Donald Trump

Steve Bannon Hates Libertarians Because *We're* Not Living in the Real World?

"Economic nationalist" Trump adviser blasts people foolish enough to believe in "Free Minds and Free Markets."

|

The first of the two times I've met Donald Trump was at a 2015 rally protesting the nuclear deal President Obama had announced with Iran. As he rumbled off the stage past the press area, I asked him, "Hey Donald, what do you think about libertarianism?" "I like it, alotta good things," he said, shortly before brushing me and saying, "I don't want to talk you right now."

Assuming he still likes libertarianism and thinks it comprises "a lot of good things, a lot of good points," he's very much at odds with his senior adviser Steve Bannon. From Robert Draper's masterful New York Times Magazine account of the relationship among Trump, Bannon, and House Speaker Paul Ryan:

"What's that Dostoyevsky line: Happy families are all the same, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own unique ways?" ([Bannon] meant Tolstoy.) "I think the Democrats are fundamentally afflicted with the inability to discuss and have an adult conversation about economics and jobs, because they're too consumed by identity politics. And then the Republicans, it's all this theoretical Cato Institute, Austrian economics, limited government — which just doesn't have any depth to it. They're not living in the real world."

Don Irvine, Flickr, Wikimedia

It's always nice to be attacked as delusional and out of touch, especially by a Hollywood-cum-Wall Street millionaire whose boss falsely insists that cities have never been less safe, that American manufacturing has never created so little, and that we're just one or two border walls and torn-up free trade deals away from once again being a nation of factory workers. (Side note: I'm younger than Bannon but old enough to remember when the factory jobs I worked as a teenager and young adult weren't romanticized.)

President Trump is so famously post-factual that he cites riots that never happened as pretexts for executive orders, invents crime statistics out of thin air, and insisted for years that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But it's libertarians who are nuttier than a squirrel's turd? Sure, why not.

Earlier today, Matt Welch mapped out some of the political problems that the Trump administration is creating and compounding for itself by reviling libertarian-leaning Republicans and congressional budget hawks. On a broader cultural stage, it's worth underscoring that Bannon is simply wrong that libertarians are living in a "theoretical" world of, what, exactly? Across-the-board calls for lower levels of regulation in all aspects of life (also known as believing government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and voluntary groups such as churches and nonprofits)? That increasing majorities of Americans are comfortable with pot legalization and gay marriage even as they are losing trust in law enforcement, the education system, and the federal government (now headed by, er, Donald Trump and his own GOP party that can't even pass a healthcare reform bill they've been promising for nigh-on seven years)? That most people in America—including self-identified Trump supporters!—actually like immigrants and want to see even illegal immigrants given a chance to live legally in the United States? These are not small things, and neither is the fact that libertarians as an ideological group (as discerned by Gallup) are the single-biggest bloc of Americans.

Cato.org

The tell in Bannon's way of thinking is how he confuses Tolstoy with Dostoevsky. Neither Russian novelist—OMG, is he channeling Putin or what!—is particularly sunny but the Christian apologetic Tolstoy allowed for some sort of transcendence while about the best-case scenario you find in Dostoevsky is getting marched off to pre-communist Siberia with your prostitute-wife for a life sentence. Like Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, Bannon looks around and only sees himself and his own obsessions.

His vision of a post-apocalyptic America where folks are so scared of crime that they don't walk down city streets anymore; where living standards are declining year over year in absolute terms; and where resentment against the Other is the only thing keeping hearts beating is as fundamentally false as it is opposed to a broad-based libertarianism that has always animated America. Yes, Donald Trump eked out an impossible electoral victory mostly be playing to the fears of a handful of non-representative voters in the dead, old, post-industrial Midwest (a place I call home at least half of the year, by the way). Yes, of course it helped that Trump ran against Hillary Clinton, a candidate who was as unliked as she was arrogant (seriously, she visited Chipotle more than she did Wisconson in 2016!). But that doesn't take away from Trump winning in the end.

Still, the president (and Bannon) will not be able to govern by pursuing economically nativist policies that raise prices for food and items at Walmart, and they certainly won't create many jobs either.

NEXT: May a college expel a student for 'unprofessional speech' in Facebook posts?

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.

    1. I see that the Triforce of Wisdom still eludes Bannon. We are safe. For now.

  1. Where are all the posts? Are we on some type of boycott due to the most recent string of heinous articles?

    1. maybe some folks are running into the same problem I have with getting posts to actually post. Or I could just be a dumbass in doing this..admittedly possible.

      1. Yeah I’m having that problem. Tried a few times on another article then gave up.

      2. Or ? it could be we’re all tired of so called Libertarians telling us how wrong and complex are all the problems we face, without actually offering any constructive solutions. Yesterday, I had to put up with some idiot relating the complexity of healthcare. That’s it, it’s complex and not easily solved, don’t try.

        I tried to give a solution but could never get the reply to post. What’s going on with the site and staff? Are they really Libertarians or just problem identifiers?

        1. Small-l libertarians are under no obligation to offer constructive solutions or any centralized gov’t solutions at all.

          Stefan Molyneux does a pretty good job of blowing this demand apart–in a YouTube video I can’t find right now, he says that libertarians claim not to have “the solution,” that people should be left alone to come up with their own solutions that fit themselves best. In other words, libertarians are the only political group that isn’t arrogant enough to think they have the one solution that fits everybody.

    2. Bannon might have a point if he is talking about the
      anarchist wing of libertarians. That will never be the
      real world. Can’t even get a small reduction in spending
      in most areas no matter who is in office. Can’t get even
      minutely closer to a smaller government. So to talk
      about anarchy, even in a theoretical way, (except for
      with other libertarians, of course) just turns people
      off and convinces them all libertarians are in la-la land.

      1. And yet, I’ll tell them of the reasons small government is better first, and then that no government is even better than that. And yes, if you do it right, it works just fine.

        And just like everything else, if you do it wrong, it doesn’t.

        Insisting that others ought to stop sending men-with-guns after others for no reason doesn’t mean I don’t “live in the real world”, it means that I hate that part of the real world.

        1. Where has “no government” ever been done right?

          1. Where has anything else?

      2. Bannon might have a point if he is talking about the
        anarchist wing of libertarians. That will never be the
        real world.

        It already is.

  2. Where are all the posts? Are we on some type of boycott due to the most recent string of heinous articles?

    1. Many of the people formerly active here got tired of :

      – 2 or 3 super persistent boring trolls that people can’t stop feeding
      – the “squirrels” making it difficult to comment, or making you comment twice
      – the controversial editorial direction of a subset of the most active posters
      – actual spam comments

      They went somewhere else.

      Then the technical issues seemed to somehow get WORSE despite fewer posters, including posts taking minutes to show up.

      It’s kinda sad that it’s come to this, but honestly how long can you whine about an organization you support financially and with your attention and community participation but which can’t operate a blog with working comments? It’s not rocket science.

  3. This is such a concern I had to say it twice.

  4. Who cares?

  5. Who cares? Who cares what Bannon thinks? Why are we talking about this nonsense?

    1. Gillespie does not like it when someone directs their ire his way

      I do not really agree with Bannon, but Gillespie can dish it out but goes into whiny mode when he gets it back.

    2. Bannon has the ear of the President of the United States, so unfortunately, what he thinks matters.

    3. More to the point:

      The tell in Bannon’s way of thinking is how he confuses Tolstoy with Dostoevsky.

      Is Gillespie aware that 95% of the people in America don’t know who Tolstoy OR Tolstoy are? And that 99.9% have never read a book written by either of them?

  6. I don’t think Raskolnikov got a life sentence.

    1. Yep I checked he only got 8 years. Pretty light for double murder but there it is.

      Come on Gillespie, get it together.

  7. Is this thing working?

  8. Wow I think this commenting software could use an oil change or something.

    1. Why don’t they just outsource to disqus already? Specialization folks, it’s a wonderful thing.

  9. This must make libertarians feel pretty good! I mean, having someone like this say something negative about libertarianism should make libertarians feel like they’re on the right track. That is, until libertarians realize we’ve been down their road before and we know where it leads. Ahh yes, limited government will work this time! Yes, small government will work this time! Libertarians and socialists are alike in that they believe that this time it will work…this time limited government will stay limited. This time, putting the right rulers in place – as long as government is small – will be great.

    No thanks. Self ownership and free association, without the cartel, is the only true path to peace and happiness.

    1. When has limited government ever been implemented?

      1. 1789, but it grew very fast in the 20th C

        1. Where?

  10. These are not small things, and neither is the fact that libertarians as an ideological group (as discerned by Gallup) are the single-biggest bloc of Americans.

    Apparently a lot of libertarians must have voted for Trump/

    1. Apparently a lot of libertarians must have voted for Trump

      It’s more likely that almost all libertarians voted against Clinton, who was the only candidate worse than Trump.

    2. 5% voted for Gary Johnson. Rest of the libertarians? Behaved like good Republicans and voted like Rand Paul.

      For Drumpf

      1. GayJay was the only “lifelong Republican” at the top of a ticket.

    3. That is either is just not true, or based on a understanding of “libertarian” that is almost meaningless (like when Bill Maher used to call himself a libertarian). Gillespie’s wishful thinking that a majority is already on his side if only they just knew it is recipe for complacency by free market types.

      1. Old what’s his name on MSNBC(?) used to call himself a Libertarian too. Chris Mathews? That’s it. He’s about as Libertarian as Hilary Clinton.

      2. Old what’s his name on MSNBC(?) used to call himself a Libertarian too. Chris Mathews? That’s it. He’s about as Libertarian as Hilary Clinton.

  11. We’re the not-fun libertarians!

  12. And then the Republicans, it’s all this … limited government

    Wow, he really is crazy.

  13. How come I can’t post my brilliant rejoinders?

  14. Sorry, Steve Bannon is right if he is looking at Reason and Gillespie and judging libertarians. The defense of free markets, limited government and Austrian economics is weak by this website. It’s all social signalling and open borders garbage. The reason for the huge defection is because reason is giving us a bad name, leaving behind true principles of liberty in order to get invited to the cocktail parties by their fascist-progressive colleagues.

    1. There is certainly an element of truth to your comment. As a contributor, it is obnoxious the amount of time spent on social issues and global climate seasons rather than education on mere free market capitalism, education on the perils and evils of the FED and crony bank control, and simply teaching people about the prosperity and wealth that all enjoy due to the profit motive. There are thousands of stories to be told about the wonders of capitalism and the profit motive that are interesting.

      Reason should have realized long ago that the tranny bathroom scam was a distraction tactic. They do want to become more relevant as a social thinking club.

      1. Snoozefest.

        That’s why.

    2. There is certainly an element of truth to your comment. As a contributor, it is obnoxious the amount of time spent on social issues and global climate seasons rather than education on mere free market capitalism, education on the perils and evils of the FED and crony bank control, and simply teaching people about the prosperity and wealth that all enjoy due to the profit motive. There are thousands of stories to be told about the wonders of capitalism and the profit motive that are interesting.

      Reason should have realized long ago that the tranny bathroom scam was a distraction tactic. They do want to become more relevant as a social thinking club.

      1. Dry lectures don’t get clicks.

  15. Does it? I mean realistically any political philosophy doesn’t but maybe libertarianism is further out of the real world. I find it to be the most ethical but in the real world not so much. Take the immigration policy they keep spewing here. Hey, in the ideal that’s great. But it’s own premise is based on potential 2 way movement in free societies so people can move where the jobs are. When your market gets over saturated you can move to another area. Great theory, what happens when it’s only one way? How does this work for the poor who can’t afford to move?

    1. How does this work for the poor who can’t afford to move?????

      Then explain how poor Africans, Asians, Hispanics, and all others keep making it in to the U.S.A with little to no money and in such large numbers. That even Trump’s wall will be impudent in stopping the flood of immigrants.

      1. Mayhaps he meant the poor who are too fat to move. Anyone who’s hungry and owns a bicycle can move.

        1. Great illustration about how you don’t live in the real world. If your philosophy leans on if you are desperate enough anything is possible. Look at actual moving expenses for people, for families. And there are income brackets who get hit by this really hard. Yes if your situation has completely collapsed and you don’t have a choice you can move. But is that what you want to pin your free immigration policy on. Hey large swaths of you are going to lose everything but maybe you can find work somewhere else? Oh and by somewhere else I just kind of was kidding because other places are less free and you can’t really just move there.

          1. It seems you are the one not living in the real world.

            Poverty has been a fact of life for all of civilized history, across all types of governments, and across all cultures. There will always be people too poor to move to where the opportunities are–and that is just plain bad luck.

            In other words, no political philosophy can solve the problem of poverty, and yet you seem to expect that libertarianism provide such a solution.

  16. I think it’s funny how an entire article is penned around one quote from Bannon taken second hand from the NYTs of all places.

    I also think its funny that Bannon is so right on the lack of seriousness epitomized in extremist Libertarians. Yeh, its by far a better direction to go in than the social conservatism, nanny state, or proggy socialism that defines the major parties. But Libertarian doctrine is no less extreme, particularly when applied to borders, trade, and public infrastructure. The open borders crowd is most definitely not living in the real world. The blanket free trade crowd is most definitely not living in the real world.

  17. We don’t live in the real world. We feel self righteous about our superior philosophy, and indulge in masturbatory discussions about advancing liberty, but we have no viable plan for wresting power from the lawyers who hold us and our society in a choke-hold. (This applies to any Western, liberal democracy). I hate to admit it, but if Trump manages to reduce the regulatory leviathan by even 1 percent (or stops its growth), he and his ilk will have accomplished more than any welded johnsons.

    1. I hate to admit it, but you do have a point. Trumps’ supreme court nominee may be the best thing that Libertarians can hope for, along with your wishful 1% reduction in the leviathan.

    2. You do have a point. Trumps’ supreme court nominee may be the best thing that Libertarians can hope for, along with your wishful 1% reduction in the leviathan.

  18. I tried to tell my conservative friends & neighbors that Trump could never be the answer for “draining the swamp” or “making America great again”. People do like their slogans more than reality I guess, so, here we are. Kind of sickening that someone liked by just 40% of 45% of the country (less than half of registered republicans voted for him in the primaries) is now our defacto emporer and destroyer of inalienable rights.

    That being said, I will begrudgingly give him one kudo for that Federal hiring freeze, even if things aren’t going his way yet with ACA, and it still looks like he is going to run up the deficit like Bush-43 on crack while Congress f***s up their golden opportunity to fix the tax code. I’m not sold that he’s any different spending-wise than Hillary, not until he pushes through a decent highway budget *and* eliminates the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage scam causing our highways to cost $ millions per mile to build and maintain ($60+/hour to run a pickaxe or wheelbarrow? Really?) And lastly, America can never be great again as long as those child molestors in the TSA are allowed to continue groping boys and girls at our airports…

    1. defacto emporer and destroyer of inalienable rights was my nickname in college.

      1. defacto emporer and destroyer of inalienable rights was my nickname in college.

        Vaguely recall someone else that used to use that same nickname … Damn, what was his name again?

  19. Its true, those million+ people in jail for drug offenses are kinda imaginary

  20. Bannon probably slept through history class so he doesn’t know that the US actually was a “small government” country from 1789 to 1861. Lincoln did “expand government” for the duration of the Civil War. We then returned to a smaller government until 1913. Before 1913 the federal government supported itself mainly through a tariff on imports. Government grew during WW1, shrank some afterwards, but remained larger than it had been. The Great Depression is really where government starts growing. FDR considerably “expanded” the role of the federal government which of course grew even larger during WW2. The role of the federal government continued to grow with the “Cold War”, The expansion of Civil Rights required federal enforcement. Medicare and Medicaid grew the government even more.

  21. A bit much to say he hates them but I understand the concept that libertarians are hard to work with… I mean I like some of the ideas but if you stick 10 Libertarians in a room and ask them their opinions on something you will get 13 different answers…

    1. See, you just aren’t asking the right questions. Of course they’ll each give you a different opinion. If you were to ask “What should the government do about it?” I doubt there’d be a single response, though.

  22. limited government ? which just doesn’t have any depth to it. They’re not living in the real world.”

    Well, it’s hard to argue that. Asshole.

  23. Jesus christ when did it start taking so long for comments to show up? Did everyone at Reason finally give up and go home? WTF is this garbage?

  24. Well, despite being a fairly devout libertarian, I think he has a point to a certain degree. I agree in principle with more or less every mainstream libertarian view, but I really don’t see how a good grip of them would ever work in the real world taken to their maximum extremes. Many principles would require people to be more virtuous than they actually are in order to function.

    Sometimes it IS objectively beneficial to kill someone or steal something, whether on the individual level or national level. People instinctively know this. Nonaggression principle is great… Except in a zombie apocalypse, where you’ll get YOUR ass killed if you don’t go on the offensive by proactively killing people who seem to be inclined to be troublemakers.

    The world is kind of like that. Despite it being wrong, we sometimes have to do wrong things so that other nations don’t do wronger (lol) things to us. All that said we can be 1000 times more libertarian than anything is now without getting into the “danger zone” on most issues, so I’ll start worrying about things being TOO libertarian for the real world when shit is 999 times better than it is now. LOL

  25. Why is everyone leaving?

    Well, you have the headline–

    Steve Bannon Hates Libertarians Because *We’re* Not Living in the Real World?

    You have what Nick wrote–

    As he rumbled off the stage past the press area, I asked him, “Hey Donald, what do you think about libertarianism?” “I like it, alotta good things,” he said,(note– Trumps actual opinion of libertarianism) shortly before brushing me and saying, “I don’t want to talk you right now.”(and then this weird dig……..?)

    And then you have what Bannon said–

    “What’s that Dostoyevsky line: Happy families are all the same, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own unique ways?” ([Bannon] meant Tolstoy.) “I think the Democrats are fundamentally afflicted with the inability to discuss and have an adult conversation about economics and jobs, because they’re too consumed by identity politics. And then the Republicans, it’s all this theoretical Cato Institute, Austrian economics, limited government ? which just doesn’t have any depth to it. They’re not living in the real world.”

    …about Democrats and Republicans.

    Other than Nick asking Trump directly about libertarianism, no one mentions it at all.

    So where’d that headline come from/ Or any of Nick’s blather? His imagination?

    1. It seems that Nick inferred that Bannon made a mistake and was really talking about libertarians, since it’s pretty well-established that Republicans don’t advocate Austrian economics or limited government. If Nick’s inference was wrong, then that means that Bannon is just misinformed.

  26. Surely Nick isn’t saying that the Republicans are deeply into all this theoretical Cato Institute, Austrian economics, limited government.

  27. Hey, Steverino, it all becomes very real and concrete when the gun is pointed at your own head.

  28. C’mon Nick, give the Trumpster some time on the healthcare issue. The ACA took 9 months once it was presented and went through after at least one amendment and no one even read the thing, it’s going to take just as long, if not longer, to sort the mess out and get rid of the individual mandate.

  29. just as Gerald implied I am in shock that a person able to earn $7711 in 1 month on the computer . go now>>>>>>>>>>> https://qr.net/eyGRuC

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.