Libertarian History/Philosophy

Libertarianism Does Not Yet Rule America. Libertarians Know That. That's Not a Reason for Them to Abandon Libertarianism.


From its beginnings as a distinct ideological movement in the postwar years, libertarianism has been a set of outsider ideas vastly disrespected by most American politicians and intellectuals. It was kept alive by small institutions, publications, and scattered academics (mostly in economics at first) who for decades were largely concerned with just keeping any expression of these ideas a going concern, barely expecting it could soon seriously influence mainstream political culture. (That story is told up to the turn of the 21st century in my book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.)

Libertarians understand they are still to a large degree strangers in a strange land when it comes to the American political scene, struggling for impact in a world they never made, and any number of other cliches indicating that obvious truth: libertarianism is still a minority idea and libertarians are still embroiled in a difficult and long-term fight to influence political ideology and practice in America. Libertarians are generally not delusional on that point.

When it comes to awareness and acceptance of the overarching principles of libertarianism, even if not to their actuation across the board in governing, the situation for libertarianism is America has gotten much better in the 21st century along many dimensions. As Reason's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie have argued, an often pre-political embrace of the options, variety, and choice inherent in the libertarian vision of free minds and free markets has spread massively in American culture, even if government qua government isn't shrinking.

One of the ironic demonstrations of libertarianism's inroads in American culture is that mainstream outlets find it necessary frequently to declare it dead, irrelevant, or fatally wounded. Lately we've had Tim Alberta in Politico assuring us that the libertarian dream is dead; and Adam Ozimek in Forbes saying libertarianism could be more successful if only it would narrow its vision a little.

Politico makes a good point as far as it goes: Until Donald Trump's bold political entrepreneurship proved surprisingly successful, there was reason to believe the GOP might be more inclined to go for a libertarian-leaning candidate such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) rather than someone like Trump, policy-wise a Buchananite populist in the Rick Santorum style (to point to the nearest even slightly successful precursor in the GOP), but with less sanctimony, less even half-convincing Christianity, and more aggressive crudity and lack of intellectual polish.

Examining the respective political fates of Paul and Trump in the 2016 presidential race, now we know better. But by the very fact that it is an outsider political movement not fully at home in either major party, nothing about libertarianism's correctness or its hopes for the future depend on some short term victory; certainly nothing about the American people's choice of aggressive protectionist nationalism (to the extent we can be sure what people thought they were getting when they choose Trump) proves that libertarianism is either mistaken or dead.

It just proves libertarianism remains what it has been since it arose as a distinct movement in America after World War II: a small fighting rump, but one whose spread and reach is as high as it's ever been, even if it has failed in 2016, as it has always failed, to win the White House.

Otherwise, Politico's long article is merely a portrait of a moment in time, not the final fate of an ideology. Its observational power is mostly rooted in noting that, while he occasionally talks a libertarian-sounding game when it comes to, say, regulation, Trump is overall very opposed to the larger libertarian vision of truly free markets, respect for property rights, and restrained government power. True, and understood; especially as Trump's pre-election rhetoric that hinted at the possibility he might be less bellicose than his predecessors overseas is drowned out in the sound of exploding missiles.

Alberta's Politico article is a portrait of libertarianism as a philosophy still where it's always been: not a comfortable fit with either major party. But it has a greater grip on a greater number of prominent politicians, and Americans (see, for just one easily quantifiable example, the Libertarian Party nearly quadrupling its highest previous vote total) than ever in modern history.

If libertarians are right—or even on the right path—with their understanding that our government is overtaxing, overspending, overregulating, and overextending its reach both into the lives of its citizens and across the globe in ways that make many people's lives worse and our future more perilous, then American history will show it an idea that's neither dead nor needing extensive pruning, as Ozimek in Forbes seems to believe.

Libertarianism: Is Less More?

Ozimek should rest assured that a narrowly-funded, scrappy, outsider ideological movement that has never quite been able to find a national politician they can all get behind (not even Ron Paul) knows full well that a majority of Americans don't yet agree with them.

That's the purpose of an organized minority ideological movement such as libertarianism: to do the research, education, advocacy, electioneering, and storytelling that might help Americans see that, to survey some libertarian ideas, the drug war is both wrong and unproductive; that stealing property from citizens without charging them with a crime is unjust; that market and price mechanisms need to play a role in a sensible and affordable health care market; that our foreign interventions often merely sow the seeds for the next perceived necessary foreign intervention.

With that understood—this basic idea that a radical and small movement for ideological change is trying to move the political needle somewhere it isn't already—Ozimek's basic argument that most Americans don't seem to shape their own decision-making or voting around small government proves libertarianism is terribly flawed and needs rethinking doesn't bear much weight. (Nick Gillespie explained here 12 years ago why obviously decisions other than tax rates or regulation are going to shape people's decisions about where to live as life is, blessedly, about more than just taxes and regulations.)

Ozimek has a narrow set of libertarian ideas he thinks are important and workable, and they are indeed part of the libertarian movement message. Precisely what they are isn't quite clear—he writes that "people want quality of life, economic growth, and good government. All three of these can be helped on some margins by utilizing market forces, deregulating, and increasing freedom. Libertarianism should focus on these margins, and accept that the all-too-popular vision of radical freedom and minimal government at all costs is not wanted by enough people to actually matter."

It sounds like what Ozimek really should be concluding, if he indeed believes that stuff about bettering the world through "utilizing market forces" etc. is that people and politicians that are not libertarian should be more libertarian. And that's what libertarians are trying to accomplish.

What advantage—for the libertarian as opposed for the Ozimekan—from pursuing a narrower vision of freedom and limited government is not clear from this essay. Nor is it clear exactly what ideas of the libertarian movement he is recommending jettisoning, or keeping. (While Ozimek isn't rigorous on this point, he seems to be implying that somehow the existence of very libertarian people or arguments is harming the cause of slight libertarian improvement. I addressed whether libertarian extremism, that is, a full or radical version of the small-government vision, was harming the movement writ large last year. I didn't find the case proven.)

Libertarianism certainly hasn't cleared the field in American political culture yet. But to be held to such a standard, when 20 years ago it was considered so unknown and insignificant that publications of the stature and focus of a Forbes or Politico would never have bothered running articles about how and why it's allegedly failing and fading, is its own kind of victory in political culture, and a necessary prelude to more important ones.

NEXT: 'The Wall Will Stop the Drugs,' Trump Promises. No, It Won't.

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  1. Look, you’re probably not gonna get very far in politics when your whole thing is that politics ought to play a much smaller role than it does in every damn thing. Ain’t nobody’s true career goal is to get laid off because they made themselves obsolete.

    1. Making peace with this fact allows the libertarian* to protect himself** from the inevitable filth-results of rasslin’ pigs***.

      *Yes, only one.
      **Obviously there are no libertarian women.
      ***Unless he’s into that.

    2. Libertarians ought to consider giving up when the communistas soon come to purge the capitalists and all of their friends

      1. Yeah, well, the libertarians have an awful lot of guns.

        1. And diabeetus.

          1. SugarFree’s not here, man.

  2. often pre-political embrace of the options, variety, and choice inherent in the libertarian vision of free minds and free markets has spread massively in American culture, even if government qua government isn’t shrinking

    An outside observer might take something away from this revelation.

  3. I’d feel more optimistic about this conversation if there weren’t so many talking heads and bloggers who define libertarianism as anything to the right of Mitt Romney.

    1. I’ve had leftish types straight up tell me that libertarians are fascists who actively hate poor people. Attempts at factual rejoinders were met with basically “Nuh uh!” I merely continued to be a non-fascist who doesn’t hate poor people, and my interlocutors continued to be wrong.

      1. Right wingers think libertarians are ultra-progressives because we want people to be free to do what they want in their personal lives.

        Left wingers feel libertarians are ultra-conservatives because we want people to be free to do what they want with their money.

        They hate libertarians because they hate liberty.

        1. Right wingers think libertarians are ultra-progressives because we want people to be free to do what they want in their personal lives.

          Right-wingers think libertarians are ultra-progressives because they want to force people to bake cakes and provide a taxpayer-funded guaranteed basic income

          1. because they want to force people to bake cakes and provide a taxpayer-funded guaranteed basic income

            I guess I’m not a real libertarian then. I don’t pass the purity test.

            1. Either that or SIV has become (or was he always?) just a tedious troll.

          2. Chicken-syphilis has wrecked SIV’s brain.

        2. That’s why I think libertarians should rebrand as “anti-statists”.

      2. Come on, you know you’re a little bit fascist.

        1. You don’t get to tell me what i am. That is not your decision to make. That decision is mine and God’s.

          1. What about Michael Hihn?

            1. Michael Hihn is about the same age as God, but the similarities end there.

              1. Oh, crap, did I just summon him?

                1. Thanks a lot, Zeb. Jesus.

  4. “Until Donald Trump’s bold political entrepreneurship proved surprisingly successful, there was reason to believe the GOP might be more inclined to go for a libertarian-leaning candidate such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) rather than someone like Trump.”

    Trump trounced the other Republicans in states with open primaries.

    Of the early states with open primaries, the only ones Trump lost were to native sons–Cruz in Texas and Kasich in Ohio.

    Trump won the primaries because of an influx of registered Democrats–and demographics who traditionally vote Democrat. In 1980 and 1984, the press was probably less partisan and could openly discuss Reagan Democrats. Nowadays, they want to make it about Russian hackers, fake news, James Comey or anything else that doesn’t acknowledge the truth–which is that the white, blue collar middle class is abandoning the Democratic party.

    If that is the case (and it is), then Trump’s success isn’t because Republicans have turned their backs on libertarian ideas. Trump’s success is because formerly solid Democratic demographics have flooded into the Republican party.

    1. Here’s the stats:

      Of the first 16 open primaries, Trump won 13 of them. Of the three he lost, one was to Cruz in Texas and the other was to Kasich in Ohio–they were both native sons.

      Of the first 14 closed primaries, Trump lost a majority of them.

      If you call someone on the phone in the white, blue collar, middle class and ask them their party affiliation, they may tell you they’re Republicans–especially after they’ve been demonized as racist, homophobic, stupid, and selfish by the media and the progressives and SJWs who have been running the Democratic Party for the last eight years.

      However, people don’t change their party on their voter registration as often as they change their minds.

      If we look at what’s happened with Trump as somehow indicative of what’s happening within the traditional Republican party, we’re missing the big story. Trump wasn’t successful because Republican voters changed their minds about free trade and other libertarian ideas. Trump was successful because of an influx of traditional bread and butter, union minded, traditional Democrat demographics into the Republican party.

      1. Yes and I would like all those Democrats to fuck off and leave the Republican party alone.
        Libertarianism doesn’t benefit from letting a bunch of white, blue collar, middle class, labor union, socialists take over the Republican party.

        1. Never mistake the battlefield for the enemy.

          The enemy is socialism and authoritarianism.

          The battlefield is swing voters.

          People who are willing to leave the Democratic party over elitism are not the enemy.

          Old Democrat constituencies that are willing to vote against the Democrats are the battlefield, and we should endeavor to capture as much of the battlefield as possible.

          Hell, a lot of those registered Democrats in Wisconsin who voted for Trump were probably swing Democrats who sided with Scott walker in his fight with the government employee unions. These people are not our enemies. They’re potential customers.

          I haven’t always known everything I know now either. Just because the progressives who run the Democratic party were so stupid that they chased away a critical slice of their own base is no reason for libertarians to make the same mistake.

          “Welcome to our church, all you Trump Democrats. We don’t agree with you on a number of important issues, but before we get into that, we’d like you all to know that you’re welcome here–even if you’re Christian, white, blue collar, and don’t want to sacrifice your standard of living over global warming. Thanks for coming.”

          That’s what we should be saying. Not “Go to hell, you goddamn Democrats”.

          1. Wasn’t it Doherty who once wrote something to the effect that “The true purpose of libertarianism has always been to make more libertarians”?

            1. They aren’t going to become libertarians, when they get to pick the party’s nominee, and he’s an authoritarian socialist of their choosing. You’re an utter dolt.

              I think I’ll go invite a group of progressive leftists to live in my house. Maybe after they take over the place, turn it into a socialist commune, turn the yard into a community garden, put a windmill on the roof, and force me to live in the basement, they will suddenly decide that libertarianism is awesome.

              I have no idea why they would do it, but it’s functionally equivalent to what you think will magically happen with the Trump Democrats.

              Hey, I have an idea, maybe if we can make libertarianism racist enough, that will convince them. Strip out all the parts about free markets and replace them with more racism. That will convince them to join us.

              1. They don’t need to become libertarians. They need to embrace libertarian ideas.

                You think gay marriage and recreational marijuana only became realities because libertarians won an election somewhere?

                Enough people’s minds changed on those issues that the policy changed–without any of them ever calling themselves libertarian.

                There was a time when unions supported free trade (see the AFL-CIO) under George Meany). We were talking about getting people to see issues like free trade our way. They don’t need to become registered libertarians in order for us to have influence on policy.

                Our influence is with the grass roots. They embrace arguments from wherever they are at the time. More than 50% of Christians now support gay marriage. Plenty of both Democrats and Republicans support recreational marijuana. I never thought I’d live to see either one of those things happen.

                Free trade should be easy compared to that. But first, I guess we have to embarrass all the idiots who would rather suffer trade barriers than stop denigrating white, blue collar workers. If you’d rather not live in a libertarian society if doing so requires you to eject your elitism, then you aren’t really a libertarian. You’re an elitist.

            2. I’ve made three libertarians!

              Bearing and raising 3 sons is actually easier than converting an adult statist.

          2. You’re fucking retarded. The enemy are people who believe in socialism. People who believe that they are entitled to jobs and protection from trade and immigration are just as bad as people who believe they are entitled to welfare handouts. Getting them to switch parties accomplishes nothing if they keep on believing the same things. And quite clear, there is nothing in it for them whatsoever if they can even select as the party’s nominee, someone who supports their idiot views on trade and immigration. They control the nominee, they control the party, they decide what the party stands for and “welcoming” them into you “church” by giving them the keys to the kingdom and letting them run everything is not going to change that.

            1. I’m not retarded, but if you don’t realize that the extent to which we get to enjoy a libertarian society in the future depends on how many non-libertarias we convert to libertarianism today, then you’re missing some really basic things.

              The Roman empire didn’t start out Christian. Originally, there were just 13 guys and some ideas.

              We’ve got more to go on than they did.

              Note, they didn’t really get going until they got rid of the distinctions between Jews and gentiles, and just like them, we’re never going to get anywhere either until we jettison our elitism. If you can’t do other than hate the people we need to support us to win, then you’re a bigger problem than they are.

              1. It’s hard to jettison your elitism when most people aren’t really intelligent enough to understand abstract concepts. They understand their jobs, their spouses and kids, and every day living. It’s really hard to make people understand how free trade, for instance, impacts THEM in the long run. Nevermind a 10 trillion dollar debt. That’s why libertarians are accused of “not living in the real world”.

            2. “The enemy are people who believe in socialism.”

              Actually, the enemy are people who believe in authoritarianism — doesn’t matter whether they are socialist or not. They could be any number of things. Historically, there were monarchists who believed in feudalism. You also still have theocrats in some parts of the world, and then there are all the right-wing dictators and their supporters. The end result is some powerful group telling others what to do, ostensibly “for their own good.” That’s bullshit.

              As a libertarian, I have absolutely no problem with someone who wants to go live in a commune and share all their property freely with others who also want to join in with this socialist commune. If it makes them happy, I’m absolutely fine with it. The problem occurs when they hold a gun to my head or knife to my throat and tell me I MUST join them and turn over my property to them for “sharing.” BIG FUCKING DIFFERENCE.

              Socialism is one variety of authoritarianism. I reject the whole category of authoritarianism.

    2. I think you overstate the abandonment and understate the effects of the hacking, meddling and fail to evrn mention unique vulnerability of Clinton’s candidacy given her long history in politics. Trump oh so narrowly won those few mid west battle ground states while losing a tremendous amount of support in places like Georgia and Texas. We’ll see though. No point in arguing about it. I think the Republicans are headed towards obliteration in the decades to come.

      1. Never underestimate the power of either major political party to fuck things up.

    3. Trump’s success isn’t because Republicans have turned their backs on libertarian ideas. Trump’s success is because formerly solid Democratic demographics have flooded into the Republican party.

      Duh. And they haven’t stopped espousing their Democratic ideals either. They’re still just as socialist as always.

      So how is it a good thing for libertarians if the Republican party gets taken over by Democrats?

      1. I didn’t say it was a good thing or a bad thing. I just said it was a thing and that being invaded by Democrats isn’t indicative of where the Republican base stands on libertarian issues.

        If we want to make this a good thing, we’ll find a way to convince these Trump Democrats that free trade and capitalism are good for their standard of living–without denigrating them for being white or blue collar. That shouldn’t be too hard to do–since denigrating people for being white or blue collar is unnecessary and stupid and since free trade and capitalism are, in fact, good for their standard of living.

        1. If we want to make this a good thing, we’ll find a way to convince these Trump Democrats that free trade and capitalism are good for their standard of living

          By losing to them! If we keep losing, they will change their minds! A brilliant strategy!
          Just let white, blue collar, unions types do whatever they want, kiss their asses and say pretty please, and maybe they will decide that socialism is bad. Even if it means letting them do some pretty horrible things to brown people.

  5. “Reagan Democrats” no longer saw the Democratic party as champions of their working class aspirations, but instead saw them as working primarily for the benefit of others: the very poor, feminists, the unemployed, African Americans, Latinos, and other groups.

    That could have just as easily been written about Trump Democrats in 2016.

    Some people find it hard to believe that demonizing the white, blue collar, middle class for being racist, stupid, and selfish might not play well in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

    Why won’t those stupid hicks just do as they’re told by their elitist betters? After all, we called them stupid hicks and everything! Made fun of their guns and their idiotic climate change denialism, too. What do we have to do before all those stupid racists realize that we’re the only ones who care about them? Cut off their fake news?

    1. A bit more complex, Ken. In 1980, there wasn’t an Internet, Fox News, talk radio, or the other echo chambers producing a steady stream of reinforcing messaging. Do the liberal elites sneer at flyover country? Yeah. The new wrinkle is that there’s an entire industry devoted to not letting the “deplorables” forget how bad the other side is. 1980 was a vote for Reagan, and in ’84, “morning in America.” 2016 was a vote against Clinton, political correctness, SJWs, snowflakes, anyone with skin George Hamilton or darker. Modern America has become the world’s largest distributer of confirmation bias. I doubt Reagan democrats even exist anymore. American politics is “the kids table” where the red and blue brats throw food at one another while the adults wonder what ever possessed them to have children in the first place.

      1. I’m referring to Trump Democrats as pro-union, blue collar households that are fleeing the Democratic party and rallying behind Trump–just like the Reagan Democrats did in 1980 and 1984.

        These aren’t the exact same people, but they’re doing it for more or less the same reasons. The Democrats are seen as elitist as working for the benefit of various minority interests–from immigrants and Muslims to Black Lives Matter and environmentalists.

        Some of the specifics have changed, but the more some things change, the more others say the same. When Democrats become disdainful of their bread and butter, blue collar, core constituency, those people abandon the Democrats.

        Regardless, we shouldn’t look to that trend, as evidenced both by Trump’s success in open primaries (where registered Democrats could vote for him) and in Trump beating out Hillary in traditional blue collar Democrat strongholds (like Wisconsin and Michigan).

        And it’s no wonder why. Trump’s spiel about “They took our jobs” and his hostility to free trade has played well with white, blue collar Democrats since forever. We shouldn’t take his success with those voters as an indication that the Republican base is abandoning free trade and other libertarian ideas. It simply shows that that blue collar, middle class, Democrats are being driven out of the Democratic party by coastal progressives, SJWs, and elitism in general.

  6. Luckily, America’s founding principles gives Libertarianism the mainstream factor whether haters like it or not.

    Sooner or later most Americans will Libertarianism again when our crippling national debt forces massive cuts to every government program and there is just no more free stuff.

    1. America’s founding principles? You mean slavery and not letting women vote? Western history is a history of oppression!

      /what most people believe, sadly

    2. The First and Second Amendments are deeply libertarian.

      As long as they’re still there, the ‘Ghost of libertarian Past’ will still be walking about and rattling its chains.

    3. I like how you made “Libertarianism” a verb.

      1. I dunno, man. Verbing weirds language.

  7. I’m not a libertarian because I’m hoping for political victory.

    I’m a libertarian because I just couldn’t stand being a Republican asshole or a Democrat douche nozzle.

    It’s just that simple

    1. Yeah, pretty much. I think the word for that is “cynicism” (in something more like the original sense).

    2. You only have those choices? That’s sad.

      Since the government bird of prey can only have two wings, I suspect that the Libertarian Party is the tail. But they are all attached to the bird working so hard at killing individual liberty.

      Less, limited, reduced… non-voluntary government? According to whom? Less than what?

    3. “I’m a libertarian because I just couldn’t stand being a Republican asshole or a Democrat douche nozzle.”

      From the comments here in general, I get the impression that most ‘Libertarians’ prefer Republicans to Democrats. Right to left.

      1. You need to read more closely, then. You are reading comments from right-wing trolls and thinking they are libertarian when they are no more so than the left-wing trolls who post here.

        There is preciously little “libertarianism” to be found among republicans these days. I don’t think “free trade” is even a plank in their party platform anymore. And their commitment to what used to be called “fiscal responsibility” is insincere even for the extremely low bar of political discourse. At best, they wish only to trim spending for stuff they disagree with and augment it for government spending they like. They also completely don’t get (or don’t like the idea) of eliminating spending in order to put CONTROL back into the hands of individuals to make their own choices. Just like their counterparts, they are all about controlling other people.

        Same is true when looking for “libertarianism” among the democrats. The days of slogans like “Hell no, we won’t go!,” “Tune in, turn on and drop out,” and “Power to the people” ended before I was even born. They nominate candidates who absolutely LOVE them some foreign wars, who never read a constitutional right they didn’t want to curtail or eliminate for their perceived enemies, and who are okay with making (some) drugs legal only so they can tax the shit out of them (and then still spend 10x the revenue on some new stupid program that will advance their power over others).

        The authoritarian lot of them can fuck off.

      2. A decade ago you would have heard more complaints about the R’s because they were coming off the big government ways of GWB. The Republicans had completely abandoned the “small government” thing they espoused and deserved the ridicule for it. We’re now fresh off a president who campaigned on anti-war, pro-civil liberty, pro-transparency positions and broke every promise. The Dems deserve all the scorn they get for going along

        Maybe by 2020 we’ll have switched completely to ridiculing Trumpism, provided the left can accept how badly it messed up during the Obama years on the anti-war front especially. If they keep doubling down on what they’ve been doing though (which is far more likely), they’ll remain the absolute antithesis of libertarianism

  8. Doherty,
    You do realize that it is over right?

    We started our losing battle on 9/11 and we pretty much sealed the deal during the crash with the bailouts and since with the FED’s cart blanche debt creation/money printing. Obama nailed the coffin shut with his profligate spending and dumbing down of America with the ludicrous campaign of social insanity.

    Debt loads of this size and a population entirely brainwashed by Marxist thought in American public schools cannot be re-educated.

    Free market capitalism will become dominant one day but only as necessity after the whole corrupt machine falls apart with much misery and death.
    The real hope for civilization is that somehow history will recorded that it was the Marxists, progressive, leftist, SJW, race pimp, corrupt cronyists, central planning scum that brought down America.
    How many of you think the history books will reflect that since they still teach that FDR was the greatest thing that ever happened? He was a communist. Every science teacher teaches that the global warming theory is fact and that we have to submit without question or you are the devil. It is over.

    1. Yeesh. Yes debt loads and real-world events affect how people view the world and people’s perceptions of what will work and what won’t. What doesn’t work in response is running around like a panicked headless fearmongering chicken. It tends to turn your own credibility into – well – that of a headless chicken.

      The doctrine of regulation and legislation by “master minds,” in whose judgment and will all the people may gladly and quietly acquiesce, has been too glaringly apparent at Washington during these last ten years. Were it possible to find “master minds” so unselfish, so willing to decide unhesitatingly against their own personal interests or private prejudices, men almost god-like in their ability to hold the scales of Justice with an even hand, such a government might be to the interest of the country, but there are none such on our political horizon, and we cannot expect a complete reversal of all the teachings of history. That’s FDR in 1930.

      It is reasonable to wonder why he changed so much once he got power. Reasonable except of course for a panicked headless chicken.

      1. And here’s a campaign speech from 1932 re utilities – – when he is clearly playing that very role of ‘master mind’ with all the usual nonsense. Not a bit of Marxist foofoo in any of it. Just a guy addressing REAL concerns of actual people with his specific ideas of how to address those concerns. His ideas may be wrong – but his APPROACH is exactly how you win elections – and winning an election is the prereq to implementing good ideas as well as bad ones.

        Libertarians would be better off learning how to win elections than continuing to rail against those who can win elections.

  9. No human being has the right (authority), under any circumstance, to initiate force against any other human being, nor to delegate such initiation of force. Every human being has the right (authority) to defend themselves and others against such initiation of force.

    That was the original platform of the Libertarian Party. I was part of the beginning in California. That platform was tossed out, and all sorts of compromise crept in. I left in 1980 and never looked back.

    I’m not a “libertarian” of any sort. I am a self owner. I am responsible for my life and safety. I am responsible for the consequences of all my thoughts, words, actions and choices. That means that no other person has any legitimate authority to rule my life or criminalize anything that does not actually harm others. Negotiation and arbitration are essential when people disagree on what that means and what that covers.

    When “libertarians” return to the basic principle of integrity and non-aggression, I’ll be ready to support them – though never as a political entity. In the meantime, they have nothing whatsoever to offer peaceful and productive people.

    1. First they came for the compromisers….

      1. So, you are ok with a spoon full of poop in the vat of ice cream? How about half a spoon full? 1/4?

        1. So, you live in a fantasy world where it’s possible to have shit-free ice cream?

          1. Therefore we should vote for Christian National Socialism or Altruist Soviet Socialism? Which?
            You looters need to face the realization that 1928 done been here and gone, son.

            1. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t vote or do anything even remotely political. The false dilemma fallacy, I dismiss out of hand.

              Success in achieving politic goals has pretty much zero to do with ideological purity. And that’s why the LP is unlikely to evolve beyond a flea circus.

              1. We can hope for exactly that, Gasset… The demise of the Libertarian Party, along with all the rest of them.

                When some people are given power over other people (given the ability and incentive to put poop in the ice cream) tyranny is the inevitable result. Political goals are always paths to tyranny.

                It’s not a matter of “libertarian” ideological purity. It a matter of recognizing the law of non-aggression, like gravity, as basic fact. The only reason not to understand and work toward non-aggressive individual liberty is wanting to control the lives and property of others instead.

                Control of others, and the theft/force and lies/manipulation to get there are the actual goals of any non-voluntary government.

  10. I think E. O. Wilson’s comment about Marxism only working if people were ants, “Wonderful theory, wrong species.” applies to libertarianism too. Perhaps if mankind we evolved from a solitary species like tigers, libertarianism would work. But as it is, we’re evolved from a species with a deep seated need to boss around our social inferiors and a deep seated desire to be bossed around by our social superiors.

    While these instincts can be overcome through concerted effort, must people are lazy and are perfectly happy to just go along with them. Even most self-proclaimed libertarians are really just upset they’re not higher up in the hierarchy, not actually against the hierarchy per se.

  11. And thus the Libertarian Moment ™ dies not with a bang but with not even a mention.

  12. Trump, policy-wise a Buchananite populist in the Rick Santorum style

    Santorum-style? Rick Santorum had about as much charisma and personal appeal as curdled milk. He couldn’t work a room full of people to save his life. He wore sweater vests. In public. Even the people who cheerleaded for him did so by making extensive apologies for doing so beforehand. Santorum was a creepy religious fundy who made other pols feel uncomfortable with their own religion-lite pandering. Trump isn’t a man of god; he thinks HE’S god. They’re not even in the same psychological zip-code.

    And Buchanan? Matt Taibbi pointed out that Trump seemed to have stolen his policy-platform (and tone) from Dick Gephardt’s 1988 presidential run. Aside from some vague sense that ‘all populists appeal to certain similar things’, I don’t see it. The 2012 article makes the comparison seem even less apropos; unless you want to pretend that Trump remains sincerely attached to any non-interventionism after his chucking tomahawks around like Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans?

    that said, i’m not sure what to make of the rest of the article. I see the word “Weld” was not mentioned.

    1. He might be talking about the OTHER “Santorum” style.

  13. Libertarians are to the general advancement of human freedom what tenured college English professors are to the writing of great literature.

    Admittedly, we’re in a strange place. Trump is indistinguishable from a tin pot African dictator… although most African dictators are better speakers. Both major political parties are slavishly devoted to authoritarianism in modestly different flavors. Yet in the midst of this, society has become at least 50 shades more tolerant. Pot is going mainstream. Guns are here to stay. Despite the current xenophobia, intellectual vapor lock on campuses and general douchebaggery, the puritanical corncob in the ass of America seems somehow smaller than it once was.

    In the midst of this, the dogmatic Libertarians are ready to explain “force” or read from the Gospel of Rand, but really have very little to do with the process of getting freer. To riff on my opening statements, they want to talk authoritatively about erotic literature but honestly, they’re not doing any fucking. So… less talking, more fucking. Maybe that’s a political slogan that will catch on?

    1. Libertarians are to the general advancement of human freedom what tenured college English professors are to the writing of great literature.

      Damn son. That’s low.

  14. Brian is getting warmer, but the realization that ALL major changes in US legislation and jurisprudence result from spoiler votes cast by minor party electors. National Prohibition made light beer and watery wine a felony because the prohibition Party averaged 1.4% of the vote. A 9% vote gotten by looter populists in 1892 brought an income tax, discussion of which coincided with the Panic of 1893–which was judicially struck down to save the national economy. The GOP has been dominated by the Prohibition Party and its heirs and assigns (Tea and Consta2shun) since 1928. Our 4 million spoiler votes were decisive in depriving Republican prohibitionists of a popular vote victory. THAT is why they are squirming and whimpering. Mystical prohibitionism relies on the geriatric voters who elected Nixon, and that cohort is dying. Libertarian ascendancy is an actuarial fact–here and in dozens of civilized nations throughout the world. Coercive brutality has failed and freedom is the alternative left standing by the ordinary process of elimination. We are the survival of the fittest approach to governing.

  15. When ‘libertarianism’ has been whittled down to nothing more than free trade and open immigration, what is the point really? When so called libertarians shirk at defending free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association there is no point anymore. I’d rather vote Green Party at this point then Libertarian. At least the Greens have principles

    1. You left out the whole free markets and deregulation thing. Eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, property rights, takings. Not to mention the War on Drugs.

      These are kind of important things.

      1. And the other wars we wage across the globe. Might be one of the most important issues we face today

    2. Whittled down to nothing more than? If “free trade” includes domestic free trade, that’s gigantormous!

  16. Libertarians like Doherty have already retreated into mere Republicanism re the US INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX. Despite frequent emails, they have ignored the work of Pete Hendrickson whose understanding of the income tax as a tax on the exploitation of federal privilege for profit has resulted in thousands of full refunds of state and federal income tax, including payroll taxes, for those whose understand of the correct nature of the tax and the correct way to file for a refund that involves a few days study and no civil disobedience of any kind.
    Doherty and others in the libertarian conservative establishment cling to the establishment version of the history of the tax and believe in the States propaganda that the tax is on everything that comes in. This is why they lost NFIB v Sebelius, because they do not understand and refuse to understand the nature of income taxatation-a public office duty!
    see and

  17. BSD is dead!

  18. RE: Libertarianism Does Not Yet Rule America. Libertarians Know That. That’s Not a Reason for Them to Abandon Libertarianism.

    There was a time in US history that it can be said the libertarianism did rule America.
    Then the progressives came crawling out of their sewers in the late 19th century to “improve America for everyone’s own good.”
    That was the beginning of the end of libertarianism, and perhaps the American dream, as we know it today.

    1. I think it’s fair to say that the injustices of the 19th century were not because of libertarianism but because of a lack thereof.

      There wasn’t anything libertarian about slavery, women being disenfranchised, or workers having their rights routinely violated by employers who couldn’t hardly be held accountable in the court system.

      To remedy these unlibertarian problems, it seems like the statists were willing to try almost anything–except libertarianism.

      Some aspects of the 19th century were better–certainly in terms of the size and scope of government, but apart from that narrowed perspective, I don’t want to go back to the 19th century. Some of that shit was awful.

      1. To remedy these unlibertarian problems, it seems like the statists were willing to try almost anything–except libertarianism.

        So where were the libertarians then? If you are saying a generally libertarian society had some serious anti-libertarian injustices; then why is it that ‘statists’ (who apparently didn’t control much then – and who knows what UFO brought them) are the only people who solved the anti-libertarian injustices? Are libertarians capable of creating a societal framework but incapable of dealing with the details? Were libertarians off in their own corner defending property rights of slaveowners and asserting that the NAP made it impossible to do anything about slavery?

  19. The only way libertarians will ever take over america is by running as something else, lying through their teeth with promises of free shit for everyone, and then as soon as they are elected just do what they always intended to. The problem isn’t in spreading the libertarian message and making people aware that there are other choices. They know there are other choices besides democrats and republicans. You’d think libertarians of all people would understand this: People are generally rational and almost universally not stupid. For a multitude of reasons, they *want* want the major parties are selling.

    Libertarians are like betamax salesmen desperately trying to convince America that VHS is an inferior product. Maybe it is, in fact, an inferior product, but people don’t care. That’s what they want. In any democracy you’re going to run into the problem that 50+% of voters vote according to these priorities and these priorities alone:
    1. Fuck everyone else, they got theirs.
    2. Those people that they don’t like? The weird ones who talk funny and live far away? Fuck their day up please.
    3. My people
    4. Fiscal responsibility, freedoms, good governance, etc.

    As you can see, most people share libertarian values. The problem is that they are subordinate to every non-libertarian impulse.

  20. Libertarians won’t ever run America until they first can run as city councilors and county clerks, state senators
    and governors.

    1. +1

      The money poured in on GayJay this past year might have gotten us a few seats elsewhere. We’re not breaking 5% in a presidential election any time soon. Trump took command of the people in the GOP who were open to Ron and Rand Paul’s ideas so taking over the GOP is off the table. But incubating Libertarian (capital L and small l) politicians to groom them for the national stage could make waves in a way that running failed Republicans never could

  21. Silly to discuss it in those terms?all radical -isms are dead, indeed have never been alive, in America. As a general tendency, Americans, compared to the avg. person in the world, still lean noticeably more toward liberty than toward any other radical pole you can think of. Name any kind of radical-ism that’s caught on here, huh? Everything is hedged & hemmed in. Don’t write as if radical libertarianism is something special in terms of tough row to hoe.

  22. an outsider political movement not fully at home in either major party

    There is no political movement fully at home in either major party in the USA. Even as relatively polarized as both the parties’ grass roots & leadership are now, they have tendencies or clusterings in the polls, but nothing you could call a “movement” that’s at “home” in either one, let alone in both. When movements get going, they usu. become popular in both parties at once.

  23. I believe some libertarian ideas might eventually become law, except that the opposition from vested interests today is a problem. Would the professions be willing to give up their government protected monopolies that they now enjoy? Is repeal of our drug laws possible when so many benefit in one way or another from these laws? Could we repeal prescription laws against the opposition from the AMA? Could we repeal the law against the importation of medicine from outside the US against the opposition of the US medical drug industry? Realistically our government has been “bought” by those who benefit from having laws and regulations written by Congress in their favor. That’s where the problem is!

    1. But people who could benefit from edicts exploiting others have always been there. Yet we have not been perpetually in a state of total slavery each to all, nor all to each. Something must acc’t for the fact that any of us have anything of our own left at any given time. Which means there’s always also pressure in the opposite direction from the malign one you bring up.

      TPC (as it was called in The President’s Analyst was made to give up its monopoly. The taxi cartels are being made to give theirs up, even thought they’re resisting in many places in the USA & abroad. The various healing professions have been forced to accept more competition over time: MDs had to admit osteopaths, chiropractors were allowed to do their thing, nursing expanded to include nurse-midwives & nurse-practitioners, now there are physicians’ assistants. They all eventually yield ground. Look how much less of the work force in the USA is unionized than it once was. And the trend is far from limited to the USA, as we’ve seen infrastructure monopolies, often gov’t-owned, broken up all over the place.

  24. What advantage?for the libertarian as opposed for the Ozimekan?from pursuing a narrower vision of freedom and limited government is not clear from this essay. Nor is it clear exactly what ideas of the libertarian movement he is recommending jettisoning, or keeping. (While Ozimek isn’t rigorous on this point, he seems to be implying that somehow the existence of very libertarian people or arguments is harming the cause of slight libertarian improvement.

    You really don’t get it, do you? It’s not about jettisoning or keeping ideas. It’s about not seeming to be interested in some Platonic abstraction! It’s about not being seen as ideologs, because America is practically the rejection of ideology & ideologs. Smaller gov’t? What does that mean to most people? Lower taxes, sure. Less bother w things they want to do, like fly on airlines, of course. Not some vague slogan.

  25. Liberalism, not libertarianism, is the necessary precursor to lasting democracy. In the unconstrained capitalist dog-eat-dog competitive game that libertarians idealize, there’s nothing to stop big dogs from destroying the game board. Libertarians extol unfettered free speech too, capitalism as applied to propaganda, but consider competition between someone who will say and do anything for personal gain, and someone who serves both self-interest and social welfare. In such a contest between two-fisted self-interest with no pulled punches, and someone who ties one hand behind his back, fighting to maintain civility, honesty and realism so as not to destroy the game board of civil discourse, unfettered self-interest wins. We see it in the sensationalist populism that has already come to US government.

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