Libertarianism is not an ideology

Were libertarianism a political philosophy, one undergirded by moral convictions and developed through consistent application of principles to political questions, last night in Wisconsin should have been a moment of conflict. After all, union rights are a matter of liberty; union rights stem from the right of free assembly, the right of free association, the right of free speech, the control of one’s own labor power. So too with raiding of public pensions: pensions are previously negotiated, previously acquired compensation. They are property, and if libertarianism stands for anything, it’s for the defense of property. So surely the raiding of pension funds, in violation of contract and after they’ve been awarded in fair exchange for work, should be a matter of controversy and debate within libertarianism.

But all of this is hypothetical, and no prominent libertarians even evinced internal conflict about Wisconsin, and there is no debate among libertarians about unions or public pensions, because libertarianism is not a political ideology. Ideologies are believed, their first principles applied through different lenses, their consequences fiercely debated. American conservatism is an ideology. It’s a disastrous, immoral, schizophrenic, and bigoted ideology. But it’s an ideology; it has principles and a moral architecture and within it there are debates. Those debates are usually about which code words to use for “blame poor black people” and whether to put gay people on ice floes or set them on fire, but they happen, and they reflect a living political philosophy. What is debated within libertarianism? Nothing that challenges the rich or corporations. Ever. The best you get is something like Bleeding Heart Libertarians, where people struggle to find contractual grounds to object to a boss saying “have sex with me or you’re fired.” In other words, internal libertarian debate amounts to working hard to justify absolutely elementary human morality, not to question the moneyed or the powerful.

I don’t doubt that there are young people who believe in libertarianism, who believe that they are engaged in a principled enterprise and that there are debates to be had within it that matter. I know that there are Cato staffers out there who think that they can meaningfully work against police brutality and misconduct from within that body. What I will never understand is how they can reconcile that with the fact that what Cato does best is to elect Republicans, and Republicans support “law and order” legal policies as fervently as they support anything. I don’t doubt that there are people at Reason who think that they can support immigrant rights from within that institution. What I will never understand is how they can reconcile that with the fact that Reason’s literally endless assault on Democrats empowers Republicans, who compete to see who can be the cruelest towards immigrants. At what point do these people actually confront the consequences of libertarian politics?

Find a conflict between the rich and the powerful on one side and the poor and powerless on the other, and you will find libertarians defending the former against the latter. There is no surer thing in American politics. What do those “reasonable libertarians” I’m always reading about think of that fact? Does it bother them even a little bit, that libertarians always, inevitably side with the rich against the poor? Do they imagine it’s a coincidence? I have no idea. It’s certainly no coincidence that the two issues that people constantly use to claim that libertarians aren’t just conservatives, marijuana legalization and gay rights, are issues that don’t challenge corporate power.

Show me a libertarianism where there might plausibly be support for unions, or for respecting pensions, or for public employees; show me a libertarianism where there is at least a real internal debate about orientation towards money and power; show me a libertarianism that does not inevitably benefit the rich against the poor, the powerful against the powerless, the boss against the worker. Then maybe libertarianism will be worth taking seriously. Until then, libertarianism will be a wink, a dodge, a clever ruse, an exercise in shamelessness.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit






142 replies
  1. 1
    Dave S. says:

    “I’ve got mine, screw you” remains libertarianism’s core principle.

  2. 2
    Keith says:

    Up until the whole Paulist uprising, I had always associated libertarianism with liberalism – a social libertarianism in which the government by and large leaves people alone as it pertains to their personal behavior. But mention that term now, and it is an exlusively conservative concept rooted in the idea that the government should leave *corporations* alone – essentially economic laissez-faire.

  3. 3

    @Dave S.:

    “I’ve got mine, screw you” remains libertarianism’s core principle.

    Judging by the number of flat-broke libertarians I’ve seen, it’s more like the usual spiteful “I don’t got mine but that’s fine as long as you got less.”

    Peasants. That’s what I call them. Fucking serfs defending their master no matter what.

  4. 4
    Clean Willie says:

    Libertarians criticize everyone else for accepting the legitimacy of the State. But they accept, without question, the legitimacy of Ownership; that’s the real basis of their code. A belief system founded on the supremacy of property rights is bound to serve the powerful.

  5. 5
    kindness says:

    The good people of Wisconsin now can enjoy the ride they’ve bought twice. I feel bad for them but what can I, a Californian do?

    I’ll donate. Not to Wisconsin but to others I feel that will use my donation wisely.

  6. 6
    Chris says:

    Show me a libertarianism where there might plausibly be support for unions, or for respecting pensions, or for public employees; show me a libertarianism where there is at least a real internal debate about orientation towards money and power; show me a libertarianism that does not inevitably benefit the rich against the poor, the powerful against the powerless, the boss against the worker. Then maybe libertarianism will be worth taking seriously. Until then, libertarianism will be a wink, a dodge, a clever ruse, an exercise in shamelessness.

    In other words, libertarianism is simply another word for conservatism.

    Specifically, libertarians are what conservatives call themselves when they’re trying to get laid.

    Next question.

  7. 7
    Woodrowfan says:

    I saw a Paulista’s car yesterday with a “Freedom is good, institutions are evil” bumper-sticker (one of many). There was also an NRA sticker next to it. So, institutions are evil, but you’re a proud member of one institution who actually does evil things????

  8. 8
    bootsy says:

    “Libertarian” might mean something in other countries. In this country, it has been purchased wholesale by Oil billionaires. Anyone involved in those Koch-owned institutions you mentioned who actually cared about the pursuit of actual liberty would quit soon enough.

    The funniest thing about these so-called libertarians is that they are the most authoritarian people ever — they love the idea of crushing voting, unions, and really any sort of democratic process including the occupy movement.

  9. 9
    ornery_curmudgeon says:

    Honestly ‘conservatism’ isn’t really an ideology either, quiet as it’s kept.

    Ideologies can be disproven in the real world.

  10. 10
    Ash Can says:

    I don’t think I’m seeing the distinction you’re trying to make here. I hear you saying that American conservatism is an ideology but libertarianism isn’t, since the former has beliefs that are both applied and debated and the latter doesn’t. That’s baloney — the libertarians I know are religious in their fervor; they have a fundamentalist belief in their Ayn Rand bibles and insist that governments can in fact operate in accordance with those bibles. The reason libertarian principles have failed in practice is that they weren’t actual, pure libertarian principles. And so forth. They’re convinced that Republicans come closest to their beliefs, so they vote for Republicans. And their beliefs boil down to, “I have mine, fuck you, and if I don’t have mine, it’s your fault, so give me yours.” And this is what Republicans do, so they vote Republican.

    It’s an ideology, all right. And it goes hand-in-hand with American conservatism.

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    @Keith:

    Up until the whole Paulist uprising, I had always associated libertarianism with liberalism – a social libertarianism in which the government by and large leaves people alone as it pertains to their personal behavior. But mention that term now, and it is an exlusively conservative concept rooted in the idea that the government should leave corporations alone – essentially economic laissez-faire.

    In other words, essentially the modern version of the states’ rights doctrine. And if you look at Ron and Rand Paul, you find that that’s pretty much exactly what they believe. It’s all about power flowing from one political center (the feds) to another (the states). But the question of how to protect the individual from that kind of power is never addressed and completely irrelevant.

    In other words, like I said – it’s conservatism pure and simple.

  12. 12
    The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik says:

    American Libertarianism is essentially Economic Calvinism. No more, no less.

    In other words, functionally indistinguishable from American Conservatism.

  13. 13
    Soonergrunt says:

    In order to have any intellectual consistency at all, libertarianism must reduce all things to property ownership and transactions pertaining thereto. Under that construct, labor itself is property, to be owned by the the person with the most resources. Even labor can be taken from the laborer, either by pay as a transaction (you build this thing, and I will exchange other property for it) or by force (you build this thing and take what I deign to give you for its value, even as I value the thing at nothing)
    Libertarianism, whatever it once might have been, is as it has been practiced and understood in my lifetime, to permit and even encourage slavery as the natural order of things.

  14. 14
    gaz says:

    Two gripes (maybe minor)

    1. The title says ideology. The first sentence says political philosophy. They aren’t necessarily interchangeable. I’m not sure if I’m the only one this stood out to or not, but ideology is much more general that political philosophy. That said, this may be considered nitpicking. It’s a minor gripe.

    2. Although I don’t disagree with your post, there are far better angles for critiquing libertarianism.

  15. 15
    Chris says:

    @ornery_curmudgeon:

    “Conservatism: the belief that the system that currently exists is the best possible system and, more to the point, that the people at the top of it therefore deserve to be there and deserve to stay there.”

    That’s the best definition I can come up with. Depending on context, conservatism may be aristocratic, monarchistic, capitalistic, theocratic, communistic or pretty much any ideology you can think of.

    ETA: alternatively, “the system that currently exists” can be changed to “the system that existed until recently” in cases where the sore losers don’t have their privileges anymore but really want them back.

  16. 16
    RalfW says:

    Your takedown is awesome, Freddie. The part about siding with corporations and the rich 100% is spot-on.

    But I suspect that they would never stand up for public-sector unions or state pensions because in their fantasyland, there should be no public employees except maybe, maybe the military.

    So in an ends justify the means bit of cravenness, they’ll accept abrogating property rights since the holders of the property never deserved it in the first place. (To their thinking, I’m supposing).

    In general, I just find libertarianism a province of the comfortable as a way to eschew any morality at all, really.

    Libertarianism strikes me the ultimate rejection of community, or a commons, or any sense that one is on this earth to serve anyone but ones’ self. How joyless. How lonely. How vapid and small that way of living is.

  17. 17

    @The Other Chuck:

    Peasants. That’s what I call them. Fucking serfs defending their master no matter what.

    The Crabs in a Bucket metaphor never fails, sadly.

    Freddie’s wrong IMO. An Ideology is something hermetic (often to the point of tautology), reflexive (the ideologue constantly refers to it, even when inappropriate), and absolute/universal (it’s the answer to every problem encountered or discussed). An ideology is a set of trained responses, to avoid having to subject oneself to actual case-by-case thought. This is why ideologies are bad.

    So… if Libertarianism isn’t an ideology, then what is?

  18. 18
    BenjaminJB says:

    Those debates are usually about which code words to use for “blame poor black people” and whether to put gay people on ice floes or set them on fire, but they happen, and they reflect a living political philosophy.

    Someone should send this to Sullivan for another Moore nomination. Maybe this year, Balloon Juice could sweep the Moore Awards.

  19. 19

    Is the label you give your political positions. . . a goer? Eh? KnowwhatImean, eh? Nudge nudge say no more.

    Fancy a go at the pensions do you, eh? Nudge nudge wink wink say no more. Nudge is as good as a wink to a blind libertarian.

    You ever do any political economy? I bet you do sir, I bet you do. You ever, eh . . . justify grossly unfair and exploitative political economic systems, eh? Say no more say no more say no more. Who doesn’t, eh, knowwhatImean? You like exacerbating unequal political economic power dynamics, he asked knowingly? I bet you do, been around, eh, been around, nudge nudge wink wink.

  20. 20
    Joey Maloney says:

    An actual libertarian (as in, concerned with maximizing liberty) ideology is contained in the late Peter McWilliams’ book, Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do. But that book is all about decriminalizing consensual acts – prostitution, drug use, etc.

    It’s interesting what the book has to say about property rights – nothing. And it’s interesting how many libertarians jump to claim McWilliams as one of their own.

  21. 21
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Not sure the national Democratic party is all that great on immigrants. However, urban Democrats tend to be pretty good because of deep ties with immigrant communities. Don’t expect great leadership from the national party because they fear alienating the xenophobic segment of their base who favor authoritarian solutions to “they tuk er jawbs” (as they’re apparently too naive and unschooled to keep their eye on the pea in Republican globalism three-card monte). (Psst, it’s up his sleeve.)

  22. 22

    Libertarians are just Republicans who want to smoke pot.

  23. 23
    The Tragically Flip says:

    Libertarians! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

    /had to be done

  24. 24
    NobodySpecial says:

    Libertarianism is a mental defect. No more, no less. In a world that has been built on millennia of cooperative work from our start as evolved fish to today’s modern interconnected world, the plain desire to reject all the fruits of cooperation is a defect. In a less civilized world, their lives WOULD be nasty, bruitish, and much shorter than their cooperating neighbors.

  25. 25
    Mike E says:

    Libertarianism is NOT an ideology

    Better.

  26. 26
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Keith:

    Up until the whole Paulist uprising, I had always associated libertarianism with liberalism – a social libertarianism in which the government by and large leaves people alone as it pertains to their personal behavior.

    This notion has been around for a while and it was what attracted some of my friends to libertarianism originally. Oddly, the USSC kind of made this concept law in Lawrence v. Texas although I’m not hopeful that the likes of Scalia would carry their own logic to the end with regards to the use of recreational drugs.

    What kills me is how libertarians have decided that THEY have a right to privacy (even when engaging in criminal behavior with their computer machines hooked to a series of tubes), but if you’re a woman, you don’t count! Lawrence V. Texas established that the state does not have a compelling interest in regulating your private life. You’d think combined with Roe V. Wade that women’s private reproductive health decisions would be above reproach. But–no!

    Liberatarianism is chock full of … shocker … MRAs. And the superior justification for selfishness raises its ugly one-eyed head again.

  27. 27
    beltane says:

    @Woodrowfan: The only thing you need to know about libertarians and other right-wingers is that they view the world through a prism of extreme subjectivity, so while they may claim to hate institutions, any institution they themselves support is not, by their definition, an institution at all.

    It is more than a little amusing that the thought patterns of the right are typical of what used to be derogatively termed the “feminine mind”, characterized by subjectivity, the preference for emotion over logic, and an almost complete lack of critical thinking skills. All the macho posturing in the world cannot hide the fact that these people closely resemble 19th century Victorian “hysterics”.

  28. 28
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @NobodySpecial: I agree with you. I recently saw a TED talk about oxytocin in which the presenter mentioned almost offhand the role of testosterone in motivating behavior that punishes anti-social behavior by other members of the group. (Oxytocin enhances trust.)

    It’s easy in this modern age to hide behind your XBox and behave like an utter shit and whine and pretend to be a tough guy, but in communal village life these shits would either a) shut up and keep their head down because they understand their role in things or b) get their ass beat until they learn to do a.

  29. 29
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    Peasants. That’s what I call them. Fucking serfs defending their master no matter what.

    This. A million times this.

    Wretches totally unworthy of the liberties and freedoms that so many have fought, bled, and died for.

    My contempt for these pathetic lickspittles is endless.

  30. 30
    The Tragically Flip says:

    One of my favourite points to make to libertarians is that “private property” only exists as a government program.

    No Police, no courts, no deeds, no laws against “theft” and property as such doesn’t exist. Just possession.

  31. 31
    Gus diZerega says:

    As a former libertarian (many years ago – I got better) I have to disagree. Your basic critical points are correct, but not your grasp of why they are correct. Libertarianism is an ideology, ultimately incoherent like all of them, but an ideology as much as Marxism.

    Libertarianism sees itself as based on the nonaggression principle- no one can morally aggress on a peaceful person. Stated so abstractly, it’s hard to disagree, and explains their self-righteousness.

    The problems arise when we define ‘aggression’ and ‘person.’ For them a person is a human being considered only in their most abstract and dissociated sense. The fact that we are shaped deeply by our social relationships and history is given at most a nod, and its implications ignored. This is why libertarians like economic theory – it abstracts us all to “consumers” operating by “rational choice.” That no one is just a consumer and only psychopaths act mostly or entirely on “rational choice” is ignored.

    Because abstract consumers interact peacefully in an abstract market, the market perfectly mirrors human ‘preferences.’ This is an article of unexamined faith. Therefore any interference with anyone’s peaceful market exchange constitutes aggression against them. The ideological walls sealing this view off from reality are secure enough that once within them it is hard to see the flaws. Opening one’s heart to actual human experience can accomplish this liberation, and perhaps this fact explains why Ayn Rand is so admired by libertarians- she gives them a seemingly coherent reason why they need never open their heart.

    For example, the late Robert Nozick, in his libertarian phase (he got better before he died) wrote “Anarchy State and Utopia” where he argued free people had a right to sell themselves into slavery without ever wondering what circumstances might compel a person to make that choice or what it said about the person buying the slave.

    There is a fascinating authoritarian side to many libertarians- basically, since I can’t be king, no one should, and I should have total power over what is “mine.” They are aided and abetted by less personally authoritarian libertarians who reflexively support the wealthy because they think they got their wealth by serving human needs on the ‘free market’ so it is aggression to tax/regulate them.

    They weigh ‘economic freedom’ more heavily than other freedoms because they essentially worship the ‘free market’ as the ultimate utopia and regulation of it as leading inevitably into serfdom. So they support Republicans because Republicans use that rhetoric, even though they have never practiced it.

    Others using the libertarian label are simply flaming hypocrites, human monsters, and pathetic imbeciles.

  32. 32
    Mike E says:

    @The Other Chuck: Also, see Nixonland. Too.

  33. 33
    NCSteve says:

    I have concluded that “libertarianism” is nothing more or less than an apology for sociopathic behavior presented as an ideology in an effort–thus far successful–to shield the underlying psychological pathology of its adherents from scrutiny. Libertarians are people who believe not simply that it’s okay to be a sociopath, but, rather than the world is divided into sociopaths and chumps and the purpose of government is to empower the sociopaths to prey on the chumps.

    The key to recasting their pathology as an ideology is the contention that empowering sociopaths to prey upon the chumps unhindred by foolish altruism and choking government intervention is actually in the best interest of the chumps. Utopia will be achieved when everyone is a sociopath and no one is a chump. The chumps are merely people who, whether through lack of innate Galtian genius or because they are culturally shackled by foolish notions about social responsibility, can only achieve Randian enlightenment a posteriori. Thus, it is only by being repeatedly fleeced by those who are sufficiently superior to be enlightened by the beautiful Randian truth a priori that the chumps can themselves achieve Randian enlightenment.

    Another benefit of portraying their pathology as an ideology is that it enables them to cast the systemic disordered thinking underlying their pathology as economic theory and political principal. Thus, what would be perceived as paranoiac conspiracy-mongering in an individual–the pervasive belief that the Establishment Media is Conspiring to Hide the Truth About Dr. Ron Paul, the illogical belief that a sometimes useful heavy metal value has “intrinsic value,” and should be the basis of our monetary system lest “parasites” steal from them by demanding hyper-inflation, and the nonsensical “audit the Fed!” babble, for example–is all validated as perfectly reasonable conclusions flowing from incontrovertible first principles.

    At the very least, this is a useful model of what “libertarianism” is all about, in that it explains all observed facts and behavior and produces testable predictions.

  34. 34
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @beltane:

    It is more than a little amusing that the thought patterns of the right are typical of what used to be derogatively termed the “feminine mind”, characterized by subjectivity, the preference for emotion over logic, and an almost complete lack of critical thinking skills. All the macho posturing in the world cannot hide the fact that these people closely resemble 19th century Victorian “hysterics”.

    Case in point: Reddit.

    I will never forget the time a 16 yo female member posted a picture of herself with an atheist book and was talking about coming out (as an atheist) to her family at Xmas, something you’d think a lot of people in the atheism subreddit could relate to, and the hysterical (really) comments careened between threats to rape her and accusing her of posting her face to get ‘karma’, which is some reddit scoring shit for posting images that reddit lUsers like. Btw, if you’re pissed about someone you don’t like getting ‘karma’ then why are you granting it to them? Sounds suspiciously like the medieval Catholic ‘women are of the devil because they make us get woodies’ crap.

    The girl, to her credit, stood up to the bullying and didn’t take it too seriously. A lot of the people threatening violence were surely her age or younger, but what’s creepy about Reddit is all the 30+ people on there.

  35. 35
    Redshift says:

    @Chris: Or not even the system that recently existed; often (perhaps most often) they’re fighting to return to a glorious past that never was.

  36. 36
    Chris says:

    @beltane:

    The only thing you need to know about libertarians and other right-wingers is that they view the world through a prism of extreme subjectivity

    This, this, this. A thousand times.

    I can’t even begin to count the number of “it’s okay when WE do it” instances you find in conservatism. It’s okay for red states to have been on the federal dole with New York and California’s money for the last eighty years and no end in sight, but if you give any money to a single mother in Southeast DC, that’s socialism. It’s okay to create an upper chamber that grossly overrepresents the needs of lowly populated states and gives them the ability to strangle congressional initiatives at will while voting themselves massive amounts of pork, but affirmative action to help a different type of minority in far lesser proportion is evil. It’s okay to write laws overtly based on the Bible to keep sluts and faggots in their place, but any attempt at reminding the rich or the national security state that they also have Christian obligations is “social justice” which is of the devil. It’s okay to colonize an entire planet, commit cultural genocide and rule the poor and silly heathens for their own good (witness their hard-on for the British Empire), but telling rich white Southerners that they’re not allowed to own people (“social engineering”) is going WAY over the line.

    Etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

  37. 37
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor:

    So… if Libertarianism isn’t an ideology, then what is?

    I am in agreement with you on this. Perhaps Freddie’s post reads better if for “ideology” we use “philosophy”. It has become completely incoherent as a philosophy. Wasn’t always that way (even if some of its assertions were dumb).

  38. 38
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Chris:

    ETA: alternatively, “the system that currently exists” can be changed to “the system that existed until recently” in cases where the sore losers don’t have their privileges anymore but really want them back.

    Pretty much how Cory Robin describes them, particularly Burke.

  39. 39
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    Libertarianism has a philosophical pedigree. They are the intellectual descendants of James I of England and his doctrine on the divine right of kings:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_right_of_kings

    also, they are assholes who want to be sanctimonious but don’t want to give up weed/whores/cockfighting

  40. 40
    McJulie says:

    You don’t meet a lot of regular old conservatives in the world of science fiction fandom, but you do meet a fair number of libertarians.

    They’re basically anarchists who believe in property ownership. And I mean “believe in” in a religious way. It’s their sacred defining principle. They cannot seem to recognize the ways the state defines property and protects it.

    Libertarians all want to live in a post-apocalyptic every-man-for-himself wasteland, where they are convinced that their love of guns and nobility of DIY spirit will cause them to thrive even in the absence of hygiene and medication. They live in a fantasy world where this post-apocalyptic wasteland will nevertheless still provide an Internet connection and space flight.

    SF libertarians are all mad for space, you see. They’re convinced that NASA is useless, but then they’ll also scream and cry when its funding is cut. (If the president is a Democrat, anyway) They’re convinced that if you just Let The Private Sector Do It, we’ll all have the option to buy condos on the moon in a few years.

    Libertarians believe that private businesses are axiomatically virtuous and will always do what they, personally, think is a good idea — as long as they are allowed perfect freedom by Government. Similarly, they believe that Government is axiomatically useless. No amount of evidence to the contrary will change their minds on these principles.

    You can’t win an argument with a libertarian. If you back them into a logical corner they will change the terms of the debate. They will take really absurd positions (I don’t believe in public roads!) in order to avoid admitting that you’ve scored a point.

    I think a lot of libertarians started out more politically varied, but they are all gun nuts, and the ones who read the NRA magazine have gotten sucked down the rabbit hole of right wing ideology on account of it.

  41. 41
    catclub says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik: “American Libertarianism is essentially Economic Calvinism.”

    Don’t you mean Calvinball?

    ETA: and I had not even read McJulie @ 39

  42. 42
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Keith: They hate government denying right, they’re perfectly cool with corporations doing so. The difference? The non-rich sometimes have a say in what governments do.

  43. 43
    Brachiator says:

    Then maybe libertarianism will be worth taking seriously.

    Libertarianism is a religion, a mythology. There is no such thing as it ever being something worth taking seriously.

  44. 44
    KG says:

    I’m one of those libertarians you’re looking for, and I think I have some insight that might explain where many other libertarians come from on this stuff. I started off as a “center-right libertarian”, basically bought what the Republicans sold on economic issues and rejected them on social issues. The last few years, I can probably be called a “center-left libertarian.”

    Most libertarians, like I was, see the problem as an overbearing state, too much government, basically. They also tend to be fairly arrogant assholes who think they are smarter than everyone else and honestly believe if everyone was as smart as them, we wouldn’t have so many problems and the market would work perfectly. Which is an incredibly stupid thing to think beyond the age of 22 or so. They side with the powerful because they assume the rich and powerful are smart like them while the weak and poor are obviously stupid (again, a stupid thing to think beyond the age of 16, but still).

    So, they see the great conflict of society to be liberty vs tyrrany. It is, I think, a fundamental misunderstanding of political philosophy that a lot of libertarians say they know. They are stuck on Locke, and ignore Hobbes. They are stuck on Jefferson (pre-presidency) and ignore Hamilton.

    I see liberty as the balancing point between tyrrany and anarchy. Consolidated power in the private sector is as dangerous as consolidated power in government. And I really think the last decade caused a lot of people to lose their ever loving minds, so they can’t see what is right in front of them. Nor does it help, as mentioned by someone up thread, that “libertarian” institutions have been bought and paid for by monied interests.

  45. 45
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    Judging by the number of flat-broke libertarians I’ve seen, it’s more like the usual spiteful “I don’t got mine but that’s fine as long as you got less.”

    Young Prince’s kicked out of the parental home paradise?

    You must realize you’re dealing with embarrassed royalty. How dare these upstarts all around them (who are more motivated and develop skills more relevant than totally 0wning Halo 3) be successful (and happy)! The world is unfair, burn it down! Or at least whatever we perceive as giving them power over us (even if that is delusion)–women’s rights, affirmative action, the income tax, entitlement programs, Pell grants, public transportation, food stamps, food stamps, food stamps.

    The people kicking their ass at everything may actually be products of the middle class like themselves but it burns being poor so they want to make it impossible for the poor to improve their circumstances because HOW DARE THEY when I’m living in Mom’s basement/renting a shitty apt and can’t advance past assistant manager/working 80hrs/week on “salary”/can’t afford weed (l3g4l1z3 it!)/on food stamps.

    Some of these kids go on TANF and it makes them think the program is a joke, after all they are better than being on food stamps, that’s for truly poor people, never mind that they have negative household cash flow and their parents have all but cut them off (some parents are tapped out themselves). Then there were the friends who blithely went on food stamps but bought iPhones (w/ expensive contracts) with their student loans (and bragged about how they “know” wine). One friend wouldn’t go on TANF because of the “less than 2k in assets” rule because he was convinced his collection of used DVDs and videogames was worth more than $2k (it might have been more than $2k at NEW replacement value, certainly wasn’t worth that used, lol) and lost 30lbs before he learned how to cook beans from the bag (my wife was buying the cat food for his cat, and insulin, and vet bills).

    Class status, class status, class status.

  46. 46
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Libertarians all want to live in a post-apocalyptic every-man-for-himself wasteland, where they are convinced that their love of guns and nobility of DIY spirit will cause them to thrive even in the absence of hygiene and medication.

    @McJulie: In the Apocalypse Of Freedom, it’s all fun and games until you need a dentist.

  47. 47
    beltane says:

    @The Bearded Blogger:Yes, but there is only one king. What the libertarians don’t realize is that in the absence of an organized state it is always some form of organized crime that fills the void. The existence of so-called rugged individualists is predicated on the rule of law.

    I think it was Lenin who observed that “there is no such thing as a vacuum of power”. (I am paraphrasing)

  48. 48
    el donaldo says:

    I suppose it’s possible that there is a libertarian ideology, and it may even have adherents. But in practice, what I see is that most people that call themselves libertarian are in fact authoritarian.

    My favorite litmus test is drug-testing for welfare recipients. If you’re for it, then you’re an authoritarian nanny-stater, not a libertarian. I suspect most Paultards, despite their ostensible position on pot-smoking, are for it.

  49. 49
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Clean Willie:

    Libertarians criticize everyone else for accepting the legitimacy of the State. But they accept, without question, the legitimacy of Ownership; that’s the real basis of their code. A belief system founded on the supremacy of property rights is bound to serve the powerful.

    Any libertarian who says this is a moron, because there are no property rights or contracts without the power of the state to enforce them.

    The intrinsic nature of property rights is a truly Western betisme. I love it when ignoramuses deign to lecture the rest of us on “reality” such as the notion that everything-as-property capitalism is the only possible basis of a functional economy.

  50. 50
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Another Halocene Human: I think the point is that ideologues truly think their ideology is right; many libertarians just use the word as a way of appearing to have given political problems thought, and appearing to have core beliefs

  51. 51
    Steve in DC says:

    The blogger doesn’t understand libertarianism, it’s about the individual, not the collective.

    The basic premise of libertarianism is that individuals should be free to do what they want outside of violence to person or property and within contractual agreements. Granted this leads to horrible things, but let’s call it what it is.

    Collective bargans, aka unions or the state, are nothing more than mobs to libertarians.

    Civil libertarians are often good voices on things, economic ones and social ones are often rapists and tyrants.

  52. 52
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @kindness:

    The good people of Wisconsin now can enjoy the ride they’ve bought twice. I feel bad for them but what can I, a Californian do?

    OT, but they look to have won a downticket senate recall race, meaning that Koch has NOT won the morning.

    I’ll bet the Dems in Wisc need some dosh to help sort out the recount without, er, SHENANIGANS.

  53. 53
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Again OT, I questioned what was in the water in WI when that nasty misogynistic judge won his recall election, even after he doubled down. That’s messed up. I hope the young people coming up aren’t so stupid.

  54. 54
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @beltane: Agree with you; what i meant is they are in the business of justifying social injustice because it exists.

  55. 55
    MonkeyBoy says:

    Libertarians are often just Conservatives with a strong Libertine overlay – they have rejected social conservative moral values that social conservatives think are necessary to keep people from being “depraved”.

    Libertarians also think all submission to power is voluntary. Thus you can have Catholic Libertarians who argue that their submission to the authority of the Church is entirely voluntary. Furthermore they tend to think that all prostitutes want to be prostitutes, or that without coercion there would be a large group who realize how fulfilling a career in prostitution would be.

  56. 56
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Steve in DC: and corporations are not mobs?

  57. 57
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Steve in DC: Oh look, we have a live one.

    In your version of the future there are no CEOs, as large corporations (all bent toward a common goal) are just mobs. Where’s the rugged individualism?

    As it’s impossible to amass more than a very mild (and rather meaningless) fortune without collective action, one thinks that in the coming economic collapse and devaluation the libertarians would be the first to object, all of their horded wealth having become meaningless in a world where only food gathering skills (and zombie defense training) matter.

  58. 58
    beltane says:

    @Steve in DC: Then libertarians ought to absolutely despise corporations, because if a union is a mob a corporation is a Borg Cube.

  59. 59
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Libertarianism is nothing more than weak and useless beta males desperately scrambling to defend their claims to alpha male status.

  60. 60
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @The Bearded Blogger: Ah, I suppose that is the distinction between the leaders (El Jonaldo, Sully) and the followers. If nobody buys into the ideology, the slogans and dogwhistles and posturing are a waste of time, no?

    I know plenty of people personally who call themselves libertarians for a variety of reasons. Being white seems to be a common thread, however. Also having some embarrassment re: the GOP. I do have a friend who might be considered left-libertarian. His new GF is a vegan and he is into that whole hog. This suggests his political views were heavily influenced by his similarly basement-dwelling buds online.

  61. 61
    The Tragically Flip says:

    I’m fairly convincinced that if not for a set of billionaires embracing it, and funding the think tanks and so forth, libertarianism would be regarded the same as communitarianism, which is to say “almost not at all.”

    In the four quadrant model of ideology (usually with axes for social and economic views), the quadrants representing liberals and conservatives account for 95% of actual humans. The other two quadrants, libertarians and communitarians are more like theoretical constructs that don’t usually affect the real world, they have so few bona fide believers. Could someone be socially conservative and yet want a generous social welfare state? Sure, in theory. In practice, very few are like this. I think this is why when you scratch most claimed libertarians, you just find a conservative. There probably are some genuine libertarians out there, but they’re like conservatives who actually objected to Bush’s big government policies, statistically insignificant in the actual political movement we call libertarianism.

    Point being we’re forced to spend too much time talking about these silly ideas because some rich fucks decided to make a big deal of them. Ayn Rand’s books should be thought of in the same breath as L. Ron Hubbards: Crackpottery embraced by a tiny minority. Instead, Uncle Alan is still given space on big platforms to be both badly wrong and promote evil. At least the MSM doesn’t treat David Miscavige as a “serious person” but I’m ready to be disappointed on that score too.

  62. 62
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Maybe he also grows some “basement dwelling buds” hydroponically?

  63. 63
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Libertarians are feudalists, protecting the prerogatives of landowners over the aspirations of serfs. It isn’t any more complicated than that.

  64. 64
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Gus diZerega:

    There is a fascinating authoritarian side to many libertarians- basically, since I can’t be king, no one should, and I should have total power over what is “mine.” They are aided and abetted by less personally authoritarian libertarians who reflexively support the wealthy because they think they got their wealth by serving human needs on the ‘free market’ so it is aggression to tax/regulate them.

    The psychological aspect of the appeal of libertarianism is truly fascinating. In some cases, I think it appeals to young straight white males looking for a way to maintain their historical privilege in the face of assaults. Older males have either made it and don’t need a compensatory philosophy, or have grown out of the narcissistic stage, or have retreated into hatred and bitterness (the RWNJ syndrome).

    As for the economic side, the “rational actor” model is a failure mathematically and practically. It’s a repudiation of philosophy and psychology and social behavior theory… and it’s completely wrong. Always get suspicious when one discipline’s cherished article of faith runs afoul of the implications from multiple other disciplines. (As when Lord Kelvin defended the young earth and went down in science infamy.)

  65. 65
    egruberman says:

    I think most self-identified libertarians are more aptly described as originalists. It’s clearly demonstrated with the disdain for the 14th Amendment and Incorporation. Sure, it increased the power of the federal government at the expense of states’ rights. But the net result was an increase in individual liberty.

  66. 66
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @The Bearded Blogger: Lol, he doesn’t, but I did have a friend who grew them in his attic and (the mind boggles) voted for Bush II and wanted to vote for him again. I did remind him that Ashcroft was gunning for his ass because growing/selling/possessing pot is a federal crime.

    That did stop him for a moment.

  67. 67
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: See my post at 39

  68. 68
    Nylund says:

    I too have long wondered how an idea supposedly based on freedom and liberty opposed the idea that workers were free to band together and say, “We’ll only work for you under these conditions.”

    Not only that, but they actively support the notion that the gov’t can pass a law that says, “No you can’t band together like that.”

    Get that? They think the gov’t can tell people what they can or can’t do, but somehow they don’t see how this contradicts with their “small gov’t, personal freedom” ideology.

    Modern small gov’t conservatives are the same way. Neither hate the government. They love it…as long as it’s enforcing their desired rules and banning the things they dislike.

  69. 69
    Chris Rogers says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    ^This.
    Or to put it another way: “But you’re still ****ing peasants as far as I can see”…

  70. 70
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    @McJulie: In the Apocalypse Of Freedom, it’s all fun and games until you need a dentist.

    Dentistry is theft.

  71. 71
    gaz says:

    @Steve in DC: Sanctity of self over sanctity of others. The mantra of both Ayn Rand and Anton LaVey. Interesting company you keep.

    Also that’s no way to run a civilization, unless you dig Lord of the Flies.

    The myth of “Rugged Individualism” is just that – a myth.

    The greatest amount of human capital is achieved when people look out for one another:

    On evolutionary terms, we are wired to cooperate: One tiger vs. One Human = Cat Food. One Tiger vs. Three Humans = a nice rug.

    On financial terms: Corporations achieve much greater wealth by getting a bunch of people working together towards a common goal.

    On community terms: The Amish about nailed it. They don’t have much, but get the entire town together to raise a barn, and it becomes easier, and in the end benefits everyone.

    Your libertarian ideal is suitable for teenage boys and not much else. Most adults have grown out of that by the time they are your age.

  72. 72
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @beltane: Hence, Somalia. No matter how many times we bring up this libertarian’s paradise, the libertarians never, never hear us.

    Of course, brown people.

    White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males are perfect 18th century gentlemen and would NEVER behave like Sicilians/Somalians/Hong Kong Triads/Yakuza/South Central LA Street gangs/insert other “exotic” group they role-play as in violent video games.

  73. 73
    rikyrah says:

    Libertarians do not live in the real world. they live in a world of theory, and damn you, if you point out the fallacies of their theory when faced with real life.

  74. 74

    @Another Halocene Human:

    Perhaps Freddie’s post reads better if for “ideology” we use “philosophy”

    I agree that ‘philosophy’ seems to be the meaning meant here.

    An example truism from the Ancient Times (circa 1994): Objectivism is a ‘philosophy'(*). Libertarianism is an ‘ideology’.

    [(*) Maybe not in the formal, modern sense… but Rand did at least go to the trouble to try and build one outside of her fiction.]

  75. 75
    catclub says:

    @el donaldo: Hey, how about drug testing before you can get an income tax refund?

    Same idea, right? No probable cause, getting money from the government.

  76. 76
    Amir Khalid says:

    Off-topic (sorry) but I believe Ray Bradbury’s death at the age of 91 is worth front-page attention.

  77. 77
    flukebucket says:

    @Dave S.:

    “I’ve got mine, screw you” remains libertarianism’s core principle.

    The big problem being that most of the libertarians that I know don’t really have shit. They hope that someday the will have but currently most of them don’t have shit.

  78. 78
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @KG:

    Most libertarians, like I was, see the problem as an overbearing state, too much government, basically.

    My problem with this is that this is a gross oversimplification (but one which favors giant, polluting, tax-dodging outfits like the Koch Bros). Government is not some entity “out there”. It is all of us. It overreaches (in crime and punishment, or foreign wars) because we, collectively, have become frightened and demanded authoritarian remedies. Authoritarianism stems from frightened (often badly frightened) and fearful people.

    Most libertarians took utterly the wrong lesson from Obama’s failed attempt to close Gitmo. They missed that their own fellow citizens were still terrified of Al Qaeda, to the point of irrationality. Many alleged haters of state power to this day blame Obama for not engaging in an executive power overreach and doing what they wanted.

    Because power looks very different when exercised for what we want as opposed to used against us.

    And, as others above have noted, weakening the government on principle (we, the people, tying our own hands behind our backs in terms of taxation, regulation, oversight) just allows other powerful entities to enter the vacuum. As corporations are by definition amoral entities with a sole profit motive, they are NOT good shepherds of our environment, improvers of our social and economic lot–on any level they cannot provide for us the general welfare and protection OF A GOVERNMENT.

    They can’t even deliver on economic growth. Without the government playing the role of the cop, corporations tend towards oligarchy and corruption, and real economic growth dwindles.

    The 24/7 pushing of libertarian ideals, the fear-mongering of social conservatives and xenophobic bedwetters, the relentless destruction and devolution of the material circumstances and moral circumstances (because the latter is predicated on the former) of at least 40% of the people in this country has cut off even the potential to talk about the role of government and develop shared goals. It’s all a war for ever-lessening power as the reality of corporate control of government, long-feared, comes to fruition. Multinational corporations who will suck us dry like all those 3rd world tin plate dictatorships we used to laugh at.

    If anything will change for one thing we need to move past this racism shit and start loving each other. Whitey-tighty-righty pissed about the po-lice libertarians need to understand that police brutality ends when a giant chunk of the white population stops demanding it.

  79. 79
    The Tragically Flip says:

    Rome is actually the libertarian “paradise.”

    I’m fine with them citing it, because you can bring up Rome’s privatized fire department, owned by Marcus Crassus:

    The first Roman fire brigade of which we have any substantial history was created by Marcus Licinius Crassus. Marcus Licinius Crassus was born into a wealthy Roman family around the year 115 BCE, and acquired an enormous fortune through (in the words of Plutarch) “fire and rapine.” One of his most lucrative schemes took advantage of the fact that Rome had no fire department. Crassus filled this void by creating his own brigade—500 men strong—which rushed to burning buildings at the first cry of alarm. Upon arriving at the scene, however, the fire fighters did nothing while their employer bargained over the price of their services with the distressed property owner. If Crassus could not negotiate a satisfactory price, his men simply let the structure burn to the ground, after which he offered to purchase it for a fraction of its
    value.

    The Wikipedia article has a nice conclusion to the story of the success of privatized firefighting:

    Rome suffered a number of serious fires, most notably the fire on 19 July AD 64 and eventually destroyed two thirds of Rome.

    Libertopia!

  80. 80
    gaz says:

    @flukebucket: Libertarians are generally lacking a properly functioning empathy mechanism.

    I’m pretty sure that that’s generally what leads them to be oblivious of their own privilege. “There but for the grace of God, go I” is an entirely foreign concept for most, if not all of them.

    The easiest way for a libertarian to wake up to reality is for them to “bottom out”, and become homeless. Unfortunately, they’re usually born to a station where such a thing is highly unlikely. Even then, some of them are so emotionally invested in denying their own shortcomings that even that wouldn’t wake them up, but for many I think it would.

  81. 81
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Amir Khalid: He was still alive?

    J/K, I loved his work when I discovered it in junior high. One of my favorites from the mid-century space age science fiction era. Actually my favorite from that era. (Sorry, Heinlein.)

    I do love Octavia Butler (I believe she is also deceased) and Ursula LeGuin but they belong to a different phase of scifi.

  82. 82
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @rikyrah: Yes, it’s quite typical for libertarians to run through page after page on a messageboard lecturing YOU for not behaving the way their theory says you ought to.

    It’s like some sort of scoldy Anglicanism. It’s not like they’re going to execute you for being a counterrevolutionary but they will go on and on and on about why you and everything about you Is Wrong.

  83. 83
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @gaz: Bottoming out doesn’t seem to work on the libertarians in my life. As I stated above, it doesn’t attach to the roots of their interest in such a philosophy to begin with. In fact, it only enhances it, for some.

    If they bottom out and work back up they will lecture us all about how they were on food stamps and nobody helped them.

    The only cure for libertarians would be to learn to identify with a different tribe. Is there a way to encourage this happening? Sometimes family can make a difference (such as, making a family). Sometimes not.

  84. 84
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @The Tragically Flip: Much obliged. I did not know that.

    More fodder when idjits online who hate that many municipalities think they ought to pay firefighters full time start promoting that privatized fire service crap.

  85. 85
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Nylund:

    Modern small gov’t conservatives are the same way. Neither hate the government. They love it…as long as it’s enforcing their desired rules and banning the things they dislike.

    Ding ding ding.

    It’s the people they have contempt for beating them at the ballot box and getting government to work for them that they consider illegitimate and hateful. It’s tribalism.

  86. 86
    gaz says:

    @Another Halocene Human: I’ll concede if nothing else on the grounds that you almost certainly associate with more of them than I do. My assertion was based on a similar dynamic I’ve seen play out with indicted republicans who end up in prison. I’m looking for a link for one the articles I read in the past about some power-player who thought the prison system was just fine until he ended up there (either an Enron Guy, a WorldCom guy or a corrupt lobbyist). Unfortunately my google jujitsu is weak apparently, and I cannot find it anymore.

    Maybe you’re right. In any case, I generally avoid these people, as I purposefully have created my own bubble of good folks to hang about with, and avoid the destructive ones. For me it’s a survival mechanism, but it’s not without it’s own shortcomings.

  87. 87
    gnomedad says:

    @Gus diZerega:
    Hey, that was really good. Thanks.

    One other legitimate concern libertarians (claim to) have is fear of concentrated power, and the state, by definition, is a power past which there is no appeal. I think they imagine a world of private fiefdoms, all roughly equal in power, and if you didn’t like the rules of one you could take yourself and your business elsewhere. The problem is that such an arrangement is radically unstable (assuming you could figure out how to create it in the first place) and power would eventually accumulate and you’d have the equivalent of an all-powerful state except without the constraints of a constitution and democracy. It’s as the old saw says: democracy (with the power to regulate and tax!) is the worst system except for all the rest.

  88. 88

    I mostly like what Freddie is saying, but there is a small but non-trivial group of libertarians who are on the right side of plenty of issues. Consider this quote from Taibbi’s book:

    There really are two Americas, one for the grifter class and one for everybody else. In everybody-else land, the world of small businesses and wage-earning employees, the government is something to be avoided, an overwhelming, all-powerful entity whose attentions usually presage some kind of financial setback, if not complete ruin. In the grifter world, however, government is a slavish lapdog that financial companies… use as a tool for making money.

    The first part of this quote is painfully true: as a former small-business owner, I can attest to how intrusive and wrong-headed government can be. And I think some libertarians do work in “everybody-else land”, trying to protect the little guy from government excess (IJ comes to mind). Not that any libertarians actually challenge the basic arrangement described in Taibbi’s quote, but I think some honestly do operate from a principled position.

  89. 89
    Reformed Panty Sniffer says:

    I think an old impression about Libertarians still applies:

    Libertarians are (1) Republicans who’ve been busted, (2) Republicans who smoke pot, or (3) both.

    I’ve always been struck by how many Libertarians look like the comic book store guy on The Simpsons.

    I mostly see them as slightly disheveled white guys with the out-of-date goatee/fu manchu thingy on their face, baseball cap on backwards, or as overweight, khaki/polo IT guys who like Rush and trap you with their viewpoint in the coffee pantry/break room.

    Of course, the worst Libertarians are your relatives. Also, too.

  90. 90
    gnomedad says:

    @Knight of Nothing:

    The first part of this quote is painfully true: as a former small-business owner, I can attest to how intrusive and wrong-headed government can be. And I think some libertarians do work in “everybody-else land”, trying to protect the little guy from government excess (IJ comes to mind).

    Thank you; this is something liberals need to remember.

    Who or what is “IJ”?

  91. 91
    Mauve Lantern says:

    @Gus diZerega: Nice

  92. 92
    Rob in CT says:

    Libertarians have a massive blind spot regarding private power (or actively like it). There are many possible reasons for this – it varies from person to person.

    They’re not wrong about state power. They are wrong about what happens if you eviscerate the state.

  93. 93
    KG says:

    @Another Halocene Human: I’m thinking we are mostly on the same page. Though I would point out, as @Knight of Nothing: Says, for a lot of small business owners and normal people just trying to get by, interaction with government tends to be unpleasant.

  94. 94
    gnomedad says:

    @Rob in CT:

    They’re not wrong about state power. They are wrong about what happens if you eviscerate the state.

    Nicely put. Stealing.

  95. 95
    cokane says:

    I think Andrew Napolitano said he supports unions.

    It is ironic that many self-styled libertarians support things like right-to-work laws, which is legislation regulating private sector contracts.

    Most American libertarians I have known or debated are at heart just idolaters.

  96. 96

    @gnomedad: IJ = Institute for Justice, kind of an ACLU for libertarians. They write a lot of stupid editorials, and argue in favor of things I hate, but damned if they aren’t fighting for a lot of little guys.

    @Rob in CT: Yes! Yes! Yes! Wrong about corporate power and wrong about the eviceration of state power.

  97. 97
    muddy says:

    @Amir Khalid: In Fahrenheit 451, the wall to wall screens with “stories” going on them all the time, and everyone talking about what the people in the stories are doing, always makes me think of reality shows. When I read the book first in HS I never thought *that* portion would be prescient.

    Shudder.

  98. 98
    muddy says:

    @Both Sides Do It: This is absolutely delightful, thank you!

  99. 99
    muddy says:

    The most rabid Libertarian I know is a gun nut (I like firearms but he is a nut), and he grows pot, but makes sure he puts it over the property line so if it is found his neighbor can get their property confiscated instead of him. He refuses to work because there is some zoning issue at his house (or so he says) but somehow the idea of working for someone else is just not on. His wife works for a school in another town, and has great bennies due to the union. He rails against property taxes all the time, despite his household being paid for by them. Also he can’t do housework or cooking because he is “an old-fashioned man” (age 50) and that is wife’s work. I said if he were really an old-fashioned man he would not let his wife support him. They live on a road that requires maintenance by the town constantly, but he thinks roads and schools ought to be paid by tolls for those that actually use the specific ones.

    I always get a chuckle when people in here say, “Shut up, that’s why” because every argument I have ever had with him ends with, “Shut up, Muddy!” Sometimes he even says it when I have barely started opening my mouth and not even given my argument. I said this proves he knows he’s full of shit, he recognizes my argument and gives up before I even state it. The wife is very religious and thinks this is her lot in life.

  100. 100
    Stephen1947 says:

    Back in the day there used to be a distinction between right wing and left wing libertarians. The latter have become increasingly invisible, but they are apparently not yet extinct.

  101. 101
    sneezy says:

    @McJulie:

    You don’t meet a lot of regular old conservatives in the world of science fiction fandom, but you do meet a fair number of libertarians.

    That’s because the two things — believing in “libertarianism” and enjoying science fiction — are both manifestations of the same underlying thing: a taste for sheer fantasy.

  102. 102
    PurpleGirl says:

    @McJulie: Yes, yes, yes. I know/knew so many sf fans who call themselves libertarians or anarcho-capitalists.

  103. 103
    tommyspoon says:

    @Gus diZerega:
    What made you change? What part of the Libertarian philosophy didn’t work for you in the long run?

    As an actor, I’ve studied what motivates people. Whenever we approach a scene, actors ask two questions: 1. What does my character want? 2. How is my character going to get it? Sometimes the answers to those questions (the choices that the character makes) are rational, but often they are irrational and destructive. It’s those choices that make good theater, but you don’t have to buy a ticket to a show to see people making bad choices. Just turn on the TV or open a newspaper.

    That’s why I can’t take Libertarianism seriously. It is based on the premise that all human beings act rationally and make rational choices. They do not.

  104. 104
    Sly says:

    Find a conflict between the rich and the powerful on one side and the poor and powerless on the other, and you will find libertarians defending the former against the latter.

    He who pays the piper calls the tune.

  105. 105
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Octavia Butler is deceased. She died of undiagnosed heart problem, I believe. It was very sad because she had been awarded a MacArthur genius prize. I spoke with her at a sf convention about how even buying a house didn’t get you enough space for all your stuff.

  106. 106
    Chris says:

    @tommyspoon:

    That’s why I can’t take Libertarianism seriously. It is based on the premise that all human beings act rationally and make rational choices. They do not.

    I don’t think that’s quite true: I think they’re very aware that people don’t always make rational choices, they just think that when they don’t, the Market-God will punish them and, in essence, that’s what they get for being dumb bastards. (And frankly I suspect they quite enjoy the idea).

  107. 107
    Chris says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor:

    An Ideology is something hermetic (often to the point of tautology), reflexive (the ideologue constantly refers to it, even when inappropriate), and absolute/universal (it’s the answer to every problem encountered or discussed). An ideology is a set of trained responses, to avoid having to subject oneself to actual case-by-case thought. This is why ideologies are bad.

    I think ideologies are basically the religious principle (purporting to give personal meaning, tribal belonging and the ultimate answers to everything) applied to the real world, which is why they’re such a disaster. The reason religions work is that they’re unprovable – sure, you may occasionally have to concede that the Earth goes around the Sun or that evolution really does happen, but the central tenet of religion (there is a God, he’s like this and he wants this) is inherently impossible to prove or disprove, which is what allows people to cling to it for centuries on end. Ideology, on the other hand, depends entirely on the real world following the models of those who make it, which is why it’s such a godawful mess. (Of course, like religion, it has plenty of fanatics ready to deny the obvious and sacrifice thousands on the altar of the True Way).

  108. 108

    Scratch a Libertarian and what you usually find is a Republican who doesn’t go to church and wants to smoke pot.

  109. 109
    Billy Bob Tweed says:

    @Dave S.:

    Utter bullshit. Where in John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” is that view espoused?

  110. 110
    Gus diZerega says:

    @tommyspoon:
    Tommyspoon-
    The things that ultimately freed me from the theoretical blindnesses within libertarian ideology were not rational arguments, nor were they really strongly tied to empirical evidence. In retrospect, ideologies are pretty impervious to these issues unless they have first been softened up by other means because they redefine evidence no matter what it is and because they encourage all or nothing modes of thought, so any crack in the edifice must be attacked or ignored.

    Several issues did it for me, one at a time. Here are two major ones: The first one, a big one, involved property rights. I was an undergraduate, I think, maybe a high school senior. I believed discrimination was wrong but believed property rights gave people the right to discriminate even when I disagreed with them. This was during the Civil Rights movement. I was listening to a Black woman be interviewed about why she was involved and she said something like “I don’t want my daughter to grow up the way I did.”

    Zing! It opened my heart on that issue and I never again believed private property rights gave one carte blanche to act as unjustly as he or she wished just because they owned something. That was a crack that experience gradually widened until I grasped that the entire libertarian view of property was simply wrong. Deeply wrong. As I worked that out then made use of the philosophical and empirical work on these issues. (I’m a political theorist by training.)

    The environment was another issue that, try as I might, I never during my libertarian years was able to find a way to harmonize. Because I love nature that issue contributed greatly to my investigating additional flaws in the libertarian world view. Had I not loved nature I likely would have simply decided the rest of life would be resources or collateral damage as humans carved their image on our globe.

    The Republican representative in Washington State’s legislature who voted for gay marriage recently is another example. Her heart overrode her ideology because her daughter was gay, she loved her, and wanted to see her happy.The speech she gave in the legislature was power4ful because it was from the heart, not just the mind.

    I think when our hearts are opened we are better able to hear the words of others whom we otherwise block out when we see them simply as the enemy. So ideologues thrive when we can dichotomize existence so those not with us are against us.

  111. 111
    Billy Bob Tweed says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Scratch a Libertarian and what you usually find is a Republican who doesn’t go to church and wants to smoke pot.

    Likewise, scratch a liberal progressive and what you usually find is a garden variety War-Pig hypocrite who only cares about renditions, undeclared wars and civilian deaths when the Red Team sits in the Oval Office.

  112. 112
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Billy Bob Tweed:

    Utter bullshit. Where in John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” is that view espoused?

    Still snickering that you think modern-day libertarian ideology is grounded in Mill and not Hayek.

  113. 113
  114. 114
    Gus diZerega says:

    @gnomedad: Yes exactly. Few libertarians- I think none – have thought very deeply about the implications of Blackwater/Xe/whatever the hell they call themselves now.

    When I mentioned these criminals to extreme libertarians the most I ever got back was “The government pays them.”

    A comment as imbecilic as it is blind.

  115. 115
    Gus diZerega says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Yes. I suspect this is why Ayn Rand is popular with adolescents – and so long as they grow out of her, she might even be beneficial to some degree as we begin to explore our own separate individuality in the world. But only if we outgrow her.

  116. 116
    Billy Bob Tweed says:

    @Chris:

    I think they’re very aware that people don’t always make rational choices, they just think that when they don’t, the Market-God will punish them and, in essence, that’s what they get for being dumb bastards. (And frankly I suspect they quite enjoy the idea).

    It’s a curious logic and a strange conundrum.

    If an irresponsible person gets fat and squanders their life savings, liberal progressives tell me it’s a GOOD thing that the state obliges taxpayers to bail-out and clean-up the mess.

    Whereas, if banks and Wall Street investment firms behave irresponsibly, get fat and squander their savings, those same liberal progressives tell me it’s a BAD thing that the state obliges taxpayers to bail them out and clean up their mess.

    Regardless, the same result prevails: if you behave responsibly, you WILL get hosed and you WILL pay to bail-out and clean-up the messes of those who don’t give a shit about you and are incentivized to repeat the cycle.

  117. 117
    Billy Bob Tweed says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’ll stop snickering when self-proclaimed “liberal progressives” can pull themselves away from tribal groupthink for a minute, look in a mirror, and realize they are card-carrying members of a Pax Americana War Party that actually shits all over the morals, ethics, values, freedoms and rights they claim to hold dear.

  118. 118
    Constance Reader says:

    @Woodrowfan: Cognitive consistency is not a libertarian strong point.

    Indeed, it’s not even a libertarian point.

  119. 119
    Heliopause says:

    Show me a libertarianism where there might plausibly be support for unions, or for respecting pensions, or for public employees

    How about this.

  120. 120
    Another Bob says:

    Most libertarians seem to be conservative partisans with pretensions of being something better or different. Their differences with actual conservatism almost always amount to finding a slightly different rationale for achieving the same ends. They probably make up a certain sub-set of people who used to self-identify as “Republican” who now like to pose as “Independent,” presumably to avoid answering to their own conscience.

  121. 121
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Billy Bob Tweed:

    I see you’ve fallen into the common misconception that liberalism = pacifism. A lot of people seem to have made that mistake since liberals were opposed to the stupidity in Iraq.

    My liberalism doesn’t need to live up to your pacifist ideals because, frankly, I am not (and never have been) a pacifist. Most liberals aren’t.

  122. 122
    Tehanu says:

    Susan of Texas once commented on alicublog (5/22/10), and I think she pretty much called it on libertarians:

    Personal liberty is the ideal of eternal adolescents. It’s telling your mom to get out of your face when she says you have to clean your room, or calling your teacher a fascist because he won’t accept your late homework. Personal liberty is all freedom and no responsibility, all choices and no drawbacks. One can’t exist without the other, so libertarianism is the eternal cry of the adolescent, “Why can’t you leave me alone!!!111!! After you give me a ride to the mall and some spending money.”

    Libertarians want to live without any checks on their behavior, while wanting everyone else to be controlled. They want to be free to do anything they want with their property, while depending on others to implement laws and enforce them to protect that property. They want to be able to smoke pot legally but don’t want others to smoke crack in front of their favorite bar or drink and drive. They want to have sex at will but don’t want to pay for public health services. They want to be free of taxes and also to live in a sophisticated society that depends on taxation and central planning. They want to be free to raise their kids as they see fit and not pay for public education, while someone else keeps everyone else’s kids off the streets and in school so they don’t turn to crime. Their concerns about personal liberty ends at their end of their own nose and that doesn’t make them principled, it just makes them immature.

  123. 123
    paradoctor says:

    “Liberatarianism” is a misnomer; really it should be called “propertarianism”, for property rights is its only consistent concern.

  124. 124
    Chris says:

    @paradoctor:

    Ah, but whose property? I have a feeling that the poorer the owner, the smaller the shit that they give.

  125. 125
    tommyspoon says:

    @Gus diZerega: Thanks for answering my question. One of the main duties of artists is to help bring about those moments of clarity that you so eloquently described.

    Also this:

    I think when our hearts are opened we are better able to hear the words of others whom we otherwise block out when we see them simply as the enemy. So ideologues thrive when we can dichotomize existence so those not with us are against us.

  126. 126
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @Billy Bob Tweed:

    If an irresponsible person gets fat and squanders their life savings, liberal progressives tell me it’s a GOOD thing that the state obliges taxpayers to bail-out and clean-up the mess.

    Whereas, if banks and Wall Street investment firms behave irresponsibly, get fat and squander their savings, those same liberal progressives tell me it’s a BAD thing that the state obliges taxpayers to bail them out and clean up their mess.

    I’d call this a straw man but I think you really do have this poor a grasp of what liberalism is actually about.

    We like neither “cleaning up” the mess of a self-inflicted obese person’s health problems nor of bailing out banks, which is why we like regulations that help to prevent the need for either scenario.

    With the banks we already proved between 1932 and about 1980 we can build a workable regime of regulations that prevent banking crises, runs, bailouts and the rest. The answer is don’t elect any fucking Reagans and leave Glass-Steagal in place next time. Banking was a boring and healthy utility for decades, and libertarians teamed up with conservatives to make it a fun and exciting casino.

    Liberals know that whether society helps the morbidly obese with their health problems or not, there is still a cost imposed on everyone. Someone dying at 35 of a heart attack is a worker whose productivity is now ended, a family without a provider, the taxes they would have paid won’t be, the products they would have purchased won’t be. Economically it’s a net loss. So help them. Better for everyone.

    Even under the current system, that person’s health problems raise your insurance costs. Whether you make medicine as a government program and a right of citizenship paid by taxes, or try to leave it to markets, other people’s poor choices still find your pocket book.

    The boggling illusion of libertarians is that they think the poor outcomes for others don’t hurt them too. We’re all connected, whether you like it or not. It’s beyond pointless to engage in an ideology that expects perfect individualism because that’s an impossible illusion.

  127. 127

    If an irresponsible person gets fat and squanders their life savings, liberal progressives tell me it’s a GOOD thing that the state obliges taxpayers to bail-out and clean-up the mess.

    Whereas, if banks and Wall Street investment firms behave irresponsibly, get fat and squander their savings, those same liberal progressives tell me it’s a BAD thing that the state obliges taxpayers to bail them out and clean up their mess.

    Excuse me? When did liberal progressives say that a person who “gets fat and squanders their life savings” gets their “mess” cleaned up? Do you mean they still get medical care if they can’t afford it? Yes, liberal progressives do say that, but that’s hardly a bailout since, in the view of liberal progressives, people should get medical care strongly subsidized by the government.

    That’s a far different story from saying that if investment banks muck up, they should get boatloads of cash to extricate themselves from their messes. No one says that people should be protected from their own business failures. Sure, if people like I had my way, people would risk more in business, thinking that, worst case, they’ll have a good safety net to keep them (and their families) okay (if less happy) until they get back on their feet. But that’s not what happened with the banks. Of course, *no one* – even the economists who insisted that it was absolutely *critical* to bail them out – liked what was happening.

    Anyway: I can’t decide if that’s an incredibly stupid comparison, or if it’s deliberately dishonest.

  128. 128
    b-psycho says:

    Show me a libertarianism where there might plausibly be support for unions

    “plausibly”? How about a strain that includes calls for the revival of Wobbly tactics, and uses the phrase “wage slavery” in a definitely-not-ironic manner? Here ya go.

  129. 129
    clean willie says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    Any libertarian who says this is a moron

    Well, yeah. That doesn’t stop them from saying it night & day. Go figure.

    E.g. here is one of the grand pooh-bahs of libertarianism:

    “While of course opposing any private or group aggression against the rights of private property, the right-libertarian unerringly zeroes in on the central, the overriding aggressor upon such rights: the State apparatus. While the leftist tends to regard the State as an evil enforcer of private-property rights, the right-libertarian, on the contrary, regards it as the prime aggressor on such rights. In contrast to believers in democracy or monarchy or dictatorship, the right-libertarian steadfastly refuses to regard the State as invested with any sort of divine or any other sanction setting it up above the general moral law.”

    —Murray Rothbard

  130. 130

    @Chris:

    I think ideologies are basically the religious principle (purporting to give personal meaning, tribal belonging and the ultimate answers to everything) applied to the real world

    I do agree with this.

    There is a fair amount of evidence that to some extent our brains are pre-wired for religion, which does make sense. It probably led to stronger tribal groups, making them more likely to thrive. Lucky for us.

    I think of Ideologies as the kinds of things that can take over those (now troublesome) “circuits” when they are left… unattended.

  131. 131
    Powdermonkey says:

    @Ash Can:
    Ash Can is right, a liberitarinism is a religion. And like most religions it is based on opposition to something. Rand was trying to create a ideology that was opposed to communism, unfortunately she created a photo negative. The exact opposite of communism with all it’s faults. The truth is that neither of them work in the real world. They both might possibly work in very small communities, although I have never seen any evidence of that, but in an even medium a sized society someone will figure out how to play everyone else for chumps and the society WILL fall apart, or into a totalitarian state. While both ideologies sound good and have valuable ideas to contribute, they cannot really be tested in the pure form. But like all religions we will always have people walking around yelling at anyone that will listen communism would work, the Russians just did it wrong! Or libertarianism would work if we just let the market decide everything, ignore that corporation killing all those people to make a buck!

  132. 132
    sam b says:

    Every libertarian I’ve met (not that many, to be honest) has been a dorky young man with poor social skills and a superiority complex ungrounded in actual talent or achievement. They really do think that if were fewer rules they’d do great because everyone else is totally holding them back. Doesn’t seem to occur to them that their sweet ‘debating’ skills and knowledge of prog rock won’t count for much when the Nanny State falls and their neighbourhood gets taken over by rogue cops/ethnic gangs.

    and yeah, terrible wispy facial hair.

  133. 133
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @Chris:

    I think ideologies are basically the religious principle (purporting to give personal meaning, tribal belonging and the ultimate answers to everything) applied to the real world

    Ideology is just your heuristic for understanding how the world works. Everyone basically has one in some form or another. It’s when you’re enthralled to some appealing model of the world for which there is much evidence against it, and you’re unwilling to revise the model that one gets into trouble and becomes an ideologue.

    This is why liberals used to believe in most of the same things libertarians now believe in. But that was the mid 1800s. Liberals revised some shit along the way, a gilded age here, a triangle-shirtwaist fire there, and presto, liberalism doesn’t see unfettered capitalism as quite so good anymore. Libertarians (who sometimes call themselves “classic liberals”) haven’t moved on. They’re unmoved by the real world evidence of market imperfections.

    But no, ideology is not some bad thing in itself. Without one you have no basis for deciding how you view new policy issues (except perhaps sheer tribalism).

  134. 134
    Ajaye says:

    @Clean Willie:
    I agree with this based on my inferactions with more principled libertarians. They do view taxation that in any way redistributes income as tantamount to slavery. They worked and someone else got the benefit of their labor, thus they are actually the victims of the neediest cases for government help. The richer they are and the more taxes they pay the more resentful they are They see the govt as the aggressor for taking their property through taxation. They do not respond to the arguments that everyone pays taxes or that they receive government benefits like clean water etc. In general they always seem to advance economic policies that particularly align with the interests of rich folks. So, they hate unions for murky reasons having to do with collectivism and they hate government and “statism” but collectivism in the form of business entities and other “voluntary” groups are ok

    Many are consistent and support reproductive freedom, religious freedom and free speech. Some of them are against our interventionist foreign policy. Some even give to charity (obviously not the pure Randians). Really totally believe in self reliance no acknowledgement of anybody else’s contribution to their success. Most of them are quite wealthy and don’t need ss, medicare etc.

    I just find it hard to take them seriously, though they are sincere. Slave does Not equal: healthy rich white American man who lives off invested money and doesn’t have to work for anyone else, someone who can live or travel anywhere buy anything marry not marry own a gun own real estate vote say anything write anything not be hassled for his papers or searched by the police without cause. Some of the freest and most privileged people in the world feel they are being exploited by people who sometimes have nothing and no choices in life. To me it’s just plain crazy. Clearly they believe in the primacy of property rights above all other rights.

    They do seem to line up in favor of the powerful and tend to blame victims, e.g calling the Virginia Tech students who were murdered in their classrooms by a deranged man with a powerful weapon “sheeple .” nice,huh?

  135. 135
    Skip Intro says:

    Freddie, you should read Hayek and Rothbard, for starters. I am no libertarian, but to argue that classical liberalism isn’t an ideology is pretty embarrassing for someone of your intellectual pedigree and interests.

  136. 136
    stratplayer says:

    @gaz:

    The easiest way for a libertarian to wake up to reality is for them to “bottom out”, and become homeless.

    “Like a rolling stone”

  137. 137
    Gus diZerega says:

    @Skip Intro: Rothbard was an ideologues’ ideologue. Brilliant, rigid, and narrow. When I met him back in the 60s he introduced himself by saying “I hate the state.”

    Hayek never called himself a libertarian or even a conservative. I don’t think he had an ideology in the hard sense, rather a way of looking at issue that was suspicious of central direction and favored market frameworks. But he favored a guaranteed annual income and other stuff that would surprise both sides today.

    As I read him he was not reflexively against government action unless it directly interfered with the price mechanism.

  138. 138
    Tori says:

    http://www.ij.org/cases/economicliberty

    The institute for Justice does nothing BUT fight probono battles for “the little guy” (they’re not making money from hairbraiders and street vendors) against entrenched incumbents.

    Libertarians aren’t all talk, you know.

  139. 139
    kfreed says:

    Basically, Libertarianism is Conservatism taken to the outer limits. The entire dog and pony show is simply a ruse to consolidate absolute power in the hands of the wealthy few, and we’re all aware, ain’t we, that absolute power corrupts absolutely. So much for “civil liberties” – It’s all just a bit too Lord of the Flies for me. Gonna pass on that.

  140. 140
    kfreed says:

    @Keith:

    Nice to see people are starting to notice.

    Basically, Libertarianism is Conservatism taken to the outer limits. The entire dog and pony show is simply a ruse to consolidate absolute power in the hands of the wealthy few, and we’re all aware, ain’t we, how absolute power corrupts absolutely. So much for “civil liberties” – It’s all just a bit too Lord of the Flies for me. Gonna pass on that.

  141. 141
    kfreed says:

    @Keith:

    Nice to see people are starting to notice.

    Basically, Libertarianism is Conservatism taken to the outer limits. The entire dog and pony show is simply a ruse to consolidate absolute power in the hands of the wealthy few, and we’re all aware, ain’t we, how absolute power corrupts absolutely. So much for “civil liberties” – It’s all just a bit too Lord of the Flies for me. Gonna pass on that.

  142. 142
    kfreed says:

    @Keith:

    Nice to see people are starting to notice.

Comments are closed.