a large chunk of the “other people [who] just want to undermine him and the party” are libertarians/Libertarians. The reasons are all over the map (“must stop Hillary!” “not pure enough!” “Nazi gay weddings!”), but I’m pretty sure more libertarians/Libertarians have said bad things about him them anyone else.

  30. This is an excellent post, Scott. You’re doing superior work here at the Reason. Thanks for this!

  31. As my father once said “If you can’t defend your opponents beliefs in a debate you probably can’t defend your own” Thank for a great article

  32. I did not read all, or even most, of the comments here. I have a life so sue me.

    But I have read enough of them [from this and other articles] to conclude that most self proclaimed libertarians are contentious, arrogant, self-centered, generally snarky, and far more interested in trying to demonstrate how clever [they think] they are than working toward or even formulating any meaningful policy.

    Nothing wrong with humor [we all need it] but all I read here is cynical tripe and mental masturbation.

    You will never get anything off the ground until the majority of you get over yourselves and at least attempt to think beyond your hubris.

  33. Shakford has confused me on multiple points.

    First, he seems to think that the Civil Rights Act (1964) set the bar for discrimination before federal action was warranted at “Jim Crow” levels. Seeing as the CRA also covered sex, religion and national origin, that seems to be a bad mis-reading of history. Is there something else I’m not seeing here that would explain why it’s improper to protect gays from discrimination unless they face discrimination comparable to black people?

    Further, he says that not many people really wanted to see gay men jailed. Later he says we should take people at their word. These two statements seem quite at odds, especially given that 70% of the country claims to be of a religion that *literally* calls for the death of gay people. That aside, we get fairly regular stories about political talking heads (be they actual representatives, religious leaders, or just insiders) calling for imprisonment, exile and so-on. Throw in that every state that still has a sodomy law on the book has made the explicit decision to keep their law, including the criminal penalties, shouldn’t we believe them when they say that’s what they want to happen?

    And all of *that* aside, if you want to get people to vote L in November, shouldn’t you talk to them about what the actual candidates believe rather then whatever your idea of the Platonic-ideal of a Libertarian is?

  34. Here’s my best explanation of libertarianism: Libertarians want to hold government to the same high ethical standard that government imposes on the rest of us. Arguments about 1. all laws and regulations being bad, and 2. no government is the best government, don’t persuade many voters outside libertarian circles.

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