Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Why You Are Not a Conservative

Libertarians sit nowhere on the left-right map.

I get this all the time: "Oh Deirdre, you're such a conservative." My friends seem to think politics operates exclusively on a left-right spectrum. They therefore suspect me and other self-described "libertarians" of being sneaky versions of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

In truth, libertarians sit nowhere on the left-right map, which merely captures a dispute about how to use the government's monopoly of violence. The right wants to use violence to support 800 U.S. bases abroad. The left wants to use it to boss poor people around. Libertarians want neither.

What is the difference between libertarians and conservatives? It is our unique belief in liberty and its spontaneous ordering, in the way that language or art or science is ordered. We see a world ordered by people having a go within a loose framework of honest rewards. Conservatives (and socialists and most people in the middle) believe in top-down order, as in a loving or authoritarian household.

You book-reading types know that I'm getting "spontaneous order" from Friedrich Hayek and borrowing my title here from his essay "Why I Am Not a Conservative," reprinted at the end of The Constitution of Liberty (1960). Hayek argues that both conservatives and socialists believe, along with most lawyers and soldiers and bureaucrats, that "order [is] the result of the continuous attention of authority." The extravagant modern growth of law as legislation embodies such a belief, to be contrasted with the older tradition of law as the discovered customs of our community. Problem? Make a law, and then go on holiday.

All points on the conventional spectrum, Hayek continued, "lack the faith in the spontaneous forces of adjustment." That's why they think they need to extend the government's monopoly of violence: to compel the barbarians and blockheads to get organized. "The [real] liberal," by contrast, "accept[s] changes without apprehension, even though he does not know how the necessary adaptations will be brought about."

No one in 1970 anticipated the internet. No one in 1900 anticipated that autos could safely whiz past each other on two-lane roads at a combined speed of 120 miles per hour. Almost no one in 1800 anticipated that liberalism was about to produce a 3,000 percent enrichment of the West. And almost no one in 1700 anticipated liberalism.

The conservative admires evolution up to a couple of decades before the present, but unlike libertarians he is fearful and angry about any recent or, God help us, future evolution. Adoption of children by gay couples, say. A social democrat, on the other hand, does not admire many of the evolutions up to the present, and unlike libertarians she is quite sure she can lay down a better future by compelling you to give up your stuff and your liberty—for your own welfare, of course. Industrial policy, say.

The true liberal, by contrast, admires some old evolutions—English common law, for instance, though not its enslaving doctrine of femme couverte—and looks with a cheery confidence to a future of unforced evolution from below, not statism from above.

The evolutions of the past two centuries have been splendid for poor people, raising real incomes by a factor of 30. What Adam Smith called in 1776 "the liberal plan of [social] equality, [economic] liberty, and [legal] justice" inspired ordinary people to have a go. Contrary to the beliefs of our conservative or socialist friends, the government was mainly, in the story of liberty and its material fruits, an obstacle: enforcing slavery and Jim Crow, imposing regulation and planning, marshalling armies to clash by night.

Nice consequences aside, liberalism is an ethical conviction. A liberal believes that as much as possible, no one should push others around, standing over them with a gun or a fist to force them to do his will. The liberal abhors hierarchy of men over women, masters over slaves, politicians over citizens. The liberal philosopher David Schmidtz argues that above all, each person should have the right to say no. "I would prefer not to," said Bartleby the scrivener in Melville's tale in 1853. As a free man, he could say that, whether or not it was good for him. He was an adult, and as an adult he was owed respect for his preferences—if not a paying job.

Notice that I have been slipping in the word liberal to describe what we believe. I want to take back the older l word and quietly retire the harsh history of libertarian. Plain liberalism is the great movement since the 18th century that has freed us to prosper in body and spirit. It was distorted into slow socialism by the New Liberals in the U.K. and the Progressives in the U.S., and into fast socialism, nationalism, and national socialism eastward.

Liberalism promises a "negative liberty" to be left alone—not a so-called "positive liberty" to be benefitted by a tax or protection extracted by governmental violence from other people. It is ethical, and in the modern world of toppled hierarchies it is viewed as quite ordinary good behavior. Tom Palmer of the Atlas Network has it right: "Chances are almost 100 percent that you act like a libertarian.…You don't hit other people when their behavior displeases you. You don't take their stuff.…Congratulations. You've internalized the basic principles of libertarianism," a.k.a. liberalism.

To understand what libertarians believe, we must consult two alternative formulations of the Golden Rule. The late first-century BCE Jewish sage Hillel of Babylon put it negatively: "Do not do unto others what you would not want done unto yourself." It's masculine, guy-liberalism, a gospel of justice, roughly equivalent to the non-aggression axiom as articulated by liberals from the Cato Institute's David Boaz to the Mises Institute's Walter Block.

But the early first-century C.E. Jewish sage Jesus of Nazareth put it positively: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It's gal-liberalism, a gospel of love, placing on us an ethical responsibility to do more than pass by on the other side. We are enjoined to be good Samaritans—to be nice.

The world needs both. Each corrects the excesses of the other. The latter tempers an inhumane selfishness. The former reins in a busybody. (What we do not need is the new GOP's version: "Do unto others before they do unto you.")

In a word, be a liberal.

Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson

Deirdre McCloskey is emerita professor of economics, history, English, and communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author most recently of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World

Media Contact Reprint Requests

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.

  • David Nolan||

    Good description of libertarian. Will likely enrage the Authoritarian Right who dominate these comments. amd shout down any and all differing views.

    But what you describe is called a classical liberal, to avoid the confusion you've wrought. That confusion violates your own point that libertarians are neither left nor right.

    The biggest problem we face is that most libertarians spend all their time talking about ... libertarianism, and never about governing. This is one major reason that over 60% of Americans would SELF-define with the libertarian values of fiscally conservative and socially liberal -- which simply means no government abuse of EITHER fiscal or personal issues. Anyhow, 91% of those libertarians reject the libertarian label, according to the Cato survey described by David Boaz, conducted by a top independent pollster. Libertarian values reject libertarian ideology -- which is now more of a cult,

    So let's confuse things even more, and keep ignoring our own majority.
    Stay safe in that Ivory Tower.

  • Jerryskids||

    The biggest problem we face is that most libertarians spend all their time talking about ... libertarianism, and never about governing.

    In the same way pacifists spend all their time talking about pacifism rather than military strategy and tactics.

  • wearingit||

    That analogy might make sense if you were talking anarchists, not libertarians.

  • sarcasmic||

    True libertarians understand that the NAP is for pussies. MAGA!

  • LarryA||

    If you believe government can Make America Great Again, you're a Conservative.
    If you believe government can Make America Great For The First Time, you're a Progressive.
    Libertarians believe America can Become Great Again after government gets the heck out of the way.

  • Mcgoo95||

    ^this

  • Hank Phillips||

    WILL ROGERS: Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    This whole idea of America returning to some glorious past greatness is dumb. Things have never been better, especially if you are not a white hetero male. Things could be so much more better, if we cut down on politics and the role of coercive government in our lives.

  • vek||

    I agree, and disagree. We have more doodads. Which is sweet!

    But we have a LOT less freedom. So if you value freedom more than trinkets, we've definitely had far better times in the past. I personally would take freedom over my smart phone.

    THAT SAID, I would obviously prefer to have my freedom AND a smart phone.

  • ThomasD||

    " Things have never been better, especially if you are not a white hetero male."

    How nice of you to decide what is 'better' for people who are not you.

    Even more impressive that you do so based upon collectivist notions of race and sex.

    You clearly do not understand libertarianism. but your proggspeak is spot on.

  • Lester224||

    When have things been better than now? The 1950s? The 1960s? What should we go back to? Yes there were days when there were fewer taxes and fewer regulations. Those days unfortunately also coincide with terrible social regulation by governments. There are also a couple of regulations which benefit the commons. Say, some of the OSHA stuff and some of the environmental stuff like don't dump burning chemicals in rivers.

  • Fancylad||

    Things have never been better, especially if you are not a white hetero male.
    YOU'RE A FUCKING WHITE MALE

    Chipper is Aids Skrillex. All of a sudden it all makes sense.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    This whole idea of America returning to some glorious past greatness is dumb.

    If the aim is to make a political coalition or message attractive to dumb people, using dumb ideas seems a sound strategy.

  • Azathoth!!||

    This whole idea of America returning to some glorious past greatness is dumb

    Of course it is. it's what leftism fixates on.

    Because it's a stupid ideology.

    Make America Great Again doesn't refer to returning to some mythical past 'great' time. It means get on the roller coaster again.

    Do great things again.

    It's not about looking back--it's about moving forward. With greatness.

  • Lester224||

    If that's what Trumpers want the slogan to mean, they have added an extra word. They should just say "Make America Great" or "Make America Greater". The word "again" strongly implies that there was a past time when it was "great" but it is not now.

    I do really think the Trumps have a time they want to go back to. It varies from person to person, but mostly the 1950s I think.

  • Mr. JD||

    Oh look, you made a clever bumper sticker!

    Nevermind that even Trumpsters believe that policymakers can Make America Great Again precisely by reducing the role of government. Actual conservatives even more so.

    And no, that some specific Trump acts have increased government power doesn't negate the overall direction.

  • KWlib||

    I'm going to borrow that quote.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    But, getting back out of the way is how government makes America great again.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its mostly Anarchists on reason staff and that staff is manning the rails today!

  • Anomalous||

    Anarchists Rule!

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Libertarian Defense Caucus spent frantic years working on strategy and tactics for everything up to hydrogen bomb warfare. Luckily for us, Sam Cohen's ideas prevailed and the go-ahead for antimissile systems pretty much ended the Soviet Empire. I for one see no reason for a military budget larger than the rest of the world now that the Cold War is won. As for governing, I'm happy that our spoiler votes now suffice to undo the damage done by a century of communist, fascist and socialist spoiler votes. None of those parties governed America either, but they sure as hell made it worse. And we're still here, undoing all that damage like Fabian Freetraders.

  • creech||

    That single study is, what, 20+ years old? What does Mr. Boaz think about the percentages today???

  • Jasa SEO Media||

    Thinking about the Google search engine algorithms that are getting more and more frequent updates, makes the Jasa SEO service provider obsolete

  • TxJack 112||

    The problem is most of you have no clue what a Libertarian actually is. The fact many of you think the courts are how you resolve issues or want to abolish any law you dont like is not Libertarian. Libertarian is living by the words of the Constitution alone.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Libertarians can be non-American so they dont need the Constitution but its a great template for being Libertarian, minus the slavery.

    Libertarians would never accept slavery while classic liberals were okay with it to form the USA.

  • Enemy of the State||

    That's being a Constitutionalist, not a Libertarian. Libertarians see any government that provides anything beyond security and a justice system as unjust and illegitimate.

    Now An-Caps are the ones who "get it" - all government is a criminal protection racket, wholly antithetical to peaceful living and parasitic in all its functions...

  • vek||

    AnCaps are right morally... But they're delusional practically.

    Human beings are not the perfect creatures required for an AnCap world to exist. I wish we were, but we're not.

    At best, you might be able to form an AnCap country... And then close the borders to anyone who doesn't explicitly say they agree 100% before entry, and kick out anybody who didn't agree, and maintain an AnCap society. The funny part of that being that you couldn't adhere to the principles fully if you wanted to maintain a society like that! LOL But I'm 100% sure that is what it would take to make it last.

  • aajax||

    You wouldn't have to kick out dissenters. With a hefty property requirement on voting, they could readily be deprived of any political power.

  • aajax||

    You wouldn't have to kick out dissenters. With a hefty property requirement on voting, they could readily be deprived of any political power.

  • vek||

    Sure, you could limit voting... Whatever amount of that even happened in an An-Cap nation anyway. LOL But it's still going against the everybody is equal, everybody deserves a say utopianism most people have, so still proves my point... That shit don't work.

    But, they'd still be there sewing problems. That's the thing purist libertarians don't get. Societies have always managed people, and done brutal things, because you kind of need to, at least sometimes. If the government in Wiemar Germany had been LESS democratic and laid back, by sending in goon squads to beat the living piss out of the Nazis AND the Commies... Their democracy probably wouldn't have collapsed, and no Hitler in power. Libertarians would FREAK about the government doing that.

    What it really comes down to is that you shouldn't do stuff like that ALMOST EVER... But there are times and places where being a purist falls apart. This is why even the founders put in martial law provisions.

  • ||

    The COTUS contains many provisions that are not consistent with libertarian thought. (Enemy of the State noted that above @ 10:24AM)

    If you believe that "living by the words of the Constitution alone" is the be al and end all of political and social thought you are not a libertarian.

    Many libertarians believe that imposing the Constitution on the USA represented a coup d'etat on legitimate government and that the Articles of Confederation were much more libertarian

    .

  • CE||

    Governing by the words of the Constitution alone would be a great improvement, but hardly libertarian.

  • FatherPhoenix||

    Anytime someone talks about living by the constitution or how it's really all we need, the words of Lysander Spooner come to mind. In 1870 he wrote the following "But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist."

    He is absolutely correct. No such document will ever be fit to exist. It will always have the same effect it has now. People will look to a piece of paper to protect them and save them from whatever bad they want saving from. No piece of paper will ever do that. Only when people stand up and look out for themselves will we see any change. They must be self-reliant, not dependent. If you want a basic thing to go by just go by Wheaton's Law. It would be a good starting point for civil discussion on other topics.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    "Libertarian is living by the words of the Constitution alone."

    I didn't know the 16th amendment was so libertarian.

  • CE||

    Americans are about 5 percent libertarian, and about 80 percent of those folks don't vote.

  • skunkman||

    How you can be worried about an authoritarian right with the authoritarian left openly advertising its behavior in this country does not make sense.

  • An Innocent Man||

    The right wants to use violence to support 800 U.S. bases abroad.


    Are we seriously suggesting that the left isn't just as globally militaristic as the right?

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Well, they are—but it's more compassionate when they bomb brown people. They do it because they care!

    Seriously, the militarism is one of the main reasons I can't stamd either side of the aisle. Both sides of the aisle need to be dragged to the lavatory, given swirlies, and then they need to promptly kicked out into the snow.

  • Milo||

    Nothing like some old-school ultra-violence to learn them authoritarians about the NAP!

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Don't forget to drink some drencrom before a bit of the old ultra-violence.

  • Enemy of the State||

    and crank the Ludwig von....

  • vek||

    Well, the funny thing is, that is probably the only way a remotely libertarian system could actually be put in place... Keep in mind the Founders unleashed a can of whoop ass on the British, while ignoring the majority of the American publics opinion on the matter, in order to found this country.

    Violent revolution to create the violence free libertarian government is probably the only way it could go down.

  • Trainer||

    Seems to me, violence was perpetrated against the colonists who then said enough is enough. Not that everyone agreed but at least someone did something about it, enough people that a new government was formed. The Brits could have said okay and left but they chose to escalate the violence. Had they been a little more libertarian int heir thinking, the American Revolution would not have happened.

  • vek||

    True. By a strict reading of purist libertarianism, ALL governments are violent... So it just depends on if they're bad enough for people to revolt. How much it takes to push people over the edge obviously varies tremendously... Our current government is FAR WORSE than the British were when the founders rebelled after all!

  • Just Say'n||

    The Left is generally even more militaristic than the Right right now. Their minds are diseased with Russia Fever Dreams

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Would this be Hillary Clinton's Left, or Jill Stein's Left?

  • Cyto||

    The DNC left.

    When Barack Obama can run on a basically "end war"-ish platform and proceed to expand undeclared war into several nations without batting an eye, you know the DNC left their anti-war constituency behind.

    Jill Stein's group has a strong, principled stand based on a core set of beliefs. I respect that. Unfortunately, they are even more wacky and fringe than the Gary Johnson version of the Libertarian Party, and even more irrelevant. Nobody wants to hear that crap. Plus, their belief system that they hold to is anathema to personal liberty, despite arriving at the correct position on many issues.

    In the US today, only fringe wackos are opposed to war on principle. The RNC has a strong strain of isolationists intermingled with its war-mongers. Plenty of their isolationists are also strong supporters of military spending... just not on foreign entanglements.

    The DNC is home to some peace-nic types from the left fringe, but surprisingly to those of us who are children of the Vietnam era anti-war movement, the progressive left are by-and-large OK with foreign wars of convenience, just as long as there is a (D) after the name of the person running the show.

  • Cyto||

    It is really weird that the Pat Buchanan segment of the Republican party would be the anti-war segment of the two major parties. That just seems really off. But even nut-jobs as far left as Rachel Maddow were all on-board with military adventurism as long as their guy was in power. I think she may have expressed reticence once or twice over the 8 years, but mostly even she was a cheerleader for death.

  • MikeP2||

    Its sad how few people notice the significantly reduced rate of new-conflict engagement since Trump took office.
    Yeah...there's a lot of saber rattling and militaristic bluster, but compared to the last 16 years? It's a shame that the pseudo-Libertarians here can't notice or acknowledge that.

  • LarryA||

    ...the progressive left are by-and-large OK with foreign wars of convenience, just as long as there is a (D) after the name of the person running the show, and there isn't a draft taking their kids into the meatgrinder.

  • vek||

    "The RNC has a strong strain of isolationists intermingled with its war-mongers. Plenty of their isolationists are also strong supporters of military spending... just not on foreign entanglements."

    Well, I do think that one needs strong defenses in order to not have to use them! It's kind of a truism historically. We could still spend FAR less than we do now, but it's not like we should abolish our entire standing army, and stop all R&D spending or whatever... That would be a horrible idea.

    But the not invading people part is definitely a win.

  • Ordinary Person||

    It's just amazing the way you seem to bring up Russia propaganda every chance you get. I wonder about you bro.

  • Enemy of the State||

    Right now?

    WW1 - Wilson
    WW2 - FDR
    Korea - Truman
    Vietnam - Kennedy/Johnson
    Grenada - Reagan
    Iraq 1 - Bush the Elder
    Bosnia - Clinton the Lewd
    Afghanistan - Bush the Lesser
    Iraq 2 - Bush the Lesser
    Libya - Clinton the Hag
    Syria - Obama the Verbose

    If we go on body counts, the Dems win hands down. If we go on endless war - the health of the state - Reps are running the show now...

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    What is the point of arguing which side is more into war? Both sides are equally bad in this.

  • ||

    The point is that there are large swathes of the public that believe, against all evidence, that Democrats are the Party of Peace.

    Not just here but abroad. I talk to Brits and Australians and they are almost uniformly convinced that Democrats reflect in some way the equivalent of their Labour/Labor parties Social Democratic views on all issues. Never mind the fact that their own Labour/Labor parties are actually quite strong on defense issues.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    "Are we seriously suggesting that the left isn't just as globally militaristic as the right?"

    Of course not, silly, but that militarism is the right's baby just as the welfare state is the left's, even though the right works to protect, preserve, and improve [reform] it.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Good article! And it is timely in that it counters idiots who try to maintain that libertarians are part of the right wing. Sure it is, in the same way that Africa is part of Australia, I suppose.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    And yet, in the United States there are only two recognized parties (it's on the citizenship exam). With the exception of the odd write in, there's no classic liberal on the ballot. So pick your poison. In general, the conservative is a smaller shit sandwich than the progressive shit sandwich. Ergo, Trump.

  • Conchfritters||

    Picking the lesser of two shit sandwiches is still picking a shit sandwich.

  • JFree||

    Even worse - it is eating a smaller shit sandwich while making sure you leave room for seconds.

  • vek||

    Unfortunately the world is not a fair place. People are almost always faced with nothing but less than perfect options to choose from.

    An extreme example being Spain in the 30s: Do you want to be ruled by a ruthless communist dictator, or a slightly less ruthless fascist dictator? Note, the option of having a Spanish George Washington type military commander combined with Thomas Jefferson's philosophical leanings WAS NOT on the table.

    The world is fuct. It is what it is. I did my bit, I voted for Ron Paul, and even worked on his campaigns! But people are too dumb to make the right choices a lot of the time, even when they DO have a great option on the table.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    The whole point of movements like libertarianism is that we don't have to "pick our poison" with the two major tribes. There is another way, and it doesn't involve embracing the authoritarian collectivism of either Team Red or Team Blue.

  • Cyto||

    And as a bonus we get to criticize everything that happens and crow about how much better we'd be at it.

    Being a libertarian is kinda like the opposite of the Hobson's choice.

  • Mcgoo95||

    I want to believe that, however in my state, team red has managed to change the requirements to be listed on the ballot so that there wasn't even a single independent or libertarian candidate on the ballot. We don't even democracy in this country. We have a party-centric oligarchy. It fucking sucks. There was literally, not a single candidate on my ballot that felt comfortable voting for..

  • Archibald Baal||

    Ah, you're in Arizona, too, I see.

    It was pretty vile the way Team Red assumed they owned our votes if the LP was off the ballot. I'm tempted to vote straight Democrat just to spite them, but it seems like drinking Drano in an attempt to eliminate a resident tapeworm...

  • Mcgoo95||

    Yep. I voted mostly democrat purely out of spite. Fuckers. Plus Sinema actually did a good job of distancing herself from the Democrats in order to appeal to independents, which is very smart in Az. I'd be amazed if she won though (don't really care either way).

  • vek||

    Which is why I have never voted for a Republican OR Democrat for president!

    The funny thing is though, you seem to be kind of dogmatic in thinking that I ABSOLUTELY MUST accept all the planks of the current Purple party... Why is that? No room for a big tent Libertarian party Jeffy? Open borders or GTFO?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That and trump is Libertarian-ish on some of his accomplishments. It works out to get some Libertarians things and stop the lefties.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    ANYONE on either Team Red or Team Blue can be construed to be "libertarian-ish", if you stretch that 'ish' out far enough. Even Hillary Clinton can be viewed as "libertarian-ish" on an issue like abortion. But that's not a reason enough to vote for her, IMO. There is no reason to settle for second-best.

  • LarryA||

    We didn't have a choice to settle for best or second-best. We had to pick between worst and second-worst.

  • ThomasD||

    "Even Hillary Clinton can be viewed as "libertarian-ish" on an issue like abortion. "

    That's weak boot strapping even from you.

    The abortion issue is not remotely settled from a libertarian perspective. There are plenty of prominent libertarians who oppose most, if not all abortions.

    Beyond that Hillary is not even willing to declare when life begins. But she's ok with abortions well into the third trimester when viability is strong. Accepting all abortions then inevitably means accepting murders.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    It appears ThomasD has convened yet another meeting of Libertarians For Statist Womb Management and Libertarians For Superstition-Driven Big-Government Micromanagement Of Ladyparts Clinics.

    I guess the regularly scheduled meeting of Libertarians For Authoritarian, Bigoted, Cruel Immigration Policies will be delayed. The meeting of Libertarians For Tariffs And Protectionism will be rescheduled.

    Carry on, faux libertarian clingers.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    nope.

  • Peter Duncan||

    Hey, lovestrumpscock1789, spit your hero's little penis out of your mouth before speaking!

    Wait, ignore that. We still won't be able to understand a fucking thing you say.

    Just keep sucking away.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Bullshit. Total bullshit. Stop with the tribalism. Conservatives are just as bad, and worse is some ways (because they lie more).

  • vek||

    Conservatives ARE NOT just as bad anymore... I think that would have been a fair statement 30 or 40 years ago. HELL maybe even 20. But now? No way.

    Conservatives are garbage, but they're way less bad from a libertarian perspective than the modern left has become. Conservatives still believe in free speech, gun rights, smaller government, lower taxes, etc. Now they're surely not perfect on those things, like being in favor of higher military spending... But they're less bad-er anyway. If one is talking about a sliding scale of relative shittiness, that needs to be taken into account.

    In some other countries perhaps the left/right are equally bad, but not in American politics as of late.

  • Johnny Lawrence||

    I think the "losses" for conservatives in the gay marriage and marijuana arenas, for example, has also removed some of their truly stupid planks.

    Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of conservatives opposed to both. And the rest don't really get credit for evolving—it was political reality, not principles that changed.

    But still—if I hold my nose and vote for a GOP candidate, I don't think I'm necessarily in as much danger of voting for a (viable) socially conservative platform as I would have been even 15-20 years ago.

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    I think libertarians got snookered on same-sex marriage. Why isn't the Libertarian position for abolition of civil marriage generally, rather than to extend it to gay relationships?

    And I don't really trust the 'weed libertarians' to follow through on general libertarianism once they've got their legal doobie.

  • Johnny Lawrence||

    I don't disagree on either point. Let me rephrase my point more generically:

    I think social conservatives have largely lost the ability to direct the platform of the GOP—they are now in a defensive posture (let us do what we want) rather than an offensive one (you should do what we think is right).

  • vek||

    Yup, totally.

    For the most part, they just aren't calling the shots. And they aren't going to be able to pass any of their crazier ideas into law. So I simply don't worry about those down sides coming to fruition... Whereas crazy lefty ideas MIGHT actually happen if they get into power.

    We have one hell of an awful gun law on the ballot in Washington... It would turn us from a really decent state gun laws wise, to one of the worst literally overnight. We will be leapfrogging past CA, NY, etc in some ways.

    10 years ago Washington was LITERALLY one of the best in the whole country on gun laws. Now we may be literally the worst. Taxes are going the same route here too...

    So I will stay worried more about the left for the time being.

  • Jerryskids||

    I don't think there's any "left-right spectrum", they all want the power to control people for the common good. They differ on what the common good is, but both sides are certain they should be the ones to define it. What's the use of having enormous power if you can't use that power to do Good Things? Rather than focusing on the dictum to do/not do unto others as you would have them do/not do unto you, perhaps a better aphorism might be "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions". No matter how good you think something might be, using force to make other people accept your idea of the good is evil.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Yes... Were WWII Nazis left or right? Generally identified as right at the time, but more in line with the left as identified today.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nazis then and now are Lefties. The are revolutionary Socialists who use race and nationalism for a power base.

    The WWII Nazis still let non-Aryans into the SS by 1944, so typical of Lefties who principles go out the door when trouble appears.

  • CLM1227||

    Not to mention they were expansionist and sought to impose their own order on other countries...

  • CLM1227||

    Not to mention they were expansionist and sought to impose their own order on other countries...

  • CLM1227||

    Not to mention they were expansionist and sought to impose their own order on other countries...

  • rferris||

    At the time the USA and the allies were the right and no one thought the Nazis were on the right. This is just the lefts brainwashing and revisionism you are being confused by.

  • sarcasmic||

    This article quotes economists? Ha! True libertarians understand that Trump is the greatest economist of all time! He has rewritten every single textbook on the subject! Hayek? Smith? Naive fools! True libertarians reject those idiots because they know Trump will Make America Great Again!

  • Cyto||

    He, just because he accidents his way into the libertarian action from time to time doesn't mean it didn't happen.

    Heck, we accidented our way into WWI and nobody says it didn't happen.

  • Peter Duncan||

    Sarcasmic, are you channeling your inner lovestrumpscock1789 today?

  • vek||

    Interestingly, Adam Smith apparently agreed in principle on almost all of the exceptions to the rule that Trump has with respect to free trade... Perhaps he would not have thought them relevant in our particular situation, but he did accept that exceptions sometimes existed. I should have bookmarked that one link homeboy posted the other day...

  • Longtobefree||

    " A liberal believes that as much as possible, no one should push others around, standing over them with a gun or a fist to force them to do his will."

    Really? Do you get to pick your own political definitions like we now get to pick our own genders?

  • Just Say'n||

    McCloskey is using Hayek's terms which represented the European Right and Left and really never had any relationship to the American political landscape (although both parties have moved slightly closer to the European spectrum with the ideas of nationalism and socialism being in vogue)

  • ThomasD||

    Yes, using Hayek's terminology is misleading. The American right has next to nothing to do with the European right (Monarchism?? Hello...)

    The closest thing America had to that died off in the early 1800s. The modern American right has waxed and waned in it's support/tolerance for state power, and has often been selective when applying the principle of local control. But in comparison to the modern American left, which between the 1940s and 1960s was taken over by avowed collectivists, it is the only major party that promotes actual libertarians.

    The question is how we convince more of them to recognize the principles of limited government and break the century old habit of seeking government imposed solutions to whatever problems irk them.

  • JFree||

    European conservatives have not generally been monarchist in the Tory sense (as something to be advocated in preference to republican governance) since WW1. Americans really do not understand how WW1 changed everything in Europe - but it did. And in Europe the impact of that on conservatives was that they no longer believed that government/nation itself was the personal property of the sovereign.

    Hayek himself DID understand that. Which is why in that essay he describes himself as an Old Whig. He is correctly placing Burke in the Whig camp - not the Tory camp - and identifying himself with Burke. Unlike modern Americans who think of Burke as a conservative.

  • ThomasD||

    "not generally been monarchist in the Tory sense"

    Well yeah, because the 'Tory sense' pretty much excludes Continentals.

    A rather big caveat that. There are plenty of monarchies, and plenty more monarchists in Europe.

    " Unlike modern Americans who think of Burke as a conservative."

    Burke is a conservative in the sense that most Americans think of conservatism - keeping what works and not making changes rashly. In the same sense that our 'revolution' wasn't really a revolution at all. The colonists largely revolted because they (rightly) recognized that they were being denied the rights and privileges due to them as British subjects. And even after tossing out the Brits we kept more than we eliminated.

    Which is exactly what Burke argued for in comparison to the mistakes he saw in the French revolution.

  • ThomasD||

    Burke was a European liberal arguing for American conservatism.

  • ThomasD||

    I should probably add, for clarity, that when speaking of Continental monarchists I'm also referring to pretty much anyone who thinks that state authority flows from some sort of Divinity, which traditionally means a monarchy. But in modern terms also means anyone philosophically descended from the Old Hegelians.

  • Cyronic||

    The word "liberal" has been painfully distorted. Deirde's description is correct, in the classical sense. This is why I always differentiate between "liberals" and "progressives."

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Liberals are Socialists. Ask them what they want and its all Socialism. They dont like freedoms or free economic policy.

  • Cyto||

    But the "liberals" of the 80's decided to start calling themselves progressives (again) because Reagan turned that word into an epithet.

    So now "classical liberals" can reclaim the word and just be "liberals" again.

    At least, that's the argument.

  • Cyronic||

    That's a gross over-simplification, I'm afraid. Classical liberalism is all about individual freedom and is incompatible with socialism. Most people who call themselves "liberals" today have barely any resemblance to liberalism as an ideology; they're progressive Social Democrats, at best. As someone who believes words matter, this mislabeling annoys the hell out of me.

    Socialism is another word that's been distorted repeatedly to make it more palatable. Most of the time, people I talk to who espouse socialism actually have no idea what it means. As an easy litmus test, you just ask "Do you want to collectivize the means of production?" If their answer is "No, I just want an increased welfare state built on the back of free enterprise" then they're not actually socialists.

  • Robert||

    Mort Sahl said 40+ yrs. ago there are no more liberals, only social democrats.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Then call them that.

  • ThomasD||

    Cryonic is right. The 'conservative' principles that many on the right tout are actually extremely liberal - so much so that few if any Continentals - left or right - accept them.

    The worst part about it is that it is the American left who initially rejected the term when they seized control of the Democrat party, only to steal it back when it rhetorically suited them.

    Progressives are not liberal, at least not in the classical sense. Adam Smith is not their poster boy.

  • Cyto||

    I often tell my conservative friends that I'm way, way more conservative than they are.... (in the classical liberal adhere to the constitutional limited state sense).

    I also like to tell my progressive friends that I'm way, way more liberal than they are. And I am... very few of them are for full legalization of drug use for getting high, pretty much none of them are in favor of allowing sex workers to ply their trade - in fact they'd probably sooner support the death penalty for any association with that line of work.

    So I've often described "libertarian" as being so far right that you go all the way around and end up on the left, or so far left that you go all the way around and end up on the right. It isn't a perfect metaphor, but it does describe certain aspects of the philosophy.

  • chipper me timbers||

    And they all hate free speech with a passion. It's scary to me to see how many of my mainstream liberal friends are so ready to eliminate the first amendment.

  • ThomasD||

    Permissitarian is my word for those people who think you are 'free' to do whatever they are willing to let you do.

    As to free speech, people who want to control speech are revealing one of two things.

    Either they are out of their thinking depth, or it is about their religion. Possibly both, but rarely so. Either way they are also revealing that they think you are only free to do what they are willing to permit.

  • Cyronic||

    And this is exactly why the left-right spectrum is useless.

  • rferris||

    This is within the generally accepted definition, so no you do not get to pick your gender,,,,,but you can pick your nose.

  • Benitacanova||

    Exactly. Donald, er 'Deirdre', must be getting nervous about new title IX rules that might keep him out of the ladies at uni.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    The right wants to use violence to support 800 U.S. bases abroad. The left wants to use it to boss poor people around.


    Trumpistas want to use violence to do both, in the name of Making America Grating Again. Evidence of this is the number one Trumpista threatening to send troops to stop a caravan of poor people from reaching the southern ports of entry to seek asylum while his Trumpista base wish them dead.

  • Just Say'n||

    Trump's harshest critics are neoconservatives who fear that he won't continue our bellicose foreign policy. Which is not to say that he has altered our foreign policy substantially, but to pretend as if he is somehow more hawkish than his immediate predecessors is clearly derived from a state of mental retardation.

    There are criticisms to be made, but this is weak sauce

  • Inigo Montoya||

    You've completely missed the point of the article. It certainly is not a defense of your Trumpistas.

    Authoritarians suck--period. We need to stop caring which team colors they wear while they lord it over everyone.

  • Harvard||

    Old Beaner's "Trumpista" pejorative and his open borders globalism affection will undoubtedly further the Libertarian cause, such as it might be the.

  • TxJack 112||

    First, the threat to use the military is to stop them not from entering ports of entry, but crossing the border illegally. If they come through ports of entry, they will be processed like anyone else attempting to enter the country. Second, the reason for possibly deploying the military is to stop the mass entry of the caravan by simply overwhelming the border patrol as they did when entering Mexico. If we have no intention of enforcing immigration laws and controlling the border than what it the point of either? When you have to lie to "make your point" it only means your point is invalid. You are lying about the entire issue. By the way, wanting a better job is NOT a reason for seeking asylum in the US. Being poor and wanting a better job is not fearing imminent harm at the hands of a government which is the intent of asylum. Also, why should these people get special treatment and be allowed to enter the country when those wishing to enter legally are required to pay fees, follow rules and do all the other required tasks to gain entry? Is being poor and attempting to illegally enter the US suddenly some justification for jumping to the front of the line?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Using the military is an excellent idea. We know that they are coming. They are trying to illegally enter the USA without permission and they have zero legal reason for political asylum.

    Block them with the US Army and send them back. Just keep doing that until the give up.

  • CLM1227||

    It's probably the ONLY legitimate use of our military, currently - self defense and protecting our borders.

    It's probably the only purpose of government I find wholly legitimate.

  • Just Say'n||

    It should be noted that Hayek was referring to European "conservatives" which doesn't really exist in the US. American "conservatives" (if there are any left) would be referred to as "liberals" in Europe.

    Apart from that, it's always good to read McCloskey

  • Eddy||

    "American "conservatives" (if there are any left) would be referred to as "liberals" in Europe."

    I think the new term of abuse in Europe is "neoliberals." Why that's considered insulting I don't know.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    American "conservatives" (if there are any left) would be referred to as "liberals" in Europe.

    Oh bullshit.

    The Bible-Beating jackasses we call conservatives in the US are nothing like a European liberal.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    Amend --

    Maybe you are referring to the "American conservatives" of the early 20th century (of which there are few left).

    In that case I retract the above comment.

  • CLM1227||

    Is this referring to the progressive, prohibitionist, busy-body women's political groups that voted for progressives and prohibition as soon as they were given the vote?

  • JFree||

    European-type conservatives - in the modern post-WW1 form (mostly republican everywhere now instead of monarchical) - have existed here since WW1. And there has been virtually no difference between the two since WW2.

    Foreign policy since WW2 has been purely conservative. Using the mindset of Bismarck/Churchill to transition a pre-existing colonial order from Europe-dominated to American-dominated. We put that into anti-Soviet terms but the facts on the ground in those places was that we became the defender/financier of the highly illiberal status quo in places outside Europe - and the enabler/subsidizer of conservative elites in Europe itself. There is still a lot of 'goodwill' around the world - most of which is based on the pre-WW1 liberal IDEA of what America stands for. But the only creation of that stuff since WW1 was the UN and other transnational institutions - and we now mostly oppose that creation.

    GOP 'economic policy' has been imposed-order trickle-down since Laffer. Where those who already have are deemed to be the only entities with the skills/interests to decide what will be. Hostile to actual free markets in favor of supply-side focus (with the implication that demand/consumers are purely passive) only. Competition and uncertainty of outcome to be avoided not welcomed. The GOP only retains the small-biz entrepreneurial voter by default not design.

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    Your last sentence is definitely true. But remember, a substantial portion of the electorate pays no income tax(other forms of taxation being hidden/obscured) and have no apparent (to them) skin in the game. Why would you expect them to be anything other than passive? Add to them that portion of taxpayers who do pay tax but only see the "refund" they get.

  • JFree||

    Well people do pay those other forms of tax - and FICA IS an income tax. And we have structured the safety net to be absolutely punitive for anyone looking to get out - Cato recognizes that. A true poverty trap.

    Both major parties want to keep that trap in place. Dems for the votes, GOP for the demonizing (and hence get other votes from those who are essentially looking at the issue in conservative terms - as a moral failure). Neither recognizes that true free markets work because the most self-interested person in escaping poverty is the person who's there and wants out. Strangle someone and - they will become passive and then dependent/reliable.

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    Your last sentence is definitely true. But remember, a substantial portion of the electorate pays no income tax(other forms of taxation being hidden/obscured) and have no apparent (to them) skin in the game. Why would you expect them to be anything other than passive? Add to them that portion of taxpayers who do pay tax but only see the "refund" they get.

  • Echospinner||

    You were in the navy.

    You understand what military can do.

    Army has capabilities. Tanks, artillery, ground forces. Our Army is second to none.

    You really want that on the border? This is not Hezbollah we are dealing with.

    It is a civilian legal issue at this point.

    When military comes in expect military response.

  • lafe.long||

    Notice that I have been slipping in the word liberal to describe what we believe. I want to take back the older l word and quietly retire the harsh history of libertarian.


    Why is this necessary?

    Seems like this would be more of an uphill battle than simply just educating people on libertarianism as has been done fairly well in this article.

    For libertarianism, I personally prefer the Silver rule: "Do not do unto others what you would not want done unto yourself."

    The Golden version leaves more wiggle room for imposition of your beliefs upon others - you are commanded to DO unto others (whether they want it done unto themselves or not).

    I don't really get the "masculine/feminine" analogy.

  • Milo||

    I think it is meant to head off the charge that libertarianism, classical liberalism, anarchism, are philosophies that appeal primarily to 'unencumbered' men.

  • vek||

    Well, the truth is they DO mostly just appeal to men.

    Men have an internal sense that they can take care of themselves. They don't need help, they're big, tough, strong men after all!

    Women are simply not inclined to that kind of thinking, which is why they tend to not take to libertarianism, or even traditional conservatism at nearly the same rates. Libertarian women are statistical outliers, and I would chock it up almost entirely to our biology. People who deny this are simply fooling themselves based on the modern lie that men and women are the same... When we're totally not. At least according to every study ever done, every statistic ever collected, etc.

  • CLM1227||

    I don't know about that golden rule interpretation.

    Teaching it to my kids has been kinda funny at times - if you were about to do something fun that would seriously hurt you or someone else, would you want someone to get an adult?

    Hell no.

    And no one wants to be forced to do anything.

    But sometimes, you really want someone to at least tell you what the potential dangers are (if you don't know what they are) and then decide to do it anyway.

    Telling my sister not to eat the elephant plant because it's poisonous didn't stop her. But at least she was an informed moron.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The right wants to use violence to support 800 U.S. bases abroad. The left wants to use it to boss poor people around. "

    And the latter is far more detrimental to me individually than the former so quite trying to pretend they are equivalent.

    The left is far worse on economic rights to private property, freedom of contract, etc. than the right is. And those are the things that have the greatest impact on individuals in the real world.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    I should add that the left wants to boss ALL people around - not just poor people.

  • LarryA||

    The Right is just as bossy, only in different causes.

    Next year, in my state, there will be another serious Conservative effort to force people to display their birth certificates before using a public restroom. To "Protect Women and Children," of course.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    They're not equivalent, but they both support using violence to impose a national will onto people. So they are both bad enough.

    We don't have to choose only between two options, which imposes violence less than the other one.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Unless something drastically changes (not likely) one of those two options is what we are actually going to get.

    Trying to pretend that one is not actually worse than the other despite all evidence to the contrary is simply nonsense.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    As I said, they're not equivalent. But we aren't forced to choose only between two bad options, one of which is slightly less bad than the other.

    I am quite frankly tired of having to put up with the crap in either of the two major tribes. It is liberating to know that I don't have to defend either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Both of them can go to hell as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't mean that they both EQUALLY deserve to go to hell. But they both belong there nonetheless.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    As I said, unless something drastically changes, you are - and will continue to be - forced to live with one of those two options regardless of what you choose.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well, sure. But I don't have to endorse either one. Moreover, I don't have to play silly games like "which is less evil". It doesn't matter, because from my point of view, both of them easily cross the minimum threshold for "evil".

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Pointing out which one is worse for me individually personally and directly based on the real world effect on my life is not a silly game.

    The Democrats causing me to have significantly less wealth over my entire lifetime courtesy of higher taxes and redistribution schemes like Social Security, Medicare, etc. that they created is far more detrimental than any social restrictions on abortion or gay marriage that some on the right favor which has no real world impact on me at all.

  • vek||

    THIS.

    The things the right is bad on, IMO, are simply not things that are as IMPORTANT as the things the left is bad on.

    What bathroom somebody has to use in the scheme of things, is basically a non issue. It really doesn't matter. It's .5% of the population or less to begin with, and it's not like it even completely ruins a trans persons life anyway. Abortion? It ain't goin' nowhere. At worst it might become a state issue again.

    Ending free speech, doubling taxes, nationalizing health care, taking away our guns, and so on.. THOSE matter.

    The drug war is maybe the biggest thing the right is bad on... But most of the left is only slightly less bad there anyway.

  • ||

    How is counting the number of people that are negatively affected by certain policies, even remotely libertarian? Where the hell is the "an individual is the smallest minority" principle? What is irrelevant to you pesonally,can be THE most relevant issues for a trans or a gay person, or a pregnant woman - and it is NOT your place, nor anyone else´s, to tell these people which freedoms should truly matter to them. The point is to not have to compromise on which freedoms to give up on. The commenter above claims gay marriage is irrelevant to the - if they are straight, it probably is, but can you imagine the government forbiding you to marry the woman you want to marry?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    You expect a bunch of disaffected right-wingers to engage in reasoned, moral analysis?

    You might as well yell at a lamp.

    Except some new-fangled lamps, found in modern communities, respond usefully to verbal command, or to clapping.

    So . . .

  • vek||

    Ayuleen... Uhhh, well here's one take:

    If something is important for 100% of the population, and some other thing is important for .5% of the population... Sorry the one that effects everybody is probably more important.

    It would be nice to do both things, but unfortunately the world isn't perfect. I'm not going to fuck myself, and 100% of the population over, on dozens of REALLY IMPORTANT issues, and place a few pet peeve issues that only effect a few people over those.

    I get your argument, but in the real world, it's simply illogical to put those small issues ABOVE the major ones. We should get to them all eventually, but taking care of the big ones first makes sense? Right?

    I'm not telling those people what to care about... But by the same token, I have to put the issues I care about at the top of my priorities list too right? Libertarianism is ALSO not about self sacrifice you know...

  • ||

    Yes, I get it. From a practical point of view, of course everyone is going to care about their personal priorities first.(But the person above you still illogically listed abortion restrictions as something that doesn´t concern them - well, I´d say that concerns everyone, more or less, since a situation when someone close to them would need an abortion for an understandable reason, can happen to anyone).

  • Mr. JD||

    "Slightly less bad" like a headcold is slightly less bad than stage 4 cancer...

  • Eddy||

    One of Merriam-Webster's online definitions of conservatism is:

    "a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change

    "specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (such as retirement income or health-care coverage)"

    Which seems a good summary of many varieties of American conservatism - of course, there are other, more pernicious varieties like "national greatness" conservatism (which is like progressivism, but with more flag-waving and harrumphing about virtue).

    But the two prongs identified my Merriam-Webster strike me as the basic parts of a good American conservatism - economic liberalism and dynamism without wacky social experiments. Certainly closer to libertarianism than the big-government schemes of left or right.

  • vek||

    Those are pretty legit. And frankly, not a lot to dislike either. If the GOP stuck to their rhetoric, and the so-cons had a touch less influence, I wouldn't have THAT much of a problem just being a "conservative" really. But they do, so conservative leaning libertarian it is!

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Enjoy watching the liberal-libertarian alliance improve America against your preferences for another generation or two.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    There is also the deontological vs. utilitarian spectrum to consider.

    A deontological libertarian would favor the noncoercive, spontaneous ordering of things because this is inherently the right way to organize things - free of coercion.

    By contrast, a utilitarian libertarian would favor the noncoercive, spontaneous ordering of things because he/she believes this will yield superior results.

    Now it is possible for these two points of view to coincide, such as with the free market. That is a case in which the deontological libertarian would support it because there is no initiation of force in the form of a central planning authority, AND the utilitarian libertarian would support it because it produces superior results compared to centrally planned economies.

    But a case like immigration is where these two points of view may not coincide. The deontological libertarian would remain committed to not initiating force, and would favor the free movement of people even if it produced inferior results compared to an authoritarian solution. But the utilitarian libertarian would reject free movement of people *because* it might produce inferior results, and so will embrace an authoritarian solution.

    In this sense, the utilitarian libertarians are only conditionally supportive of spontaneous order, and have much more in common with their conservative cousins than they do the deontological libertarians, who support spontaneous, non-coercive order in and of itself.

  • GlenchristLaw||

    "Inferior results" -- to whom? By what standard?

    Thanks for playing and we have some lovely parting gifts for you...

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well of course "superior" and "inferior" are, to a degree, in the eye of the beholder.

    Objectively, I think it can be stated without question that the free market improves standards of living for all people more than any other economic arrangement.

    As for immigration, I think it is a more difficult case to make, and there are reasonable arguments in which free movement of people will lead to some inferior results in some areas. People will be displaced from jobs and there will be economic and cultural upheaval. I don't think anyone really doubts that. I think the studies which proclaim to show this huge net economic benefit from free migration are a bit pollyanna-ish in their scenarios. But my point is, none of this matters very much to the deontological libertarian, who views free movement of people as an exercise in liberty, which ought to be defended regardless of the consequences.

    In this sense, it is like the right to own guns. I think it's safe to say that virtually everyone here is a deontological libertarian on this subject - we all agree that we ought to have the right to own guns, and that this right should be protected for its own sake, regardless of the social consequences (both good and bad) of widespread gun ownership. There are some good consequences, but there are also some bad consequences, but neither of these should shake the fundamental support for the right to own guns.

  • Here for the outrage||

    "who views free movement of people as an exercise in liberty, which ought to be defended regardless of the consequences"

    Ends justify the means?

    No thanks

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    The "ends justify the means" rationale speaks to the utilitarian view of libertarianism. That authoritarian measures to stop the free movement of people (the means) are justified in order to prevent these people from wreaking negative consequences (the assumed ends).

    The deontological view supports liberty for its own sake, even if a particular instance of that exercise may lead to negative results.

  • Here for the outrage||

    I guess my issue is that most of the assumed negative consequences are only an issue because of authoritarian principles elsewhere, like entitlements. You hear plenty of bad arguments about immigrants, but I wouldn't expect libertarians on either side use them, like blaming skin color or country of origin.

    In other words, I'd only justify the means if the ends was "no use uses ends to justify the means"

    You're very calm today, get laid last night?

  • Here for the outrage||

    *no one uses

  • vek||

    Wow, even more intellectual honesty! You're doing good in this thread so far.

    So it sounds like you're even willing to admit open borders would likely have negative repercussions a large portion of the population would not like?

    You just go that route out of ideological purity? That, IMO, is the only honest way to argue that point. I don't agree that it is worth it, BUT it is honest. People that seem to genuinely think there would not be MASSIVE downsides to open borders in practical terms... Their logic skills are impaired IMO.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Good thing national sovereignty is a Libertarian position.

    Secure those borders!

  • ThomasD||

    There is nothing libertarian about Utilitarianism.

    Utilitarianism inevitably pre-supposes some collective good, while libertarianism expressly states that what is good is particular to each individual.

    Libertarianism, at it's heart, is a re-capitulation of the essential truth stated in the Declaration of Independence - what matters most is Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    These are not three unrelated things. They are entirely inseparable. A Venn diagram of the three would show that Liberty exists entirely within Life, and that the Pursuit of Happiness is a subset of Liberty.

    To the extent that all three occupy the same space - thus maximizing both the individual's choice of what is best, and the liberty by which that may be pursued, then the life may be lived to it's fullest potential.

    The only proper limitation that any system of government should impose upon that Life is when whatever pursuit is entailed infringes upon the Life or Liberty of another.

    Utilitarianism, by it's very nature, and seeking to impose some sort of externally decided 'good' upon the unwilling, is an affront to liberty.

  • ThomasD||

    Individualists recognize this almost instinctively.

    Collectivists, not so much.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Get an education, you right-wing rube. Start with standard English, focusing on apostrophes.

  • vek||

    I'm too groggy and pressed for time to think this through properly... But I imagine there are SOME utilitarian arguments that only apply to individuals.

    I agree that in general though, a utilitarian libertarian might be more willing to make exceptions when the outcomes are undesirable. Like myself on open borders.

    Another way of restating this though would simply be to say WHY people arrive at libertarianism. Is it just because of the morals, or because it DOES provide the best results in almost all cases? One could believe libertarianism IS the best in 100% of all cases because it provides results, but not intellectually care about the morality of it at all. That distinction wouldn't matter in practice, but it is there none the less.

    I believe the reason one arrives at things matters a lot too. IMO leftists arrive at almost all their conclusions based on feelings and morality plays, whereas right leaners are mostly utilitarian/logical. This effects how one can convince people to change their minds, or not, and just general insight into their thinking.

  • ThomasD||

    "I imagine there are SOME utilitarian arguments that only apply to individuals."

    Personal utility is something that is certainly within the purview of the the individual. As such it is a mark of reason and rationality.

    But do not mistake that for capital 'U' Utilitarianism, which is always and everywhere an exercise in collectivism - the greatest good for the greatest number.

    Which inevitable devolves into a matter of precisely who decides that?

  • ThomasD||

    " Is it just because of the morals, or because it DOES provide the best results in almost all cases? "

    Again, the problem is exactly who is to decide what the 'best results' are.

    We choose libertarianism because it provides the greatest opportunity for each individual to be an individual.

    That is a moral statement if there ever was.

  • ThomasD||

    Put another way, to recognize individuals qua individuals, but somehow accept a system that fundamentally denies or negates that individuality is immoral.

  • vek||

    I agree with pretty much everything here.

    Honestly, I try to stick to being a purist on most issues. As I state below, I will make a few exceptions when I feel the moral gain is not worth the practical cost. But I will accept small practical costs when the moral gain seems worth it. This theoretically makes me a hypocrite or something, but I really don't care.

    IMO any morality that demands I slit my own throat can go fuck itself. Since I admit this fully, I don't think it makes me a hypocrite, it just makes me somewhat utilitarian versus moralistic/dogmatic. I'm okay with this.

  • ThomasD||

    " I will make a few exceptions when I feel the moral gain is not worth the practical cost. But I will accept small practical costs when the moral gain seems worth it. This theoretically makes me a hypocrite or something, but I really don't care."

    Not sure I follow that. Morality is not something that accrues. An action either is or is not moral, but recognizing this is often not obvious, quite difficult to suss out, and as humans we are too often prone to self deceive.

  • vek||

    Sure, if you're going with binary for morality. Which is true. Something is either moral or immoral... BUT I think everybody can agree there's a scale there too.

    Raping and murdering 50 children over decades makes somebody a far more immoral person than saaay stealing a pack of gum. Both are immoral, but one is clearly worse.

    On the scale, disallowing somebody to move to the USA is LESS morally wrong than killing somebody, or enslaving them and their progeny for eternity. I would not really be keen on those last 2 things, but given the massive problems created by allowing unlimited amounts of that first thing, I'm okay with not caring about the fact that it is mildly immoral.

    Make sense?

  • vek||

    Hey, you're actually being intellectually honest! I like it!

    I'm a mix of both, and use a sliding scale. My thinking is that if the potential negative repercussions from going with the purist position are reasonably small, compared to the moral "win," then you should take the small repercussions. However if the potential repercussions are MASSIVE in scale, and the moral win is fairly minimal, I go utilitarian.

    This seems logical to me. Think about it this way, if you can save a human baby by cutting off your pinky...That's a solid ass win! If you have to cut off all your arms and legs to save a 15 year old dog that's blind in 1 eye... Not worth it.

    This is why I am opposed to true open borders. TRUE open borders would definitely destroy any 1st world nation. Lesser degrees of large scale unskilled immigration may have proportionally bad results. I just don't see international freedom of movement as being a major moral issue, and the downsides are huge... So fuck 'em.

    But even if it were discovered that crack being legal DID have bad outcomes, I would still be okay with that. The costs would presumably be small, and the moral win decent sized.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The libertarian paranoia over being considered a politics of the (American) Right is a fascinating phenomenon.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well, you have seen what the American Right has turned into.

    If William F. Buckley Jr. were alive today, I think he might become a libertarian too.

  • GlenchristLaw||

    I wonder whether the better example is George Will, who is textbook libertarian on economic and foreign policy matters but occasionally vomits downright silly (i.e., conservative) social policy screeds like his recent stem-twister on an imagined "epidemic of loneliness."

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    No, Buckley would still be a regular conservative. He clearly used Christianity (God and Man at Yale) and a robust military colonialism vs the world as his philosophical starting points.

    There is nothing liberal/libertarian about WFB.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    No, Buckley would still be a regular conservative. He clearly used Christianity (God and Man at Yale) and a robust military colonialism vs the world as his philosophical starting points.

    There is nothing liberal/libertarian about WFB.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well, WFB was always in favor of drug legalization, so he has that going for him. And, the original WFB was opposed to the Civil Rights Act. He changed his tune once he realized how racist that made him sound, and he wasn't going to risk magazine sales defending that contentious of a proposition at that time. So he was libertarian-friendly at a minimum.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    He and Ayn Rand hated each other. fwiw.

    I (as it should surprise no one) am solidly in the Ayn Rand camp of liberalism.

    But who cares? We are in the 5% or so of the electorate who thinks that way.

  • Conchfritters||

    WFB was against drug legalization, until he had a conversation with Milton Friedman.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I don't know that story.

    I do know that his magazine was consistently pro-legalization though.

  • Robert||

    No, it wasn't. They changed w him.

  • lafe.long||

    There is nothing liberal/libertarian about WFB.

    Except for his supporting/campaigning for liberal politicians, his views on marijuana, his (later) opposition of segregation, and this:

    Buckley had a "tragic" view of the Iraq war: he "saw it as a disaster and thought that the conservative movement he had created had in effect committed intellectual suicide by failing to maintain critical distance from the Bush administration ... At the end of his life, Buckley believed the movement he made had destroyed itself by supporting the war in Iraq."

    ... but other than those things, just a "regular conservative".

  • SIV||

    Everyone but a subset of ibertarians recognizes them as "on the right".

  • Eric||

    Only if your left/right definition is defined as purely economic.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Anarchists who incorrectly call themselves Libertarians try to prevent Libertarians from leaning more conservative.

    Classic Liberals are to the Left of Libertarians and are the last Centrist ideology before you head into Socialism territory. Progressives are Socialist. Democrats are Socialist.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Get an education, you bigoted, right-wing yahoo. Start with standard English, focusing on capitalization.

    Carry on, subliterate clingers.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Get an education, you bigoted, right-wing yahoo. Start with standard English, focusing on capitalization.

    Carry on, subliterate clingers.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The article is somewhat stealing a base by comparing it to Hayek's essay, in which he explicitly excludes American conservativism from what he is rejecting. This is because he saw what the American movement was conserving was the classical liberal order established by the Revolution.

    Also, conservatives are sceptical of current evolutions and what their intentions are and who they intend to benefit. Take the gay adoption example. The Catholic Church believes that children are best served by having male and female parents. Because of this, in some states like Massachusetts, the Catholic Charities has been driven out of adoption services. Rather than being an option, gay adoption has become mandatory. Is that really a classical liberal result?

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    The American conservatism of say, Calvin Coolidge, is nothing like today's Evangelical Authoritarian Big Government Conservatism.

  • Mickey Rat||

    What sort of policy characterizes that kind of conservativism? From what I have seen, Evangelicals are more in a defensive "leave us alone" mode.

  • ThomasD||

    They are a reaction to the left's imposition of social change via the court system.

    And much like Antfa v.s. the Proud Boys the former are an openly accepted and supported and sponsored wing of the movement, while the latter are largely viewed as a barely tolerated embarrassment.

  • Nardz||

    Mandating agencies allow same sex adoption is as
    "Evangelical Authoritarian Big Government" as it gets

  • ThomasD||

    Yes, not interfering in same sex adoptions should be the default government position. When they mandate participation in them it is highly authoritarian.

  • Eric||

    Conservative and Liberal have become meaningless. When neoliberals embraced religious authoritarians and nationalists and called the group "conservative" the term lost all meaning.
    On the "left" we have a similar grouping of disparate groups. Social authoritarians exist with economic authoritarians and what's left of the social libertarians, all calling themselves liberal or progressive. Im old enough to know that there is absolutely nothing "liberal" about today's social justice warriors.

  • Milo||

    I prefer the simple term Liberal, with the capital L. It is jarring enough to give the intelligent reader pause and therefore to reflect on what is meant; it retains the link to the great Liberal intellectual tradition; and at the same time can serve to seduce the thinking person away from the great progressive idiocy.

  • Milo||

    I prefer the simple term Liberal, with the capital L. It is jarring enough to give the intelligent reader pause and therefore to reflect on what is meant; it retains the link to the great Liberal intellectual tradition; and at the same time can serve to seduce the thinking person away from the great progressive idiocy.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Liberals are not classic Liberals about economics nor freedoms. It was always a lie that Liberals were anything but Socialists.

  • Eric||

    You should take philosophy class if they offer one at your high school. Or even read a book on the subject of the history of liberalism and the meaning of the term.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Oh poor Eric.

    You should pick up a history book and see why they say that you are a Useful Idiot.

  • Eric||

    It would explain a lot about your understanding of things if the history books you read contain reference to me.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Oh Eric, we all know that you are a troll.

  • Milo||

    Big L Liberalism has its wings, I will concede, and so I agree that the term Classic Liberalism has its utility, particularly in the USA. But to say that Liberals were all Socialists is an absurdity of the no-true-Scotsman kind.

  • ThomasD||

    Is the Church of AGW authoritarian?

    Sure seems so to me.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    "Do not do unto others what you would not want done unto yourself."

    "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    Both formulations of the golden rule imply that everyone is alike. Think of a masochist and sadist and the failures are obvious. The first one is closer to the NAP, especially if it stopped after the first five words. The second is just good intentions and practically mandates busybody interventions.

    Self-ownership on the individual level and the NAP are all it takes. You can derive the definition of property from that.

  • vek||

    Yeah, the first version is far better in terms of what is subtly implied.

  • TxJack 112||

    I have long suspected this was no longer a true libertarian website but a progressive one. This article tends to prove that point. The fact that conservatism is a belief "in top-down order, as in a loving or authoritarian household". Actual libertarians believe in a country governed by a single document, the Constitution. They reject the concept of legal precedent as the basis of law because of the issue of legislating from the bench. They believe in the government being limited to only those powers granted to it by the Constitution and everything else is reserved to the states as explicitly outlined in the Constitution. However, this website has strayed far away from that point of view when it supports open borders by claiming it is "an expression of freedom". The Founding Fathers lived in the Age of the Enlightenment. The period was liberal by its mere existence because it challenged every conventional wisdom of the day so to claim it was anything else is phony. This article is clearly a progressive pretending to be a libertarian by misquoting, misidentifying and using misinformation to rewrite history.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    The fact that conservatism is a belief "in top-down order, as in a loving or authoritarian household". Actual libertarians believe in a country governed by a single document, the Constitution.

    Both sentences can be true simultaneously.

    You are not equating conservatism with libertarianism I hope.

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    I think asserting that all conservatives believe in "top-down order" is putting words into the mouths of other people to characterize them in a way convenient to the author's argument. It's a caricature of conservatism that 'progressives' like to trot out when they are attempting to portray themselves as the great friends of individual liberty.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Many of them outed themselves as Anarchists when they did those two sides of the argument phase.

    A couple others are useful idiots for the Left.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Libertarianism and Constitutionalism are two different things.

    For example, the Constitution authorizes an income tax. To be a Constitutionalist, one must defend the income tax. A libertarian however will rightly point out that taxation is theft and will work to have the income tax abolished.

    Libertarians will point out that if SCOTUS is correct about what the Fourth Amendment does and does not permit the government to do, then the Fourth Amendment is too weak as a guarantor of liberty and should be changed. A Constitutionalist may not.

  • Cyto||

    Good point

  • ThomasD||

    Horrible point.

    To be a Constitutionalist does not require one to support every and all aspect of the document.

    Especially not since the document expressly includes mechanisms for making alterations.

    It's law, not Holy Writ.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Just remember that the Enlightenments are not necessarily classically liberal. The great totalitarianisms are children of the non-Scottish Enlightenments.

  • ThomasD||

    Even the Scottish Enlightenment got rather sketchy - e.g. David Hume.

    But the Continentals really went to shit when Rousseau came along. When even Voltaire tells you to sit down and shut up you've got issues.

  • Eric||

    " Actual libertarians believe in a country governed by a single document, the Constitution."

    You're mixing up facts for opinions.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    Yes, he's got some weird definitions and a lot to learn if this is typical of his thoughts.

    Right at home with lc1789 probably, conflating anarchists and minarchists. Also with idiots who conflate anarchy and chaos.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Anarchists sticking together, I see.

    Nobody except Anarchists care about the flavors of Anarchists. Anarchists are weak upset little people who dont even have the balls to pool their money and buy some land to form Anarchy-Land and give it a shot. They have to try and tear down the USA, so they hoe Anarchy-Land will rise from the ashes.

    My comments clearly upset y'all and your sock puppets because you follow me around like little puppy dogs, never providing counter-points to what I say just little snarky weak sauce comments.

    Good luck with that.

  • Eric||

    See if your high-school offers a psychology class too so you can learn about the term: projection.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trolls gang up.

  • ThomasD||

    Anyone who thinks that anarchy will not be chaos is a utopian.

  • GoatOnABoat||

    A far-left professor writing for a libertarian publication bashing conservatives.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    You seem to be confused as to the editorial mission of this site.

    It is libertarian - not conservative.

  • Conchfritters||

    I had him for econ when he taught at the University of Iowa. He is about as far left as Milton Friedman.

  • GoatOnABoat||

    Him? You mean her? Unless she identifies differently these days. She hangs out with Marxists. If it walks like a duck...

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    She used to be he. If you don't know that, you are too ignorant to be relied upon for "hangs out with Marxists".

  • loveconstitution1789||

    This guy is a sock. Interesting to figure out who it was that was banned.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Polit that is.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Left-Right political Spectrum. Libertarianism is right in the middle of the two extreme wings. The maximum liberty, social freedom, and tiny government. On the Left are Communism, Socialism, and Democratic Party. On the Right are Monarchies, Theocracies, and Conservatism.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    Libertarians are not in the middle of the authoritarian left-right spectrum. They are above it or below or anywhere else off it you can name, but absolutely off it.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nope. Left-Right spectrum with authoritarianism at the extreme wings. Plenty of us use that method too.

    Try to convince people of your method and watch us laugh.

  • ThomasD||

    I would posit an axis based upon governmental authority. At the extremes are two forms of Utopia; on the right absolute anarchy and on the left absolute totalitarianism.

    In that sense minarchists are to the right, and both major parties are to the left of Libertarianism.

    The real question is how can we bring those to our left further in our direction?

  • Mr. JD||

    Anarchy and totalitarianism are synonyms.

    Both are the absence of rights and the domination of the bully. Whether the bully calls himself king makes no difference in practice.

    Libertarianism needs to get over its self-flattering love affair with saying "we transcend the spectrum!" The spectrum isn't somehow identical at its opposite ends. That's a stupid spectrum.

    The spectrum is respect for natural rights at the right end and no rights at the left end. Yes, that means you have a side, just like everyone else. Deal with it.

  • ThomasD||

    "Anarchy and totalitarianism are synonyms."

    Antonyms.

    As I noted they are both forms of Utopianism. In other words, they can never be fully realized in an imperfect world. The totalitarians could never fully dictate every single aspect of existence (if nothing else the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applies.) Nor could anarchy deal with the individual who would inevitably refuse to play along and seek to abuse others.

    Meanwhile your 'alternate' formulations are actually synonymous with the two ends of this spectrum.

    'Respect for natural rights' is exactly what the anarchists hope to achieve, and 'no rights' is the very essence of totalitarianism.

    I'm gonna assume that JD are your actual initials, not anything you've been awarded.

  • Mr. JD||

    You play right into the hands of libertarianism's critics.

    Under anarchy, what prevents me from shooting you and taking your stuff? Please don't tell me it's the fact that we all share libertarian ideology.

    Rights exist independent of whether they are defended (thus "natural"), but they don't actually amount to a hill of beans absent a social contract to respect them. That social contract is not anarchy.

    That libertarianism is anarchist is an anti-libertarian slur.

  • ThomasD||

    Are you willfuly trying to not understand the argument? Because I'm not sure how to make it more clear.

    "Under anarchy, what prevents me from shooting you and taking your stuff?"

    What you describe is chaos, which some people call anarchy, but they are wrong. What you describe is the rule of the strong over the weak. Which very much is a form of political organisation and power. Exactly where it falls on my spectrum depends on how much the strong seek to exert that power over the lives of others.

    It is not Utopian Anarchy.

    Utopian Anarchy is a self organizing ordered world with respect for all rights and liberties in the absence of any sort of state or organized force.

    We, in the real world, inevitably start from a position with some degree of state power. Moving in one direction - towards the minarchists requires reduction of state power. Carry that far enough and (implicit in the argument, that all goes well) you end up at the anarchic ideal.

    No, it cannot be achieved on Earth - that's what makes it a form of Utopia. Which I made abundantly clear.

    (When you read something you don't understand do not assume it doesn't mean anything.)

  • ThomasD||

    Same goes for movement in the other direction. The Utopian Totalitarians promise a world of ultimate order and ultimate good predicated on total control of everything, but it never works out that way, what they too deliver is a world of the strong preying on the weak.

    That their promise can never be realized in the mundane world also makes them Utopians.

    My point is, extreme movement in either direction is not going to be good for the individual as an individual. Libertarianism is a moderating approach that places greatest concern on the ability of the individual to decide what is 'good' for himself. The anarchist will inevitably demand 'more' freedom and the statist will demand 'less.' But neither will deliver the good they promise

    "That libertarianism is anarchist is an anti-libertarian slur."

    Congratulations. You have successfully refuted something I never said.

    My spectrum explicitly placed libertarianism farther away from the non-state existence than the minarchist position. So yes, you are finally right, libertarians are not anarchists, and never have been. 'Critics' who conflate the two are either doing so out of ignorance or mendacity.

    I'm not sure where you,/i> are operating from. I get the impression your heart is in the right place, but am not sure that your brain is getting much traction.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Here is a recent remake of the Nolan chart. https://preview.tinyurl.com/ybeut49q
    Dan Lantz, a physicist in Austin, was the one who thought of tilting the original so that the Left oversimplification could be shown in a context less childish. American Scientist ran an article in 1989 spewing vituperation at political models having "two many dimensions" (meaning two). Oddly, Left since 1919 has been lay socialism, and "right" its more christianized analogue. Ancient fallacies are the warp and woof of ossified mercantilist conservatism and 19th-Century communo-fascist socialism. The Second Amendment and modern weapons are likely what keeps them from trying to burn us at the stake or in ovens.

  • Mr. JD||

    Individual rights and economic freedom are not separate concepts.

  • Echospinner||

    You can plot a z axis.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    In a word, be a liberal.

    Technically that's three words.

  • Priscilla King||

    "Fiscally conservative, socially liberal" still works for me, but I'm old. I like this essay, even if what the author describes as conservatives are what I usually describe as Republicans.

    A quibble: "Nice," pleasing, compliant people rush past the injured man on the other side of the road. *Good* people cross the road to offer help. That's what I mean by recommending that people try to become good wo/men rather than merely "Nice Guys/Girls."

  • M.L.||

    That used to work for me too, but see my reply below.

  • Hank Phillips||

    So what about the Jesus-Hayek gal's reference to inhumane selfishness? Does anyone here have a take on how NOT initiating force against others is somehow inhumane?

  • Enemy of the State||

    Great sentiments from a great econo-historian.

    "The conservative admires evolution up to a couple of decades before the present, but unlike libertarians he is fearful and angry about any recent or, God help us, future evolution. "

    Plenty of conservatives on the Left. Just ask one about eliminating the federal social-welfare state including SS and Medicare/Medicaid. You'll get a response along the lines of saying the military should be dismantled to a right-winger...

  • ThomasD||

    Evolution is not teleological. (If your sense of evolution is teleological then it's not so much science as it is religion. Which is ok, but then what follows does not apply.)

    ...

    Evolution is random change followed by a process of natural selection.

    Meaning that, based upon one's point of view (said POV to include things like "I'd like my progeny to be able to continue the reproductive process") evolution is not always and everywhere desirable.

    Narrow your point of view further and the odds of evolution being desirable will only diminish. There are plenty of 'dead ends' and 'mistakes' for every sort of 'improvement.'

    So yes, I'd call the attitude you describe rather 'conservative.' But I'd also call it Common Sense (in the Thomas Reid sense of the word) - which is also classically Liberal.

  • ThomasD||

    And to anyone wondering why a teleological view of evolution precludes my later argument.

    It is because the presence of a (presumed) telos - an objective or defined ends - predetermines what is ' the good.' At that point your only options is to accept whatever comes as 'the good' no matter what you may think it means for you or to conclude that the universe is a malevolent force solely intended to do you harm.

  • ThomasD||

    ..only options are...

  • CLM1227||

    You do know that party != ideology, right?

    That globalist warmongers and conservatives ended up hanging out in the same party is a result of the Cold War.

    So that strawman description of "conservatives" is a bit messed up.

    There are incredibly out voiced conservative Democrats, too. It seems a bit oxymoronic, but the terms libertarian, conservative, and liberal have meanings that transcend every day and mundane politics. Republican and Democrat do not adequately capture this, as people's priorities are many and varied and shift over time as new variables are introduced and old ones fade out. Republican and Democrat embody policies more than ideology.

    I am curious about the assertion that libertarian boils down to NAP, because that sounds incredibly simplistic when it comes to the (better) thinkers of libertarianism.

    When it comes to politics and governing, libertarianism seems to boil people down into simply economic units (which supposedly follow logic rules based on economics, which simple observation shows far more chaos than that) - at least what I've seen from the intelligent libertarians I've interacted with.

  • vek||

    Honestly, the way purist libertarianism completely ignores anything beyond essentially economic well being as being of importance is one of its greatest flaws. People ARE emotional animals. People CARE about things. About their way of life, their nation, their traditions, etc. And purists literally wave ALL that away as being not only useless, but EVIL to dare defend those things, even if one proposes to do it through social means and not laws.

    According to writers here I'm "cruel" and "evil" because I don't want America to allow in so many immigrants it would forever alter its culture in ways I don't find desirable. This is one of many reasons purist libertarian thinking will never go anywhere.

  • ThomasD||

    It's all the time spent confronting traditional Marxist rhetoric that skews discussions towards economics.

    But, be nice to socialists anyway.

    Also traditional, and/or religious people are icky, so their concerns are just not that important to the cocktail set. Discussing those sorts of things marks you as a rube. Or worse, a hick from Buffalo.

    As mentioned elsewhere Rousseau bears a tremendous amount of blame for this 'the mark of class is to despise your culture' attitude.

  • ThomasD||

    Hondurans marching towards the US border waving Honduran flags is cool.

    Were the US to return the favor it would be the essence of colonialism.

  • vek||

    Agree completely. I really don't understand why elitists all seem to hate their own nations... If I were some billionaire American, or British nobleman, I'm pretty sure I would be even more nationalistic than I already am!

    And some are. Lord Monckton is AMAZING if you've never heard of him. But they really do seem to be a rare breed.

    One solution to the Central American problem could be to just... Annex them! Trump should suggest that, and watch the left freak!

  • ThomasD||

    Annexing makes it sound like we are taking something.

    The refugees want to come live in the US?

    Well, let's save them the trip and send the US to them.

    Then it's a gift.

  • vek||

    That's true! Good PR to be sure!

    Just gotta come up with a nice new term for it I suppose. Mega Amnesty or something? I dunno...

  • Echospinner||

    "The late first-century BCE Jewish sage Hillel of Babylon put it negatively: "Do not do unto others what you would not want done unto yourself." It's masculine, guy-liberalism, a gospel of justice, roughly equivalent to the non-aggression axiom as articulated by liberals from the Cato Institute's David Boaz to the Mises Institute's Walter Block."

    Just a post for context. Hillel and his contemporaries crafted the transition from Leviticus and the temple cult to rabbinic Judaism which exists today. That is preserved in the Mishnah and later Gemara.

    The background story told of that quote is this.

    A Roman soldier appraches Hillel as he is teaching. He asks Hillel " if you can teach me all of Torah while standing on one foot I will become a Jew"

    Hillel rises up and says three things.

    "Do not do unto you neighbor what is hateful unto you"

    "The rest is commentary"

    "Now go and learn"

    The last part is the most important.

  • M.L.||

    So essentially, libertarianism is a deeply held naivete. An insistent clinging to elegant theory, because it is more aesthetically pleasing to the mind than accounting for the contradictory reality. Steadfastly shutting out the real world and remaining intentionally blind to human natures.

    Sounds about right. I think after signing onto "Why I am not a Conservative," the time has come for a "Why I am not a Libertarian."

  • vek||

    Just about. As I have said many times it ignores too many aspects of human nature, and objective reality, because they don't work in the libertarian "equation"... Of course if your variables are wrong, the equation doesn't work in practice the way you think it should! But they close their eyes to this, and just go "la la la la la la la" until it goes away.

    The libertarian equation is only off in a few spots, but boy howdy some of them create great ripple effects down the line as far as real world results vs hypothetical!

    Hence, in my world view, I correct the few incorrect variables, and come to a far more accurate understanding of how things actually work.

  • M.L.||

    I might call myself a libertarian to some audiences, but not around here.

    Fundamentally, the market is a construct enabled in part by government. It's not a state of nature. More importantly, [insert John Adams quote about a moral and religious people.]

  • ThomasD||

    Markets arise spontaneously. Governments may create additional markets, but usually these come at additional (and usually hidden) costs - e.g. black markets.

  • Mr. JD||

    Markets exist without governments. They also exist in spite of governments. We call them "black markets."

    Markets ARE a state of nature.

  • M.L.||

    "Fiscally conservative, socially liberal" used to seem kind of workable to me. Now, it makes no sense other than in a few narrow senses.

    Unfortunately, the "socially liberal" position has become something that should be better described as something like "culturally Marxist and socially fascist."

    As it turns out, I'm a "cultural" conservative now, because our pro-liberty culture -- the culture that yielded everything from the Constitution and free speech to robust markets to allowing gays to marry and live peacefully -- is actually a rare thing and a minority position in the world. It is a flame that could be snuffed out if, for instance, we continue to allow the following things:

    1) continued de facto open borders policy and dissolution of national borders, thereby becoming indistinguishable with the rest of the world

    2) the impending global economic domination of the globe by deeply Communist China, enabled solely by our misguided policy of enriching them

    3) the creeping secession of our national sovereignty to globalist ruling bodies and a one world government

    My love for the pro-liberty culture of this country makes me a nationalist.

    "Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire."

    ― Gustav Mahler

  • vek||

    I can't say that I disagree with any of that.

    1 and 3 are quite obvious to me, and should be noted as problems by any sane person.

    China, is a complicated cookie. I really lean towards non intervention in theory... Cuba? Who cares. Trade with them, whatever. China however has the power to truly change the entire world, and not in a good direction. But at the same time, engaging with them may tilt them in a better direction... BUT we don't need to be bending over for them like we have been either. The status quo definitely needs to change, but I really don't know how much, or in what areas would yield the best results.

  • vek||

    So in general, I agree with most of that... My problem with it is you get a little too hippieish with some stuff.

    For instance, accepting change is NOT always good. LOTS of change in history is bad. When one can objectively reason that a random (or orchestrated) change has negative real world repercussions, a smart person fights them. This can and should come out as being intolerant of such change. Now a purist libertarian position would be to not make a LAW about it, but rely on social pressure.

    But your idea that we must accept social changes, or political changes, just because is foolish. Would it be wise to NOT fight against the Roman form of governance being replaced by Germanic barbarian styles of governance, AKA absolute monarchs? Of course the Roman ways were worth fighting for.

    I don't mind gay people, but your "adoption of children by gay couples" thing has had some studies that seem to show confusion and issues on the part of the adopted kids... But let's try another, less controversial one: Single parents. They're definitively garbage for kids, yet lionizing them has been a major leftist goal.

    Should THIS be accepted, even though it's empirically not a good thing? Actually, single mothers are in fact worse in many respects than single fathers statistically too... Kids tend to have fewer disciplinary issues at school and with the law if raised by fathers. Yet I suspect you wouldn't like to admit to that, would you? So is tolerance ALWAYS good???

  • vek||

    "The liberal abhors hierarchy of men over women" What about this gem. You do KNOW there are biological reasons men always run almost every society on earth right? Like that we're by far the more productive workers, and that we simply have the drive and aggression to get shit handled. Women are more laid back about getting shit done if you will.

    Men are biologically programmed to be driven, as evidenced by women stating in surveys they don't want to work as much, or care about making as much money... And then following through on those stated preferences in reality to boot! This isn't even to mention that men are stronger, tougher, and the only ones capable of defending a civilization against other men taking over. Pretty useful thing that!

    Men also have different IQ distributions, with more geniuses, AND more retards. But the genius men tend to be the ones who end up running things everywhere. This is why at the top tiers of basically every single field of endeavor the world over, you find 90%+ men there.

    Now, I believe we're complimentary. Men can be too far one way or another (violent, uncaring), and women the opposite (passive, bleeding heart). And there are some needed skills and traits that women excel men at as well.

    There are also statistical outliers on both sides, aggressive women, weak men, etc. But AVERAGES matter when one is talking about societal scale stuff.

  • CLM1227||

    Some addendums to add flesh...

    Like that we're by far the more productive workers, and that we simply have the drive and aggression to get shit handled. Women are more laid back about getting shit done if you will.

    Men need to be invested to be productive. Men who feel worthless are not productive. Women can be productive and step up to fill a gap if necessary, but long term necessity makes her... bitchy...

    This isn't even to mention that men are stronger, tougher, and the only ones capable of defending a civilization against other men taking over.

    Also, women heading off to war and dying tends to end a civilization - 1 women and 10 men gets you 1-2 kids per year. 1 man and 10 women gets you 10-20 per year.

    Men also have different IQ distributions, with more geniuses, AND more retards. But the genius men tend to be the ones who end up running things everywhere. This is why at the top tiers of basically every single field of endeavor the world over, you find 90%+ men there.

    And the stupid ones expend themselves in war, stupidity, or dangerous jobs.

    :)

  • vek||

    All true!

  • Lester224||

    Oh god...
    What do you call taking care of children if not productive? What do you call working full time after your children are self sufficient in order to increase your family's well-being if not productive? Even if you can't stand women not taking full-time care of small children do you really think that women should stop being productive when they have no small children to take care of? You really think all women with full-time jobs are bitchy? I think you must just be surrounded with bitches. Maybe you need to move

    Just because there are few more "geniuses" (If you believe IQ is the best measure) and retards among men on the tails of the distribution, it doesn't mean there aren't many women who have higher IQs than a huge proportion of men. Those women should make themselves useful and improve the world, not just loll around so they don't become bitchy.

  • vek||

    That was not my argument. I think women SHOULD take more time off for having kids, but there's no reason they shouldn't work before/after that period in their lives.

    There are plenty of women with higher IQs than plenty of men. That is obvious from the fact that there are more low IQ men than women! I'm just tired of the screeching about it being sexism keeping women from being half of CEOs or whatever. I also think as a society we're PUSHING women to do stuff they DO NOT really prefer.

    Women are statistically less happy than they've been since anybody started keeping track. There is strong evidence that most women DO NOT like career life. They do it, and then do not feel fulfilled... Then realize they're too old to have kids. And they're miserable.

    We should return to a system where individuals can do what they want to, without feeling pressured. I personally think far more women would choose to NOT do the career thing. But those that are inclined should surely be able to.

  • vek||

    So if hierarchy is in fact natural, not forced... AND hierarchy actually produces the best results, by putting the most competent at the top... Why would somebody be against that exactly? And if it is the best way, why is that a perquisite to being a classical liberal, or libertarian?

    The founding fathers, and other enlightenment era people had no problem accepting biological differences between sexes, and squaring that with the overall principles. Exception to a rule is a thing that exists ya know.

    I could go on, but there's no need. Libertarianism is a great general framework to start from, but because the world doesn't actually conform to the "perfect" egalitarian model of people that the libertarian model requires to actually function fully, it stumbles sometimes. It's like how the Soviet Man doesn't exist in the real world either, so their system obviously failed. Libertarianism screws up a few areas because of this same type of delusional thinking... FORTUNATELY it is correct on 98% of issues as is.

    That's why I'm a libertarian with an asterisk which says "Except in a few areas where conservatives have a more realistic understanding of the world." I would have made the world exactly as purist libertarianism needed to work perfectly if I could... But since I'm not god, I have to take it as it is, and adjust accordingly.

  • Mr. JD||

    Diversity is inequality.

    I don't see how libertarian theory requires equal outcomes. There's no conflict here; just a bunch of "libertarians" out there who are actually collectivists.

  • Mr. JD||

    Diversity is inequality.

    I don't see how libertarian theory requires equal outcomes. There's no conflict here; just a bunch of "libertarians" out there who are actually collectivists.

  • vek||

    Well, many CLAIM they don't demand equality of outcomes... And I think many mean it. But my problem is that many of those same people falsely believe that people are in fact somehow equal anyway... When we're not.

    One can simply read through endless studies and see the disparities between men and women. Yet they still cling to us being "equal."

    If one is being rational, honestly, I think men are in fact superior to women overall. We top them in most areas that matter the most, they win a few areas though. It kind of sucks for women, but it isn't my fault evolution kicked us out this way. But to even dare say men are superior to women is heresy nowadays. I still believe in treating people as individuals, but when one is looking at society scale things, you can't ignore these issues.

    But once one accepts this reality, one then has to grapple with inconvenient ideas... Which is why I think many just bury their heads in the sand, and pretend all the evidence doesn't exist.

  • Mr. JD||

    We measure masculine characteristics much more than feminine ones, then compare average performance by gender and act as though women ought to equal men. To be fair, emotional intelligence is tough to quantify, while material productivity is much easier.

    Men are also much more risk-tolerant, which means more men exist at both extremes, leading to feminist apex fallacies about men dominating the top.

    Less talked about is the fact that modern humans in general are too risk averse, settling into their comfortable employments and going home to watch TV before bed. Our risk is nothing compared to that of our ancestors. Given this overall skew against risk, plus a difference in risk-tolerance between genders, one would expect men to outperform women in the aggregate of all areas of life.

    In a different world where humanity is overall too risky, women would do better than men.

  • HenryC||

    There is a huge difference between equal rights and equality. That is the point at which the left is so lost.They do not seem to understand that since all of us are different, treating each person the same is an evil.

  • vek||

    Mr. JD, I tend to mostly agree. Bottom line is: It is what it is! Men and women are what we are, and we should try to get as much out of both genders as we can. But to expect identical results from both sexes in all areas is an impossible expectation.

  • James Pollock||

    "For instance, accepting change is NOT always good. LOTS of change in history is bad. When one can objectively reason that a random (or orchestrated) change has negative real world repercussions, a smart person fights them."

    Fighting change while it's happening is one thing. Fighting changes that are in the past is another.

    So, for example, let's just say that a guy got elected President who has political ideas you disagree with. I'm guessing you won't have to look back further than, say, one or two Presidents to find such an example. OK, that guy. That guy got elected. Accept it. That guy won the election, and gets to run the country for a while. Accepting this doesn't mean you have to accept every little piece... there might be an egregious judicial appointment worth opposing, or a statutory scheme you might call your Congressman about.
    But opposing every single action, tooth and nail, is not healthy.

  • vek||

    Ish. I mean, if there was a TRULY horrible person in charge, fighting tooth and nail might be warranted. Say Stalin.

    I think this is why the left is going so nuts... The media has spun Trump into being LITERALLY HITLER, so they feel justified in being crazy... When the reality is that Trump is a less charming version of Bill Clinton in the 90s.

  • Mr. JD||

    Great summary of the self-defeating rhetoric of libertarianism.

    A movement that is the antithesis of Leftism is still hell-bent on accepting the Left's dishonest framing of the political spectrum, by which all authoritarianism and collectivism that doesn't achieve the Left's stated objectives is to be branded as "right-wing" and lumped together with free market advocacy in a big "them" category for the Left to hate.

    That's not what the spectrum actually looks like.

    The spectrum is a simple linear plot depicting the extent to which a person values natural (or negative) rights. The Left values them less, the Right values them more. At the far-right is a perfect free market, maximizing everyone's natural rights by not infringing on them at all with authoritarian collectivism.

  • Mr. JD||

    Great summary of the self-defeating rhetoric of libertarianism.

    A movement that is the antithesis of Leftism is still hell-bent on accepting the Left's dishonest framing of the political spectrum, by which all authoritarianism and collectivism that doesn't achieve the Left's stated objectives is to be branded as "right-wing" and lumped together with free market advocacy in a big "them" category for the Left to hate.

    That's not what the spectrum actually looks like.

    The spectrum is a simple linear plot depicting the extent to which a person values natural (or negative) rights. The Left values them less, the Right values them more. At the far-right is a perfect free market, maximizing everyone's natural rights by not infringing on them at all with authoritarian collectivism.

  • Mr. JD||

    There is room for diversity of rationale or application along this spectrum. For example, those who recognize the personhood of the unborn disagree with those who don't as to the application of natural rights protection to the unborn and their mothers. That doesn't mean that they aren't on the same page with regard to the importance of natural rights, though.

    What the Left tells gullible libertarians to hate about "conservatives" is that while a conservative believes that authoritarian imposition of ideals is bad, he does believe that some ideals are much better than others. The Left tries to impose moral relativism, stating (though not actually believing) that there are no better or worse cultures. Libertarians often foolishly buy into this narrative.

    The Left also tells gullible libertarians that fascism is far-right, even though fascism is the antithesis of everything that both conservatives and libertarians believe in while having a lot in common with the Left.

    So long as gullible libertarians let the Left frame their worldview, they will undercut their own ideals.

  • James Pollock||

    "For example, those who recognize the personhood of the unborn disagree with those who don't as to the application of natural rights protection to the unborn and their mothers. That doesn't mean that they aren't on the same page with regard to the importance of natural rights, though."

    There's no such thing as a "natural right". Rights are those that other people are prepared to extend to you, and nothing more. Try lecturing an armed robber about your right to enjoy the wages of your own labor, and see if the conversation doesn't turn to your right to stay alive. If someone has both the intent and the capability to defy your "rights", then you don't have them. You can talk all you want about how you should, though.

  • wreckinball||

    God!

    Yes Reason conservatives are really the only threat to liberty. What a bunch of fucking dopes at Reason

  • Duelles||

    As A 70 year old and having read some Political theory as a kid I considered myself a liberal. Whoa! Read some history ( & going to school) and the "liberal" label is assigned to Woody Wilson and others of the 20th century authoritarians I became conservative until the Republicans took over Congress and .... the rest is history. "Don't tread on me!"

  • Mr. JD||

    You considered yourself liberal because the Left controlled the schools and told you that conservative meant "ignorant, anti-science, racist, etc"

    Then Republicans took over congress and revealed that the Deep State is real and our only choice is to move leftward more slowly or more quickly, and you thought it was because Republicans are ideologically further from you than they are.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Why You Are Not a Conservative"

    To be on the left has been about socialism since before the Great Depression.

    Because I am a rabid capitalist, that puts me on the right.

    To whatever extent "conservative" refers to the values of hard work, individual responsibility, frugality, and independence, I am a conservative--and those ideals are also not compatible with socialism.

    When I put these things altogether, they look a lot like what people used to call "the Protestant work ethic". To whatever extent that term describes "conservative", I am a conservative.

  • HenryC||

    Capitalism is about freedom to chose. The left does not understand this. Any capitalist enterprise provides goods and services at prices their customers are willing to pay. It is only when government gets involved, crony capitalism, that people are force to accept the priced demanded for the goods and services.

  • James Pollock||

    " It is only when government gets involved, crony capitalism"

    Crony capitalism has nothing to do with government. It occurs where capitalists prefer to deal amongst themselves and work together to exclude newcomers.

  • Robert||

    So, Don, did you have to become a Deirdre just to be nice?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Nice to find someone familiar with the definition of liberal. The rest of the article is OK. In Brazil the "Do NOT do unto others..." Golden Rule is the vernacular, but you would never guess it from the 32 communo-fascist political parties. The Jesus sage is an assumption. None of the Gospels were written by anyone who lived at the time of Jesus, nor for the next 150 years, and he, like Socrates, wrote not a word. So we do not know if the story was a rewrite of earlier myths. Conspicuous in its absence is notice that the NAP we use today is like the one penned by Ayn Rand in 1947. This was while War Crimes trials and hangings were winding down and Atlas Shrugged was being written. Rand, its true, feared LP spoiler votes like many Goldwater enthusiasts. But LP spoiler votes have been efficiently toppling bad laws for 46 years now.

  • James Pollock||

    "Libertarians sit nowhere on the left-right map."

    I would argue the exact opposite: Libertarians sit EVERYWHERE on the left-right map.

    This is so because of the vast multitudes of definitions of "libertarian", at least one per libertarian, and sometimes more.

    No two libertarians agree on much of anything, including specifically what it means, exactly, to be "libertarian", which is why the Libertarian Party is largely ineffective. To be effective, a party needs some semblance of unity, and libertarians lack even the vaguest outline of common goals and ideas.

    There's a reason the whole LP is dismissed as "Republicans who want to smoke pot".

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    No two libertarians agree on much of anything, including specifically what it means, exactly, to be "libertarian", which is why the Libertarian Party is largely ineffective. To be effective, a party needs some semblance of unity, and libertarians lack even the vaguest outline of common goals and ideas.

    And conservatives do? The Republican party is quite popular.

  • James Pollock||

    "And conservatives do?"

    Yup. You get near uniform response from them. For 8 years, it was easy... they was against whatever Barack Obama was for. When Obama was for increasing the number of deportations from the United States for illegal immigrants, Republicans in Congress were suddenly against that. Remember the huge uproar in outrage at the Republican Congressmen who deepsixed Obama's request for authorization to deport more illegals? No? It's because they agreed that whatever Obama wanted, they wanted to stop.

    Now, since Obama left office, the unity is much shakier, and they couldn't even agree on how to repeal Obamacare. The only thing they could agree on was that income taxes should be cut for corporations and rich people.

  • MikeP2||

    you obviously have never actually taken the time to have a political discussion with more than one conservative.

    Your comment might sound good within your internal fantasy space, but in the real world not so much.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    "Do unto others before they do unto you."

    That wasn't the "new GOP", that was the unnamed thief from Zork I: The Great Underground Empire.

    Is Deirdre Nansen McCloskey actually Welchie Boy in drag? Because this sounds almost exactly identical to his "I'm a liberal" hippie-ish drivel.

    Let me guess: you're the kind of liberal who thought that Obama's election heralded the "Libertarian Moment" and thought that the "Arab Spring" was going to be the most awesome thing in the Middle East ever? I'll bet that you are.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Except she said the exact opposite.

  • mondo_cane||

    I'm an active and practicing Liberal (in the original meaning of the word Liberal) Libertarian, and I don't like the tone of your accusation:
    ["What we do not need is the new GOP's version: "Do unto others before they do unto you.""]

    I am completely unaware of any such sentiment in the GOP. And more, you provide no proof of such.

    There is no need, or reason, for your slanting facts and ideas to fit your thesis. Interestingly, nowhere in your tract do you mention this "new GOP version" until the very end. And then you provide no basis and no facts for your blatantly accusatory statement.

    I might be so bold as to say, you are intentionally maligning the GOP. More correctly, you are parroting the Democrat Party. Based on their recent activities, it is they who seem to be more aligned the this cynical and mean-spirited instruction.

    What on Earth could you possibly hope to derive from such a thing?

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    I don't think the purpose of the article was to provide proof of the assertions about the Republican or Democrat parties (or "socialists" either, as referred to in the article). I assume the author expects that the readership here will find the proof in the articles that surround this one. This shouldn't really be viewed as a standalone piece.

    But you can find the proof you're looking for in this week's Reason articles. Especially from Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • James Pollock||

    "I might be so bold as to say, you are intentionally maligning the GOP. More correctly, you are parroting the Democrat Party."

    This is a stretch. Being critical (accurately) of a political party does not imply membership in another. This "you aren't one of us, so you must be one of them" attitude is exactly why some people are critical of political parties in general, including specifically the big two.

  • TheBullDog||

    So, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United states and I believe in a small Federal Government. What am I?

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    From a political perspective, you would probably find the most in common with the Constitution Party.

    The Libertarian Party is a more diverse group. Some put the constitution on a pedestal, whereas others are outright opposed to it. All of them believe in a small federal government (or no federal government) though. Might be a fit.

    The Republicans pay lip service to the constitution (and its protection and defense), but there's no data to suggest that they believe in a small federal government. Every opportunity they've had to reduce the size and cost of the federal government, they've gone in the opposite direction.

  • James Pollock||

    "From a political perspective, you would probably find the most in common with the Constitution Party."

    I don't want to dispute this (not least because it's very likely correct) but to add to it.

    The problem with identifying with a "third" party is the very difficult hurdle that any of the third-party candidates face... it's very difficult to unseat both a Republican and a Democrat at the same time. This means that joining, supporting, and (perhaps) even voting for "third" parties often leaves one without a voice after all the votes are counted.

    Being within the two "major" parties provides more likelihood of actually getting things implemented in a way you find favorable, even through you disagree with some or even most of the big party's positions or actions.

    Conversely, the big parties know that they only have to SAY things to keep their coalitions together... actually DOING them is not as important. So, for example, the R's talk a lot about reducing the size of government and passing a balanced-budget amendment when they are not in charge of running the government... and then when they ARE in charge of running the government, they spend like drunken sailors on the last couple of hours of their shore liberty. Social conservatives have been waiting for four decades for that anti-abortion amendment, and it seems they aren't quite done drafting it yet. Maybe after the next election cycle... Meanwhile, we got another tax cut for corporations through.

  • JeremyR||

    I think the problem is that things have shifted so far to the left.

    Social issues? You are now considered a right wring extremist if you think gays should have civil unions, not marriage. (By contrast, 100 years ago, being gay was illegal in many places)

    You're even worse if you happen to think sex is biological

    Race has gone from everyone should be equal, to that whites (and sometimes Asians) apparently have inherent privilege over "Persons of Color" (but never "Colored Persons", that phrase is racist) and should be penalized

    Economically you see more and more regulation in both right and left, it's just the left (still) prefers nationalization of industries

  • JeremyR||

    And in terms of military intervention, has there really been any change in the last 120 years? Or even longer? People seem to forget we once invaded Libya back during the Barbary pirate days. Or our colonial adventure in the Phillipines in the late 1800s.

  • CLM1227||

    I accept the 2nd as example, but the first was defensive.

  • James Pollock||

    "And in terms of military intervention, has there really been any change in the last 120 years?"

    There was a difference in a single generation, specifically, between President GHW Bush and President GW Bush.

    The elder Bush picked a fight, set clear and achievable goals, achieved them, and came home. Whereas W... achieved different results.

    Going back a bit further, the U.S. was seriously considering sitting out WWII until Japan dragged us into it.

  • vek||

    Yup. I think part of it is that the left has won so much, that we're now bumping up against the edges of reality on the far left... Like with the "there is no such thing as sex" nonsense. If you endlessly goal shift, this is the eventual outcome. There's nowhere left to go but into total delusion.

    The truth is, by any reasonable standards on most of the stuff the left bitches about, we are a VERY just and VERY fair society nowadays. It should be "mission accomplished!" not them screaming about people being racist/sexist/bigots worse than they did when people actually were those things!

  • CE||

    But the early first-century C.E. Jewish sage Jesus of Nazareth put it positively:

    You don't need to use the "CE" when talking about Jesus. You can just use the old-fashioned "AD".

    I know, irony.

  • James Pollock||

    Strictly speaking, "A.D." is only correct when used by Christians to address Christians. "C.E.", on the other hand, is correct regardless of speaker and audience.

    It's like the difference between "our President" and "the President of the United States". They're the same person to Americans, but might not be for everyone around the world.

  • vek||

    Pshhh, screw that PC shit! I still say AD, and if some A-rab or Chinaman don't like it, they can go fuck themselves! The entire numbering system IS based off of Jesus, so calling it CE is just white washing anyway. If we were referencing stuff in the Chinese calendar, then use whatever terminology they use... But if we're using the European dating system, I'm all in on BC and AD!

  • Carolyn613||

    AD means "our lord". Those who do not recognize Jesus as their lord do not like the term AD.

  • ThomasD||

    The year of our Lord.

  • Carolyn613||

    Yes, I did not complete the phrase. But I made my point.

  • vek||

    Yup. My point was, I don't care about them not liking it :)

    I still use the word Mankind too, just because I'm not going to change to humankind because some people are so thin skinned they can't deal with a normal phrase being used.

  • Martiandawn||

    Trying to map libertarians onto a left-right spectrum makes no more sense than trying to map Buddhists onto a spectrum between Christianity and Islam. Libertarianism is not somewhere "in between" progressivism and conservatism; it is a uniquely delusional belief system in its own right.

  • James Pollock||

    "it is a uniquely delusional belief system in its own right."

    Unique suggests that "it" is singular. It isn't. "Libertarian" is description of an extremely wide variety of viewpoints.

  • HenryC||

    I beg to differ, or at least quibble. Libertarians are the far right, as defined on the scale of individual liberty going left to socialism and totalitarianism. The normal conservative is the one that supports regimentation and government, but also property rights. They are more in the middle of the scale.

  • James Pollock||

    Totalitarianism is also not on the left-right scale, since it exists at both ends of the scale.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    The Republicans are as "left" as the Democrats are, using your rubric. Both political parties -- about equally -- are authoritarian. That's the whole point of the article.

  • HenryC||

    I beg to differ, or at least quibble. Libertarians are the far right, as defined on the scale of individual liberty going left to socialism and totalitarianism. The normal conservative is the one that supports regimentation and government, but also property rights. They are more in the middle of the scale.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Here's the problem--

    'Right' and 'Left' are two enormous umbrellas.

    'Conservative', 'Liberal' and even 'Progressive' tell you nothing of the underlying ideas being espoused. Beyond the fact that they all have numerous interpretations, they can be applied willy nilly. You can be a conservative leftist. A progressive right-winger. You can even be a progressive conservative..

    They all say relatively little.

    We need precision.

    Do you believe in enforced grouping? Then you are a collectivist.
    Do you believe in voluntary grouping? Then you're an individualist
    Do you think authority figures should be believed without question? Then you're an authoritarian

    No politics, no umbrellas, no interpretation.

    Libertarianism purports to be individualist, voluntarist, minarchist, non-interventionist.
    Republicanism purports to be individualist, voluntarist, minarchist, interventionist.
    Democrats purport to be collectivist, authoritarian, totalitarian, interventionist.
    Greens purport to be collectivist, authoritarian, totalitarian*, non-interventionist.

    If these 'authoritarian, totalitarian' bother you understand that there are gradations here. Crazed dictator is way out on the end of the path. The Democrats and Greens want a government that takes care of you cradle to grave and a populace that accepts that that government is actually working towards the greater good.

    con't

  • Azathoth!!||

    con't

    Of course--

    National Socialists purport to be collectivist, authoritarian, totalitarian, interventionist.
    Communists purport to be collectivist, authoritarian, totalitarian, interventionist.

    So there might be a problem down the line.

    The thing to focus on is that there doesn't seem to be a 'problem down the line' with this formulation--

    "individualist, voluntarist, minarchist, non-interventionist."

    or even this one when you get down to it--

    "individualist, voluntarist, minarchist, interventionist."

    And that is a very important difference.

  • Lester224||

    Interventionist is bad. Foreign intervention is costly in both lives and money. Religious intervention (like banning abortion in the first trimester) is theocracy.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Individualist intervention? Is that bad?

  • MikeP2||

    "A liberal believes that as much as possible, no one should push others around, standing over them with a gun or a fist to force them to do his will"

    A shockingly delusional statement.

  • Carolyn613||

    What is delusional about that statement? Dr. McCloskey is using the word "liberal" in its classical sense. She is not referring to those who today are called "liberals" or sometimes "progressives".

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    My guess is that MikeP2 did a quick skim.

  • Benitacanova||

    Donald? In a word, be a man.

  • AlgerHiss||

    "In truth, libertarians sit nowhere on the left-right map"

    That is simply complete bullshit. What an ignorant thing to purport.

  • skunkman||

    It is hard to take the article seriously after this sentence: Conservatives (and socialists and most people in the middle) believe in top-down order, as in a loving or authoritarian household."

    I do not dispute that the right in the US today can trend towards authoritarianism. But the "mainstream" left in the country today is the main advocate of authoritarianism desiring to control in almost every way. I'm no Trump fan, but the resist movement, the vocal democrats and much of the media are playing out 1984 before our eyes.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online