Has the "Libertarian Moment" Passed?

Was there ever much of a "libertarian moment" in the first place?


In his opening column for The Atlantic, Kevin Williamson ponders the place of libertarians (or, if you prefer, "classical liberals") in today's political environment. His conclusions are not pretty. If there ever was a "libertarian moment," Williamson argues we're quite far from one now. His essay begins:

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. But rather than embodying the future of the Republican Party, Paul embodies its past, the postwar conservative era when Ronald Reagan could proclaim that "the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism," when National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. could publish a conspectus of his later work under the subtitle "Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist," and young blue-blazered Republicans of the Alex P. Keaton variety wore out their copies of Milton Friedman's Free to Choose.

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.

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  1. Is this it?

    I mean the whole post, not the “moment”.

  2. Libertarianism was a sort of last gasp moment, on our societal evolution towards a welfare state, and subsequent collapse. I’ve never seen a society that successfully implemented it while being a democracy; It just doesn’t appear to be stable against devolution into statism, if that option is available.

    1. I see this kind of nihilism on the right a lot –

      ‘I was gonna be a libertarian, but liberals ruined everything so now my philosophy is purely anti-liberal.
      Which conveniently turns out to be almost everyone.’

      And thus do people rationalize their descent from principal to tribalism.
      Amusingly, when I see the same thing on the left, its directed at Democrats instead of liberals.
      It’s like the right is just a force of nature not even worth the spite.
      Weird things are acommin’ in the Democratic Party.

      1. Luckily for the Righties they have God on their side when the whole thing blows up. . .

        . . . or their guns if God can’t save the day.

        1. Liberals are far more religious than the right, they just don’t believe in a god, but instead an institution.

          1. A certain set seems to really enjoy insisting something you disagree with is a religion because they won’t listen to all the evidence that convinced you. I think it’s the new You’re being irrational!’

            In fact, liberals don’t just invoke ‘have the government do it and it’s solved. DONE!’ This kind of blind talismanic invocation is something I see on the right with respect to markets, though.

          2. ‘Liberals are far more religious they just don’t believe in God’ is about the depth of thinking you can expect from the right nowadays. ‘Liberals are all atheists therefore they don’t like being called religious therefore I’ll call them religious and backfill the justification with handwaving and broken metaphors.’

            1. Atheism is as much a religion as any other. It has a belief system, doctrines, and disparages believers in other faiths.

              1. Well, Tylor offered the best definition of “religion” in the late 19th century: belief in and practices relating to the supernatural. Since atheism denies the existence of a supernatural realm, it’s kind of a stretch to call atheism a religion.

                The problem is that we use the term “religion” and its derivatives metaphorically to refer to ‘strongly held beliefs.’ We then reify the metaphor to claim that the things we have metaphorically termed ‘religious’ or ‘religion’ are in fact — not just metaphorically — religious.

                There is a vast difference between beliefs that have empirical referents — say, gravity — and beliefs that don’t such as “grace.” That’s partly what the Enlightenment was about.

              2. This is idiotic.

                Not every set of beliefs is a religion.

                Religion is about the supernatural, the existence of which atheists deny.

                1. Yep. They have faith that the supernatural does not exist, and base their actions on that faith, but they can’t prove it. Sounds like a religion to me.

                  1. You don’t seem to have understood the point. “Faith” is irrelevant — it is a belief in the supernatural that is the key feature of religion. I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, but that doesn’t make me part of a sun religion.

                    As for proof, most atheists subscribe to the wisdom that proposes that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof — they don’t have to prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist, but any claim that it does exist is so extraordinary and bizarre that it takes more than your word for it….

                    1. “…most atheists subscribe to the wisdom that proposes that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof — they don’t have to prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist, but any claim that it does exist is so extraordinary and bizarre that it takes more than your word for it….”

                      But religionists can provide any number of ‘extraordinary proofs’ that their deity of choice exists. Miracles, visitations, eye-witness reports, etc.

                      Then again, why doesn’t the claim that the supernatural doesn’t exist require extraordinary proof? Sounds like the Atheists are making the rules fit their faith.

                      BTW, the Sun doesn’t rise. The horizon lowers, from your perspective, to reveal it.

                    2. The “proofs” you offer are not proofs at all. “Miracles” always bump up against the dilemma that David Hume outlined several hundred years ago, and visitations and eye-witness reports are notoriously unreliable.

                      Atheists do not have to prove negatives here: as Popper noted, trying to prove that there are no black swans is impossible. If you claim something exists, it is your responsibility to show that it does. Indeed, cognitive scientists have strong alternative accounts — for example, the notion of hyperactive agency detection that has been useful for human survival and adaptation in evolution — which offer compelling explanations for why you might have such a strange belief to begin with.

                      As for what counts as remarkable, you might remember S. Harris’s classic cartoon in Scientific American, showing two scientists looking at a blackboard, where, in the middle of complex equations, the words “Then a miracle occurs” are written. One scientists says to the other “I think you should be more explicit here in Step Two.” The joke, of course, is that since the maturing of the Enlightenment, no one working seriously in science would introduce the supernatural as a variable — to make such a claim would be so outrageously extraordinary that more than a note on a blackboard’s equations would be expected.

                    3. I was limited to 1500 characters, so I was unable to thank you for your astute observation about the sun — but your astronomical expertise doesn’t make your comment any more sequitur to the issue, which was that “faith” is an attitude that with which we approach countless phenomena — I have faith that, over time, the Dow Jones index will rise — without entailing that those phenomena are, ipso facto, religious. Moreover, members of any community may recognize countless beliefs as “religious” without having the least level of faith in them — since what makes those beliefs religious is their connection to a supernatural, not some level of faith by which those beliefs are held.

                    4. And when your beliefs are questioned, you fall back on doctrine and the sayings of your prophets.

                      Interesting that Hume made an unknown and unexplained philosophical discovery that led him to dedicate his life to philosophy. Almost miraculous.

                    5. I have no idea what you think Hume’s “discovery” was. I was referring to his well-know discussion of the concept of a miracle, which he defined, reasonably, as an event that violates a law of nature — in other words, one that cannot be explained through laws of nature and thus can be attributed to supernatural causes. The dilemma, Hume noted, was that until we have perfect knowledge of the laws of nature, we cannot say for certain that any event was in fact a violation of some law of nature. This is a common problem in the history of ‘miracles’ — see the historical research on miracles at Lourdes, for example, a suspiciously large number of which are “cures” for disease or disability, which in historical perspective are not miraculous at all.

                      “Sayings of… prophets” is hardly a cogent or substantive response. I cited a standard definition of “religion” that has been in wide use since the 19th century, and indicated that by that definition atheism is not a religion at all. The only response you have been able to offer is the irrelevant notion of “faith” and the non sequitur pointing to my “prophets”. I’ll stop wasting my time here.

            2. You kinda stumbled over the assumption that liberals are atheists and kept falling and didn’t look back.

              1. Well, I apparently found one.

    2. we’re all doooooooooooooooooooooomed

      he said, while enjoying a quality of living unimaginable to the richest person alive 150 years ago.

      Cheer up bro, Republicans hold both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Save the Malthusianism for when Democrats briefly hold one or two houses.

      1. We’re living on borrowed time.

      2. We’re living on borrowed time.

      3. We’re living on borrowed time.

  3. Errybody is a libertarian until the apples are poisoned, the planes crash, the imported drywall has pyrite, the computers are hacked, the dam bursts. . .

    1. Your idea that libertarian freedom has absolutely no regulatory state at all is quite childish and sophomoric.

      1. More proof that libertarian is more ‘my brand is purity’ than anything coherent.

        Do tell, how does a libertarian determine the appropriate level of regulation?

        1. Most libertarians I’m aware of that have given any significant thought to the matter see torts as the most effective (and least intrusive) way to accomplish the same goals as regulation. The idea being that companies will self-regulate to avoid lawsuits, which certainly is true to some degree.

          1. This in my mind is one of the core issues with Libertarianism in its pure form.

            Rather than taking a hard look at human nature and building a philosophy around it Libertarianism does the opposite, construct a philosophy than assume human nature will change to accommodate it.

            Ordinary people are not as aggressive and adversarial as a tort based system would require, and conmen and hucksters are too plentiful for a tort system to effectively regulate.

            1. The conmen and hucksters are drawn to positions of power in government though. Centuries of common law tradition show that torts and damages can restrain bad actors. Allowing governments to regulate everything is an excuse to let bad actors off the hook if they follow the regulations (which they often help craft).

              1. Conmen and hucksters are more visible in government and tend to be more constrained. See how much more scrutiny Trump and his past record has come under now that he’s in power.

                Centuries show torts and damages are insufficient so regulation steps in both to set bounds on acceptable behaviour.

          2. It certainly seems like a way that will be not very intrusive to companies.

      2. The utter failure of libertarianism is apparently the utter failure of libertarians to explain themselves proper.

      3. As is the idea that unregulated companies would poison their products and kill their customers. And dams are usually public works projects.

  4. Nothing new here, but the below is the most depressing, but true, statement:

    “If the Democrats were more clever, they might offer the libertarians a better deal on trade, criminal justice, and civil liberties. Instead, they are dreaming up excuses to sue or jail people for their views on climate change, and the United States is for the moment left with two authoritarian populist parties and no political home for classical liberalism at all.”

    1. Terribly sad, but true. And, unfortunately, most of the media (and maybe most of America) sees the political spectrum as two-dimensional – you must be either left or right or someplace in the middle with the intellectually lazy fence sitters.

      I am afraid that the true “libertarian moment” won’t arrive until some combination of statist idiocy from the left – yet more unaffordable redistributionist insanity – and the right – yet more crony crapitalism like Trump’s idiotic trade war – turns the U.S. into a broken third-world country. It will take some major disaster to break the completely unwarranted faith that too many people have in “Government.”

      1. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I’ve never seen you deviate from right-wing orthodoxy straight out of talk radio.
        Right down to agreeing with my morning WMAL show about Trump’s trade brinksmanship being wrongheaded. And your apocalyptic conclusions – the right’s brand has been crisis since Reagan’s Time for Choosing speech.
        I am coming to realize that the spectrum is largely two dimensional despite policies being much more faceted because that’s the lens humans work through.

        The two dimensions aren’t about government, or religion, or diversity. It’s all ‘with me’ and ‘bad guys.’ In fact, I recently saw a study that showed that voters’ views largely follow Congress’s positions, not the other way around. Even independents define themselves by the candidates, not vice-versa.

        1. “I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I’ve never seen you deviate from right-wing orthodoxy straight out of talk radio.”

          Are you even paying attention?

          1. Have you met sarcastro? hi, this is sarcastro. There has never been a strawman he can’t invent.

            1. I noted I could be incorrect. Not a great strawman move, there.

              I will note that neither of you has yet offered actual evidence to deflate the purported strawman.

              1. IIUC strawmen are burned (usually with a flame thrower in recent memory) not deflated like a balloon being popped! YMMV

                1. I mix metaphors like a train runs up costs!

      2. The libertarian moment will arrive when the federal government bankrupts itself and private monetary systems replace the government stranglehold on the economy.

    2. Democrats do offer those things. And despite some dumb talk, haven’t jailed anyone on climate change denial. So….

      Libertarians will always define themselves as the sole group in opposition to the statists.

      1. They haven’t yet gained enough power to jail people over things like that.

        But until they refrain from something that IS in their power, I have no reason to suppose they’d stop short of jail if it was in their power.

        1. Yes, you can speculate your way into liberals being tyrants.

          But that says nothing about liberals or libertarians, it just shows you’ve picked your side already.

          1. I can speculate about it, informed by what they do in other countries.

            1. We can speculate about libertarians informed by how so many of them rushed to the bosom of George W Bush in the run-up to Iraq. Effectively lodged there ever since.

        2. They have refrained from something that is in their power.

          Trump is the one, e.g., who decided to ban bump stocks. If the Obama White House cannot even do such a narrow thing, their unlimited power leaves a lot to be desired.

          That’s just an example. Meanwhile, conservatives in power has done various things, including jailing people for some nefarious reasons. But, you are a conservative, so you seem — even here, so don’t have the rationalization that you are balancing off “the Left” friendly people of some blogs — less passionate about that sort of thing.

          Won’t say you are “lying” though. Bias is a human thing.

      2. Dumb talk… oh and lawsuits by Mann and others over debated science. But facts and all, pish posh.

        1. Yeah, every liberal bought into that – it’s a core part of our philosophy!

        2. It’s not over “debated science.” It’s over defamation. Mann didn’t sue anyone for disagreeing with him.

          Who is it that’s not interested in facts?

  5. Just another right-winger attempting — unconvincingly — to associate nanny-state conservatism with libertarianism.

    After welcoming the wall-builders, the drug warriors, the southern intolerants, the torturers, the gay-bashers, the military belligerents, the micromanagers of (certain) medical facilities, the vote suppressors, and the like in an effort to maintain an electoral coalition for backwardness and intolerance in a country headed elsewhere, the closest Republicans and conservatives can get to libertarianism is faux libertarianism.

    If a bunch of right-wing authoritarians masquerading in libertarian drag is your idea of a “libertarian moment,” however, this is the golden age.

    1. And the least intelligent post in this thread goes to our favorite sub-70 IQ, mentally and physically handicapped, hypocritical Reverend, Arthur K Kirkland!!

      How do you feel about not only not addressing any of the claims in the post, but going off-topic in ways that expose how you bigoted are to people that may think slightly differently than you, to the point that you label them a bunch of buzzwords that essentially mean nothing even though most of the people that actually are what you said aren’t even in the Libertarianor Republican parties, conservative or anything short of unironic Nazis that end up being stupid shitposters on anime imageboards and keep their viewpoints there rather express them through a weapon? Or the fact that your pseudo-intellectual posts keep on revealing how stultified you are about how reality works? Are you actually retarded or are you just pretending?

      1. You figure the wall-builders aren’t Republicans or conservatives? The vote suppressors? The torturers?

        That Republicans and conservatives are not gay-bashers, anti-abortion crusaders, drug warriors, and/or Southern bigots?

        My point is that the current Republican-conservative electoral coalition and the Republican platform are stridently anti-libertarian, and that any claim of a special affinity between libertarianism and current conservatism or the Republican Party is daft and/or disingenuous.

        I acknowledge a strong tie between faux libertarianism — Libertarians For Border Walls, Libertarians For The Drug War, Libertarians For Criminalizing Abortion, Libertarians For Abusive Policing, Libertarians For Voter Suppression, Libertarians For Military Belligerence — and the Republican-conservative-Olin-Heritage-Federalist alliance.

      2. AKK is inflammatory, but actually quite consistent and on topic. Your characterization of AKK as retarded says far more about you than him or her.

        1. Apologies, ALK, not AKK.

        2. Yes, quite agree.

        3. He’s certainly consistent and on-topic: it just rarely happens to be the same topic as the post he’s commenting on.

          Witness this example, where he goes out of his way to gratuitously insult an author who appears to agree with him.

  6. So classical liberals had a comfy home in the Republican Party with its libertarian stalwarts Ryan, McConnell, Cantor, Mittens, McCain, Graham, Jeb!, Kasich, Cruz and Marco Rubio ?

    It’s a long tough slog to Make National Review Great Again but Kevin Williamson’s departure is a good start

  7. The country does not appear to be instinctively or practically libertarian. There is not some ground swell to privatize social security or even raise the age of qualification….or block grant Medicaid back to the states…or seriously consider market-based reforms to Medicare…..or dare I say get government out of health care all together. Even conservatives can’t bring themselves to propose closing down the Departments of Education or Energy, or consolidating the many subsistence programs. No one is proposing ending agriculture subsidies. Why does the government still run Amtrak?

    Few see debt as a looming problem. We’ve had deficits for so long without the average American being effected, that there is no urgency to cut government….those getting the benefits scream louder than those wanting to cut. We are a divided country….divided on abortion, guns, immigrants, civil war statues, transgenders in bathrooms, gay wedding cakes, climate change, college rape investigations, and terrorism…..and our media takes every opportunity to enflame and exacerbate these differences. We have much different values and priorities….which now impedes our ability to self govern. I fear that something will need to break before we can seriously get our house in order.

    1. You realize that we’ve always been a divided country, right?

      Going back to the Founders, we had the New England Puritans vs the Virginia gentry, coastal communities vs inland settlements (i.e. westward expansionists), commerce vs agriculture, Anglophobes vs Francophobes, etc.

      I see our divisions as sources of strength not weakness.

    2. “The country does not appear to be instinctively or practically libertarian”

      I think you are terribly misunderstanding what the average person thinks and believes. Contrary to what you wrote, most of the country is predominantly Libertarian in political belief, but certainly do have hot-button topics where they move toward a statist position. The US is one of the most libertarian countries in the world.

      The fundamental issue is that there has been no mainstream LP candidate who has captured the predominant libertarian sentiment in the country. Inevitably, the libertarian candidates end up looking like loons, typically around pot or other fringe topics, instead of speaking to the core libertarian positions. Granted, the left and right strive to push the hot-button topics that drive people to the polls and it is difficult to fight that, but wanks like Johnson/Weld had no chops to even compete on that level. And Rand is tainted because his father has come off like a loon far too often.

      1. Trump, Reagan, and even Clinton to some degree, captured a large chunk of the libertarian leanings in the country.
        Trump’s “drain the swamp” was very effective at pulling in the libertarian-leaning people, like the Tea Party successors, who know the state is failing but don’t see anyway to fix it. The LP isn’t speaking to that, to its shame. Where is the LP with the recent revelations about the FBI and tampering in the political process? The LP should be the leading voice in draining the swamp, and frankly aligning forces with the Trump administration to fix that. Because you can be darn sure, both right and left would use the deep state to minimize any LP candidate next time around.
        But, the LP is terribly unserious, which we can see on the pages of Reason everyday.

        1. MikeP2, you’re right on the money about the Libertarian Party and about Reason magazine. I used to be a card-carrying LP member and would read Reason religiously. In 2016 I voted for Trump; I stopped reading Reason even before that. (I do read the Volokh Conspiracy though.)
          re: Johnson/Weld — didn’t Johnson say that it’s OK to punish someone for refusing to provide services for a gay wedding? Some libertarian!

          1. Johnson has never been a Libertarian. He’s a Progressive Republican that was too open with his Progressivism and was kicked out.

            IMHO that is the biggest problem for Libertarians, they too have been infiltrated with Progressives at upper levels just like the Democrats are controlled by Progressives and the Republican establishment is controlled by Progressives. That is the so-called swamp that needs to be drained.

        2. Trump, Reagan, and even Clinton to some degree, captured a large chunk of the libertarian leanings in the country.

          Trump captured 0% off the libertarian leanings in this country. Trump was the least libertarian major party candidate in living memory, and that includes Hillary Clinton, who libertarians proverbially wouldn’t piss on if she were on fire.

          Here’s a hint: if you supported Trump, you were never libertarian. “Drain the swamp” is populism, not libertarianism. It completely misses the point of libertarianism; libertarians do not oppose government because we think politicians are corrupt. Libertarianism is a theory about the proper relationship between the people and the government. Getting more honest politicians would not make the government more libertarian.

          who know the state is failing but don’t see anyway to fix it. The LP isn’t speaking to that, to its shame.

          To reiterate: “Only I can fix it” is not libertarian. The man who rides in on the white horse to fix government is populism. Libertarians want less government, not “fixed” government.

          But, the LP is terribly unserious, which we can see on the pages of Reason everyday.

          No citations, of course, and Reason and the LP are unrelated entities.

          1. “Libertarians want less government, not “fixed” government.”

            If the “fix” is deregulation and shrinking of the bureaucracy, then, yes, Libertarians want “fixed” government.

            You screed demonstrates perfectly why Libertarians are seen as loons. You focus on hand-waving semantics and an utopian ideal instead of working to achieve and appreciate the small steps necessary in a complex, multi-cultured country of 350million+.

            If you can’t recognize that for the first time in 30 years, we have seen in aggregate, movement toward libertarian ideals, than frankly you either aren’t paying attention or are blinding by your own extremism. Trump’s no libertarian. But there are at least hints of it in his policies and actions we can applaud.

      2. What country do you live in?

        The US has never been libertarian, and certainly not in the last 50 years. The reason is that American libertarianism is as utopian and unworkable as communism – it is populated by extremists. I left the Libertarian Party long ago when I realized their idea of national defense was to not do anything beyond our borders, not spend any money on defense, and rely on citizens and their muskets to defeat the Soviets.

        There are some libertarian impulses, of sort, but they tend to occur in part of the conservative wing: support for free speech; against over-large government but recognizing the need for more government than libertarians understand; support for religious liberties – an area where libertarians have fallen down badly; anti-abortion, in an era where most libertarians don’t believe in even the right to life of anyone not yet born.

        1. Prior to the 1930s and Wickard, the federal parts of our government were more libertarian, albeit state governments could have a heavy hand.

        2. I think you are not nearly well travelled enough, either within this country or outside of it.

          the US is one of the most libertarian country in the world, and the largest one, by far.

          The Statist philosophies are far more dominant in other western countries, even countries like NZ/AUS that most people consider more libertarian. They are most certainly not.

          does the US populace 100% follow the libertarian philosophies….of course not. but on a relative scale, talk to most everyone in the US and listen to what they believe…not the spoon fed party lines on the hot-topic of choice…but what their person vision is. Whether it is abortion, guns, taxes, government, whatever. The majority clearly leans libertarian. It’s the LP shame that they can’t do better in political contests.

        3. “There are some libertarian impulses, of sort, but they tend to occur in part of the conservative wing”

          That’s silly. Conservatives are at least as authoritarian as are liberals.

          Observe what happens on a college campus when conservatives gain control (spoiler: a censorship-ridden, science-disdaining, nonsense-teaching, academic freedom-deprived safe space for right-wing dogma).

          Or what occurs in legislatures when conservatives can advance their preferences with respect to micromanagement of medical facilities, military spending, or voter suppression.

          Or what happens when conservative judges are in position to push their aspirations concerning abusive policing, or the war on certain drugs, or whittling of the Fourth Amendment, or civil forfeiture.

          Or what occurs when a Republican president can call the shots on immigration, or torture, or preemptive invasion.

          A libertarian has disdain for Republicans and Democrats, and conservatives and liberals, in roughly equal measure.

      3. Harry Browne was no loon. And the LP’s much maligned focus on the war on drugs is rapidly becoming the mainstream position in the US. Johnson didn’t win because most people thought he had no chance and wasn’t presidential enough, not because they disagreed with him on the issues (if they even bothered to learn his policies.)

  8. There’s probably an interesting piece to be written on the intellectual and political fortunes of libertarianism (which are at a low state now, in my opinion), but Williamson’s standard-issue Atlantic bashing of Trump and Republicans isn’t it.

  9. Libertariansm has lost any principled definition anyhow, and become another political brand subsumed into the political debate and invoked as a symbol more than as a philosophy.

  10. This is why libertarians make terrible NASCAR drivers. When the rubber meets the road they always veer right.

    1. Nonsense. libertarians make terrible NASCAR drivers because they are too busy smoking pot in an RV and miss the start of the race.

    2. While I don’t veer to the right, I generally think that Republicans pose less of a threat to liberty than Democrats. This has nothing to do with the Republicans having less authoritarian instincts/policies, they don’t. However, I think institutions such as courts and the media are better at calling out and blocking these policies when they arise from Republicans. I think the institutions are considerably more apologetic about authoritarian policies when they come from Democrats.

      1. So your defense for voting GOP as an alleged libertarian is that they’re more incompetent? That is, candidly, a pretty weak straw upon which to justify voting for polices which you acknowledge are authoritarian. I humbly suggest you stop looking at party labels and just vote for the candidate whose statements, policy, and ability to implement them given the office they’re running for most closely aligns with your policy preferences. Or, you know, you could just vote GOP with this flimsy rationalization. Your call.

        1. This is why Trump is getting supported by so many libertarians.

      2. Concur with zanctmao above. Your reasoning for why you think the GOP is less of a threat to liberty is that you buy into the GOP victimization narrative regarding the courts and media.

        1. Are there any groups of whom you politically approve that are widely susceptible to a “victimization narrative”?

          1. Loads.
            It’s a tempting narrative!

    3. Except on war and drugs and civil liberties and the police state…. pay attention.

  11. If by “libertarian” you mean level (not tilted) economic playing fields, cutting government spending below what it is now, a trampoline-not-hammock safety net, a robust Bill of Rights, no morals police, and caution in foreign relations…then libertarians are pretty much in the wilderness except for some of Trump’s deregulatory policy and some of the promising IJ economic-freedom lawsuits.

    I don’t know how they can get out of the wilderness, but I can tell you how they can *stay* there indefinitely.

    They can keep developing their reputation of being indifferent or hostile to traditional religion.

    They can cede moral language to the secular and religious Left.

    They can spit on the grave of Fusionism, shaking their heads at how they were ever associated with those icky conservatives.

    That way there will be no need for political compromises because nobody will be interested in compromising with them.

    1. Wait, so you’ve basically boiled down the problems with libertarianism to basically just religion?

      If only libertarians embraced god and social conservatism, they’d be welcomed into the fold?

      If a libertarian embraces social conservatism, they’re not “libertarians” any more. Social conservatism is a statist, anti-liberty position.

    2. Wait, so you’ve basically boiled down the problems with libertarianism to basically just religion?

      If only libertarians embraced god and social conservatism, they’d be welcomed into the fold?

      If a libertarian embraces social conservatism, they’re not “libertarians” any more. Social conservatism is a statist, anti-liberty position.

      1. They’ve divorced and are splitting up the assets of the Fusionist movement.

      2. Actually, libertarians could win friends from Christians by defending people’s right not to participate in gay wedding ceremonies. But most libertarians have gay friends, but no conservative Christian friends, and consider the latter group to be yahoos, so they aren’t going to go there.

        1. Libertarians could win friends from plenty of Christians by being bigoted and backward gay-bashers.

        2. My Odinist friends are much more conservative than my Xtian friends. Come to think of it, my homo non-Xtian friends are more conservative than my Xtian 1s!

            1. It’s mutually-reinforcing – cutting off the SoCons because they’re icky, then libertarian arguments become suspect because they’re presumed to be promiting libertinism, then this is proof that those SoCons were never libertarians in the first place, and so ad infinitum.

    3. So far fusionism got libertarians decades of wars and 20 trillion in federal debt.

  12. The column is just classic Williamson insulting and mocking the people who in theory he should support. Populism is not a dirty word but merely the people rejecting a failed so-called “elite”.

    As for the question presented here, “libertarian” as advocated by Reagan and Buckley is “limited” government exercising its powers sparingly. Not the “libertarianism” of Reason the magazine which is just a collection of liberals who like guns and/or low taxes.

    Reason “libertarians” will never have a moment.

    1. Libertarian is as libertarian does, at this point.

  13. Ronald Reagan was a libertarian in the sense that a man is a faithful husband – when he’s not at the strip club or massage parlor. He certainly wasn’t libertarian when it came to criminal justice. And flag burning?

    The truth is, the libertarian ideology can never attract more than a small minority of the population. And even the Ayn Rand true believers would fold quickly if they actually had to walk the walk. Was it Augustine who said of celibacy ‘please, Lord, give me the strength – but not yet?’ That’s about the position most libertarians are in today.

    1. It is also amusing that Williamson considers Buckley to have been libertarian, and criticizes Jerry Falwell(!!) fro straying from libertarian ideas.

      He seems to live in a strange world.

  14. Both political parties in different ways support individual liberty. Rand Paul leans the Republican way there and even to the degree he is for individual liberty, he repeatedly talks about local option.

    Allowing the states to restrict liberty, if they wish, is more state rightism than libertarian.

    Give him his due — he has his moments where he is consistent. Anyway, Adler is a conservative. Maybe, a libertarian can voice their .02 here.

    1. “Both political parties in different ways support individual liberty.”
      The Democratic Party supports individual liberty? How?

      1. LGBT civil equality, Roe v Wade, etc.

        They also fail on individual liberty in other ways like minimum wage, unions, public accommodation, and taxes.

        1. re: Roe v Wade
          You’re right. The Democratic Party wants the woman to have unrestricted freedom to abort the fetus. I think that this freedom _should_ be restricted.
          re: LGBT civil equality
          I was talking about individual liberty. If the Democratic Party limited its position to decriminalizing LGBT relationships, you’d have a point. Instead, they oppose government “discrimination” against LGBT couples in issuing marriage licenses. I think the government _should_ so discriminate.

          1. “The Democratic Party wants the woman to have unrestricted freedom to abort the fetus.”

            Other than all the regulations that they support.

            “If the Democratic Party limited its position to decriminalizing LGBT relationships”

            They did support decriminalizing LGBT relationships. In practice, individual liberty does benefit from state recognized relationships like marriage. Such as the control over one’s children, not to have to testify and various other individual liberties arising from marriage. You support denying them here by even letting the government to discriminate. Okay, but that is part of what I meant. Ditto things like the liberty to joining the military.

            Democrats support other individual liberties as well, some more than others. Campaign finance aside, Supreme Court rulings repeatedly have broad majorities joined by people nominated by both parties. Democrats repeatedly respect rights of criminal defendants. etc. Again, Republicans protect liberties in various cases too.

          2. this freedom _should_ be restricted
            government _should_ so discriminate

            Libertarians, folks!

        2. Ask people getting a better wage whether they have more freedom than before.
          Unions are similar. Don’t miss the freedom for workers in your love of freedom for management.

          And though the parallel to LGBT isn’t perfect, just look to Jim Crow and how it ended for an example of how mandating diversity can over time sometimes make a community more free.

  15. Wait, I think I see the Libertarian Movement circling back and coming this way…oops, it passed by again. Didn’t even slow down.

    1. Most people just cross the street when they see it coming. Safer that way.

  16. Want a libertarian moment? Answer the most besetting question which challenges libertarianism:

    In a libertarian society, where does the force to limit government come from?

    The first would-be libertarian to answer that question to the general satisfaction of the others will deliver the moment you seek. Until that question gets answered successfully, libertarians have no theory of government to offer?relegating them to the role of critics of other peoples’ governments?at best?and cranks otherwise.

  17. Vanilla libertarianism is like the linux of ideologies. The movement is too academic and too up its rearend for its own good. It doesn’t speak to the common man or resonate with people emotionally. Other ‘academic’ ideologies managed to get this right. The Marxist peasantry died for the Reds not even understanding what collectivization would mean for their families. Atheism Plus spread more on the emotional furor against the control the Church allegedly had than urbane readings of Pascal’s Wager.

    Then you have libertarians whose proponents are mostly gooberish male academics ranting about supply side and hoping to convert via impenetrable Hayek tomes. Like linux zealots, they’re completely unwelcoming. They view anybody taking their ideas and gasp actually having some success without being one of the approved/properly credentialed Disciples of libertarianism or without presenting themselves as a droning academic as an attack. You can see examples of this in the flood of jealous establishment tirades here and elsewhere against new conservative movements that actually pose a threat to the leftwing stranglehold. Predictably, all this ends up doing is driving potential allies away into directions they despise even more. Like linux fanatics, establishment libertarians are comfortable being perennial failures. There is nothing left to do except leave them to wallow in their stagnation and appropriate the best ideas to create something better and/or more successful (Android).

    1. They view anybody taking their ideas and gasp actually having some success without being one of the approved/properly credentialed Disciples of libertarianism or without presenting themselves as a droning academic as an attack.

      That’s definitely true of too many movement libertarians, esp. in the LP, as I’ve seen for decades. But can you give me examples of how that’s true of linux zealots?

  18. Yup, it’s passed. It used to be that you’d go to Europe, and be like damn, everybody on the left is a commie and everybody on the right is a nazi. And now it’s like that here.

  19. Establishment conservatives (Republicans and Libertarians) abandoned the primary useful function they once performed, i.e., resisting government expansion while establishment liberals (Democrats and Greens) abandoned the one useful purpose they once served, i.e., representing worker interests. The establishment press has abandoned any attempt to conceal its progressive bias. All now relentlessly strive to gratify special interest groups to the detriment of the nation as a viable entity . . . this is not apt to end well for anyone.

  20. If the Libertarian movement has passed, then liberals sure spend a lot of time beating that dead horse.

    I notice that the only coverage Gary Johnson could get during the 2016 election was about momentarily not remembering where Aleppo was.

  21. While many people claim to be libertarian minded, no one is actually willing to advocate for completely eliminating our welfare state. People are too reliant on the government cheese. It isn’t going to end well.

  22. It is Sean Hannity’s party now.

    It’s been Sean Hannity’s party, or Limbaugh’s, or Coulter’s, for quite some time – well before Trump appeared on the scene.

    Who are supposed “anti-Trump” conservatives/liberatarians kidding? Themselves, mostly.

    Aggressive foreign policy? Check.
    Stupid tax cuts advanced with idiotic arguments? Check.
    Immigrant-bashing? Check.
    Eviscerating environmental rules? Check
    Claiming climate change is a fraud? Check.

    Whatever one thinks of Trump personally, his policies have not much deviated from GOP orthodoxy.

    1. Don’t forget calls for killing businessmen who transact in doobies and painkillers; support for abusive policing; promotion of voter suppression; a revival of conservatives’ taste for torture; interference with abortion rights; bigoted targeting of transgender citizens for second-class treatment by government; and other elements of the traditional, authoritarian right-wing agenda that are flourishing under the current Republican administration.

      Show me a libertarian who claims to support Donald J. Trump and I will present a right-wing bigot fooling no one with silly libertarian drag.

      1. Google is your friend:

        Frequently Asked Questions | Libertarian Party


        1. “I believe in a world where gay married couples are free to protect their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns.” Austin Peterson, Libertarian and now GOP candidate for Senate.

        2. Interesting that the discussion so far has almost nothing to do with the actual platform of the Libertarian Party.

          1. The distance between the Republican Party platform and the Libertarian Party platform seems relevant to a discussion of conservatism’s relationship to libertarianism (or, perhaps more accurate, the lack of such a relationship).

          2. Which platform is largely ignored by many who claim to be libertarians, but are actually Republicans ashamed to admit it.

  23. Pointing out the obvious . . . the Republican and Libertarian establishments (back in the day) favored limited govt., but now are focused (like the Progressives, i.e., Democrats and Greens) on pursuing the votes of special interest groups. Seems to me this may account, in large part, for Trump’s support among working class Americans.

    1. Dave Boaz, or maybe it was Chris Hocker, wrote that the McBride for Prez (LP 1976) campaign made a deliberate choice to pursue a coalition strategy as more promising than a principle strategy. Considering as how this is how politics is usu. done in the USA, & largely so in other countries as well, that seemed reasonable at the time.

      Although I didn’t vote in the 2016 election, count me as among libertarians for Trump. He wasn’t my 1st choice for the GOP nom, nor my 2nd, but he was certainly my 3rd. I’ve not been displeased since then. Out of the possibilities I foresaw as reasonably likely, Trump seemed then, & still seems now, to outperform the avg.

      My biggest fear is that the GOP leadership, in an attempt to dis Trump, & even Trump himself, is completely knuckling under to Democrat & media pressure to remake the Russians as enemies. Even John Bachelor on WABC, after having on Stephen Cohen for what seems to me to be sage advice on dealing w Russia & Putin, then has on 2 or 3 neocons who say the opposite. Bachelor seems to agree w both sides, of course.

  24. “Populist”? That’s certainly a euphemism.

  25. “Has the “Libertarian Moment” Passed?”

    I dunno but whatever it was it was preferable to Hillary in every way imaginable.

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