Society Is Richer and More Accepting, Thanks to Libertarian Ideas

And yet neither Democrats nor Republicans represent those principles.


Do I live in an alternate universe?

The media tell me my side is winning.

Salon claims, "We all live in Kochland, the Koch brothers' libertarian utopia."

Tucker Carlson says, "Our leadership class remains resolutely libertarian."

What? Who? Not President Joe Biden.

Biden already spent $1.9 trillion on COVID-19 "recovery" mostly unrelated to COVID. Now, he wants trillions more for an "infrastructure" bill, even though most of the spending would not go to infrastructure. He's eager to regulate more, too.

Maybe the pundits were talking about former President Donald Trump. He tried to deregulate—a little.

But Trump vilified trade and raised military spending, increasing our debt by trillions.

We libertarians want to reduce debt, and believe trade and immigration are good for America. Above all, we believe the best government governs least.

That's not what I hear from most Democrats and Republicans.

So, how can pundits from both left and right say libertarian ideas are winning?

"In a way, we are winning," answers the Cato Institute's David Boaz, author of The Libertarian Mind, in my latest video.

"Over the past couple of hundred years, we've moved from a world where very few people had rights and markets were not free—to a world mostly marked by religious freedom, personal freedom, freedom of speech, property rights markets, the rule of law."

For most of history, no country had those things. As a result, says Boaz, "There was practically no economic growth, no increase in human rights and justice."

Kings and tyrants ruled, enslaving people, stealing property, and waging wars that lasted decades.

Then, in 1700, "suddenly limited government and property rights and markets came into the world," Boaz points out.

The result was a sudden increase in prosperity. Americans now are told that "the poor get poorer," but it's not true. Americans are 30 times richer than we were 200 years ago. When America began, rich people were poorer than poor people are today.

"In Colonial America," says Boaz, "[if] you were traveling and you wanted a place to sleep, you'd go to an inn where everyone shared a bed."

Benjamin Franklin and John Adams shared a bed on one of their diplomatic missions. They fought whether or not the window should be open.

John Jay, America's first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, complained about "sleeping with strangers and picking up bedbugs and lice," says Boaz. "It's not like that anymore because of the increase in wealth."

Today, at motels all over America, middle-class and poor people have their own beds.

When markets are free and private property is protected, innovation happens in ways that allow ordinary people to live better. Over time, that innovation multiplies. It's why, today, most of us live better than kings once did.

Louis XIV had hundreds of servants who prepared him dinner. Today, my supermarket offers me a buffet Louis XIV couldn't imagine. Thanks to trade and property rights and markets, each of us lives as if we had more servants than kings.

We also live longer.

"President Calvin Coolidge's teenage son was playing tennis on the White House tennis court," says Boaz. "He got a blister on his foot and the blister got infected, and the health care available to the son of the president of the United States was not sufficient to keep him from dying."

Few of us notice such steady progress.

The media give us bad news. "They tell us about cancer clusters and coups in Myanmar," says Boaz. As a result: "We forget the big picture. It's important to remember the big picture so that we don't lose it."

The big picture also includes progress in fairness and decency.

"We've moved from 'some people have privileges that others don't' to 'human rights belong to women and Black people and gay people,'" Boaz reminds us.

"The direction of history has been in the direction of markets, personal freedom, human rights, democratic governance, and that's what libertarians advocate."


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  1. I agree with all of this. However the fact is, most people today see far more opportunity for profit and power under socialism (medicare for all, UBI, GND, gun control, minimum wage, etc) than with capitalism (curing cancer, hawking a new flavor of dog food on Shark Tank). And calling them lazy, liars or losers won’t change their mind. It will only make them double down.

    So what’s the solution? The rich people should fund paradise so people can live there and agitate against the socialist agenda. This will allow the robots to take over peacefully (and reduce global warming).

    1. So, live in a place funded by an act of socialism and then agitate against socialism?

      1. Why so eager to stake a claim on the wrong side of history?

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    2. “…However the fact is, most people today see far more opportunity for profit and power under socialism (medicare for all, UBI, GND, gun control, minimum wage, etc) than with capitalism (curing cancer, hawking a new flavor of dog food on Shark Tank)…

      Assertions =/= facts or arguments.

  2. How about we balance each other out based on peoples status

  3. The key to what John Stossel is describing is the rise of the middle class. The middle class brought freedom in the form of democracy. Merchant and tradesmen demanded a say in their government. Demanded freedoms for themselves and in doing so for others. The strength of democracy and its freedoms is not determined by the wealth and power of its richest citizens, but by the size and economic strength of its middle class.

    The popularity of spending and regulation today, most polling over 50%, is the power of the middle class attempting to take back what it feels was lost in attempts to shift power to the wealthiest.

    1. Correlation =/= causation. While it’s plausible that the rise of the merchantilism created the drive for freedoms and democracy, it is equally plausible that the increased freedoms allowed merchantilism to thrive.

      More relevant, though, it was not the rise of the middle class, it was the rise of the merchant class – subtle but important distinction.

      1. Not only that, but the pushback today does not come from the lower class or the middle class. It comes from the children of the wealthy. The privileged who go to elite schools. These are the people you see painting their heads purple and angrily shouting on the street about injustice and privilege.

        The kid who worked summer jobs all through high school and worked his way through college at one of the directional state schools is not complaining about white privilege. He is not worried about white supremacists.

        That sort of thinking is reserved for people who started life on third base and feel like they hit a triple. Middle class and working class people feel like Adam Carolla. He has a great bit about his white privilege, living in an unheated garage and working as the gopher on construction sites picking up garbage and carrying stuff for people. He talks about his white privilege of applying for a job at the fire department and waiting years to be called to take the exam. As he stood in line for the exam he talked to a young lady next to him and asked her how long It took her to get called. She said she applied last week.

        People with that lived experience are not running around complaining about how privileged they are and how horrible it is that underprivileged victims like LeBron James have to live with the terror that the police are going to break through their private security and attack them in their quarter million dollar car.

      2. I disagree about the merchant class. It was more than just the merchants. Tradesmen and merchants made up the middle class. These were people who were not tied to the land and servitude. They could supply services and products and in return demand not just money but freedoms.

    2. You’ve got it backwards. Property rights and markets allowed for the rise of the middle class. Show me a place without one and I’ll show you a place without the other.

      1. I disagree slightly. It was not just property, but skills. The tradesman could provide skills in return for payment. Initially the tradesman might not even have property and traveled from place to place as needed.

      2. Actually LIMITS on property is what allowed for the emergence of a middle class. Specifically the the feudal limits on land property rights combined with the early/mid industrialization era where finance/capital sought to undermine rentiership rather than encourage rentiership. That changed quite a bit when finance capital moved to supporting/advocating rentiership and succeeded in getting govt to tilt to that too.

        The middle class now is a bit bogus because the definition of middle class is based on consumption but consumption is based significantly on debt that is either subsidized or won’t be repaid.

        1. “Specifically the the feudal limits on land property rights…”

          As in individuals having property rights for a change?

          1. You mean like the Johnstown Flood?

            Or do you mean the inability to understand Jefferson’s the Earth belongs in usufruct to the living?

            1. One often overlooked thing about government protecting property rights is that a merchant can send goods to market without having to babysit his stuff. I’m not going to argue with you though because you’ll just cherry pick exceptions and say they negate the entire idea.

              1. I don’t understand why people now are incapable of seeing land as its own thing – not an ‘exception’ to something else. Completely incapable as if that is an idea dropped on Earth by Martians.

                1. “…as if that is an idea dropped on Earth by Martians.”

                  As are most of your claims

    3. First, polls are not objective, unregulated. Secondly, more govt. by consensus is not “power of the middle class” but the opposite. Asking for govt. spending/regulation is asking for taxation (institutionalized theft) and govt. dictates backed by violence, NOT reason, rights, choice.
      The question is not who should get political power, but: Should coercive power exist? When the superstitions of faith/force are rejected, then humanity can be free to innovate in self governing.

  4. Libertarians just sit on the fence and throw poo these days.

    1. If you want pro libritarian articles go to the mises institute

  5. Ideas have consequences. Which ideas can be “sold” to the people?
    Stossel’s essay shows that cognitive dissonance is alive and well, and perhaps always was.

  6. The biggest failure of libertarianism has been the total inability or unwillingness to properly define themselves. They can’t do it among themselves so what snowball’s chance in hell do they have of doing it to the country as a whole? People on the left and the right can just point to anything they don’t like and go “Look! It’s libertarianism!” and it doesn’t matter what it is or how antithetical it is to every libertarian candidate or whether libertarians were involved in it or not (as a rule, they weren’t, because they aren’t in power anywhere). The accusation sticks and you keep having these bizarre conversations with friends who immediately conjure up “Well, liberterianism is bad because they like ” any time you try to talk to them about it.

    1. Because everyone is different. We are not a Collective Entity or Being. We are ALL individuals, with our own thoughts and ideas and feelings. “They” try to put everyone in a Group and package people together as if all “those people” are the same. As if Thomas Jefferson = Richard Nixon or Benjamin Franklin = Timothy McVeigh. F’em and their package dealing BS and we need to fight this Collective GroupThink nonsense.

  7. Politicians must continue to divide in order to maintain power. They rile up their base with boogeymen of all types. It’s all in the interest of more power. Vote for me and I’ll go after _____, and right all of your wrongs. For the Democrats it’s the rich. For the Republicans it’s foreigners. Neither of these boogeymen are as powerful as the politicians who demonize them.

    This type of optimism from Stossel and Boaz is refreshing, but honestly, it won’t win you votes.

    1. Charles Barkley said this recently: “I think most white people and black people are great people. I really believe that in my heart, but I think our system is set up where our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power. They divide and conquer. I truly believe in my heart most white people and black people are awesome people, but we’re so stupid following our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, and their only job is, ‘Hey, let’s make these people not like each other. We don’t live in their neighborhoods, we all got money, let’s make the whites and blacks not like each other, let’s make rich people and poor people not like each other, let’s scramble the middle class.’ I truly believe that in my heart.”

      1. Obligatory: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” — H. L. Mencken

        1. Great quote by Mencken. And now the media plays the role. 24 hr partisan news is constantly harping on some hobgoblin out there, whether it’s the rich or the poor immigrant, the mask skeptics or the social media companies… playing on the grievances of their base audience.

          Live and let live just isn’t human nature, but it’s really the bedrock of libertarianism. Even young children must always be aggrieved by something. “The 3rd graders got to have a party today! That’s not fair!” Most children would rather nobody gets a party than feel that they were left out. It doesn’t seem to be learned behavior to me.

      2. He only truly believes that in his hear because it is true, which is the worst reason to believe something.

      3. It’s hard to like democrats when their entire party platform is essentially to turn the US into a Soviet style dictatorship and destroy the bill of rights. There is no equivalent platform from the republicans. So all this ‘both sides’ stuff is absurd.

  8. This video was great! You really set me up with the clickbait headline and then the introduction of claims that all of our leaders are libertarian.

    I kind of needed that pick me up. I really enjoyed the bit about the king having so many choices for his meals and that being a tiny fraction of what the average American has for every meal every day here.

    Still, living in America today it is hard to feel like the trendline isn’t headed in the opposite direction at the moment.

  9. “Do I live in an alternate universe?”

    Yes. Next question?

    1. ” . . .to a world mostly marked by religious freedom, personal freedom, freedom of speech, property rights markets, the rule of law.”
      Unless you are a religious school that doesn’t want to hire an atheist.
      Unless you want to say masks are not effective.
      Unless you want to fly without a strip search.
      Unless you want to take your firearm to a gun range for practice.
      Unless you want to build a house sized to your needs, not the code.
      Unless you want to keep cops from taking your stuff without so much as an arrest.
      Unless you want to keep your job without taking an experimental vaccine.
      Unless you think men are men and women are women.
      Unless you think looking at a person’s skin color to determine their place in society is racist.

      1. Unless you want to drive as fast as you want and not how fast others want you to drive.
        Unless you want to make decision on when to have a child, not the state.
        Unless you want your child to be safe should he be stopped by the police.
        Unless you want to choice the mind altering drug you use and not the state approved one.

        We all give up things to live in our societies. Some just assume they give up more.

        1. “Unless you want to drive as fast as you want and not how fast others want you to drive.”

          Good point as to why we should privatize roads. So different roads can have different speed limits and that will be a criteria for choosing which roads you drive/do business with based on your own personal time efficiency/safety tradeoff. FYI, your inner commie is showing when you said “how fast others want you to drive” as opposed to something like “safe speed”

          “Unless you want to make decision on when to have a child, not the state.”

          Are there forced abortions or sterilizations in the US these days? Did I miss something?

          “Unless you want your child to be safe should he be stopped by the police.”

          Yeah, god forbid you teach your kids to not commit violent/property crimes and in the highly unlikely case of an unjustified arrest not to resist or pull out a weapon.

          “Unless you want to choice the mind altering drug you use and not the state approved one.”

          Fair enough. That’s 1 for 4 on your points.

          1. Many states are looking to curtain reproductive rights and force women to have babies they would choose not to have. Many black parents teach there kids to be very careful around police. We are seeing that that in itself may not be enough to stop them from being shot. The road speed was a throw in so I say 3 for 4.

            1. “curtain reproductive rights”: That’s he right to abortion, not reproductive rights. Everyone has the right to reproduce. You are talking about the right for irresponsible breeders to terminate their unwanted pregnancy. You are complaining that certain places have a different opinion on when life begins and thus a different opinion on whether abortion is murder or not and should be outlawed in some are all circumstances.
              If you don’t wanna have a kid, abstain or use protection. If you do, have unprotected sex at the right time of the month. Nobody is proposing stopping anybody’s right to either of those. Be more specific next time. And before you accuse me, I’m not anti abortion.

              Maybe those black parents should spend their time teaching those kids to not commit violent crimes in the first place instead (according to objective statistics on black violent crime this is sorely needed). And again, teach then to not resist arrest or pull out a weapon (as was the case in most of the BLM publicized police deadly force cases of the last year). Or for black fathers to actually stick around (again, objective stats clearly show a strong correlation of fatherless homes and violent crime and an extremely high proportion of single mother families in black communities).
              How many cases are you aware of a black kid killed by police that didn’t just commit a crime and didn’t resist arrest? Since I know the answer, maybe my solution of blacks having intact families, committing less violent crimes and not resisting arrest would actually drastically lower the incidences of cops using deadly force against blacks. FYI, these are all CHOICES in a disturbingly large portion of the black community in the USA before you tie this to systematic racism or any other piece of blame deflecting garbage.

  10. I love Stossel overall but I hate these “thing are actually improving” videos he puts out every once in a while because they look at the wrong contexts for comparison. Yes, in the scale of centuries, things are getting objectively better. Yes, in the world as a whole, things are getting objectively better. However, since the turn of the millennium, thing in the USA are getting objectively worse. The main ways things are getting better in the US is in terms of consumer electronics gadgets and cheap unrobust plastic crap from China, almost all of which is mostly a way to kill time, provide petty conveniences, not really improve life in a meaningful way or even save people considerable time or improve their productivity.
    Economically, we aren’t richer than say the 90s or 80s. Housing, healthcare, education, etc… has increased in price faster than salaries. Same is true of eating out, most recreational activities, etc… Commodities are shooting through the roof right now and I can only hope (but am not convinced) that it’s temporary. True inflation (not CPI) has been higher than savings account interest rates for a decade now meaning you’re either forced to gamble/invest in an increasingly unstable and increasingly government controlled economy or watch your life savings wither away. The amount of debt the USA has on every level from federal, state, local, corporate, personal is staggering and unsustainable and will eventually bite us all in the ass, the only questions are when, how hard and in what form. Considering the regulatory and liability environment of today, it’s a bad time in the US to start a business.
    More accepting? In the last 2 decades tolerance has morphed into “if you’re not 100% with us or if you have a different opinion you’re a racist, sexist, homophobe and we will destroy you”. For those who don’t remember, tolerance means not interjecting and minding your own business because what someone else does or how they live doesn’t affect you, even if you don’t necessary like it. God help you today if you point out that blacks aren’t killed disproportionately by cops per capita relative to whites because they are black, but because blacks commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime per capita. Or if you tell a gay couple to get their wedding cake from the baker across the street as opposed to supporting them suing a religious baker who is exercising their right to be selective about who they do business with. Or pointing out that nothing has actually happened in relation to global warming and all the doomsday scenarios come from unproven computer models. Or that COVID isn’t very dangerous to all but the already very old and/or very sick.
    Especially after the last year of COVID inspired martial law (which is still somewhat ongoing, depending on location) I don’t see how anyone can say we are freer. The government has it’s dirty hands regulating absolutely everything and property rights violations by the government are getting increasingly extreme (think landlords and eviction moratoriums). Public sentiment towards free speech, the right to self defense, due process, etc… is getting frighteningly totalitarian and is increasingly codified into law.
    Sorry Stossel, but in the context of the US in the last 20 years or so (which is your primary audience), things are not getting better.

    1. This. I am no Republican but the Commiecrats have become alarming, especially with their corona fascism. As for the economy, there is an organization that ranks countries by economic freedom, and the USA has been drifting down to the point where it is no longer in the top 10.

  11. “Over the past couple of hundred years, we’ve moved from a world where very few people had rights and markets were not free—to a world mostly marked by religious freedom, personal freedom, freedom of speech, property rights markets, the rule of law.”

    And given that not a single one of those ideas is original to the libertarians, calling them “libertarian ideas” is more than a bit of a stretch. Never have I seen a bunch more adept at getting in front of parades that have already left without them.

    1. Obviously, the ideas do not have to sport the label “libertarian” to be libertarian. It’s certainly better than the Ancien Régime not wanting the parde at all or Neo-Reactionaries and Looney Lefties rerouting the parade over a cliff.

    2. “And given that not a single one of those ideas is original to the libertarians, calling them “libertarian ideas” is more than a bit of a stretch.”

      Since no other political organizations actually supports them, we certainly have a claim to them.
      And,of course as someone unacquainted the libertarianism, you ignore the NAP.

  12. Calvin Coolidge’s son would have survived today because of billions the government spends each year on medical research that gave us antibiotics. And the middle class? They owe their existence to big government! The GI Bill help fuel the postwar economic boom, as did the interstate highway system. Of course, progs today are against all of those things, but hey, at least pick some better examples that they can’t tear down so easily?

    1. But couldn’t all of those things i.e. antibiotics, middle classes, charities and grants for Veterans, roads connected across State lines, etc. exist without big government?

  13. Stossel’s videos are always insightful and uplifting. However, they do need tempering with the acknowledgement that freedom and progress are not inevitable and that “eternal vigilance” and fighting like Hell are the price.

    John Sutherand’s cartoons on YouTube provides that balance, especially “Make Mine Freedom.” Sutherland’s cartoons are most instructive and entertaining to freedom-lovers and Enlightenmenteers of all ages.

    (Alas, you’ll have to look them up off-site. I’ve found for some reason, the Hit & Run Forums evidently moderates the posting of videos.)

      1. Looks like it works

        1. For some reason, it’s hit or miss for me. Sometimes they moderate, sometimes not. Perhaps I’m not using the right code.

          1. And it’s not like I’m posting porn or violence either. Strange are the ways of Hit & Run.

  14. The statists are playing the long, long, long game, e.g., centuries. We are in the 4th century (1700’s-2100’s) of capitalism (economic freedom) versus tyranny (elite coercion in the name of health & safety).
    Statists focused one tactic on early brainwashing of children, with great success, but not complete success. They are fine-tuning their indoctrination by taking children earlier than the age of 5. People will fall for the “free child care” and subject the young to horrible cognitive crippling.

  15. Thanks to Libertarianism but also thanks to Liberalism.
    Dont forget that if conservatives had things their way that black people would still be segregated. Women would not be able to vote. Interracial marriage would be outlawed. Gay people would not be able to marry. So on and so forth.
    rev check

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