MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Kevin Williamson Declares the 'Passing of the Libertarian Moment.' Again.

Are you freer now than you were 10 years ago? And what about a decade from now?

KMVT, YouTubeKMVT, YouTubeAt The Atlantic, new (and controversial) contributor Kevin Williamson makes his debut by declaring "The Passing of the Libertarian Moment":

Senator Rand Paul is a man out of time. It was only a few years ago that the editors of Reason magazine held him up as the personification of what they imagined to be a "libertarian moment," a term that enjoyed some momentary cachet in the pages of The New York Times, The Atlantic, Politico (where I offered a skeptical assessment), and elsewhere....

The view from 2018 is rather different. The GOP finds itself in the throes of a populist convulsion, an ironic product of the fact that the party that long banqueted on resentment of the media now is utterly dominated by the alternative media constructed by its own most dedicated partisans. It is Sean Hannity's party now.

As the co-coiner (with Matt Welch) of the libertarian moment term, I wear my grief on my sleeve and am typing through my tears. But as, in Williamson's own phrasing, "a true-believing libertarian, [who] insists even in the teeth of the current authoritarian ascendancy that we still are experiencing a national—yes!—'libertarian moment,'" I remain unconvinced. In the original "Libertarian Moment" essay, Matt and I wrote:

If someone looked you in the eye in 1971 and said "Man, you know what? We're about to get a whole lot freer," you might have reasonably concluded that he was nuts, driven mad by taking too much LSD and staring into the sun.

We wrote that almost a decade ago and documented all the ways in which Americans were freer by the end of the 1970s than at the beginning. Today, we can ask ourselves: Are we freer? To answer that question fully, we need to think about not just politics but also social trends and technological innovations, broad global trends, and more. As in 2008, when "The Libertarian Moment" was first published, I'd answer, "Yes, but..."

Let me explain. There is no question that the ascendancy of libertarian-ish politicians is not happening, in the Republican Party or anywhere else. Rand Paul led many of the GOP polls heading into the 2016 primary season before conking out pretty quickly. Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson flirted with double-digit polling during the 2016 campaign before pulling a bit above 3 percent in the final tally. Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) have failed to be fruitful and multiply. Simpatico pols such as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have been sent packing into early retirement while Donald Trump's approval ratings are flirting with 50 percent. Even the most true-believing libertarian, stranded on a malfunctioning seastead somewhere, can't even pretend to see a rescue ship on the horizon.

The death of the Libertarian Moment has been declared many times before, but Williamson's formulation certainly has an air of authority about it, and not simply because it's at least the second time in the past four years that the august Atlantic has declared the moment deader than the gold standard. Williamson himself is largely libertarian on policy matters (on matters such as gender identity, he is more of a traditional, even reactionary, conservative). He wrote a book not so long ago (2013)—The End Is Near and It's Going To Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure—that looked forward to an era in which the government would have to stop spending money it doesn't have regardless of what its officials and voters might prefer. Unlike many of his former colleagues at National Review and places such as The Weekly Standard, he doesn't necessarily relish the decline of libertarians even if he insists that we were always "a junior partner" in the Cold War alliance with conservatives against communism.

Williamson writes that while "libertarian attitudes enjoy some political support," Americans generally backhand concrete libertarian policies: "Americans broadly and strongly support a rising minimum wage and oppose entitlement reform with at least equal commitment, and they are far from reliable supporters of free speech and free association or enforcing limits on police powers." Some of this is true, but it's also the case that voters often vote down minimum-wage increases and are increasingly in favor of treating marijuana like alcohol, comfortable with same-sex marriage, and welcoming toward DACA dreamers and immigrants more generally.

In his Atlantic piece, he asks:

The Christian right was able to make its peace with Trump with relative ease, because it is moved almost exclusively by reactionary kulturkampf considerations. "But Hillary!" is all that Falwell and company need to hear, and they won't even hold out for 30 pieces of silver. The Chamber of Commerce made peace, being as it is one of the conservative constituencies getting what it wants out of the Trump administration: tax cuts and regulatory reform. The hawks are getting what they want, too, lately: John Bolton in the White House and an extra $61 billion in military spending in the latest budget bill.

What are the libertarians getting? A man with Richard Nixon's character but not his patriotism, an advocate of Reagan's drug war and Mussolini's economics who dreams of using the FCC to shut down media critics—and possibly a global trade war to boot.

The emphasis on electoral politics is rhetorically powerful but ultimately misplaced. Williamson, a doctrinaire #NeverTrumper, ignores any possible positives coming out of the current moment, such as the deregulatory regime that is taking place at, among other agencies, the FCC. Trump is blustering about the media and surely has no scruples standing in the way of trying to use the FCC to stifle dissent, just as Nixon and LBJ did in the not-distant past. Good luck trying, though, because of both technological change and Ajit Pai, the head of that particular agency, whose commitment to free speech seems pretty damn strong. At places such as the FDA, the EPA, and the Department of Education, a similar if partial dismantling of the administrative state is under way. Despite his obscene increases in Pentagon budgets, Trump has been less bellicose in foreign policy than his two immediate predecessors; indeed, he's being attacked these days for planning to pull out of Syria, a country with whom we're not technically at war (but never mind). He has also managed to oversee the reduction and elimination of various tax expenditures (mortgage-interest and state-and-local tax deductions) and a thoroughgoing reform of the corporate tax system. During the 2016 campaign, Trump was clearly better on the drug war than Hillary Clinton, believing that pot laws should be dealt with at the state level. Despite his attorney general's recent assertions that he'd be going after legalized marijuana, there's no sign that's going to happen. I don't presume that Trump is following any set of principles other than self-aggrandizement, but as Wired's Louis Rossetto has argued, he is downsizing the stature and ultimately the power of presidency and the government more generally. Both Williamson and I respect the hell out of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who told me recently, "I will say that there are some things President Trump has done that I like and there are some things I don't like. Obviously, I like those tax cuts. I think they're good for the economy and good for business. On the other hand, now we're doing tariffs on steel and aluminum."

Williamson's relentlessly dour assessment should serve mostly as a reminder that Trump Derangement Syndrome exists on the right as well as the left. Trump's election has not proven to be an "extinction-level threat" to democracy, the stock market, or the cuteness of puppies. Rather, his presidency is like those of the other baby boomer presidents, a mixed bag that nevertheless allows for wins among losses for libertarians. The same is true when we talk about politics and culture more generally.

As in 2008, the current moment is cloudy and the forecast uncertain. Sometimes, like in the early 1970s, it was just the darkest before the dawn. Other times, it just stays dark forever. Today, we live in a world made better by ride-sharing and Airbnb, continuing declines in severe poverty and violent crime, and the rise of social media and new modes of expression. It has been made worse by any number of things. "Advances," Matt Welch and I wrote, "are inevitably followed by setbacks, and we stagger into the future punch-drunk, more like Muhammad Ali than Rocky Marciano." The real question isn't whether the libertarian moment has passed, but whether we will continue to push forward into the future.

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.

  • guy who doesn't care||

    "Kevin Williamson"

    don't care.

  • Mickey Rat||

    You care enough to post that you do not care.

  • cereal_shake||

    That would seem to mean he cares about posting.

  • Eidde||

    I don't care, but I care that you care, so I will reply.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I bet you would if he went back to Dawson's Creek. Maybe a reboot series so we can find out what Dawson and Pacey and Logan and Dakota and the two Coreys are up to now as adults.

  • Just Say'n||

    I read the piece. It was good. Williamson writes well. But, using Nick Gillespie as the barometer of what is or isn't the "Libertarian Moment" is the Nick Gillespie of moves

  • Citizen X - #6||

    It has a questionable mustache?

  • Just Say'n||

    The mustache would work if it was a goatee. We all know this

  • Hail Rataxes||

    You realize your "X is the Nick Gillespie of Y" jokes don't actually make sense, and your friends are just stupid and afraid not to laugh in their echo chamber, right?

  • Just Say'n||

    Hail Rataxes is, indeed, a joke of a man

  • Just Say'n||

    Rataxes must not have visited the Glibs site in a while, since I haven't commented there in quite some time, much to the detriment of the comment section at Reason (my apologies). Nonetheless, Rataxes just hates Glibs. Why? He's not sure, but he just hates anyone who doesn't believe what Rataxes demands we all believe.

    His blind hatred for me and his constant lurking on the Glibs website is kind of creepy.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Wait, so have I not visited in a while, or do I lurk constantly?

  • TuIpa||

    Has he accused you of being me yet? It's the only thing he does other than make people want to dick punch him for being stupid.

  • Libertymike||

    Where have you been babe?

  • cereal_shake||

    That escalated quickly.

  • ThomasD||

    Would you be so kind as to provide your foolproof formula or definition of comedy?

    Because that would be a mighty thing.

  • Henry Buttal||

    While generally I like Williamson's writing, and own the mentioned book, I agree with Nick that his TDS is impacting his thinking.

  • buybuydandavis||

    He'd be right at home at Reason then

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Drumpf's presidency poses a threat to the entire planet, so normally I'd like to ally with as many #NeverTrump conservatives as possible. The Atlantic made an excellent decision hiring David Frum, for instance. But this Kevin Williamson character is just too extreme. He should be content to peddle his nonsense at National Review.

  • ||

    How is he extreme?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yeah, but he only eats cool ranch instead of Cooler Ranch.

  • sarcasmic||

    The libertarian moment has passed. Like gas.

  • Nick Gillespie||

    More like a kidney stone!

  • sarcasmic||

    Ow! :-(

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    We can only hope. Some eccentrics keep their kidney stones after passing them, and it is there that our hope for the future blooms.

  • juris imprudent||

    With enough colloidal silver...

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    BUCS braids his kidney stones into his luxurious pubic hair, and has mastered the art of making them sound like maracas as he meatspins his way across the dance floor.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's a dance involving whipping your penis out and gyrating so it keeps spinning around in a circle.

  • fwdeible||

    Google it (not really)

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    I did keep the one I recently passed. I'll let you know if it starts to bloom.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    If that happens for real you might want to put it down.

  • LynchPin1477||

    The biggest challenge to the claim of a libertarian moment is that those changes in politics and society that libertarians have liked haven't usually been driven by libertarians or motivated by libertarians values. That can be perfectly fine, or it can create a false sense that liberty is on the rise when it's really just exchanging one brand of statism for another. In neither case does it alone imply that libertarian-friendly reforms will continue.

  • creech||

    Probably correct. Even though the LP was for gay rights from the beginning in 1972, and ran a gay man (John Hospers) as its first candidate for president, it would be hard to argue that the securing of gay rights by 2017 was at all impacted by the LP.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    We've never had a member of a socialist or fascist party as president or in congress, yet here we are.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "...on matters such as gender identity...he is a traditional...conservative."

    Williamson does labor under the crushing burden of rational thinking.

  • Alcibiades||

    NR has lost one of its best writers, the only other one being Charles Cooke.
    Wonder how long he'll last at The Atlantic.

    Can highly recommend his Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism.

  • The Last American Hero||

    The piss poor showing of Team LP in an election with 2 candidates with those kind of negatives really saps any notion that people are into freedom. Trump got into the White House campaigning on protectionism and dramatic restrictions on immigration, and reigniting the drug war - and had a significant amount of populist support. Bernie, another populist candidate, garnered 1/3 of Team Blue's supporters with his warmed over Commie nonsense. Rand Paul's failed candidacy shows that a lot of the Tea Party and Ron Paul support was just people who wanted any kind of change rather than movement in a more liberty-oriented direction.

    But hey, we got gay marriage in 50 states (due to a court ruling, not popular support for legislative action) and we got more pot (although not for long if Sessions has his way), so the Libertarian Moment is 2/3, right?

  • Eidde||

    "The piss poor showing of Team LP in an election with 2 candidates with those kind of negatives"

    Imagine how much worse the LP would have done if it had nominated libertarians...let's count our blessings.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Those 4 million LP spoiler votes have more law-changing clout than 24 million votes wasted on the looter kleptocracy. That's if we use the 1892 spoiler vote ratio. George Wallace's 10 million votes move both the Dem and GOP Klanward, and the Prohibition Party's 1.4% off the vote over 11 campaigns turned the Constitution into the economy-destroying Deathstar with the 18th Amendment. But I'll settle for a 328% increase in spoiler vote clout every single time. That'd be 13 million votes in 2020, and 43 million votes in 2024. Let's see the looters ban electric power plants and continue asset forfeiture in the teeth of that turnout!

  • retiredfire||

    How is homosexual "marriage" dictated by five, of the nine Nazgul, libertarian?
    If a ukase, by the most unrepresentative of bodies, is libertarian, I'd hate to see what you consider fascist.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Without getting too into weeds, libertarians policies increase individual liberty. While we might trust democracy to get it right more often than other -acy's, -archy's, and -ships, it's not really contingent upon the process. Now, whether every policy that increases individual liberty should be considered libertarian is another question and kinds of pits a more consequentialist view against a more deontological one.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Also, the OP was being sarcastic.

  • fwdeible||

    That was a much more coherent and reasonable reply than I would have gone for, kudos to you. And I agree with what you said; and I personally am okay with a consequentialist view. We aren't going to drag the entire country into an orthodox classical liberal philosophy (nor should we, really), but any policy that increases liberty, for whatever otherwise-stated purpose, is fine by me.

  • LynchPin1477||

    There are a few of us here that actually enjoy good-faith conversations.

    While I acknowledge that there is value in discussing these types of finer philosophical points, I worry that libertarians have gotten bogged down in these types of details to the detriment of other, perhaps more practical goals. But having said that, let me get into the weeds a bit, at the risk of appearing to contradict my earlier point.

    I supported the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage and I even supported using the equal protections clause as justification. It doesn't bother me that it was undemocratic. But....it's disingenuous to say that the court, and most of the public that supported the decision, were motivated by libertarian principles, and so we've seen that some very unlibertarian policies have followed that infringe on freedom of association and religious liberties. I'm not withdrawing my support for the original decision as a result, but it's a cautionary tale about how quickly one can diverge from so-called fellow travelers.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If we're going to talk about the libertarian moment or whether we're freer now than we were ten years ago, we can't do that without making some qualitative judgements.

    Do you value the free exercise of religion and free association over gay marriage?

    Do you value your privacy over being able to communicate and consume electronically?

    Do you value being able to consume cannabis legally over . . . whatever?

    In some ways, we were freer in 2000 than we were in 2010, and we were freer in 2010 than we will be in 2020. In other ways, we've become more free than we used to be.

    We may be able to quantify any specific issue as to how it was ten years ago, but we can't compare the relative desirability of one issue vs. another without getting into people's qualitative preferences. In 1960, you didn't need a college degree to get a good job, buy a house, a car, and finance a family. Yeah, people are much freer in other ways than they used to be, but for people who cared about those things more than anything else, what difference does that make?

    It's like we're trying to tell people what their qualitative preferences are supposed to be. People resent that. It feels like elitism. I wish people wanted more freedom. I don't think I can rub their faces in the world around them, and tell them they have to like it because freedom. A lot of what people don't like isn't freedom at all. We can't ignore people's qualitative preferences.

  • juris imprudent||

    Ken is the dark cloud to Nick's silver lining.

  • John||

    That is probably the smartest thing you have ever written on here Ken. Well done.

  • ThomasD||

    Interesting thoughts Ken. It ties in with something I've been questioning lately while following comments on various articles.

    What do (should) we value more, libertarian process, or libertarian outcomes?

    And if it is the latter just how can libertarian outcomes ever be selected much less imposed?

  • John||

    I think the answer to that is that it depends. Both things are important. If you throw out process, you end up with a top-down imposed solution that is both unlikely to last and creates the opportunity for other people to impose their solution from the top that Libertarians are not likely to be very happy with. But if you worship process as an end without regards to the outcome, you end up with legalism whereby any outcome is validated simply because it followed the right process.

    In most cases, Libertarians would be better off winning over people and winning elections about issues rather than going for the cheap win via judicial tyranny or political backroom dealing. Libertarians of all people should understand that just because the government says it is so doesn't mean it is. If you don't win over society for an issue, your wins in the law are unlikely to last very long.

  • ThomasD||

    " Libertarians would be better off winning over people"

    Yep, that's about where I ended up with the issue as well. There really is no other approach (not even winning elections) that will reliably provide an actual libertarian moment.

  • Libertymike||

    Your last sentence echoes Learned Hand.

  • Libertymike||

    That is John's last sentence.

  • John||

    "Proximate Cause" was my nickname in college.

  • Libertymike||

    College? You must mean law school?

    My bet is that almost every required Torts class covers both the Palsgraf case and the Carroll Towing case.

  • John||

    How could they not?

  • Libertymike||

    Palsgraf is one case where Cardozo got it right.

  • Dillinger||

    liked dissent better...Andrews or somebody not alive anymore

  • Dillinger||

    "Learned Hand" works also.

  • John||

    That one was taken.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Are you freer now than you were 10 years ago? And what about a decade from now?

    I think there was a good discussion on this a couple years back, and one good metric that was discussed: How many things that you used to do 10 years ago without thinking will get you locked up, fined, shot, imprisoned or ticketed today?

    The abundance of stuff and choices is... better than ever, there's no denying that.

    My concern is the West is slipping into a time of abundance, good healthcare, high wages, cradle to grave welfare and safety nets, but with a "bureaucratic scaffolding"* erected around public life.

    Internet and media companies are coming under greater and greater pressure from governments to police online speech. In fact as was linked by Reason day ago or so, the companies that sold themselves as forums for expanded free expression now tout how 'safe' their sites are from controversial speech and opinions, all rushing to incorporate AI bots to scrub any accounts and speech deemed as 'problematic'.

    *stealing the phrase from Brendan O'Neill.

  • juris imprudent||

    Remind me, where did the U.S. stand on international freedom indices 10, 20 years ago?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    That's gonna depend on which index and who's running it.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I will repeat this sentiment that I've given several times before.

    I do not believe that Libertarian is in a particularly strong place right now. I don't know what the future holds, but I think we are mostly holding, rather than expanding right now. But I am always so curious by the mainstream medias obsession with identifying ways to put down libertarians. I think we are a philosophically sound movement, but I don't see us as much threat now. And to that regard I believe there is outsized attacks against us from many larger media outlets such as The Atlantic, HuffPo, etc.

    And that gives me hope. If others see us as a threat, perhaps that gives me something to be more hopeful about.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I think deep down, many know we have the moral high ground and their deep internal cognitive dissonance causes them feeling of unease, which prompt this lashing out.

  • ||

    I didn't view the Williamson piece as an attack as much as what he thinks of the state of the "libertarian moment." He made a lot of goods points. The jacket made good points in his response too.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I do not believe that Libertarian is in a particularly strong place right now.

    But WHICH libertarian? There are only a few left and Hugh Akston hasn't weight in on which are the real ones.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Incidental increases of "liberty" don't make it a "libertarian moment" if they happen for reasons entirely divorced from libertarianism.

    That's just taking credit for other people's hard work. You want a "moment"? Work for it. Don't try to claim others successes as your own.

    So no. The "libertarian moment" isn't dead. It was never alive. Because libertarian, as a group, are content to stand back and claim credit where it's not due instead of getting their hands dirty.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think this highlights a major issue I have with libertarian claims.

    Take Marijuana legalization, for instance. It is commonly claimed a part of our libertarian moment, but in my mind I see very little connection unfortunately. There was very little underlying rhetoric, that I saw at least, for increasing freedom. The argument was basically, it might be healthy for you, and that the costs of banning it were too great. This was carving out a niche of government control, basically getting an explicit government nod, rather than telling government to fuck off.

    And I see that with many things. They are complex ways of integrating more specific government into life, rather than any repudiation of government as a whole.

  • John||

    Pot legalization is a lot like gambling legalization in that in both cases outright prohibition is replaced by a highly regulated monopoly run by government cronies for the benefit of the government and the cronies. I suppose that is in some ways better than prohibition, but it is hardly a desirable situation or something to celebrate.

    Beyond that, Ken makes a great point above. If you don't smoke pot, legalizing pot really isn't an improvement in your freedom. So, you can't expect people who don't smoke pot to see legalizing it as some benefit that outweighs some freedom they do care about being taken away.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    First, I can appreciate a growth in other's freedom, even if it is not one that I myself use. Personally, I am probably more conservative in my life than almost any person here, this does not mean that I want a world that only adheres to my own preferences. The libertarian belief system is not a purely self-interested view, as much as people like to paint it as such.

    Second, I don't believe that there is a meaningful tie between pot legalization, and whatever freedom you feel you've lost. This isn't zero sum, and it's not even particularly connected.

    Finally, I do agree that the replacement with heavily regulated industries is bullshit. It's one reason I almost voted against the Arizona legalization bill (even though it lost anyway). It was such a heavily regulated, crony capitalist piece of bullshit that it was almost worth throwing away and waiting for a better version.

  • John||

    No it is not a zero sum game. But, don't tell me that I am freer because I can now do shit I don't care about doing, especially when I can no longer do something I do care about.And they are connected in the sense that there is only so much political capital. If you want to spend yours on pot legalization instead of say religious freedom, good for you. But you should not expect people who care more about religious freedom to support you.

  • EscherEnigma||

    What does legalizing recreational pot *stop* you from doing? Unless you're a cop or prosecutor who was going after drug users, you haven't lost anything.

  • John||

    It doesn't stop me from doing anything. It doesn't allow me to do anything I care about. So getting it, doesn't make up for my losing the freedom to do other things.

  • Tony||

    Wow, what a douchecanoe you are. No legal weed with all the obvious social benefits and reductions in misery that would cause... because you want to hypothetically be able to kick fags out of your hypothetical store.

  • John||

    Tony, you are a fucking moron who never understands the conversation. Stop shiting on the thread. No one fucking cares that you are a queer. Really, no one gives a shit. I wouldn't serve you in my store because you are a pig ignorant asshole. Your sexual perversions have nothing to do with it. I have no problem with perverts and never have.

  • Tony||

    Yeah, you're not giving a shit all over the place, as usual.

    If you think behaving as a bigot toward me will hurt my feelings, that makes you a cunt. If you appreciate that it has no effect on me, then what's the point?

  • John||

    Tony, we hate you because you are stupid. Everyone hates you for that reason.

  • Tony||

    But I'm not stupid. And neither are you. You're not as smart as me, but without your whale-like diet of right-wing bullshit media, you might even be a decent human being worth talking to. Alas.

  • MarkLastname||

    Wrong on both counts, Tony. I'd say you're both shining examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

    And it's pretty tragic that you view a person's moral quality is determined by their politics, but I guess that's par for the course when you think everything is political.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If you don't smoke pot, legalizing pot really isn't an improvement in your freedom.

    The issue I have with this sentiment is that if there's one less excuse for the state to kick your door in and search your house, that benefits everyone. There are plenty of people who didn't smoke pot, but got caught up in the war on pot, and the lives of both people and dogs were lost in the process.

  • marshaul||

    Took the words out of my mouth.

    Legalization wins on utilitarian grounds hands-down (there is no question that prohibition is indefensible on moral grounds), with the freedom to smoke pot being the least significant gain on the list.

    I tend to suspect that folks who reduce the issue to "freedom to smoke pot" are so blinded by their tribal biases that they are incapable of seeing the big picture.

    Ending marijuana prohibition benefits everyone who has ever driven a car, owned a dog, owned a house, grown any plants of any nature whatsoever, ever paid a cent in taxes, etc. etc. etc. This is what unintended consequences do.

  • ThomasD||

    By and to the extent that the people tell each other, and especially tell the politicians, regarding anything that does not directly violate another person to "leave it the fuck alone" then your freedom indeed increases.

    Even when you choose not to exercise that freedom

  • JuanQPublic||

    If you don't smoke pot, legalizing pot really isn't an improvement in your freedom.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. This is a problematic take on liberty.

    What history shows is that whether it's marriage for gays, legal pot or saying what you want on campus, each is an implication for liberty as a whole. That is, they strengthen each other in the sense that they deny the will of others to control how you live your life.

    At its core, this is what it's about. Principled liberty is not about this issue or that issue, but about applying the principles.

  • John||

    That points to the deeper problem that defining just what "liberty" is in a given circumstance is not quite so easy. The gender bullshit is a great example of this. Is it "liberty" to let men now use the women's locker room? If you are the man, sure. But if you are the woman, you are now no longer free to dress and shower with only your own sex. Who has the "liberty interest" there? It is not so clear. Reason pretends it is because they just assume the side they like is on the side of liberty and the side they don't on the side of oppression.

  • marshaul||

    "But if you are the woman, you are now no longer free to dress and shower with only your own sex."

    Begging the question.

    Or did I miss the part where public bathrooms are suddenly the only, or even principal, place to "dress and shower"?

  • marshaul||

    To be fair I do get your point, but you have spent so long thinking about freedom in a muddled fashion that this sort of obvious rebuttal doesn't even occur to you.

    What if bathrooms policies were purely up to private property holders? What meaningful freedom would be lost by a gender-neutral policy in this context?

    Perhaps it's better to speak in terms of "rights" rather than "freedoms". But then again the article did not do so.

  • John||

    What is muddled is your understanding of this issue Why should public bathrooms cater to one person's preferences over another's? Nothing gives the tranny's preference any supremacy is you culturally feel the need to do so. You are totally missing the point and doing exactly what I am accusing reason of doing.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Why should public bathrooms cater to one person's preferences over another's?


    And if you were merely arguing that the government should get entirely out of regulating bathrooms† and leave it to property-owners to decide, that'd be relevant.

    But you never really feel the need to stop at that, and have no problem going on to demand that the government and private businesses cater to your preferences.
    ________
    †Including building codes.

  • MarkLastname||

    "Credit" has nothing to do with it; it also makes no sense when applied to ideologies.

    Whether an increase in freedom must be motivated by the political desire for more freedom (as opposed to a mere happy accident) to 'count' is not a question with a clear answer.

  • John||

    Williamson is just a weirdo. One of the things the left was angry about when he got hired by the Atlantic was that Williamson had said in so many words that all women who have abortions should be hanged. And when pushed about it responded that abortion should be treated like any other homicide. Since when do we hang all of those convicted of murder and since when has Williamson ever advocated for such a thing? Never.

    I am pro-life and find that to be an offensively stupid thing to say. Why would he say it much less double down on something that thoughtless and stupid? All he did was give the left an example of fanatical stupidity and intolerance to point to as an exemplar of the pro-life movement. Williamson claims to be pro-life. He is either lying and just trolling to discredit the movement or he is a complete moron.

  • John||

    Then there was his infamous rant about Trump voters and protectionism. The entire thing was fact free. Go back and read it. There is not a single objective fact in it. The whole thing is a series of assertions based on the premise that since Williamson apparently grew up as the worst sort of white trash imaginable, he understands those people out in flyover country and this is how it is. Who did he think he was going to persuade? All he accomplished was to create all kinds of bad blood on the right and make getting over the nomination fight that much harder. Again, if he is not running a false flag operation for the left, he might as well be because his actions would not be any different if he were.

    He can write some decent polemics. But even his good stuff is nothing about a hundred different hack writers on the Right could also write. And it comes at the price of the idiocy I describe above and more. He is another example of one of those people that have been given a platform and treated as a serious person without any justification. Hopefully moving to the Atlantic will consign him to the irrelevancy he deserves. The left certainly won't ever like him and him moving to the Atlantic should probably pull him far enough left to finally get his fanboys on the right to see the truth.

  • Eidde||

    Maybe what you describe is why the Atlantic wants him...but that would be paranoid...

  • John||

    He got one of the coveted concern troll positions. His job will be to pretend to be a Libertarian leaning conservative while viciously attacking any perceived threat to the left so that the left can then say "see even one of your own thinks you are nuts"

  • buybuydandavis||

    "House Conservative"

    NeverTrumpers gotta eat too

  • John||

    He got one of the coveted concern troll positions. His job will be to pretend to be a Libertarian leaning conservative while viciously attacking any perceived threat to the left so that the left can then say "see even one of your own thinks you are nuts"

  • Libertymike||

    A la David Brooks with the NYT.

  • John||

    And Jennifer Rubin at the Post. Those two are the Nobel Laureates of concern trolling.

  • Tony||

    You should be asking yourself why right-wing firebreathers like Rubin are so disgusted by Trump they sound like Rachel Maddow now.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Because they're globalist schmucks who hate the peasants, and Trump ruined their gig as the Right's Washington Generals to the Left's Harlem Globetrotters.

    They're cast out of Republican power, and now can only earn their supper on the streets as the Faux Right dancing monkeys of Leftist organ grinders.

  • MarkLastname||

    The point is that disgust for Trump should have impact on your principles. Rubin has done a 180 on a host of issues with no reason other than that she doesn't like Trump.

    Consider an analogy: Does Adolf Hitler being a Keynesian make you want to not be a Keynesian?

  • MarkLastname||

    *no impact on your principles.

  • Tony||

    It would at least make me give the question some thought.

  • Hank Phillips||

    You heard it from the same infiltrating sockpuppet whose blather got Reason bullied by the feds. The John wants men with government guns to force careless callgirls to bear their John's' unwanted babies. His 1976-vintage Coathanger Abortion Amendment would require repeal of the 14th Amendment: "All persons born..."

  • John||

    Did you take drugs today hank? That a post on the complete idiocy of wanting the death penalty for abortion. And you read it to mean this? I know you are dumber than a post, but this might be a new level of stupid even for you.

    I may be pro-life, but the existence of people as stupid as you appear to be forces me to admit that abortion is not always a bad thing.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Readers will note that to mystical conservatives, "pro-life" means in favor of pointing service pistols at physicians. This they spun off of the Anti-Life chapter describing them in Atlas Shrugged AFTER the LP birth control plank became the Roe v. Wade decision. Look up the GOP and Prohibition Party platforms.

  • John||

    Readers will note that Hank Phillips is a delusional idiot who likes to respond to voices in his head. Unless you endorse, murder, you are pro life as well. The only debate is what constitutes a life. You being an idiot, believe in the mystical magical trip down the birth canal granting us all life and full rights where just moments before we were just a lump of lifeless cells.

    Take your fairy tails and magical thinking elsewhere.

  • Benitacanova||

    I vote moron.

  • Alcibiades||

    Active shooter at YouTube HQ...

  • Eidde||

    Active, or self-deactivated?

  • Alcibiades||

    To be determined.
    Just read a tweet from someone there hiding in lockdown.

  • ||

    Vadim Lavrusik

    Verified account

    @Lavrusik
    34m34 minutes ago
    More
    Active shooter at YouTube HQ. Heard shots and saw people running while at my desk. Now barricaded inside a room with coworkers.

    It continues to blow my mind how what was an obvious joke denoting someone as an obsessively networked moron on IRC a decade or two ago is just normal social media practice today.

  • Cloudbuster||

    I'm feeling so conflicted about this.

  • ThomasD||

    Calling anyone a 'doctrinaire' #NeverTrumper is absurd.

    To be sure there are many cogent reasons for opposing Trump, but they are as varied and diverse as the people who offer them. There simply is no one doctrine.

    Better and more accurate to describe him as reflexively #NeverTrump.

  • Hank Phillips||

    "What are the libertarians getting?" Our 1972 choice plank, which the Supreme Court copied as Roe v. Wade, is still there defending individual rights for women, to the disgust of Nick's antichoice hero. Since that time libertarian spoiler votes have forced God's Own Prohibitionists to back away from queer-baiting, death penalties for potheads and packing the executive with "faith-based" ku-klux republicans. So while Republicans again bleated for a coathanger abortion amendment, the LP got four million votes--a 328% increase for the only growing party Nick and his hero overlook--and a count WAY larger than what Hillary wishes were "her" victory in the popular balloting.

  • ||

    I wear my grief on my sleeve

    And then smother it with a leather jacket. We know.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    A year ago Williamson said, after the demise of "Stop and Frisk" in New York, that the Big Apple was "descending into pre-Giuliani chaos." When data came out showing NYC crime lower than ever, Kevin was silent.

    Still, Nick Gillespie is not without sins. Re the tax bill: the corporate income tax was routinely denounced as "double taxation". Eliminating the state and local deduction deliberately imposed double taxation to punish people who lived in "bad states". I wonder if Nancy Pelosi could think up a way to put an extra tax on states that harass women seeking abortions.

    Furthermore, corporations, though not flesh and blood "persons", can still deduct state and local taxes from their taxable income. Double standard, anyone?

    The tax bill also added special tax cuts, for "pass through entities", because, since rich people who worked for corporations were effectively getting tax cuts, it wasn't fair that rich people who didn't work for corporations weren't getting tax cuts. Makes sense, right? Congress realized that it couldn't let everyone become a pass-through entity--it would cost too much--so they added restrictions, also adding all sorts of new ways to game the tax code, something that's always supposed to be bad, yet which always increases.

    Also, of course, the tax bill added a trillion to the national debt, which people like Dave and Charlie Koch (and Nick Gillespie) say is bad, except when the money goes to rich people.

    Well, at least Nick doesn't have a beard.

  • John||

    You generally are silly and stupid Vennemen. And you, for the most part, are true to form here. You do, however, make a good point about stop and frisk. Williamson claims to be a Libertarian yet not only supported stop and frisk but also refuses to answer for all of his horror story prediction about its ending not coming true. Williamson is a fat, stupid looking white guy who is almost certain never to be subjected to stop and frisk. But, he was happily willing to support the humiliation and infringement on the rights of other people just so he could feel safe. That is a much bigger sin on Williamson's part than his refusal to believe in the transgender fairy.

  • buybuydandavis||

    ' Re the tax bill: the corporate income tax was routinely denounced as "double taxation". Eliminating the state and local deduction deliberately imposed double taxation to punish people who lived in "bad states". '

    No, it was the Feds refusing to subsidize the choice of a state to have high taxes.

    And the whole "double taxation" concept is retarded in general. Dollars aren't taxed, people are. You can tax me or my dollars a million times, as long as I get to set the rate. What matters is the aggregate of dollars taken from me by all taxes. All else is accounting.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    I'm not sure I'd put much stock in the opinions of someone who looks like the charlatan salesman Harry Mudd from the old Star Trek.

    But in this case, he may be right. I see the public seemingly dumber by the day. Kids can shout about robbing people of their rights and they are hailed as brave and no criticism of their policy positions is tolerated. It also seems like everyone is conveniently split between economically illiterate Trumpsters and economically illiterate anti-Trumpsters.

    And now you have people agitating for censorship of the Internet. And if you don't agree with them, you must be part of the alt-right, or so they would have you believe.

    The anti-war people who fell strangely silent under Obama have surprisingly not come back, nor does anyone who's anyone mention the surveillance state. Far from it...It is TERRIBLE when Facebook has access to your private info, according to them (despite the fact that Facebook never pretended otherwise), but they have zero problem with government having access to all their private info. They actually believe the canard about, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about."

    I would love to believe that the libertarian moment is still alive and growing, but I don't see it happening in practice. I think you'll have to hit Venezuela-like conditions before people wake up to statist oppression.

  • Alcibiades||

    Damn, YouTube shooter appears to be a female!

  • John||

    Interesting. That is very rare. Outside Islamic terrorists, female mass shooters are virtually unheard of. I can't think of another. Can you?

  • Alcibiades||

    Not off the top of my head.
    Welcome to the homicidal maniac club...

  • John||

    +1 Girls Can.

  • Alcibiades||

    Smash those gender barriers.

    Maybe she self-identifies as a homicidal male.

  • John||

    Another law enforcement source confirms to ABC7 News reporter Dan Noyes that the shooter is a white, adult female wearing a dark top and head scarf.

    Crazed hippie or Muslim? Could be either.

  • Alcibiades||

    And thus another news cycle begins...

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    This is the bay, it might be both. DON'T ASSUME.

  • Dillinger||

    #metoo

  • Cloudbuster||

    I can only think of one. (Tell me why) I don't like Mondays.

  • Alcibiades||

    That's going way back.
    Still incarcerated.

  • sarcasmic||

    Bonnie?

  • buybuydandavis||

    I saw someone tweet that it was a trans female. With a picture.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    We're more free to smoke pot and have gay butt sex, but we're less free to smoke cigarettes or tell a woman that she looks nice without fear of possibly losing your job and having your life destroyed.

    We're more free to pick and choose what media outlets we get our information from, but we're less free to get genuine fact-based information from those outlets.

    We're more free to communicate with people all over the world, but we're less free to communicate without the entire conversation being surveilled and stored in a government meta-database somewhere.

    We're more free to have almost any book ever written shipped to our doorstep within a couple of days by Amazon, but we're less free to enjoy the pleasure of browsing the bookshelves in a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

    We're more free to go into debt and spend money we don't have, but we're less free to have a strong dollar with good purchasing power.

    We're more free to get a job as a web designer or a government analyst, but we're less free to get a job as a coal miner, rancher, or farmer.

    We're more free to watch YouTube videos of cats, puppies, and horses playing with a rubber chicken, but we're less free to watch intelligent, thoughtful debate shows like "Firing Line".

    The list goes on and on and on.

  • John||

    Like Ken says above, which of those things is good is a value question.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Good post.

  • ThomasD||

    " but we're less free to get genuine fact-based information from those outlets."

    Nope.

    We are status quo ante in that regard.

  • John||

    Yes. Journalism has always been a low rate profession done by people who need money to support more serious pursuits or are just too dishonest and incompetent to do anything else.

  • ThomasD||

    Or worse, they are true believers who actually mean to do well.

  • John||

    Yes. They are that way now. It used to be that journalism was a low rent working class profession inhabited by writers and various nardowells/ But after the 1960s and especially after Watergate, the profession came to be dominated by the idiot sons and daughters of the elite who wanted to change the world like Woodward and Berstein. And there are few things worse than the earnest idiot sons of the Ivy league.

  • EscherEnigma||

    A lot of your "less free" lines are the consequences of variously Free Speech, Free Association, it the free market.

    Only a few of those things (pro or con) are actually the government's fault.

  • MarkLastname||

    Haven't you defended 'positive freedom' here in the past?

  • EscherEnigma||

    If nothing else, not under that name since I had to search the term. It was auto-replaced in results for "positive liberty", and was defined as such:

    Positive liberty is the possession of the capacity to act upon one's free will, as opposed to negative liberty, which is freedom from external restraint on one's actions. A concept of positive liberty may also include freedom from internal constraints.


    So... maybe? I'm not sure how you would "defend" that, it's a way of describing/categorizing, not really a philosophical argument in-and-of-itself. At least, not from the summary I quickly scanned to respond to your comment.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    Your definition of freedom is a bit off for me: " but we're less free to enjoy the pleasure of browsing the bookshelves in a brick-and-mortar bookstore."

    We're also less free to have our mule pull the wagon to the gristmill to get our corn turned in to flour.

  • ||

    Every time I see a picture of Kevin Williamson, I get more and more confused of what he actually looks like.

  • John||

    Whatever it is, it likely isn't very pleasant.

  • Tony||

    Cantankerous magician?

  • SottoVoce||

    When did Williamson turn into Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now?

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    The horror. The horror.

  • ThomasD||

    When he ate a bug.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Thanks for the nothingburger, Nick. And congratulations on taking more words to say nothing than usual.

  • ThomasD||

    Oh, come on. He didn't say nothing. Read between the lines. He said "this is how I get my paycheck."

  • mtrueman||

    "The real question isn't whether the libertarian moment has passed, but whether we will continue to push forward into the future."

    As long as Libertarians support free trade and open borders, it's not going anywhere. Trump has already managed to split the movement along these lines.

  • buybuydandavis||

    " push forward into the future."

    The Leftist slogans are strong with the Jacket.

  • buybuydandavis||

    My favorite vermin.

    Williamson wrote of white working class communities:
    "The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die."
    NeverTrumpers hate the peasants
    http://bit.ly/22kuT51

  • MarkLastname||

    He's right. Rotten communities dependent on government largesse and meth addiction are not worth preserving any more than the half abandoned ghettos of Detroit. Blaming Chinese or Mexicans because you're too dumb, violent, lazy, or drug addicted to find a job is as dumb as blaming white privilege or the Jews or whoever else.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "The GOP finds itself in the throes of a populist convulsion"

    Government of the People, by the People, and for the People
    #MAGA

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    ...and the People deserve to get what they asked for, good and hard.

  • Mark22||

    It's a shame to see him deteriorate, both intellectually and physically.

  • Benitacanova||

    Kevin Williamson is the biggest dickless dick "writer" out there.

  • Peter Verkooijen||

    No, we are absolutely not freeer than 10 years ago. You are in deep denial if you believe you are.

    10 years ago I lived in New York, working as a self-employed journalist for Dutch publishers. I lost my US nonimmigrant visa in 2014 and am now living in exile in London working temp jobs.

    Freedom of movement has been under attack since before Trump. Americans now think that it is normal, perfectly OK, to deny people their basic human right to live and work where they want.

    One day soon you will be on the other side and figure it out. Europe or Asia might close the borders to indebted impoverished Americans.

    Or image being denied entry to California as a New Yorker. Or blue states closing the border to people from red states. Or the Federal Govt making "residence rights" in places like San Francisco dependent on "social fairness" quotas.

    That would all be just as ridiculous as denying a Dutchman the right to live and work in New Amsterdam/New York - I am from the same village as Peter Stuyvesant and a relative of Jan Janse Bleecker of Bleecker Street.

    But Americans now have accepted the principle that it is OK for government to decide where people are allowed to live and destroy lives and tear families apart if they don't comply.

    Part 1 of 2...

  • Peter Verkooijen||

    Part 2 of 2

    Being self-employed has become almost impossible in the last 10 years. The Fed and debt-fueled fake economy has distorted the playing field in favor of the too-big-to-fail, including public bubble giants like Amazon and Google, who exist not because they make the economy more efficient, but because they have access to unlimited capital that independent SMB retailers and publishers don't have.

    And King Of Debt Trump will not change that and will only make things worse with his attempts to break up and regulate the tech giants. Democrats will probably end up turning them into government utility monopolies.

    And most Americans would support that now. Millennials want government to run things and give them Universal Basic Income. Millennials want feudalism; if they are going to be serfs, they want to be comfortable serfs.

    The bipartisan consensus is that free market liberalism has failed and that America should follow the Chinese neocommunist / state capitalist model. Individual liberty, limited government, equal opportunity under rule of law are dead in America and around the world.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

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