"Libertarianism and Its Limits": Podcast

Nick Gillespie is interviewed by Spiked's Brendan O'Neill about the Enlightenment, free speech, and crony capitalism.


"If we believe in things like the Enlightenment and what the Enlightenment gives us—that's individualism, that's autonomy, political representation, a certain amount of freedom—it all depends on free speech and arguing stuff out. Otherwise, we're going to get shitty arguments, shitty versions of technology, shitty innovation."

I was recently interviewed by Reason contributor Brendan O'Neill, whose main hustle is being the editor of the great U.K.-based website Spiked. We talked about a whole lot of topics, but kept coming back to the central role that free expression plays in a truly free society—and how all sorts of governments, corporations, and social movements are trying to shut down speech for all sorts of reasons. O'Neill is a great interviewer and he pushed me to talk about the places where I think traditional libertarian arguments aren't getting the job done. Take a listen by clicking below or by going here.

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  1. Nick Gillespie is an admitted Anarchist, so him being a Libertarian is way off.

    1. He is? I thought that was where he and KMW always disagree.

      1. Well, you have to use the LC1789 super-secret decoder ring definition of “anarchist”.

      2. KMW and Nick argued over minarchism and anarchism as if they are fundamentally different.

        1. KM-W is the anarchist. Nick is the statist.

          1. My impression is that Nick wants to get to Anarchy-Land via total meltdown of an authoritarian state.

            Anarchists dont seem to want to build their own Anarchy-Land, so they want a country to implode and make that Anarchy-Land.

            The USA is one of the freest nations on Earth that allows Anarchists to operate to undermine our Constitutional Democratic Republic, so we have been chosen.

            If the Anarchists would just pool their leather jackets and buy land in Africa or South America to start Anarchy-Land, we could finally be free of them.

        2. They are fundamentally different. Anarchism is the absence of all government, minarchism is government only for the courts, law enforcement, and national defense. There is a huge fundamental difference.

          1. Funny. There is no definition of Minarchism. So it must not exist except in the imaginations of Anarchists.

            1. Hm?


              “Minarchism refers to a political ideology that a government should be as small as possible. In monarchism the state’s only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression. According to monarchists, the existence of the state is a necessary evil.”

              1. Minarchism refers to a political ideology that a government should be as small as possible. In monarchism the state’s only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression. According to monarchists, the existence of the state is a necessary evil.

                What kind of definition is this? It certainly is not a “legal definition”.

                1. Well it is a definition, legal or not. You claimed there were none, there certainly are. Here’s another one from oxford dictionary.


                  Minimal government; specifically a (hypothetical) form of government that does not interfere with individual rights and civil liberties, and that has itself no right to levy taxes upon legitimately acquired property.”

                  1. an?ar?chism
                    noun: anarchism
                    belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.

                    See…this is a definition. You did cite Minarchy and that does have a recognized definition but Minarchism does not.

                    Not that every word needs to be in Websters to be universally understood but I cannot get people who support ‘minarchism’ to explain what it is, define it, and how different it is from Libertarianism.

                    1. Surely minarchy and minarchism are related, no? Just like anarchy and anarchism, one is a state, the other is a philosophy associated with that staye, it’s not that difficult.

                      If you view philosophies on a basic of levels of government intervention, you have Communism, Fascism/Socialism, then less controlling would be Progressivism (slightly anyways), then conservatism, then classical liberalism, then libertarianism, then minarchism, and at the other extreme, anarchism. Minarchism would be a philosophy that believes in less government intervention than libertarianism, but more than anarchism. Look up the idea of a “night watchman state”. From Wikipedia:

                      “In libertarian political philosophy, a night-watchman state is a model of a state whose only functions are to provide its citizens with the military, the police and courts, thus protecting them from aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud and enforcing property laws.”

                      That’s what I think of as minarchism.

  2. Since I generally don’t listen to podcasts, here’s something a bit OT –

    Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world

    Neoliberalism is so evil, it even got Trump elected even though, as the author graciously acknowledges, Trump isn’t a neoliberal.

  3. http://www.politico.com/story/…..er-1189065

    “Sen. Paul had a friendly discussion with the vice president, that if we do go down this path it will damage our ability to be considered the party of rule of law,” said a Paul spokesman.

    Oh good Lord. So Rand Paul doesn’t like Trump’s bullshit national emergency crap not because he thinks it’s wrong, not because he thinks it’s an abuse of executive power, not because it’s an end-run around Congress, but because it makes Team Red look bad!

    I’m getting a little tired of his antics. Stand up and show a backbone *when it actually matters*, Rand.

    1. Little harsh there, Jeff. People sometimes talk like to avoid being harsh, putting the other guy on the defensive… diplomatic is the word I think.
      If the senator had said “you can’t do that! That’s illegal!”, how do you think President Trump would react?
      “Can too! Obama did this shit all the time!”
      Where as “if we do this, we lose an advantage” might get through?

      1. Exactly. If you can frame your desires in terms the other party will understand, and potentially accept, that seems a hell of a lot more productive than maximizing friction and thwarting cooperation. That’s supposed to be the foundation of republican democracy.

      2. If this was the first time, then sure.
        But Rand has been jerking our chains for a little while now.
        He is good at making a big fuss about “standing on principle” when it comes to votes that don’t matter.
        But when it comes to actually being the swing vote, he will reliably side with Team Red.
        For once I would like to see him say “principles are more important than image” on some issue where his principled stand could actually make a difference.

        1. He may be better than most but he’s still a polititian; there’s no question.

        2. You are a left wing Democrat.

          1. Weak, man. Really weak.

            1. Notice, no denial from Chemjeff.

            2. Notice, no denial from Chemjeff.

  4. Libertarianism’s limits?

    Too many people are pussies.

  5. I’m gonna spend an hour listening to Nick?


  6. Libertarianism is the belief that people should be free to make choices for themselves, and its limits are defined by things that violate people’s right to make choices for themselves.

    I suppose there is an argument to make that unlibertarian things should be tolerated within the purview of a democracy. A war of aggression, a stupid immigration policy, a heavy tax, a socialist treaty . . . these things should be tolerated within the appropriate purview of democracy–even as they should be denounced by libertarians. Another way of saying the same thing, libertarianism is limited within the proper purview of democracy by our inability to persuade our fellow Americans to want and adopt libertarian policies.

    1. People are always free to make choices for themselves. Libertarianism’s limitation is that the choices on offer are not all that attractive.

      1. Actually, violating someone’s rights is one definition of people not being free to make choices for themselves. Saying that people are always free to make choices for themselves is like saying that no one’s rights are ever violated. After all, rights are the obligation to respect other people’s freedom to make choices for themselves.

        1. Isn’t what you’re saying just a variation of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you?’

          There nothing particularly libertarian about the sentiment, it’s the ethical cornerstone of the world’s most popular religions.

          1. Yeah, the Golden Rule is a lot like the NAP, isn’t it? And there are plenty of libertarians who will tell you that the NAP is what libertarianism is all about.

            I suppose we can make it more complicated.

            We can point out that market forces are people making choices–and people should be free to make whatever choices they want so long as they don’t violate anyone’s rights. In some ways that makes things more complicated, but looked at another way, it’s saying the same thing–people should be free to make choices for themselves and that’s why we believe in free market capitalism. We could point out that property rights are simply the right to make choices about who gets to use our property, when our property is used, how it’s used, etc., and that’s why we believe in free market capitalism, too. But it’s still saying the same thing–that people should be free to make choices for themselves.

            1. Another way to make it more complicated is to say that if government has any legitimate purpose at all, it can only be to protect our right to make choices for ourselves. Rape, theft, etc. are excellent examples of people violating our right to make choices for ourselves. That’s why we should have police to protect our rights from criminals and courts to protect our rights from the police. Guess what? We’re still talking about the same thing. We could say that another legitimate purpose of government is to protect our rights from foreign threats, which is why we have a military–but guess what? We’re still saying the same thing, that people should be free to make choices for themselves.

              Because all of this stuff can be reduced to the observation that people should be free to make choices for themselves, of course, is not excellent evidence that the observation isn’t the central definition of libertarianism. Suffice it to say, the idea that people should be free to make choices for themselves appears to be the substantive difference between libertarians and non-libertarians. And isn’t that what we’re talking about–regardless of whether world religions offer some version of that principle?

          2. Most religions dont have a tiny and limited government to protect personal and property rights from others.

            Libertarianism in a nutshell.

    2. Libertarianism is the belief that people should be free to make choices for themselves*

      *but only if the collective agrees with me

      1. That’s in your head.

        1. Not really Ken. That is your view on immigration. You want freedom, but only if the collective first agrees.

          1. I believe that democracy has its proper purview, and that inflicting an unpopular immigration policy on the American people over their objections and against their will is inconsistent with freedom. That observation extends to other areas. Declaring war, for instance, over the objections and against the will of the American people is also inconsistent with freedom. If you can’t understand that, it isn’t because this principle hasn’t been explained to you before or because this isn’t outlined and codified in the Constitution for the same reasons I’ve stated here.

            If you can’t understand that democracy has a proper place and what it is after it’s been rationally explained to you a hundred times, and your only response is to point non-contradictory contradictions, then I suspect the problem isn’t with the argument that immigration policy is within the proper purview of democracy. The problem is with what’s going on in your head.

  7. I don’t do podcast so hopefully a transcript gets added.

    1. Anything else you want Nick to do for you?

      Wash your car? Mow your lawn? Pick up your dry cleaning?

      1. Wash my car or mow my lawn? Nahh, it’s still winter here, there’d be no point.

        Actually I’d like Nick to deliver his dry cleaning to me. I could use a nice leather jacket.

        1. Are they taking requests?


    2. I believe this one has someone using the n-word so you better listen.

      1. Nicetosocialists

  8. I had this cool idea for a libertarian mascot, but it was so incredibly offensive I decided not to use it.

    1. As Andrew Heaton taught us, the libertarian mascot is a porcupine fucking a pile of money.

      1. Fiat currency being libertarian AF, of course.

        1. PS – how might a porcupine fuck a crypto currency?

  9. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    >>>>>>>>>> http://www.GeoSalary.com

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