Libertarian History/Philosophy

Libertarianism, Yes! But *What Kind* of Libertarianism?

Virtue vs. Libertinism or, a Reason debate on liberty, license, coercion, and responsibility.

|

Artem Konovalov / 123rf

If you've been part of the broad-based libertarian movement for more than a few years, you know that it is growing in popularity, visibility, and influence throughout American politics, culture, and ideas. Once a smallish movement tightly identified with the likes of Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, and Milton Friedman, rarely a day goes by now where some new writer, thinker, pundit, artist, or celebrity doesn't come out as libertarian (among the most recent: Jane's Addiction guitarist and TV host Dave Navarro and Republican political consultant Mary Matalin). "Libertarianish" politicians such as Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie are blazing a different path in the Republican Party and Rand's father Ron electrified college campuses during his runs for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012. Two years ago, The New York Times Magazine asked, "Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?" and in the 2016 election cycle the Libertarian Party presidential ticket of former governors Gary Johnson and William Weld has already probably received more press than all previous tickets did put together.

So libertarianism as a political and cultural force is on the rise. With that in mind, Reason.com is happy to host a debate over "virtue libertarianism." William Ruger, a former college professor and Afghanistan war vet who is now vice president of research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, and Jason Sorens, a lecturer in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and the originator of idea behind the Free State Project, argue that libertarianism—"the political philosophy of free markets, property rights, toleration, and peace"—will grow even faster if its champions embrace "a duty to respect our own moral nature and to promote its development in others." In short, they reject what they call "libertine libertarianism," or a willingness to treat all lifestyle choices as essentially morally equivalent. Conservatives and progressives, they say, worry that a libertarian world in which the goverment is reduced to its simple "night watchman" functions will likely result in anarchy or a world in which the poor and defenseless are constantly degraded. Virtue libertarianism assuages these fears, they hold, by providing moral direction that will improve people's outcome and material support for those who can't help themselves. It's not just the right of libertarians to endorse and uphold particular ways of living, they say, it's the duty of libertarians to do so, as long as the state's coercive apparatus is not involved.

This is a provocative thesis, to say the least, and Ruger and Sorens are answered by Steven Horwitz, a self-identified "bleeding-heart libertarian" and a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University; Deirdre McCloskey, who teaches economics, literature and communications at University of Illinois at Chicago and is the author of the new Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World; and Katherine Mangu-Ward, the managing editor of Reason magazine.

Comments can be added below. Send email responses to react@reason.com.—Nick Gillespie, Reason.com.


The Case for 'Virtue Libertarianism' Over Libertinism

William Ruger and Jason Sorens

Over the past several decades, libertarianism—the political philosophy of free markets, property rights, toleration, and peace—has gone mainstream. The libertarian perspective on a wide range of policy issues—including growing support for educational choice, Second Amendment rights, marijuana legalization, and criminal justice reform—has not only become respectable but the one held by a majority of Americans. Liberating technologies at the heart of the "sharing economy" and new forms of money such as Bitcoin are also widely hailed (and demonized!) as libertarian.

While the presidential ambitions of the "libertarianish" Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were thwarted (at least in this election cycle) and people within and without the movement debate whether what Reason and The New York Times called "The Libertarian Moment" is dead, alive, or completely mythical, Gallup says that the single largest ideological position held among the electorate is in fact libertarian. In its annual governance survey, Gallup uses answers to two questions—one on whether the government should promote traditional values and one on whether government is "trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals"—to categorize voters into one of four groups. For the first time in decades of asking, libertarians comprised the single-biggest group, with 27 percent of the electorate. They were followed by conservatives (26 percent), liberals (23 percent), and populists (15 percent), while 10 percent fit into no category.

So libertarianism, yes! But what kind of libertarianism?

This question matters because one of the things holding libertarianism back from even-wider acceptance is a real discomfort many conservatives and progressives feel about it. Conservatives fear the movement will precipitate the unmooring of society from its moral anchors. For example, David Brooks of the New York Times fears that marijuana legalization will nurture a "moral ecology" that subverts sound character. Progressives accuse libertarians of believing that the "means justify the ends," thus remaining unacceptably indifferent to poverty and inequality. Do they have good reason to worry? Yes and no. It really depends on what kind of libertarianism prevails.

Libertarians value liberty because it respects the moral dignity of the individual, but there are other duties that advance the moral dignity of the individual as well. Plausibly, we have obligations to others and ourselves that go beyond merely respecting rights, in order to promote or recognize our moral natures.

One kind of libertarianism embraces this view, and one does not—or at least is wildly inconsistent in the application of it.

The latter kind, which we'll call libertine libertarianism, is in its most consistent form radically indifferent to the choices that people make with their freedom. This line of thinking holds that so long as an act is consensual and respects at least one truth—the inviolability of the person's fundamental right to choose how to use his or her person and property—not only should the law not get involved, but there is also no ground for moral criticism of the act. Values are essentially subjective in more than a descriptive sense but in a normative sense as well. 

Not long ago, for instance, the internet, including Reason.com, and cable news were buzzing with the story of Belle Knox, a Duke University student who said she'd turned to acting in porn movies to pay for her undergraduate education. From the perspective of a libertine libertarian, anyone who might suggest this young woman was acting improperly is, at best, a prude or a scold, and at worst, a sexist. A coterie of social progressives, some libertarians among them, even aggressively berates anyone who criticizes sexual license as a "slut shamer." 

But nothing about political libertarianism implies libertinism. In fact, libertine libertarianism is generally incoherent. For instance, could a libertarian reasonably think it morally permissible to destroy one's own rational nature with heavy drug use? Such acts would corrode the very qualities that make a person worthy of having his rights respected to begin with. 

Of course, most libertine libertarians aren't promoting a consistent, thoroughgoing Protagorean relativism—meaning truth being different for every person or even that there is no truth with a capital T. Few people who question others for making moral judgments actually stick to the relativistic position when pressed.  But they often advance either a libertarianism with very thin ethical content that comes close to that pure form or a thick variant that takes its cues from more socially (and politically correct) left-wing moral dogma. For instance, we have heard a great deal lately about the libertarian cases against authority in the workplace, for detailed accountings of the different kinds of "privilege" that people belonging to different categories enjoy, and even for living off welfare. Indeed, this form of libertine libertarianism often aggressively deploys weapons of rhetorical condemnation against those who would draw moral distinctions with which they disagree. Their willingness to attribute bad motives like hatred to social conservatives while assuming the mantle of tolerance (in the contemporary sense) is this movement's distinctive form of hypocrisy. In short, many socially progressive libertarians actively attack moral judgment in the name of a competing one. 

What we call virtue libertarianism is the alternative to libertinism of the stronger and weaker varieties. Virtue libertarians recognize that we have a duty to respect our own moral nature and to promote its development in others in proportion to the responsibility we have for them. Heavy drug use that destroys one's own moral or rational faculties is inconsistent with that duty. Sexual license, gluttony, and the ancient vice of pleonexia—an excessive desire to acquire material and other goods—can overpower the virtue of self-command, which Adam Smith astutely recognized as the key to all the other virtues. To respect others, we must act beneficently and generously toward them, not just refrain from taking their freedom. 

In some cases, this means providing approbation and disapproval of certain choices to foster a culture consistent with human flourishing and a free society. For example, we should applaud those who pursue excellence in education, the arts, and sport as well as those who give their time and money to help their local communities. We should also not be afraid to hold up life-long committed marriage as an ideal for those with children. Harder in our current age, but equally important for a good society, we should not shy away from expressing disapproval of rent-seekers (those who demand special government privileges), those who harm themselves and their families through habitual intoxication or gambling, and those who idle away their time and talents in frivolous pursuits (like those who use video games as more than a diversion but as effectively a way to plug into Nozick's "experience machine" and out of our reality). At the same time, it is best to express any such disapproval prudently and humbly, given our limited ability to know with precision or certainty what the best life is for any individual or for people in general. Sour and imperious judgmentalism can also disrespect others' nature as free, equal, and rational persons. 

Virtue libertarians recognize that freedom is a precondition of true virtue. By virtue here, we mean, like Aristotle, the quality of being a reliably good human being, and more specifically, following Kant, adopting the habits and good will conducive to acting justly and rightly. In this respect, we follow some of the founding thinkers of the 20th-century libertarian tradition, such as Albert Jay Nock and Frank Meyer. Meyer, for example, correctly observed that "Unless men are free to be vicious they cannot be virtuous." Obedience that stems primarily from fear of criminal punishment lacks moral value. Criminalization of sin vitiates our "moral fibre," our capacity for self-control and discipline, whereas freedom allows us to exercise and develop these muscles and prevent their deterioration. When we coercively punish someone for a private vice, we fail to respect that person's moral dignity. 

Of course, we are not arguing that the state should be indifferent towards behaviors that violate the rights of others. It is proper for the government to punish those who engage in private coercion such as murder, assault, or theft. Furthermore, prudence suggests that government sanction private behavior that produces or threatens to cause undue significant, direct negative externalities. This is why we think that if someone wants to drink his life away, that should be legal but strongly disapproved or even shunned. However, when the drunk drives his car on a public road, he deserves legal punishment. 

Like all libertarians (and distinct from many conservatives and liberals), virtue libertarians advocate treating others as ends in themselves, not simply or primarily as means to some other end, no matter how desirable that end may be. 

In short, virtue libertarians think that peaceful means don't justify vicious ends, and also that virtuous ends don't justify coercive means. Prohibitions, SWAT raids, and prison terms for non-violent criminals are all poor ways to grow a healthy moral ecology. Society has better, more-just alternatives. Indeed, what has led to the surge in recent interest in criminal justice reform is precisely a belated recognition among many Americans that mandatory minimum sentences and globe-leading incarceration rates are misguided and disrespect the moral dignity of people. 

Rather than seeing government as an "all-purpose fixer" of social problems—which is something that conservatives and liberals tend to do—Americans could rebuild a culture of social approval of virtue and disapproval of vice. They could do so by providing good role models and using the commanding heights of our world—schools, universities, voluntary societies, churches, the media, and the arts—to scorn moral indifference to harmful lifestyles and hold up the values that bring about success and well-being. Virtue libertarians see at least two benefits from this approach. First, it will improve our society. Second, it will reduce the demand for government action. Utah has one of the lowest welfare utilization rates in the country as well as one of the lowest violent crime rates, likely because many Mormons lead responsible lives and can rely on the private safety net of their community and church. 

ExxxAC2014_280bas / Flickr

Indeed, it is likely no accident that mutual aid societies, lifelong marriage, and a non-ironic seriousness about the classic virtues flourished in an era when government was more limited. Today's world is better than the past in many respects—less material poverty and greater respect for the rights of women and ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities—but there is still something to be learned from received wisdom. And the idea that certain behaviors and a certain character in the people are more consistent than others with the preservation and security of a free society hasn't been that controversial in our history. Washington and Adams both noted the importance of morality to the success of our system. Our first president noted in his Farewell Address that, "It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?" 

As others have noted, our economic and intellectual elites still largely practice the sober virtues of a high-capitalist civilization but have lost the confidence or courage to expect those virtues of the whole society. Our society rewards probity in dealings with others, responsibility in child-bearing and rearing, patience, self-control, and generosity toward the less fortunate. As University of Illinois at Chicago economic historian Deirdre McCloskey has found, market economies reward most of these virtues—provided cronyism and corruption are kept within strict bounds. Thus the pursuit of virtue—in tandem with the freedom necessary for its true realization—helps promote both personal and general well-being. 

By taking the teaching of these virtues out of the public square, however, we have set up for failure those who, for whatever reason, suffer from greater impulsiveness, hedonism, laziness, hopelessness, or greed. A depressing but fascinating recent front page article in the Washington Post on female health outcomes provides support for our view. It reports evidence of a growing gap between rural and urban white mid-life female mortality rates and finds an elevated rate of death risk for "middle-aged white Americans" that has been impacted by "opioid abuse, heavy drinking, smoking and other self-destructive behaviors." 

This dovetails with Charles Murray's 2012 book, Coming Apart, which showed just how far apart the "new upper class" and "new lower class" have become on work ethic, family structure, and more. Another recent study by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and others reports that "most Americans without college degrees now have their first child before they marry. By contrast, the vast majority of college-educated men and women still put childbearing after marriage." The CDC claims that households headed by an American with a bachelor's degree have more than 50 percent lower child obesity rates than households headed by an American with less than a high school degree. Lower-education adults are also far more likely to smoke cigarettes than college-educated adults. If these socioeconomic divides continue to widen, the cause of liberty will fare badly, as more Americans seek government help for their problems or come to resent the economic inequality that is in part the natural consequence of such differences in virtues that these behavioral differences represent. If a flourishing liberal democracy is to survive, its members must take virtue as seriously as it rightly views consent. 

Virtue libertarianism is not simply more philosophically coherent than libertinism, it is almost certainly more politically appealing. Since libertarianism properly understood focuses on both the freedom and moral dignity of individuals that the American experiment traditionally prizes, it should appeal to a large swath of people and transcend partisan lines in a way that conservative and liberal ideologies cannot. Each of those, ultimately, is based upon a belief that the state can and should structure society, even at the cost of personal rights and liberty. Liberals and conservatives often defend limiting a person's choices and growing the state precisely because they believe people are ill-equipped to make such choices and will have no other means of support for help and guidance. In a way that libertine libertarianism does not, virtue libertarianism provides the foundation for a new governing philosophy that energizes society while deemphasizing government.

It will also be a lot easier for elected officials to argue for political forbearance of people's lifestyle choices if they aren't asking for their supporters or the government to embrace them as positive goods. Virtue libertarianism asks people to embrace a vision of official toleration and government minimalism—and to allow for social change and debates about the good life to take place in the rough-and-tumble market of ideas even if that makes some of us uncomfortable with our life choices.

A Kinder and Gentler Form of Victim-Blaming

Steven Horwitz

That I agree with a number of points William Ruger and Jason Sorens make might suggest one of the problems with their argument: The position they are arguing against is not one held by any significant number of libertarians, especially not by any libertarians exercising real influence over what libertarianism means. Although they have not necessarily created a straw libertarian to knock over, they have taken bits and pieces of the actual views of a very small number of libertarians and tried to construct a coherent perspective out of them. Not surprisingly, they then show that the resulting view isn't very coherent, and their alternative libertarianism risks worsening the problem they believe they are solving. Theirs is a weak argument against a largely non-existent opponent. 

Of the four links to the views of the so-called libertine libertarians, two point to the blog posts of one author who is not clearly a libertarian, a third points to a student essay, and the fourth offers an argument far more nuanced than Ruger and Sorens suggest.

What's worse is that then Ruger and Sorens engage in a little bait-and-switch that leaves the argument they oppose looking nearly identical to Ray Bolger. After suggesting via those original links that libertine libertarians hold a whole bunch of (to them, problematic) socially progressive views, we are told how virtue libertarians, by contrast, believe that we need to applaud human excellence, express our disapproval of rent-seekers, and "hold up life-long committed marriage as an ideal for those with children." They do so without providing evidence of any supposed "libertine libertarians" arguing against any of those propositions. Rather, by innuendo, they suggest that the writers linked to earlier also reject those beliefs. 

My first reaction to the list in the prior paragraph is that it's the libertarian equivalent of mom and apple pie. Where are the links to libertarian public intellectuals tearing down human excellence or praising rent-seekers? As someone who has argued that the flowering of a variety of family forms over the last few decades is not nearly as dire a problem as social conservatives would have it, I have no disagreement with the claim that "life-long committed marriage" is the ideal context for parenthood. 

It's here where my main problem with their argument arises. Ruger and Sorens are careful, thankfully, to say that we should express our disapproval "prudently and humbly" given our limited knowledge about what is the best life for others. Indeed so. But this seems to cut against the whole tenor of their argument. If they wish to claim the higher ground for "virtue," and write with much confidence that they know what constitutes virtue, then why shy away?  Or if you are going to acknowledge that context matters, what is the point of arguing for strong blanket concepts of virtue? 

For example, a young woman who chooses to have a large number of sexual partners could be throwing all caution to the wind and behaving in ways that we might rightly criticize. It could also be the case that she's very much in control of her own faculties and has engaged in all sorts of precautions to prevent pregnancy and disease, and just happens, heaven forbid, to really enjoy sex. Or perhaps she has some sort of psychological or physical compulsion beyond her conscious control. Are we so sure that this woman's actions demonstrate a (complete) lack of supposed virtue?

Similarly, if Belle Knox made her decision to enter the sex industry in full control of her rational powers—perhaps because she valued her college education enough to want to find a way to pay for it herself—are we so sure that her choices lack virtue, or are rightly to be disapproved of? Would Ruger and Sorens prefer that she had instead lived on the dole of federal student loans, or that she sacrificed her attempt to achieve "excellence in education" by attending an affordable but less-challenging school? 

Finally, even as we hold up life-long marriage (whether same-sex or heterosexual, I would add) as our ideal, we need to recognize that real-world contexts matter. Faced with a couple choosing to divorce because they recognize that their constant conflict is harming their kids, what do we say? Prudence and humility in expressing our disapproval of divorce is not enough. If virtue means anything, we should praise that couple for recognizing that it's silly to fetishize an abstract virtue over the very concrete virtue of doing right by their children. 

Yes, it's both easy and wrong, as Ruger and Sorens note, to engage in "sour and imperious judgmentalism," but wrapping ourselves in the language of virtue will not make such un-virtuous behavior less likely. Judging virtue is almost always going to require the sort of contextual knowledge that is obliterated by unconditional statements of what behaviors count as virtuous no matter how prudently and humbly we judge. 

Even though Ruger and Sorens clearly reject a role for the state in enforcing their conception of virtue, their desire to make libertarianism more friendly to liberals and conservatives alike by adopting the language of virtue runs the risk of inviting those with less forbearance into the big tent. Historically, virtue-talk of the judgmental sort they are engaging in has often been the foundation for state intervention. 

Rather than infusing libertarianism with the language of virtue and moral condemnation to eliminate a problematic flavor of libertarianism that doesn't really exist, we should be more strongly emphasizing the way government makes it harder for good people to make good choices. The war on drugs, tax and welfare policies affecting marriage and divorce, and labor laws that reduce employment especially among the young: These all create an environment more conducive to choices that Ruger and Sorens would condemn. Encouraging us to do more of what often sounds like a polite version of victim-blaming is neither an effective nor especially virtuous way to bring about a more virtuous libertarianism, a more virtuous society, or more libertarianism. 

Christian Libertarianism Is What Our Politics Needs

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey

Yes. "Virtue libertarianism" is a good phrase and a good idea. Some call it "bleeding-heart" libertarianism, and I call it "motherly" or "Christian" (or Jewish or Hindu or Islamic) libertarianism. It is a true liberalism that acknowledges a responsibility to the poor, but notes that making them into serfs of the state is not a good way of fulfilling the responsibility.

At a conference of many hundreds of libertarians in Barbados a while ago I remarked to a man I had not formerly met, by way of expressing a sacred duty we libertarians of course all acknowledged, "We must help the poor." He instantly shot back—it was like being punched in the stomach—"Only if they help me." His libertarianism was fatherly. But there is a motherly version available, in which children are instructed to be ethical human beings in both the trading and the non-trading parts of their lives. We realize that we best help the poor by making them un-poor in a dynamic economy freed from idiotic and poor-impoverishing regulations.

Virtue libertarianism is probably what most Americans really want, and possibly even on November 8. Let us pray they do, but pray also that the election does not therefore get thrown into the House of Representatives, where fatherly libertarians are about the best we can expect. Mostly the GOP Republicans are statists, happy to intrude on bedrooms and happy to give out corporate welfare. Good lord, they are no better than Hillary Clinton.

Virtue or Christian libertarianism can be the basis for a new party gathering up the ruined Republicans and the depressed Democrats. Maybe, just maybe, such a party can wean our fellow citizens from the statist Bismarckian plan. As Count Bismarck in retirement said, "My idea was to bribe the working classes—or shall I say, to win them over?—to regard the state as a social institution, existing for their sake and interested in their welfare." As he put it in a speech in 1889, "I will consider it a great advantage when we have 700,000 small pensioners [then nearly the entire population over age 60 in the German Empire] drawing their annuities from the state, especially if they belong to those classes who otherwise do not have much to lose by an upheaval." He meant, for example, an upheaval against monarchy or in favor of the Social Democrats or against Bismarck's plans for peace in Europe.

Steven Heap / 123rf

It's not going to be easy, the weaning, because the welfare state arose pretty much inevitably from the relatively mass voting introduced in 1867 in Prussia and in the same year in the United Kingdom, and earlier in the United States. As Mencken said, democracy is "the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it, good and hard." Consult Venezuela or Argentina, or indeed President Trump. People have since the 1930s got used to the idea that every trouble is the state's fault … for not doing enough. Watch what happens in the opioid epidemic—more proposals for more prohibition enforced by the Drug Enforcement Agency with more powers.

Certainly a flourishing society and even an economy needs ethics. That's what I learned from writing over the past decade and a half the three volumes of The Bourgeois Era. I realized, against my economic training, that incentives are not enough. Neo-institutionalism in economics, for example, is a rehash of the incentive-mad policies of American Progressivism or British Fabianism, with their infantilization of adults. So too is behavioral economics and its associated politics of state "nudging." My friend Bob Frank tries to soften me up by declaring nudging to be "paternalistic libertarianism." Oh, swell.

The ethical basis for a flourishing society, Ruger and Sorens say, and I agree, cannot be provided by an intrusive state. When states like East Germany or state-like institutions such as the Catholic church in Ireland have attempted it, it has failed. Ruger and Sorens agree that even nominally liberal societies such as our own, or Britain, decay when they leave ethical judgment to the state, or leave it aside altogether.

But when people hear the word "ethics" they think "preaching," and react as atheists do. That is because they have a childish idea of ethical theory, such as "positive/normative" in economic teaching, or the Baltimore Catechism and the nuns to enforce it. (And, by the way, the atheists have also a childish idea of theology: Jerry Falwell pure and simple.)

I would only ask Ruger and Sorens that they get serious and adult about ethical theory and ethical practice. And theology. Neither Kant nor Bentham nor Locke are good guides. What is good is the ancient and worldwide and commonsensical theory of "virtue ethics." It is the sort the Blessed Adam Smith advocated, namely, reflection on a handful of named and principal virtues, each backed by a library of books. In Smith's case they were five-and-a-half: prudence, temperance, justice, and, with less approval, the fourth classical virtue, courage and the secular part of Christian love. In Aquinas's case, and in that of the massive study of positive psychology Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (2004), edited by Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman, they are seven: a jury-rigged melding of the classical four and the Christian three (with hope and faith, that is, having a project and seeking transcendents, such as baseball or God). Some such list is paralleled in every ethical tradition from Confucius to the Mahabharata

Stories are the keys to an ethical kingdom, and economy. The Christian Libertarian Party would need to encourage, as Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute wishes, novels, poems, rock music, movies, country music that do more than attack yet again the wretched bourgeoisie.

To put it another way, the ruling theory of virtue libertarianism should be, as Bart Wilson and the Nobelist Vernon Smith put it, a "humanomics," which is incentive economics plus human stories. It doesn't give up science. On the contrary, it is is the best scientific explanation of how we got rich, 1800 to the present, and how the whole world soon will.

Just Say No to the Libertarian Vice Squad

Katherine Mangu-Ward

For a couple of guys who praise humility and colorfully condemn "sour and imperious judgmentalism," my good friends William Ruger and Jason Sorens have an awfully specific list of vices they'd like to wipe out. These include, but are not limited to: acting in porn to pay for college, breeders breaking their marriage vows, habitual intoxication and gambling, rent-seeking, and idling away time with escapist video games.

Full disclosure: That list looks rather uncontroversial to my eyes. I suspect many of my fellow libertarians would agree. That's what makes it so dangerous.

Libertarianism is the system in which virtuous behavior is mostly likely to flourish, for precisely the reasons Ruger and Sorens so eloquently explain—virtue not freely chosen is no virtue at all. Charity given at the point of a gun isn't praiseworthy, and "prohibitions, SWAT raids, and prison terms for non-violent criminals are all poor ways to grow a healthy moral ecology." Amen, brothers.

Yet all is not well, write Ruger and Sorens. The empty spaces left by the minimal state should brim with the cool waters of virtue, but instead become clogged with the unsanitary hot-tub dregs of libertinism.

The solution: It's time to rig the "rough-and-tumble market of ideas" in favor of virtue using a moral cartel of "schools, universities, voluntary societies, churches, the media, and the arts."

Public Domain

Ruger and Sorens are careful to make clear that the business of the state and the business of these busybodies shouldn't overlap. They're correct: For the same reasons that libertarians almost universally agree that government bureaucrats should not pick winners when it comes to the manufacturers of solar panels or jumbo jets, the state should also not be empowered to hand out sashes (or scholarships) in the Miss Virtue pageant. A thumb on the scale stifles innovation and discourages experimentation. It locks in the status quo.

The same thing can and does happen in the moral realm. Despite what Ruger and Sorens suggest, a list of virtues suited to a free society—and perhaps more importantly, our ability to identify those virtues in the wild—is historically contingent and tricky to pin down.

What looks like vice in a static era (risk-taking, the accumulation of debt) could be virtue in a dynamic one. What looks like virtue in a martial, zero-sum society (extreme physical courage, unquestioning loyalty) can become vice in world of peace and markets.

Just take a peek at the writings John Stuart Mill, one of the wokest, most forward-thinking gents of 19th century, on the duty of the British colonialist "despots" to help "barbarians" develop their capacity for self government. Then read Ruger and Sorens on "the economic and intellectual elites" who "have lost the confidence or courage to expect those virtues of the whole society," and in so doing "have set up for failure those who, for whatever reason, suffer from greater impulsiveness, laziness, hopelessness, or greed." Sound familiar? The comparison to Mill is a compliment—but even the best, most generous thinkers can stumble. 

Despite accurately diagnosing the folly of smuggling lefty values of political correctness and egalitarianism into libertarianism, Ruger and Sorens then turn around and do their best impression of Cinderella's stepsisters, trying to shove their lumpy, oversized moral philosophy into the elegant glass slipper of libertarianism, with unnecessarily bloody results. 

Instead of adhering to a "thin," or pluralist, conception of libertarianism with room for many ways of being inside it, Ruger and Sorens have appointed themselves to the vice squad—it's no coincidence that their discussion keeps circling back to sex and drugs—with the project of saving libertarianism from itself. Meanwhile, the bleeding-heart libertarians have appointed themselves a kind of "nice squad," with the same goal and attendant contradictions. 

Ruger and Sorens are on a mission to make libertarianism more palatable—to minimize the "discomfort" conservatives and progressives feel toward the political philosophy of "free markets, property rights, and toleration, and peace." It's not clear why this is a priority if, as they say, there really are oodles of would-be libertarians out there just waiting for labeling and bundling by pollsters and pols. 

But if their brand of virtue rhetoric wins approval for libertarianism, it will be precisely because the public cheerfully elides the distinction the authors so laboriously make between the mandatory and the laudatory. "Oh!" John Q. Public will say. "These libertarian fellows want everyone to get married and stop doing drugs? Well that's alright then; let them in to the mainstream political discourse and pour them a beer!"

Ruger and Sorens play with this confusion, tossing around the words "we" and "the public" in ambiguous ways. "Government," as Barney Frank almost certainly didn't say, "is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together" after all. Ruger and Sorens do not believe this, but they're trying to make common cause with those who do—to convince right- and left-wing moralists and libertarians that they can have their cake and eat it too. It won't end well. It never does. 

Luckily, there's an alternative. No need for a massive coordinated campaign on behalf of one conception of virtue. Instead, let people with different ideas about the intersection of virtue and politics experiment with their own visions, in a variant on Robert Nozick's framework for utopia. Interested in a real world example of how that might play out? There's always the Free State Project, in which 20,000 libertarians propose to move their homebrew setups, dog-eared copies of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and Xboxes to New Hampshire in order to develop proof-of-concept for the power of limited government—following an outline sketched in a rather brilliant 2001 article by none other than Jason Sorens.

Liberty and Virtue: A Final Reply

William Ruger & Jason Sorens

We argue in favor of virtue libertarianism, which marries political libertarianism (the law of maximum equal freedom) to a concern for robust moral duties, both positive and negative, that go beyond mere respect for freedom. Libertine libertarianism of both the stronger and weaker varieties is logically incoherent, because it simultaneously demands respect for rights but expresses indifference about the very foundations of those rights. Virtue libertarianism has much to offer American society now, both in attracting more people to the libertarian standard and in addressing numerous social ills.

All three commenters on our piece make important points, and we are grateful for their efforts. But we would like to discuss some of their claims. Unfortunately, space limitations do not allow us to respond to each point or in sufficient depth.

In response to Deirdre McCloskey's fruitful contribution, we are tempted to simply triple down on what she writes at the outset of her piece by saying "Yes, yes, yes." But we'll try to resist that temptation in the spirit of further engagement with someone whose work we so admire.

Like her, we would enjoy seeing virtue libertarianism—by this or any other name—become the basis of a new majority approach to our politics and ethics. It is absolutely critical for our country at least to move in that direction. Libertinism of the stronger and weaker varieties we discuss in our original essay leads to enough problematic behaviors and results that it undermines support for freedom. Moreover, it would allow latter-day Bismarcks—or worse—to take advantage of a populace without certain virtues necessary for the health and life of a liberal democracy. There is little doubt that Bruce Yandle's power-hungry bootleggers and well-intentioned Baptists will take advantage of things like the opioid crisis McCloskey mentions to maintain and grow the state while reducing the sphere of liberty. Crises like these spring from our all-too-common human failings but also our inability to create a moral ecology that smooths our rougher edges.

We also agree that Smith and Aquinas have a lot to add to our theory and practice, though we do not see them as necessarily inconsistent with the best in thinkers like Kant and Locke. We'd add the great Aristotle too, not to mention Eastern traditions that parallel these thinkers. These theories can inform the kinds of storytelling necessary to build and buttress an ethical society. Authors from Plutarch to Austen to Dostoyevsky explore and reveal the role that moral ideas and virtues play in influencing our acts and their effects on others.

We appreciate Horwitz's and Mangu-Ward's thoughtful contributions as well.  Both share concern about virtue libertarianism and our criticism of libertine libertarianism on the grounds that our arguments are at different points dangerous, wrong, or trivial.

Public Domain

One of Horwitz's critiques is that "virtue-talk of the judgmental sort…has often been the foundation of state intervention." Thus it is dangerous. Mangu-Ward similarly worries that "virtue rhetoric" will attract "right- and left-wing moralists" into the libertarian tent, which "won't end well." The specific claim here is not that virtue libertarianism is wrong per se but that it is just too dangerous an idea to promote. The claim is eerily similar to police lobbyists' old chestnut that legalizing pot is bad because it "sends the wrong message to children." Both arguments hold that liberty and virtue are incompatible—if not conceptually, then in terms of how it will all play out politically. We believe that, to the contrary, people can understand that liberty and virtue have value at the same time, and that in fact liberty with libertinism is no stable equilibrium.

We also worry that most Americans, if forced to choose between liberty for all and their preferred form of morality, will reject liberty. We make liberty more attractive when we show our sincere respect for the ends others want to achieve. McCloskey's anecdote about "fatherly libertarians" is a great example. Many libertarians are willing to concede that if welfare is cut or abolished, people will still give to anti-poverty efforts voluntarily. But this just isn't enough to reassure those with strongly egalitarian moral commitments, who are willing to sacrifice freedom as necessary to achieve their ends. Libertarians can do better by standing shoulder to shoulder with the bleeding hearts in saying that there is a moral duty to help those in dire need, and we will promote greater private efforts to help them even as we try to remove force from the equation.

Horwitz argues that virtue libertarianism, in addition to being dangerous, is unnecessary because few people hold the libertine libertarian position we criticize, and most of what we endorse is actually as widely acclaimed as apple pie. Yet Horwitz himself has come down on young libertarian personality Julie Borowski for "slut shaming," seemingly defined as criticizing the vapidity of popular women's magazines. Furthermore, as virtue libertarians who have attempted one form or another of this argument in a variety of venues, we've seen first-hand the subjectivist, relativist, and/or socially leftist responses of people who identify as libertarians. While there are certainly a lot of virtue libertarians out there (though some may feel lonely or sheepish in conversations with other libertarians that turn to ethical issues), we have a hard time believing that we aren't seeing something real that people who have been in the libertarian ecosystem would recognize. There is a reason why libertarians have the unfortunate reputation of focusing on drugs and sex. It didn't come out of nowhere. Anyone could read the pages of Reason magazine or watch the Libertarian Party convention to see that virtue talk is rare and radical choices celebrated. And while some senior libertarian elites may be less prone to libertinism, many of them come close to arguing against all traditional social constraints on the expression and realization of individual preferences, not just coercive ones.

Finally, Horwitz says we cannot have it both ways. We should either go for it and be Mangu-Ward's "vice squad," judging everyone for everything, or shy away from moral judgment altogether. Thus, we can't, while recognizing humility, judge Belle Knox's choice to do porn to fund college, because there might be some circumstances that justify her decision. While context certainly can make the difference in many cases, we shouldn't let exceptions swallow the rule. As a rule, acting in porn trades one's dignity for money. Ms. Knox was no Jean Valjean operating in extremis. She was merely trying to pay for an elite private education, a noble end but not one justifying any means whatever. Purely recreational or commercial sex skews the important pair-bonding, psychological functions of sex and can risk one's self-respect, not to mention overall flourishing. Again, Horwitz's approach to this case shows that we aren't up against a strawman. Anyone who would rationalize these actions embraces a very different worldview from ours and from the time-tested perspectives of mainstream ethical thought.

We might ask ourselves how far we should take Horwitz's position against "unconditional statements of what behaviors count as virtuous." Can we not judge the person who yells racial epithets? How about the person who engages in voluntary cannibalism (as we saw in Germany)?

Lastly, it's difficult to know what to make of Horwitz's claim that moral judgment constitutes "victim-blaming." Was Adam Smith blaming victims when he defended moral approbation and disapprobation in a free society? Who are the victims? By whom are they victimized? We would not blame the victims of government coercion. At the same time, we recognize that there are natural and appropriate consequences for irresponsible or antisocial behavior, and those consequences may include losing the society or esteem of one's former friends and associates. That's not victimization.

As for some of the other points in Mangu-Ward's smartly written and enjoyable response, she compares virtue libertarians to bleeding-heart libertarians in trying to "save libertarianism from itself." But unlike some strains of bleeding-heart libertarianism, virtue libertarianism doesn't detract a jot from the libertarianism. We're just trying to add something new that is in no way inconsistent with the original. Rather than watering down Uncle Murray's 200-proof libertarian Everclear, virtue libertarianism adds delicious new liqueurs to the cocktail. (Or if your libertarianism is more Uncle Miltie's 90-proof blend, we do the same to it. Choose your metaphor accordingly.)

Finally, Mangu-Ward writes that we should leave virtue up to the pluralist market of ideas. But we are participants in that very market! The market only works when someone believes the market is currently missing out on a new opportunity. Every successful business strives for market share. Mangu-Ward's suggestion to give up persuading others to a particular conception of virtue is rather like telling a CEO to stop recruiting new customers because "the market will handle it." But she is right that virtue can be tricky to pin down or apply, though we shouldn't give up the effort or think that enduring wisdoms aren't useful guides.

In closing, virtue libertarianism is a house with many rooms. There is plenty of space for debate on where the boundaries of particular moral principles and virtues lie. But to have a serious debate on these questions, we libertarians must first learn to take the idea of virtue seriously.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

200 responses to “Libertarianism, Yes! But *What Kind* of Libertarianism?

  1. TL, DR. Would be much more interested in yall “debating” derp-spewing commentariat trolls such as AmSoc and Tulpa’s various sock puppets.

    1. Tulpa’s various sock puppets.

      Soooo, all of us?

      1. Wait, I thought we were all Mary Stack’s sock puppets? Or was she also just a Tulpa sock?

        1. No, we are all metaphorical puppets of Mary, but figurative sock-puppets of Tulpa.

    2. I’ve always thought it strange that those who don’t bother reading an article often have the time and inclination to post on it.

      1. Aaaaaaand fuck off Darren 😀

        I’m just here for the lulz.

    3. Why do the first half of comments always seem to be little but sniping contests? To add my two cents to an actual discussion of the article …

      The Libertarian Party is a political party. Politics is about the interactions of people and the government, not people and other people. Morality only has a place in a political discussion if you want the government “to do something” about what you consider to be immoral.

      There is no problem at all with people talking and acting in ways that defend and promote what is right and wrong by their standards, but it’s not a political question.

      If we were only engaging other political viewpoints on the margins, then we are no different than they are, just more of one thing or another. But freedom means freedom even for those we despise or it means nothing.

      Making that point, even at the extremes, my guess is, is what makes Ruger & Sorens think many or most Libertarians are Libertines. What we advocate that people be allowed to do or think does not mean that we support those actions or beliefs personally. We do declare that they have the right to take those actions and think those thoughts no matter how bad we think they may be personally.

      1. “What we advocate that people be allowed to do or think does not mean that we support those actions or beliefs personally. We do declare that they have the right to take those actions and think those thoughts no matter how bad we think they may be personally.”

        Pretty much or else, if you have a problem with it, you may find yourself supporting legislation against people’s choices. Once you’re on that track, you’re on your way to serfdom as Hayek argued. All these government welfare programs and constant use of taxes in an effort to discourage habits are not only misguided and inefficient, but they enable people to keep making poor choices and decisions. It’s mind boggling in this day and age to listen to progressives not offer an introspective of 100 years of what I regard to be a poor record but to double down in their belief in fetish of living vicariously through the state. Their loss of healthy skepticism and optimism in the individual to innovate, improve and impact our communities and countries positively is disappointing.

        I personally disagree with a bunch of things people do but I could never in good conscience given my commitment to liberty ever call for draconian or punitive measures against another individual.

    4. Anybody can earn 450$+ daily… You can earn from 8000-12000 a month or even more if you work as a full time job…It’s easy, just follow instructions on this page, read it carefully from start to finish… It’s a flexible job but a good eaning opportunity.. go to this site home tab for more detail…
      Go This Website.________ http://www.earnmore9.com

  2. When I grow up, I’m going to BJ University!

    1. Brain Jones U? They have a great swim team.

      1. good one.

    2. And you know what your diploma will say when you graduate with great distinction….

      1. Doctorate of Oral Science?

  3. When I grow up, I’m going to BJ University!

  4. That’s a strange segue. What does working in porn have to do with believing (or not) that two-parent families are best for kids, or that being “fat, drunk and stupid” is a bad idea?

    1. Clearly two parent families where the parents both act in porn are the optimal situation.

      1. But if Mommy only does anal, how do they get the kids?

        1. Genetic engineering in vitro.

        2. When the orphan is done polishing their monocles, he picks up a couple at the butcher.

      2. As long as they both work only in gay and lesbian porn, they are not really cheating.

        1. Or they work together. I bet you could find 10 profitable porn sites like that without even trying.

          1. I accept your challenge!

  5. Belle Knox burst onto the scene as a Duke University undergrad who was paying her sky-high tuition bills by acting in porn movies. She also came out as a libertarian who was choosing her job with care, confidence, and consciousness

    And the public was more scandalized and morally offended by the latter.

    Its one thing to be a porn-star. Its another thing to suggest the Koch Bros have a point.

    1. I find myself defending the Koch brothers against the left. I wish they did a better job engaging thr media with thier clearly anti GOP positions. It would do a lot to expose the left media for the hacks they actually are and promote social justice to the republicans who think they understand why government should be limited.

      Knox. Wood. Although she is a bit twiggy.

  6. Go away, Debatin’!

    1. Holy fuckin’ squirrel nuts!

      They really liked this comment!

      1. Mine got different timestamps.

  7. Go away, Debatin’!

  8. Not so fast, say William Ruger and Jason Sorens, who argue against such a choice in a debate over what they call “virtue libertarianism,” or a willingness to say that not all lifestyle choices are equally valid or morally good.

    That’s all well and good – and I don’t disagree – but you’re going to have an really hard uphill slog to convince me that ‘porn actress’ belongs in the same ‘don’t be like this’ category as, say, ‘ISIS soldier’ or even ‘anti-porn protester’.

    How about this – we practice *neither* ‘virtue warrioring’ nor ‘lifestyle lassez-faire’ and simply live our lives the way we choose, let others do the same, and choose to associate or not with those others based on the compatibility of our chosen lifestyles. And then let others observe our example and make their own choices. If you’ve got a decent way of living, more people will choose to emulate you.

    1. Isn’t your third paragraph basically what “lifestyle laissez-faire” is?

      1. I took the term to be more pro-libertinism, in contrast with the ‘virtue warriors’ anti-libertinism. But I can see that may be projection on my part and not what the users of the term mean.

  9. Go away, Debatin’!

  10. Go away, Debatin’!

  11. Go away, debatin’!

  12. Go away, debatin’!

  13. Go away, debatin’!

  14. Go away, debatin’!

    1. Still?

      Jeez man, stop thinking about basketball.

  15. Goddamnit and deleted comments.

    1. Aaaand they’re back.

  16. Belle Knox burst onto the scene as a Duke University undergrad who was paying her sky-high tuition bills by acting in porn movies. She also came out as a libertarian who was choosing her job with care, confidence, and consciousness

    And the public was more scandalized and morally offended by the latter.

    Its one thing to be a porn-star. Its another thing to suggest the Koch Bros are cool.

    1. @#()!@*#$()@*#$

      so it doesn’t post for 10 mins, then i refresh and its double posted.

      1. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

      2. Be thankful it was only double posted.

        Bobarian spent that 10 minutes furiously pounding away at his keyboard and it shows.

        1. euphemisms, etc.

  17. I’m only on the first page… but so far I’ve learned that both “libertine libertarians” AND “virtue libertarians” are busybodies. And sound like dicks to me.

    1. sound like dicks to me

      That’s covered by the ‘libertarian’ part of your descriptions.

      1. Are you sure we’re dicks and not assholes? I’m pretty sure we’re not pussies, but I’m not sure we’re dicks because we don’t want to fuck with everyone either. So that pretty much just leaves assholes.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEJ7l0kfDic

        1. What about jackoffs or scumbags?

  18. i don’t think waitress is considered a blue collar job.

    1. Its unskilled labor. Which fits the bill. If there’s any white/blue distinction, its that white collar jobs don’t “work with their hands”, and rather mostly push papers in roles that require professional certification.

      1. blue collar means unskilled? don’t say that around my crowd. building stuff takes a lot of skill.

        1. Skill means attending daily meetings about proactive action items

          1. Skill means attending daily meetings about proactive action items

            please. “meetings” are so 1990s. We actuate team-building workshops now.

        2. blue collar means unskilled?

          No, but i’d argue it includes it.

    2. I think it is if the restaurant is a diner in a some shithole former boom town and all your customers are alcoholic ex miners, car manufacturers, lobstermen etc.

    3. I think its debatable – blue collar jobs are ‘trades’ as opposed to ‘professions’ (in the old sense of the word not the modern ‘someone pays you to do this work’ sense).

      But its a continuum from unskilled to semi-skilled to skilled tradesmen.

      1. from the internet

        “Blue collar refers to manufacturing, mining, sanitation, custodial work, oil field work, construction, mechanical maintenance, warehousing, firefighting, technical installation and many other types of physical work. Often something is physically being built or maintained.

        In contrast, the white-collar worker typically performs work in an office environment and may involve sitting at a computer or desk. A third type of work is a service worker (pink collar) whose labour is related to customer interaction, entertainment, sales or other service-oriented work. Many occupations blend blue, white and/or pink industry categorizations.”

  19. Virtue libertarianism for thee, hookers and blackjack for me.

  20. this comment section is a disaster so far

    1. Your mom is a disaster.

      1. So’s your face

  21. assuage conservative and progressive anxieties

    Not possible, so why try?

    1. I choose to make conservatives and progressives even MORE anxious!

      1. That’s mean. I would rather run them all through a woodchipper and end their misery.

  22. they reject what they call “libertine libertarianism,”…. Conservatives and progressives, they say, worry that a libertarian world in which the goverment is reduced to its simple “night watchman” functions will likely result in anarchy or a world in which the poor and defenseless are constantly degraded

    rather than take the issue head-on, i’d offer this =

    The core aspects of libertarianism aren’t about “social politics” AT ALL.

    Its nice that Reason embraces these things and i think the “weed, ass-sex”-components of self-ownership are certainly nice-to-have… but ultimately they’re trivial side issues that are simply ‘some people’s choices’.

    However, celebrating the addition of marijuana to the vast, arcane system of Hyper-Regulation that we call “Legalization”… is not really a huge “win” for liberty in any real sense.

    Had the emphasis instead been on a vast-reduction in the power of the police to arrest and imprison people for non-violent crimes….? THAT would be an enormous leap forward for liberty.

    Because its not about “being able to get high (because being high is awesome!)”
    its really about “not being arrested/beaten/jailed/killed” by state-enforcement agents.

    That’s just one example.

    I’m not taking sides in this debate (i don’t think); and i don’t have time to read it right now. But the above is basically the framework that guides how i think about this stuff.

    1. Another way of putting it =

      – Increased ‘social licentiousness’ aren’t signs of “increasing liberty” AT ALL.

      Just because we are teaching kids what “buttplugs” are for in Junior High School now isn’t a sign of “growing libertarianism”.

      We sometimes pretend that it is. Its not. Because mere ‘changing norms’ isn’t a sign of the population less-willing to use the state against their peers. Its just that the Who and What being declared “unacceptable” are switching roles.

      Which is why i think some people understandably find Reason magazine disingenuous about their claims of an expanding “libertarian moment” while simultaneously covering increased willingness to regulate more and more areas of human life.

      1. I didn’t learn about butt plugs in junior high. Probably for the best since I would have jerked off to the point of permanent damage. I did, however, ride in the front seat of a car without a seat belt and opened bottles of beer for my old man while he smoked unfiltered camels. Is we more free or less now?

        1. (puts J OyG back on blocklist)

      2. Yeah, I think this is a good point. I’ve been intrigued for a while by the argument of (non-libertarians) that college students are more sophisticated than “back in the day.” Said sophistication seems to frequently revolve around their less-inhibited sex lives. At the same time, few of them can discuss questions of philosophy, literature, etc. in the way I could when I was in college. I don’t think I’m smarter than them, just that they don’t get exposed to those kinds of issues.

        This is not totally on the point of the column but more a response to Gilmore.

        1. I’m not sure about more sophisticated, but they do seem more sensitive. And they seem far less skeptical about orthodoxy. Just an impression.

        2. That’s because college used to be where smart people went to further their education and prepare for their careers. There have always been a certain percentage of folks attending that didn’t belong there, there have always been parties, protests, student activist groups with incoherent agendas – but it certainly seems like we’re getting a lot more of that lately. Colleges are also getting a lot fewer Alex P. Keaton’s and a lot more Nick Moore’s.

          1. That’s because college used to be where smart people went to further their education and prepare for their careers.

            ^ This

            Not to sound like an elitist, but college used to be for people who wanted to be there because they were intellectually inclined and had the type of the skills to excel in such an environment.

            Now that the attitude is that you’re just a borderline-worthless person if you don’t go to college, and that everyone has a right to a college degree, college has filled up with downright anti- intellectuals who think being at the college is what makes them intellectuals, when actually it just makes them insufferable dogmatists who simply repeat what their professors tell them.

            1. Well, that and the offspring of the entrenched aristocracy. Don’t forget about them.

              1. They’re only useful for supplying drugs.

    2. I actually did read the whole thing, but I tend to be with you.

      There really isn’t even an argument here from a philosophical point of view.
      Everyone has a natural right to get high, drunk, have consensual sex with anyone else who is willing, gamble their life savings away, spend every waking minute of their life in pursuit of money, things, carnal pleasure, helping the poor, or finding the meaning of life.

      AND

      Everyone has a natural right to complain about how everyone else lives their lives. Perform studies, engage in philosophical debates, encourage religious belief and practice, decry religious belief and practice etc.

      There is no conflict in saying that a 2 parent house-hold in a committed marriage is the best way to raise children, in general AND saying that consenting adults should be free to be swingers.

      Be skeptical of everyone.

      Especially skeptics.

      1. This

        The commenters win this debate.

  23. A libertarian doesn’t necessarily condone, encourage, or support any behavior. A libertarian simply believes that there should not be any force initiated to prohibit something, nor to encourage something. A libertarian believes that an individual can start a business and refuse to serve a [fill in the blank] and not be officially punished. They can be boycotted, they can be socially shunned, but they should not feel the force of government in dictating their behavior.

    This is simple stuff. You know, stuff I wish Gary Johnson would emphasize more.

    1. They can be boycotted, they can be socially shunned, but they should not feel the force of government in dictating their behavior.

      That sounds awfully messy and time consuming and frankly, it sounds too much like work. Can’t we just have the state throw people, whose choices I disagree with, into cages?

      KAITHXBAI

    2. This is simple stuff.

      Not everyone thinks the “Libertarianism is the NAP – full stop” argument is completely sufficient.

      Others (and there are a wide range of them – but at least one group of others) believe that libertarianism is simply the modern application of Classical Liberal thinking and follows & includes a long line of political & social philosophers which have…. at the very least, a more-detailed argument for why individual liberty should always be maximized relative to state power.

      1. i would say you are 100% correct. internal disagreements with libertarians tend to be between blanket purist based positions, and those who have come to a different conclusion because they believe that there are valid philosophies and ideas that need to be considered, as well.

        even when that happens, the end result is always a position that results in less state power than either the right or left would want.

    3. That was my reaction. There really isn’t a whole lot of meaningful disagreement here. So long as we’re all in agreement that these beliefs in virtue or libertinism shouldn’t be enforced by the power of the state, does it really matter? We might believe that, for example, pornography isn’t a desirable career to pursue, but we don’t believe that anyone should be legally prevented from doing so. I don’t do any drugs myself besides tobacco and the occasional drink, and I roll my eyes at the silliness of stoner culture and wouldn’t want my own kids to go down that path, but I am ardently against prohibition. As long as we keep a bright line dividing “I wouldn’t do that, and think it’s a stupid decision” and “ban it!!!!”, then I don’t really see the point of this debate.

      1. I think that the big difference is that on the libertine side, they often celebrate people who do things that are “morally” wrong and tend to condemn people who speak against it. “Values” libertarians disagree with that condemnation and feel it is ok- maybe even good- to publicly shame people engaged in unacceptable behavior.

        For example, there have been plenty of times where a SoCon pens an article or spouts off about some moral evil- not suggesting that the government take action, just passing moral judgement on those people- where Reason writes a scathing post.

        1. Yup. Social conservatives have a long proud history of passing moral judgments… on blacks, women, immigrants, gays, lesbians, etc. Not suggesting government take action, mind you, but just expressing moral outrage. And they have every right to do and it performs a valuable public service, constantly showing us where the dividing line is for being on the wrong side of history.

          1. And they have every right to do and it performs a valuable public service, constantly showing us where the dividing line is for being on the wrong side of history.

            CURRENT YEAR in a nutshell.

        2. I’d think it would be considered ‘libertarian’ for people to be free to condemn behavior they disagree with.

  24. If libertarianism is to become dominant, say Ruger and Sorens, its champions need to assuage conservative and progressive anxieties that radically reducing the size, scope, and spending of the government won’t lead to moral anarchy

    Look, just tell me who I need to assuage and with what so I can be all I deserve to be.

    1. Look, just tell me who I need to assuage and with what so I can be all I deserve to be.

      You can’t spell assuage without sausage.

      I’ll leave it up to you how to use that sausage.

      1. I’ll leave it up to you how to use that sausage.

        “Laissez-faire! Libertine!”

    2. How does a moral anarchy differ from regular anarchy?

      1. Considering that there is no such thing as a moral anarchy, it doesn’t.

  25. “fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.”

    I’m not drunk!

    1. And I’m neither fat nor stupid.

  26. So… we are to believe that Ruger and Sorens’ vision of virtue is somehow different than the long parade of folks throughout human history who have spoken in lofty moral terms while ass-raping the living shit out of someone or something?

    1. Yes. They don’t want to force you to live the right way. They only want to look down at you when you don’t, so their friends who want to force you to live the right way will accept their whacko political preferences.

  27. The first step in our society for ANYONE is to know interest from disinterest. The first step toward knocking people around is not knowing where your interests begin and end and when your disinterest begins.

    Thinking anything else injects a value to your own damn life that isn’t there.

  28. Related: Popehat had a pretty good post about defining libertarianism to outsiders. I recommend giving it a read. There was this gem in the comments, though:

    Steve says

    June 2, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    My problem with all of these questions are they presume that the citizenry is more competent than the government. The authors of the constitution did not believe that. Hence the ability to create a strong federal government, and why the 10th amendment was largely supplanted by the 13th, 14th, 15th, et al.

    None of us is as stupid as all of us together!

    1. Must’ve fucked up the first link.

    2. Steve is raging moron. His comment is so stupid it hurts.

      1. Steve works for the government.

        1. So he’s smart. And not a citizen. (brain hurtz)

    3. *facepalm*

      Unfortunately, that’s the kind of mindset that far too many people have. So many people would rather trust TOP. Men. to make their decisions for them (and everyone else) that I don’t see any way to overcome that tendency, and hence the “libertarian moment” is a fantasy cooked up in the heads of bobble headed optimists who go around vomiting sunshine.

      1. Well if you spend all day living and working with morons, you are probably desperate to believe that someone in the government is smart enough to make better decisions.

      2. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to minimize it as much as possible.

    4. There’s also someone named Robert White in the comments there that manages to spew about 3000 words and say nothing except “SOCIAL CONTRACT FTW”

      its a form of argument that lefties make which they apparently think is devastating =-

      “WHAT IF THERES NO WELFARE EVERYONE STARVES THATS WHAT YOU WANT RIGHT? = BOOM YOU LOSE”

      1. If they invent time travel, I’ll leave baby Hitler alone, but Rousseau is as good as dead.

        1. +1 strangled at birth

  29. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with pointing out that some lifestyle choices are maybe not such a great idea (going through life fat, drunk, and stupid). But I think anyone who claims to be a libertarian should draw the line at getting government involved.

    I didn’t read the article (tl;dr) so maybe they make that distinction.

  30. In a thread several months back, we discussed an incident where some guy got his ass kicked when he told some strangers to stop making cat calls at a woman (who he also didn’t know). In general, the commenters’ response to this was along the lines of, “Serves you right- mind your own business next time.”I guess I fall in the “Values” Libertarian camp in totally disagreeing with the commenters.

    If we aren’t going to have a government forcing morals down our throats (that’s good), then it is more important than ever for individuals to speak out about the behavior that is good or bad. I have a perspective on how I and my kids should live their life and when someone is interfering with that, they can expect me to speak up.

    I’m actually a very non-judgemental guy. I have no problem with people who choose to use drugs or shoot porn for a living. But I am going to do my damndest to make sure my kids don’t do it. And if someone is telling my kid such activities aren’t so bad, I’m going to argue with them.

    1. This reminds a lot of discussion I had with a fundie I called “car-washer” about 15 years ago, who asserted that his daughters, being raised in a strict fundie household by him, would all be married off as virgins (at a young age) that didn’t even know what a penis was, so why should the government be pushing a vaccination meant for “sluts and whores” onto his family?

      I pointed out to him that I had spent a large portion of my youth screwing the living hell out of a large number of damaged and frequently divorced women who came from exactly the the types of homes he described – so his assertions as to what type of children he was raising was most certainly flawed. Also, what if someone raped his daughters?

      You don’t have nearly as much control over what your children do or think as you might think you do. You get some input, but it can be inverse to what you think it is.

  31. “Not so fast, say William Ruger and Jason Sorens, who argue against such a choice in a debate over what they call “virtue libertarianism,” or a willingness to say that not all lifestyle choices are equally valid or morally good. ”

    I agree 100%. Not every lifestyle choice is equally morally good.

    The problem is that William Ruger, Jason Sorens, myself, nor anyone else is qualified to force other adults to abide by their judgements of what those might be. Anyone can give opinions and advice and that is about as far as it goes.

    1. Didn’t they explicitly reject state coercion, though?

    1. Please, tell me more CPA

  32. “Libertarians value liberty because it respects the moral dignity of the individual.” I’m not going to speak for anyone else, but moral dignity has nothing to do with my fondness for individual liberty.

    1. I love how so many non-libertarians like to tell us what we believe.

    1. …go on…

      1. The squirrels broke me.

  33. For instance, could a libertarian reasonably think it morally permissible to destroy one’s own rational nature with heavy drug use? Such acts would corrode the very qualities that make a person worthy of having his rights respected to begin with.

    The fuck?

    Look pal, either you own yourself or you don’t. If you do own yourself , then you can piss off with your moral preening over how I choose to use that property, including what I choose to put into that property.

    Nah, no slippery slope there at all. Nope, nonewhatsoever.

  34. Here are a couple nut grafs from the virtue-libertarianism article, which seem OK to me:

    “In short, virtue libertarians think that peaceful means don’t justify vicious ends, and also that virtuous ends don’t justify coercive means. Prohibitions, SWAT raids, and prison terms for non-violent criminals are all poor ways to grow a healthy moral ecology. Society has better, more-just alternatives. Indeed, what has led to the surge in recent interest in criminal justice reform is precisely a belated recognition among many Americans that mandatory minimum sentences and globe-leading incarceration rates are misguided and disrespect the moral dignity of people.

    “Rather than seeing government as an “all-purpose fixer” of social problems?which is something that conservatives and liberals tend to do?Americans could rebuild a culture of social approval of virtue and disapproval of vice. They could do so by providing good role models and using the commanding heights of our world?schools, universities, voluntary societies, churches, the media, and the arts?to scorn moral indifference to harmful lifestyles and hold up the values that bring about success and well-being. Virtue libertarians see at least two benefits from this approach. First, it will improve our society. Second, it will reduce the demand for government action. Utah has one of the lowest welfare utilization rates in the country as well as one of the lowest violent crime rates…”

  35. And the first of the “rebuttal” articles complains about straw-manning, then decides to do some straw-manning of its own:

    “if Belle Knox made her decision to enter the sex industry in full control of her rational powers?perhaps because she valued her college education enough to want to find a way to pay for it herself?are we so sure that her choices lack virtue, or are rightly to be disapproved of? Would Ruger and Sorens prefer that she had instead lived on the dole of federal student loans, or that she sacrificed her attempt to achieve “excellence in education” by attending an affordable but less-challenging school?”

    I’m going to guess that the virtue-libertarian approach would *reject* federally-guaranteed student loans, the limits on employment skills testing, etc., and the other things which encourage kids to borrow more than their future income would justify in exchange for a dubious degree.

    1. In fact, I think the Belle Knox thing backs up some “virtue libertarian” arguments – the government puts its thumb on the scale to *discourage* the virtue of saving, and Knox responds to this government-created incentive by going into porn – who knows what she would have done if there were cheaper educational options?

      And for someone who’s nonjudgmental about choice of occupation, Knox sure seems judgmental about women who work as waitresses and how degraded they are.

      1. I think she is making the point that porn is a rational choice.

        1. You can have a high intelligence and an evil alignment.

      2. Knox sure seems judgmental about women who work as waitresses and how degraded they are.

        Not judgmental at all. She was simply speaking from HER experience as a waitress before she got into porn, and how SHE felt degraded in that job.

  36. Most of this came off as a distinction without a difference to me. I don’t think there’s anything incompatible with having both in the same party. Be judgmental/helpful/charitable if you like, and don’t if you like. I guess that freedom of choice puts me closer to libertine (somewhat ironic as I am Christian/teetotaler/clean), but I certainly wouldn’t call someone unlibertarian for, say, advising a friend not to smoke cigarettes, or for promoting the importance of charity.

  37. Sure, but what they wrote is far less a philosophical position and far more a marketing/re-branding pitch for libertarianism. “Hey, everyone thinks we’re a bunch of dicks. We need to show them we care about value and virtues and morality.” What I read is, “Hey, we’re never going to have any political influence unless we’re willing to become moral busybodies ourselves.”

    1. I quoted what I consider to be the nut grafs.

      They want people and private institutions to use *nonviolent* persuasion to encourage good behavior.

      If you call that being a busybody, what do you call denouncing nonviolent persuasion engaged in by others?

      1. Being a busybody.

        1. Well, wouldn’t want to be on the “wrong side of history”…..

  38. Is she just adorable or what? I want to pinch her cheeks. And then do stuff to her.

    1. Totally would

    2. Remy LaCroix would like to have a word with you.

      1. Getting a lot of porn tips today

  39. We need to make an important distinction between libertarianism as a political movement, and libertarianism as a personal outlook. Both a libertarian political movement and a libertarian individual should advocate voluntarism and individual responsibility, but a political movement ought not go further than that. In contrast, a libertarian individual may be expected to have ethical views that go well beyond those limits.

    Can a libertarian individual be an atheist? Christian? Moslem? Jew?

    Can a libertarian individual believe in an obligation to contribute (say) a tithe to the poor? Alternatively, can a libertarian individual believe that contributions to the poor are long-term unproductive? Can we recognize honest disagreements and to learn through debate rather than law?

    We as individuals ought to welcome into the political movement all those who agree on voluntarism. We as individuals may choose to keep our distance from those whose ethics or life choices differ from our own.

    If the pollsters were to develop a profile of libertarian individuals, we suspect the typical outlook would be pretty positive in terms of individual ethics and choices. As to wooing conservatives, we would also hope that the typical libertarian outlook would be completely unsatisfactory in terms of compelling other people to engage in or refrain from certain behaviors.

  40. “What Kind* of Libertarianism?”

    The non-dick kind.

  41. Katherine Mangu-Ward for the win.

    1. Yeah, I was getting pretty bored with the tripe until KMW chimed in.

  42. Virtue libertarians recognize that we have a duty to respect our own moral nature and to promote its development in others in proportion to the responsibility we have for them.

    Lost me right there. The core of that “duty” is “Our moral nature is the correct one, and everybody else should follow it.” I fail to see any way you can approach such an egocentric task with, as he later calls for, “humility.”

    For example:

    Thus, we can’t, while recognizing humility, judge Belle Knox’s choice to do porn to fund college, because there might be some circumstances that justify her decision.
    And yet judge the choice he does.

    While context certainly can make the difference in many cases, we shouldn’t let exceptions swallow the rule.
    Ruger and Sorens see morality as universal. Even if something is good for the individual, it should be rejected because they believe it’s bad for “society.” This is precisely today’s progressive mindset.

    As a rule, acting in porn trades one’s dignity for money.
    Cite? How, absent social disapproval, is having sex on screen less “dignified” than any other depiction?

    1. Ms. Knox was no Jean Valjean operating in extremis. She was merely trying to pay for an elite private education, a noble end but not one justifying any means whatever.
      I.e., “We know better than she does what the value of her education and the value of her acting are.” That’s the kind of “Judging” conservatives are famous for.

      Purely recreational or commercial sex skews the important pair-bonding, psychological functions of sex and can risk one’s self-respect, not to mention overall flourishing.
      Cite?

      Anyone who would rationalize these actions embraces a very different worldview from ours
      “And our worldview is the correct one!”

      and from the time-tested perspectives of mainstream ethical thought.
      Nudity and sex are always “wrong” when depicted in art? These guys need to get out more.

      1. These guys need to get out more.

        Oh no, did you just make a moral judgement? I do believe I am about to faint.

  43. Libertarianism leaves you free to pursue *your* values, including trying to persuade others to adopt them.

    It’s big enough for virtue libertarians and libertine libertarians, though the number of people who really don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks or does is probably quite small, and irrelevant to the debate besides, because they wouldn’t be part of the debate – they don’t give a damn what you think.

    The real argument between virtue libertarians is just how much pressure one approves of applying on people to get them to behave as you wish. Stalk and screech? Refuse to speak? Refuse to do business? Sneer a little? Diligently encourage? Convince by example?

    Note that all the same strategies can be applied to people to get them to *use the strategies* that you wish as well.
    As they can be applied to how people apply them to others to get them to *use the strategies* that you wish they would use to get others to use the strategies that they wish as well.
    Get the recursive picture?

    What I find in the authors is that they lack that recursive picture to add to the strategies of reward/punishments, and have just shifted the focus away from the statist question of the One Right Way to use physical violence to moral question of the One Right Way of applying non-violent strategies to convince and persuade, still with the same false We that is supposed to all see it in the Universally One True Way.

    1. But we disagree on the “proper” non-violent strategy set as well. And that’s just fine. It’s orthogonal

      Libertarianism does not need to answer this question. You argue for your basket of non-violent strategies, I’ll argue for mine. There’s no need to agree on the One True Way of changing the behavior of others to agree to restrict the Violent Way to cases required to secure our rights.

  44. So libertarianism as a political and cultural force is on the rise.

    LOL. Ok.

  45. “Should” v. “shall”. “All things in moderation” is good advice but there’s no moderation in turning advice into commandments.

  46. McCloskey’s anecdote about “fatherly libertarians” is a great example. Many libertarians are willing to concede that if welfare is cut or abolished, people will still give to anti-poverty efforts voluntarily. But this just isn’t enough to reassure those with strongly egalitarian moral commitments, who are willing to sacrifice freedom as necessary to achieve their ends. Libertarians can do better by standing shoulder to shoulder with the bleeding hearts in saying that there is a moral duty to help those in dire need, and we will promote greater private efforts to help them even as we try to remove force from the equation.

    The problem of poverty is probably the biggest failure in Libertarianism, but the suggested solution misdiagnoses the problem. Instead of Alms from Mommy, they need Justice from Daddy.

    Libertarians can do better by applying “fatherly libertarianism” to the Lockean Proviso, which is generally ignored in libertarian discussions of solutions for poverty.

    The Lockean Proviso no longer holds. The appropriation of the Earth by those who own over those who do not is an *injustice* that the State has a duty to remedy. Let’s worry about how much alms people need *after* their equal right to their share of the Earth is given legal force.

    1. Which is why the Lockean proviso is garbage.

    2. Property rights stem from just transfers of property from those who first claimed it. The is no right to be retroactively granted what others have worked for. Aside from the fact that the land was taken from the natives who were already using it, the Homestead Act was the proper form of creating original ownership rights in any particular geographic location.

      1. “Aside from the fact that the land was taken from the natives who were already using it”

        And the particular tribe of natives who happened to be using it at any given time were not same tribe who had first occupied it.

        The natives were practicing the same thing that they denounced the Europeans for doing – taking land by force. And they had been doing so long before any white man set foot on the continent.

        The Comanche pushed the Apache out of territory that had been theirs as they expanded the range of land they controlled for example.

  47. I have to reluctantly side against Ruger and Sorens.

    Libertarianism is a political philosophy. There’s no particularly sensible reason for libertarianism to be tied to any particular set of moral convictions other than those relating to the power of the state. That said, I do think there’s a number of libertarians eager to impose simply a different moral philosophy on libertarianism than Ruger and Sorens. Where libertarianism has traditionally said that crimes are the only sins that should be punishable by the state, some are eager to argue that, as a corollary, vices shouldn’t be considered sins. Make any comment unsupportive of particular behaviors, even stipulating that you vehemently oppose the government getting in any way involved, and they’ll accuse you of their cardinal sin of judgementalism.

    That said, I can’t see any way that Ruger and Sorens’ scheme to get the state involved in the matter of morality winds up with anything other than statism.

  48. Ever try to explain to someone that it’s absolutely none of their business what someone wants to do with themselves as long as they are 1) sane (mostly) and 2) not harming anyone else? Fundies and libtards don’t take it well.

    “Bobby is doing heroin with that girl he met!”

    “Yeah, so? Bobby can do what he wants, it’s his life. And for that matter, the girl is there because she wants to be.”

    FREAK!!!!

    1. Of course, there’s a better than even chance that, in no small part owing to his heroin use, Bobby is hurting a great many people who care about him and destroying himself in the process.

      But, having an opinion about his behavior is just a stone’s throw away from wanting the government to come and lock Bobby in a cage.

  49. The Libertarian Party is a political party. Politics is about the interactions of people and the government, not people and other people. Morality only has a place in a political discussion if you want the government “to do something” about what you consider to be immoral.

    There is no problem at all with people talking and acting in ways that defend and promote what is right and wrong by their standards, but it’s not a political question.

    If we were only engaging other political viewpoints on the margins, then we are no different than they are, just more of one thing or another. But freedom means freedom even for those we despise or it means nothing.

    Making that point, even at the extremes, my guess is, is what makes Ruger & Sorens think many or most Libertarians are Libertines. What we advocate that people be allowed to do or think does not mean that we support those actions or beliefs personally. We do declare that they have the right to take those actions and think those thoughts no matter how bad we think they may be personally.

  50. Libertarianism is the compassionate political philosophy and freedom, particularly economic freedom, fosters virtue. In addition, people left with more of their wealth can contribute more to organizations that provide charity and promote their values.

    These points alone, when explained, can make libertarianism attractive. In a free world, we can live and let live, while leading by example.

  51. This sort of exploration of libertarian ideas and perspectives is most welcome. I enjoyed the article. 🙂

  52. Moral judgements should be left to a social/cultural market place. Deviant (but non-coercive) behavior is legally protected but may exact a social price as in being shunned by others who disapprove and exercise their freedom of association.
    Of course the social market, as any free market, is dynamic. Prices will vary over time. It used to be that a divorce was scandalous and shameful, and TV shows depicted married couples in separate twin beds. Today, a gay couple holding hands in public will hardly get a second look.
    If you want to influence this market, then do it from your website or from your pulpit. But politics and public policy should not be the place for setting these standards.

  53. i agree with the basic premise… but there are parts that seem problematic to me.

    i think just about every libertarian i know qualifies as a “virtue” libertarian, including just about all of what i see here. that is to say, that every time we suggest something should be allowed, that some see as undesirable, we are always very quick to point out that we see the behavior as immoral… and we describe how society (usually through free market forces) will punish the behavior, without the need to impose government rules. i think the very nature of libertarian-ism leads to a natural distinction between morality and legality, as well as a belief in society, absent government influence, to guide personal behavior.

    of course, some outside the party will need to be educated on our view of virtue, to understand how personal freedom will not result in anarchy, where all the poor people die. but there is a fine line between embracing virtue, and actively promoting it. actively promoting it can quickly turn into a belief in enforcing it (especially with the new members we hope to bring in).

  54. How about “leave preferences that are not related to libertarianism outside of libertarianism”?

    If you want to be a vegan skydiving cat-loving trans libertarian, feel free to do so.
    The NAP provides a foundation of ethics (just that you don’t violate property rights), but does not otherwise dictate your values or preferences.

  55. Agorism. Economic activity is going to be Voluntarilly engaged whether anyone likes it, or not.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH-Ko4yV9w0

    YARRR !!!

  56. from the time-tested perspectives of mainstream ethical thought.

    I’ve noticed that, for almost everyone I’ve ever heard use such a phrase as a guideline, “time-tested perspectives of mainstream ethical thought” = “The way I remember things being while I was growing up.”

  57. This shit still? We fucking get it Reason. You don’t need to dig up Rothbard’s rotting old corpse to fuck the Paleolibertarian out of it for the 10 billionth time. Even he had abandoned the premise by the time he kicked, and here you are still rehashing it.

    Despite the fact that the guiding principle of libertarianism is called the “non-aggression principle”, not the “non-judgment principle”, and leaving aside whether judging the judgmental for their judgmentalism is equally judgmental, pseudo-amoral libertarianism won. It’s over. It’s been over since the 1990s. The scary old white guys are all dead now. And they conceded the fight anyway. Snort a line off the toilet seat in the gender-neutral bathroom while having unprotected anal through the gloryhole and livestream it on the Disney channel – nobody’s got a goddamn right to judge you for it. But be prepared to engage in speech and commerce with the state’s gun to your head if your religion says mean things. Rah Rah libertarianism!

  58. It seems to me that this so-called “virtue” libertarianism boils down to trying to convince the statists to ease up on the advocacy of using government force to make other people do what they want them to by promising them that we will all then cooperate in various forms of private ridiculing, boycotting, shunning and shaming, etc. to essentially do the same thing.

  59. Really? Just as the libertarian philosophy is beginning to bud in mainstream politics- hopefully leading sooner or later to actual public policy- you have to go start up this tedious, over-intellectualized debate about where to draw lines?

    Allow me to make it simple: The line is drawn between acting voluntarily to affect what one feels is the detrimental behavior of someone that one knows, versus empowering other imperfect humans in government to *forcibly* attempt to affect such behavior of the public in general.

    If someone you know drinks (or eats, smokes, tokes, gambles…) too much, in your opinion, by all means have a talk with him/her. Have a positive effect on this person and on society as a whole, voluntarily for both of you.

    I have no problem with do-gooders doing what they think is good on their own time with their own dime, but keep it out of public policy.

    The point is that we should not attempt to CODIFY “good behavior” and entrust government to enforce whatever this definition is. From a legal perspective, do what you want as long as you don’t hurt or risk harm to anyone else.

    Let’s not introduce confusion into the difference between law/public policy and morality. Morality is good, but again, how to define it? To each his own and feel free to discuss it with the people you know. But legislating it is impossible, because we all have different definitions.

  60. Since I never believed sex was a spectators sport watching porn never interested me. I am all for virtue if you will explain it to me. What passes for virtue changes from culture to culture, religion to religion and generation to generation. Wouldn’t it be better to tell your children what you believe and get your noses out of other’s business. In some cultures men kidnapped and raped the women they wanted for their wife. In my culture that man would be dead unless the cops got to him first. Libertarianism is supposed to be about free association and personal property. Since your body is your most personal assets don’t you think that as a Libertarian you should respect what others choose to do with theirs. Since you feel the need to use force to make your values law of the land then you probably should consider being a Republican or Democrat. Gary Johnson isn’t a true Libertarian but a Social Conservative Republican. Considering the choice the two major parties have given us Gary Johnson will do just fine.

  61. Not a single mention of lipstick libertarians. I’m disappointed.

  62. before I saw the bank draft which had said $9426 , I didnt believe that…my… brother woz like actualy earning money part-time at there labtop. . there uncles cousin has done this 4 less than fifteen months and by now repaid the dept on there place and got a great new Mini Cooper . read the full info here …

    Clik This Link inYour Browser??

    ? ? ? ? http://www.SelfCash10.com

  63. Ugh. As I read through this article, it seems like it consistently blurs the distinction between individual action and virtue with state action and virtue, which would be something you would think libertarians would be very clear about.

    In short:

    I find it completely appropriate and allowable for individuals and non-state groups to call Belle Knox and irresponsible slut. They don’t have to be prudent or polite or humble about it if they don’t want to. If they can successfully generate an aura of disapproval enough to make some girls reconsider the appeal of a career in porn — in other words, if they can convince enough people — more power to them.

    I find it absolutely horrible for the power of the state to be used against Belle Knox to prevent her from working in porn if she so wishes.

    Thinking you’re righteous enough to preach about how someone ought to live is one thing. Thinking you’re righteous enough to take up arms and force people to live the way you want is another.

    It seems like a simple difference to me.

  64. I read the entire debate and I appreciated everyone’s efforts immensely. While I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to call it “virtue libertarianism” I get the gist from where the “virtue” authors are coming. Many of the Reason Articles lately from Libertarian icons like Nick and Robby have been slammed by commenters precisely because they have become libertine in their libertarianism and progressive in their condemnation of virtue dissenters. This progressive trending on the part of those key libertine voices is why I’ve become more and more disillusioned with what I’ve thought was mainstream libertarianism, the essential position that you can “Do you anything you want to do, I don’t care as long as it doesn’t impact me”. I agree with this almost completely.

    1. However, along with that common belief we all share as Libertarians I’ve been watching as Nick G., Robby S., and other Libertines openly demean anyone who also takes a virtue position toward that belief as backward. This trend has been all the more maddening because it comes across as ridiculously self-righteous and holier-than-thou and more social-justice driven than social-liberty driven, attributes which I mistakenly thought were eschewed by reasoning libertarians. The lack of reasoning from Reason’s top editors is mind-boggling on recent trends, and paying lip service to liberty i.e. “I support their right, but…” is not a sound method to win more people over to libertarian ideals. What do I mean by lack of reasoning? Take Robby’s attacks on anyone who has concerns regarding locker rooms and transgendered use. Instead of accepting that others may have a reasoned approach to NAP, or considering that there is no a priori discrimination if the government maintains standards for lockers based upon biological certainties so long as an equal expectation remains across the entire population and no one is actually denied the use of facilities, he resorts to ad hominem attacks on anyone who doesn’t support his preferences, “While the conservative objection to accepting trans people into polite society is bigoted and wrong”.

      1. Nick fusses about the backward anti-liberty position of pro-life adherents and bemoans their one-track mind. Pro-lifers are so hung on life that they won’t compromise on more important issues of liberty that would allow a Libertarian candidate to ascend to the presidency. He takes this stance and bemoans conservative trope without considering how a reasoning Libertarian or conservative can take an uncompromising position on life and be wholly libertarian in that decision. Nick is very libertine in this regard and seems to take the position that complete liberty regardless of outcome is preferred above any conscience. Contrarily a libertarian who holds the NAP as an essential platform to our philosophy and also holds that the NAP applies to human life period, upholds that position regardless of development. Also, unlike a libertine, a virtue Libertarian is also taking into consideration the literal foundations of Liberty. What is the first and most obvious right? It is Life. If there is no life, there is no right or freedom to apply to that life. Therefore Life is fundamental to every other conceivable right.

        1. To place other rights above the foundation is to try and stack blocks on thin air. So a pro-life conscientious objector betrays no libertarian doctrines or sacraments by refusing to cast a vote for a libertarian candidate who does not extend NAP to all human life. In fact it is the Libertine position that puts all other rights ahead of the prime right that come across as willing to compromise liberty at its most fundamental level.

          Ironically, by insisting that the right to take a human life is an essential liberty, Nick’s entire libertarian philosophy becomes more about special interest rights and preferences than about real liberties. These examples of two well thought-of, and well-written Libertine Libertarians reveal how excess of Libertine philosophy naturally grafts into social justice and progressive ideology, leading ironically back toward authoritarianism. It is a slow fade, but it is definitely present.

          1. I think that anarchy as Libertarianism is the ultimate expression of individualism. The Libertine perspective comes very close to anarchy because it rejects virtue moorings intended to be goal posts as trappings and then ejects the perceived trappings. However, if I may be philosophical for a moment, sometimes our greatest prison can be our refusal to set up any boundaries for ourselves. We do tend to be a rather self-destructive species. Those moorings are there to help prevent self-destruction. They’ve been discovered and tested for thousands of years of our species existence and as the virtue authors pointed out there is a form of freedom in giving in to that accumulated wisdom.

            1. I suppose that for myself, while I consider myself constitutionally libertarian I am not an anarchist. Like most Libertarians I want big-daddy out of almost every element of my life, but I also value culture and society, and I recognize that while everything is permissible not everything is profitable. If Nick and Robby want to do stupid things with their liberty I will not interfere with them, but I can certainly practice observation, determination, and application based on how badly I witness them screw up. Acting in Porn or jacking off to porn are wholly someone’s personal decisions, but there are also indicators in both areas that neither choice is the healthiest. For example, contrary to propaganda, if a guy really wants to keep his mind on his wife and kids and not screw up a marriage than porn is the wrong engine to that purpose and often is a primary element in the loss of desire toward his spouse. When a guy prefers porn over the woman who loves him it’s like preferring crap water to Crystal Lakes. It’s totally permissible, but it isn’t profitable to a long lasting healthy family unit. So yeah I get the Libertine element, but if I’m no anarchist and I care about the long term health of society I’m probably going to encourage and mentor other young men to avoid Porn.

              1. This was an enjoyable debate. I’m finding myself drawn more to the reasoning of the virtue libertarian side based upon a desire for the long term best outcome and best health of society as a single working engine, but I still appreciate the libertine perspective about not instating law against thoughts and activities just because they aren’t socially acceptable. Let each man and woman stand and fall on the basis of their own decisions. I don’t have to agree, and I can certainly practice observation, determination, and application toward a healthier option when someone’s else’s choice becomes notably self or even other-destructive

        2. Right on, Mr. Edge! The refusal to even try to understand the pro-life position as one that has nothing to do with restricting the rights of any mother (or father!) over their own bodies.

          Declaring that a Jew is not a person or that aborigines are not people (like many early Darwinian scientists did in Australia) does not make them any less human persons.

          Does the Smithsonian still have those thousands of skulls of Australian Aborigines in storage? Like for the sake of “science”, kind of like “embryonic stem cells”?

          Is there any monument recognizing the St. Louis World’s Fair and New York Zoo exhibits of Mr. Ota Benga as the “missing link”?

          A baby is a baby is a baby. To get around the theophobic circuits, go search “pro-life atheists”, for various web sites that use the same arguments pro-lifers have used ever since the Hippocratic oath was initiated in ancient times: “no abortifacients”.

  65. I think that anarchy as Libertarianism is the ultimate expression of individualism. The Libertine perspective comes very close to anarchy because it rejects virtue moorings intended to be goal posts as trappings and then ejects the perceived trappings. However, if I may be philosophical for a moment, sometimes our greatest prison can be our refusal to set up any boundaries for ourselves. We do tend to be a rather self-destructive species. Those moorings are there to help prevent self-destruction. They’ve been discovered and tested for thousands of years of our species existence and as the virtue authors pointed out there is a form of freedom in giving in to that accumulated wisdom.

  66. RE: Libertarianism, Yes! But *What Kind* of Libertarianism?

    This is easy.
    1. Do no harm to the innocent.
    2. Do not take their property, at least not without due process.
    3. Allow people to prosper (and fail) without government intrusion.
    4. Treat people like adults.
    5. Mind your own business.

    This is Libertarian political thought, not rocket science.

  67. My Libertarian Party membership card is number 1805 .When Libertarians were on the ticket in 1972 I wrote in John Hospers and Tony Nathan. I voted a straight Libertarian ticket every year until Bush v Kerry when I compromised and voted Bush. I’m a Viet Nam Vet. Kerry was a traitor to Viet Nam war vets. I couldn’t bring myself to vote Libertarian that year.

    I prefer the purist Libertarian ideology idealized in the disclaimer that, “I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.” If a person cannot certify accordingly perhaps they should be Republicans.

    I maintained my Libertarian party membership until 2000. I let it lapse because the party was becoming too Republican for my tastes. The core of libertarianism, the party, must remain pure to its founding concept of non aggression. Its members should be actively co-opting the Republican Party to be effective in disseminating that ideal..

  68. My Libertarian Party membership card is number 1805 .When Libertarians were on the ticket in 1972 I wrote in John Hospers and Tony Nathan. I voted a straight Libertarian ticket every year until Bush v Kerry when I compromised and voted Bush. I’m a Viet Nam Vet. Kerry was a traitor to Viet Nam war vets. I couldn’t bring myself to vote Libertarian that year.

    I prefer the purist Libertarian ideology idealized in the disclaimer that, “I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.” If a person cannot certify accordingly perhaps they should be Republicans.

    I maintained my Libertarian party membership until 2000. I let it lapse because the party was becoming too Republican for my tastes. The core of libertarianism, the party, must remain pure to its founding concept of non aggression. Its members should be actively co-opting the Republican Party to be effective in disseminating that ideal..

  69. Start making more money weekly. This is a valuable part time work for everyone. The best part work from comfort of your house and get paid from $100-$2k each week.Start today and have your first cash at the end of this week. For more details Check this link??

    Clik This Link inYour Browser?

    ???? http://www.selfCash10.com

  70. 3″My friend just told me about this easiest method of freelancing. I’ve just tried it and now II am getting paid 15000usd monthly without spending too much time. you can also do this.

    ……….. http://www.Maxcenter20.com

  71. Progressives accuse libertarians of believing that the “means justify the ends,” thus remaining unacceptably indifferent to poverty and inequality.

    The means justifying the end is actually progressive ideology. That is, progressives justify taking away liberties, infringing on free speech and property rights, and engaging in racial discrimination by saying that it will somehow “help society” in the end and “redress past injustices”.

    Whatever they say, what progressives hate is that libertarians say that individual rights and liberties are worth defending and protecting regardless of any benefits or utility.

    What confuses progressives frequently is that when we engage in debates with them, we often sink to their utilitarian level. That is, a libertarian favors free markets because we value private property, freedom of choice, and freedom of association. But since progressives insist on utilitarian policies, we also point out that free markets happen to work better than progressive policies.

  72. I am making $89/hour working from home. I never thought that it was legitimate but my best friend is earning $10 thousand a month by working online, that was really surprising for me, she recommended me to try it. just try it out on the following website.

    ??? http://www.NetNote70.com

  73. 2″My friend just told me about this easiest method of freelancing. I’ve just tried it and now II am getting paid 15000usd monthly without spending too much time.You can also do this.

    >>>>>>> https://www.Cashpay60.tk

  74. I am making $89/hour working from home. I never thought that it was legitimate but my best friend is earning $10 thousand a month by working online, that was really surprising for me, she recommended me to try it. just try it out on the following website.

    ??? http://www.selfcash10.com

  75. Libertarianism must remain its definition as the “non-aggression principle”. Let’s be clear about that. As long as you respect property and person, civil society must allow individual freedom.

    However, like “bionic mosquito” points out, some cultures are more friendly to such freedom. Some cultures are less amenable. After one or two generations getting the conquered accustomed to subjugation, it takes a lot to shake free of the control of groups that demand control over other groups, rule-based or not. People grow up thinking of it as a lens through which they see the world.

    Even libertarians at Reason.com, I have noticed, struggle with the idea of letting people associate with whomever they please. Gary Johnson for example says he would be okay with forcing a Jewish bakery to cook a cake for a Nazi feast that celebrates the Holocaust.

  76. 3″I quit my 9 to 5 job and now I am getting paid 98usd hourly. How? I work-over internet! My old work was making me miserable, so I was forced to try-something NEW. After two years, I can say my life is changed-completely for the better! Check it out what i do.

    >>>>>>>>> http://www.Today70.com

  77. 4″I quit my 9 to 5 job and now I am getting paid 100usd hourly. How? I work-over internet! My old work was making me miserable, so I was forced to try-something NEW. After two years, I can say my life is changed-completely for the better!Learn More From This Site…

    ======> http://www.Today70.com

  78. I’ve made $76,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student.I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money.It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ??????? http://www.Reportmax20.com

  79. my friend’s mom makes $73 hourly on the laptop . She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her pay was $18731 just working on the laptop for a few hours…..

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ???????

    http://www.Reportmax20.com

  80. my roomate’s step-mother makes 60 each hour on the internet and she has been out of work for seven months but last month her check was 14489 just working on the internet for 5 hours a day, look at ..
    Read more on this web site..

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> http://www.maxincome20.com

  81. Libertarianism must remain its definition as the “non-aggression principle”. Let’s be clear about that. As long as you respect property and person, civil society must allow individual freedom.

    However, like “bionic mosquito” points out, some cultures are more friendly to such freedom. Some cultures are less amenable. After one or two generations getting the conquered accustomed to subjugation, it takes a lot to shake free of the control of groups that demand control over other groups, rule-based or not. People grow up thinking of it as a lens through which they see the world.

    Even libertarians at Reason.com, I have noticed, struggle with the idea of letting people associate with whomever they please. Gary Johnson for example says he would be okay with forcing a Jewish bakery to cook a cake for a Nazi feast that celebrates the Holocaust.????? ???
    ???????

  82. I was in total despair when I found Dr. Todd. My life was going terrible and I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I had just gone through a rough divorce, wasn’t making enough money to sustain me and my children, and my 17 year old son had just gone to jail for the first time. When I talked to him, I immediately found a sense of peace. He was very honest with me and I could feel that. He also told me that everything would be okay. After my work began, things began to change. My bills were all caught up, the relationship I was in became much stronger, I was never FLAT broke, and my son was released from jail earlier than we expected!! I also completely got over the failed marriage and began to move on. And, received a better position at my job which will cause an $800 per month increase!! I felt completely comfortable with the work that was being done because I was always encouraged by Dr. Todd. manifest spell cast@gmail. com is the BEST!!!!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.