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The Non-Mystery of Libertarianism’s Marginalization

[ 97 ] December 27, 2010 |

Um, not really so much:

Libertarianism gets marginalized in American politics because it doesn’t fit into the two-party paradigm.

Well, that’s one version of the underlying cause and effect. A rather more accurate one is hinted at earlier in the piece, albeit embedded in some spin:

Maybe it was inevitable that the National Opt-Out Day, when travelers were going to refuse body scans en masse, failed to become the next Woolworth’s sit-in (how do you organize a movement that abhors organization?). It turned out most Americans actually supported the body scanners. But the moment was a reminder of just how strong, not to mention loud, the libertarian streak is in American politics.

The body scanners were, in fact, an excellent example of the fact that libertarianism is marginalized in American politics because it’s a marginal, unpopular view — something that becomes particularly obvious when you consider what percentage of the minority of the people who were opposed to the body scanners supported all manner of arbitrary executive powers in service of the War On Terror (TM) so long as there was no chance that they would be personally effected. Libertarian beliefs on major issues generally range from unpopular to extremely unpopular, and this includes issues where I share libertarian beliefs. There’s really no puzzle here. Principled libertarianism would have very few adherents even it was propounded by hipper band than Rush. Another hint: the primary focus of Republican opposition to the ACA involved arguments that the government should keep its grubby paws of Medicare.

Comments (97)

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  1. R.Johnston says:

    Pretty much. Social libertarianism is unpopular because it conflicts with people’s inner authoritarian. Economic libertarianism is unpopular because it’s incoherent gobbledygook that requires believers to be privileged, innumerate, and somewhat intelligent but not nearly intelligent enough to realize that they’re privileged and innumerate.

    • Brad Potts says:

      How much do you wanna bet that, were we to do a study, we would find pro-state liberals to easily be more privileged than libertarians as a group.

      And…

      A brief list of names that R. Johnston considers to be innumerate:

      James M. Buchanan
      F.A. Hayek
      Milton Friedman

      Vernon L. Smith
      Robert Nozick
      Tyler Cowen
      Henry Hazlitt
      William Graham Summer
      Albert Jay Nock
      Anthony de Jasay

      And I even left out leftist supporters of the free market like Franz Oppenheimer, Benjamin Tucker, and Pierre Proudhon.

      Painting all libertarians with a huge “unintelligent” brush stroke just drips with irony.

      • DocAmazing says:

        You wanna be real, real careful citing Proudhon. He was a straight-up anarchist, and had no problem with collectivism. Hayek and Friedman were both blinded y ideology, with Friedman making apologies for some of the late twentieth century’s most noxious dictators and authoritarians because they kept taxes low and suppressed unionization.

        There have been plenty of libertarian deep thinkers–you might have cited Lysander Spooner, just for flavor–but most of their political power comes from their being amazingly corporate-friendly.

        • Brad Potts says:

          Proudhon was an absolute free market supporter and contractarian. The modern extension of his line of thought extends through market libertarians today, and he would almost certainly find more in common with the Karl Hess, Samuel Konkins, and Murray Rothbards of the 60s than he would have with any other modern political economic movement.

          I don’t particularly care that much for Friedman, but saying that Hayek was blinded by ideology is the same sort of baseless (and stupid) ad hominem that R. Johnston was tossing out there. Its the very influential and popular 20th century Nobelist that is brainwashed, not the guy tossing out offhand dismissive asides on a progressive-liberal blog.

          but most of their political power comes from their being amazingly corporate-friendly

          This sort of statement blows my mind, since the Republican and Democratic parties are completely entrenched because of their corporate friendliness.

          Regulations are almost always led by corporate technocrats and lobbyists. The banking regulation, health care reform, agricultural subsidies, military spending, green subsidies, and an incredibly large number of other government expenditures are rabidly opposed by principled libertarians and libertarian intellectuals, yet consistently petitioned and argued for by corporations. Half of the house on both sides are propped up by corporate money for pulling in earmarks and government spending to the business in their districts. A libertarian opposed to any of those types of government spending stands little chance of defeating entrenched corporate lackeys from either of the parties.

          I will personally provide copies of Gabriel Kolko’s The Triumph of Conservatism to anyone who actually will read it. It needs to be required reading on here.

          • DocAmazing says:

            I reiterate: amazingly corporate-friendly. That’s why they get funding from Olin and Koch and guys like that. A group of people that argues for “right to work” (anti-unionization) laws, an end to OSHA, and defunding the EPA is taior-made for the big money kids; when they need subsidies, they’ve always got the Dems and Republicans. They’ve also got such luminaries as Paul pere et fils, on whom they’ve been able to count for a long time.

            Hell, go back and re-read Reason threads in 2002–you never saw such a collection of militarists and imperialists–that’s one reason guys like Justin Raimondo struck off on his own.

          • Malaclypse says:

            I don’t particularly care that much for Friedman, but saying that Hayek was blinded by ideology is the same sort of baseless (and stupid) ad hominem that R. Johnston was tossing out there.

            Exactly. Just because Hayek wrote an entire book with the thesis that reforms proposed by the British Labour Party would bring about totalitarian dictatorship is no reason to ignore his central insight that… Oh screw it, of course that is a good reason to mock anyone who takes him Seriously. That isn’t ad hominem, that is mocking a thoroughly mockable idea.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Seconded. I can’t believe even libertarians still respect him.

              We’ve seen liberal, democratic republic adopt regulatory states, welfare states, and even economic planning. Not a single one of them – not a single one! – devolved into a totalitarian state.

              And we’ve seen plenty of totalitarian states develop. Not a single one of them – not even one! – got that way by starting out as a liberal, democratic republic and devolving into totalitarianism. That’s simply not how it works.

              And yet, “The Road to Serfdom” continues to be cited respectfully by these people.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Doing further reading, this is pretty funny:

                The Conservative Central Office sacrificed 1.5 tons of their precious paper ration allocated for the 1945 election so that more copies of The Road to Serfdom could be printed, although to no avail.

            • R.Johnston says:

              Libertarianism simultaneously claims reverence for free markets as it stands in complete opposition to the kind of policies necessary for free markets to function with the virtues attributed to them. As far as I know there’s not a self-proclaimed libertarian who’s ever existed who supported meaningful mandates for market transparency, internalization of costs and benefits, and the more general reduction of transaction costs. Libertarians completely fail to understand how markets work as they deify them.

              That’s a plenty good reason to mock anyone who takes libertarianism seriously. It’s also a plenty good reason not to bother arguing with a libertarian. Libertarians inherently illogical, practically by definition holding contradictory elements as central aspects of their faith.

      • Rob says:

        The fact you think Friedman was a libertarian makes you you seem really, really desperate.

        • Brad Potts says:

          So that’s your response? More personal attacks?

          I really shouldn’t have wasted my time.

          • Stag Party Palin says:

            saying that Hayek was blinded by ideology is the same sort of baseless (and stupid) ad hominem

            Yeah, no personal attacks from you, Pottsy.

            • Brad P. says:

              Smart people say stupid things all of the time, and I did not mean to imply that DocAmazing was stupid. I apologize to DocAmazing if he took it that way.

              I only meant that broad, baseless attacks (libertarians are privileged, innumerate, and unintelligent; libertarian economists are blinded by ideology) are stupid.

      • R.Johnston says:

        Theologians arguing in favor of their religion don’t make their religion any more true or coherent. They’re just anti-scientific apologists.

        Libertarianism encompasses a fundamentally confused view of how markets work and it simply can’t have anything useful to say about economic matter. The assumptions underlying the the hypothesis that free markets are efficient allocators of goods and services–a hypothesis that is central to economic libertarianism–imply the necessity of a whole hell of a lot of government intervention in order to create conditions under which those assumptions are true or nearly true. You can not build an economic model under which libertarian governed markets function in the real world as libertarians believe free markets should function. That’s why libertarians usually don’t bother with modeling and, when they do bother, come up with obviously deficient models that don’t actually predict anything.

        I’d explain further to you, but you’re a self-proclaimed libertarian so you wouldn’t understand.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Now that’s how you ad his hominem!

          • R.Johnston says:

            Do you know what ad hominem means?

            There is nothing ad hominem about noting that libertarianism is, as generally held and described, blatantly self contradictory. There is nothing ad hominem about noting that people capable of claiming adherence to such a blatantly self-contradictory “philosophy” are not the sort of people you sway with things like fact and logic on topics related to that “philosophy.”

            Now perhaps you disagree with my characterization of libertarianism, but that doesn’t make it or the conclusions that follow from it ad hominem. It might make my characterization insufficiently supported, or even mistaken, and it might be fair to call it rude to point out that libertarians are by necessity illogical twits and that arguing with them is necessarily unworthy of your time, but it’s not ad hominem.

            When a “philosophy” is blatantly grounded in profoundly self-contradictory ideas then that “philosophy” is not in fact a philosophy and it offers no insight at all. You can use such a “philosophy” to argue anything at all equally well so in the end it argues for nothing at all. That’s dictated by basic logic, and is in no way ad hominem.

            • Tirxu says:

              Hum, okay. Who is the “you” who is so blatantly unable to understand your clever arguments in this sentence?

              I’d explain further to you, but you’re a self-proclaimed libertarian so you wouldn’t understand.

        • Brad P. says:

          There is a great deal of literature dealing with the proper and best role for the state in maintaining a functioning market. I would recommend looking into the works of James M. Buchanan for this.

  2. N W Barcus says:

    You can’t hug a child with Medicare paws. I’ve tried.

  3. Thers says:

    Yeah, well, if libertarianism is so unpopular, how come there are so many libertarians on the Internet?

    Jeez, have you ever even read the Hit n’ Run comments? That’s America, right there.

    • Matt says:

      It’s a lot easier to post libertarian trollery on the Internet when you’re on disability and/or unemployed in your mom’s basement – which most of the so-called “libertarians” I’ve encountered are, in one form or another.

  4. Brad Potts says:

    Yes, libertarianism doesn’t fit with the two party system because its ideas are unpopular, rather than the other way around.

    That is hardly a vice, however.

    • DocAmazing says:

      Libertarianism fits wonderfully in the two-party system–it’s called “the Republican Party”.

      • NBarnes says:

        This.

        Libertarians like to pretend that they’re this very different political perspective that doesn’t mesh neatly with either of the two major US parties. In reality, the Libertarians as a political force are dominated by one-note anti-tax anti-spending victims of privilege poisoning; obviously, they could hardly fit in better amongst the Republican Party’s other branches.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Bingo.

        Libertarianism has been part of the right-wing, anti-New Deal, anti-left Fusionist coalition since its birth, and it has never had an existence outside of that coalition.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          This is almost right, but there have been figures like Rothbard, who self-consciously rejected Fusionism, in part over his objections to Vietnam and the national security state.

    • DrDick says:

      Their ideas are vastly unpopular because they are insane and based on repeatedly refuted premises.

    • hv says:

      Care to mention how abortion is treated by true libertarians?

  5. Rob says:

    The bigger question is why despite being so small and unpopular why are libertarians treated as a respectable source. Of course the answer is fairly plain, Cato and the like exist because there is money in them thar’ gobbedlygook of a philosophy.

    • DocAmazing says:

      Please note the complete absence of anything similar on the left–no money in it. The closest that any group comes is organized labor, and they’re pretty conservative.

      • Brad Potts says:

        Really? There is no money within the progressive left?

        And please don’t conflate the conservatism of labor unions with the conservatism of libertarians. Labor unions are extremely supportive of centralized planning of the economy.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Tell me: which extractive industries make money on increasing workers’ control of their workplaces? Which investment houuses agitate for higher taxes on the wealthy? Which polluters lobby for emissins control?

          Bob Black pretty much said all there was to say about libertarianism and the interests of working people.

          • Brad Potts says:

            Financial institutions are profoundly unlibertarian. That is plain. They have been looking for quasi-public stability and oligopoly for centuries.

            Many financial institutions and energy groups are chomping at the bit to get privileged treatment by government environmental regulators.

            This is completely lost on the commenters on this blog: Corporate interests who maintain large market portions do not prefer free markets, they prefer state regulated “stable” markets.

            • Malaclypse says:

              This is completely lost on the commenters on this blog: Corporate interests who maintain large market portions do not prefer free markets, they prefer state regulated “stable” markets.

              And what is lost on you is that the “leftist” position is not the status quo of big banking, but expropriation and nationalization.

              • Brad P. says:

                I can’t even really fathom how nationalization would go down. What industries and markets would be nationalized and how?

                I am dead serious here, because I thought the progressives on here were the regulatory sort. Full scale nationalization of markets and industries is very different (and I would wager far more unlikely).

              • Malaclypse says:

                Krugman wrote a lot about nationalizing banks; I’d try there first.

            • DocAmazing says:

              Corporate interests who maintain large market portions do not prefer free markets, they prefer state regulated “stable” markets
              …that they justify in the name of the sacred Free Market, triggering a Pavlovian response from a great many Libertarians, who then predictably start Red-baiting those evil bastards who would dare tax bonuses or otherwise hamstring The Greatest System In The World.

              • rea says:

                There has never in history been a functioning market without government regulation. Try buying a pound of salt without a government to define and enforce the concept of “a pound.”

              • Malaclypse says:

                But – the hobbits had a functioning market in Longbottom Leaf!

              • DocAmazing says:

                Try buying a pound of salt without a government to define and enforce the concept of “a pound.”

                And we haven’t even gotten to the certifications of pinkness and Himalayanity.

              • Brad P. says:

                There has never in history been a functioning market without government regulation. Try buying a pound of salt without a government to define and enforce the concept of “a pound.”

                Here is someone who doesn’t smoke marijuana.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                Damn, Doc.

                You’ve really got these guys’ number.

                Exactly right.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Here is someone who doesn’t smoke marijuana.

                Brad, the concept of a pound, even when applied to marijuana, exists because there are governmental weights and measures. The concept of a pound, or of grams, preceded this particular market.

                In fact, back in the Eighties, someone who totally was not me used a postal scale frequently during the course of totally hypothetical transactions. I’d assume that wheel has not been re-invented.

              • Brad P. says:

                Brad, the concept of a pound, even when applied to marijuana, exists because there are governmental weights and measures. The concept of a pound, or of grams, preceded this particular market.

                In fact, back in the Eighties, someone who totally was not me used a postal scale frequently during the course of totally hypothetical transactions. I’d assume that wheel has not been re-invented.

                Do you really think that we need government for something as basic as standardizing measurements?

                Do you think all human civilization existed without units of measurement until some visionary state passed them down?

              • Malaclypse says:

                Do you really think that we need government for something as basic as standardizing measurements?

                Yes.

                Do you think all human civilization existed without units of measurement until some visionary state passed them down?

                Well, as near as we can tell, from the real historical record, you don’t get standardized measurements without already having government. I get that in some hypothetical system that never actually happened, a different outcome was theoretically possible, even though it, once again, never happened. But the short answer is, once again, yes – standardized measurement is the creation of the state, probably for use in that horror of horrors a tax system.

                Do you see why we keep bringing up the a-historical nature of libertarian theory?

              • djw says:

                Do you really think that we need government for something as basic as standardizing measurements?

                Brad, have you ever read much of the work of James Scott? I suspect you’d probably be a fan; Scott writes from a sort of state-suspicious perspective.

                At any rate, his book Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes To Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, he takes this issue up in some detail. It turns out state-building and standard weights and measures have pretty persistently and predictably gone hand in hand. Indeed, it turns out that clinging to highly localized non-standard weights and measures has at times been a strategy of resistance to state-building activity, as those who wish to remain outside the control of the state (correctly) saw value in remaining largely illegible to the state (In his more recent work, he even suggests avoiding developing a written language is sometimes a deliberate state-evading choice).

              • Brad P. says:

                Brad, have you ever read much of the work of James Scott? I suspect you’d probably be a fan; Scott writes from a sort of state-suspicious perspective.

                At any rate, his book Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes To Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, he takes this issue up in some detail.

                I just finished reading the NYT review of Seeing Like a State, and I definitely plan on reading it immediately.

                I will be interested in seeing how Scott fleshes out this gem from the NYT review:

                The contemporary cult of the free market is just as radical an exercise in social engineering as many experiments in economic planning tried in this century.

                and more importantly, what he thinks we should do about it.

                And this is no snark. His ideas about High Modernism stroke a note with me, so the idea of the market being High Modern social planning seems like a 180.

                So anyways, thank you.

              • elm says:

                I think it was Spruyt who wrote an entire book (The Sovereign State and Its Competitors) arguing that the state’s ability to standardize weights and measures was one of the key differences that enabled it to win out over city-leagues like the Hanseatic League as commerce began to increase.

                So, um, yeah, it takes a state to create a functioning market in a complex economy. Don’t even get me started on the whole protection of property rights part of a functioning market that requires a judicial and, even, police system.

              • djw says:

                I was trying to recall the Spruyt book and the name and author remained just outside of the accessible part of my memory; thanks.

              • DocAmazing says:

                Do you really think that we need government for something as basic as standardizing measurements?

                It’s probably telling that one of the most commonly used implements of measurement is called a ruler.

          • David Nieporent says:

            Which investment houuses agitate for higher taxes on the wealthy?

            How about life insurance companies lobbying for the estate tax? Close enough?

        • Malaclypse says:

          Labor unions are extremely supportive of centralized planning of the economy.

          Yea, it is amazing how AFSCME keeps proposing Five Year Plans. I understand we are ahead of plan for Steel Production, comrades! We are burying the capitalists, and they are selling us the shovels with which we do so!

          You do realize that “centralized planning of the economy” is an actual phrase with established historic meaning, right?

          • wengler says:

            If we don’t get our pig iron production up our tractor output will only be at 80 percent!

          • Brad P. says:

            Yes, that was a bad exaggeration. I think I spoke more with my heart than my brain.

            That should have read:

            Labor unions are extremely supportive of large and complex regulatory schemes.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Labor unions are extremely supportive of large and complex regulatory schemes.

              So they, like almost everybody, have a better understanding of modern economic society than libertarians do, and are capable of drawing reasonable conclusions? I can see why you called that Central Planning, comrade! Those nefarious bastards!

            • DocAmazing says:

              As well they should be–unions are large and complex regulatory schemes themselves. So are Chambers of Commerce and libraries. Organization of any sort involves regulation and complexity.

            • hv says:

              Labor unions are extremely supportive of large and complex regulatory schemes.

              If the most perfect market system were created where government only created exactly the regulatory scheme needed to internalize any positive or negative externalities… if that system existed… how many of the regulations do you imagine would be complex?

              You praise labor unions with your faint damns.

  6. wengler says:

    American libertarianism is a very uninteresting ideology because it’s made up of pretentious anti-tax protesters.

    If there is to be such a notion as a modern state, then people have to come to a recognition that it will cost money. Instead libertarians never seem to concede this point. It’s not so much that they are misunderstood, it’s that specifics are hard to grasp when your ideology becomes 1)end taxes and regulations 2)??????? 3)ponies for everyone!

    The reality is that the US had somewhat a libertarian state(ignore the fact that the government owned most the land and gave a good bit of it away for free for a second), and it was most definitely a pre-modern society with environmental degradation, gangs of orphaned children sleeping on the streets in the slums, and lack of access to healthcare or old age pension. It worked without destroying the society simply through access to massive amounts of free land and the availability of waves of new immigrants to exploit in the mills. We don’t have this type of society or relationship with the government today, and it would be extraordinarily unpopular to bring it back.

    Liberty does not mean the tyranny of property holders. Propertarians would be a much more appropriate title.

    • asdfsdf says:

      I think you have a very valid point. A libertarian pure free market will work; hell, even the USSR might have worked if they hadn’t tried to compete with the west. We had a low tax, low regulation free market for centuries. For goodness sakes, we didn’t even have much of a military, and most “libertarians” are completely enamored with that now. We no longer have this system because it came with drawbacks and over decades we added government systems to correct these drawbacks. Anti monopoly laws, workplace regulation, etc. We’ve had decades to repeal these, and yet we haven’t because the vast majority of people like them. Libertarian arguments start to pop up as counters to new regulations, because they sound principled, even though most people don’t want to eliminate social security and the military, etc. There are very few true libertarians, just a bunch of temporary libertarians of convenience.

      Now, people who argue that a libertarian market comes with no drawbacks whatsoever sound like they dropped out of intro to Microeconomics right when they reached externalities or monopolies. A market with uncorrected externalities and monopolies will still work, but less efficiently than one which does correct these things. If you are opposed to government on principle then fine, but don’t deny these issues.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      Also note that all that free land was taken from the people who had been using it by brute force, wielded either by the gummint or by private actors with government sanction. This suggests that the proper libertarian starting point for the sanctity of private property (in the Americas, at the very least) ought to be the payment of back ground rents with appropriate interest to the descendants of the indigenous people from whom the land was taken. Oddly, libertarians never seem to think so — they claim that since it wasn’t them personally, even though they are the clear beneficiaries of the theft, it’s just not their problem. Clever, that.

      Every year is year zero in the new libertarian paradise… until they want to inherit something personally.

      • hv says:

        Either paying back rents, or just reseting everyone’s properties holdings to zero and starting over.

        Funny how libertarians want to play a new game with new rules but want to keep the money they made while playing Monopoly.

  7. Joe says:

    The comments here does suggest even a small number will have a lot of verbiage, so there’s always that.

  8. Malaclypse says:

    Scalzi‘s long-ago classic take:

    Libertarians: Never got over the fact they weren’t the illegitimate children of Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand; currently punishing the rest of us for it. Unusually smug for a political philosophy that’s never gotten anyone elected for anything above the local water board. All for legalized drugs and prostitution but probably wouldn’t want their kids blowing strangers for crack; all for slashing taxes for nearly every social service but don’t seem to understand why most people aren’t at all keen to trade in even the minimal safety net the US provides for 55-gallon barrels of beans and rice, a crossbow and a first-aid kit in the basement. Blissfully clueless that Libertarianism is just great as long as it doesn’t actually involve real live humans.

    • R.Johnston says:

      Personally, I find Kung Fu Monkey‘s take on Ayn Rand to be a spot on commentary on the mentality underlying libertarianism more generally:

      There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

    • C.D.E Keesee says:

      I am happy with my actual parents. I liked aspects of Atlas Shrugged but do not worship Ayn Rand. That is the case with many libertarians but in your’s and others’ haste to make a snarky jab, you had to act like Medieval Christians, who called Muslims “Mohammedians,” because they knew so little about the other group, assumed that Muslims worshiped/venerated Mohhamed as Christian do Jesus Christ, and therefore the statists of today and the Medieval man of the distant past(who are very similar in many ways)just made up and continue to make their very own “facts.”

      It is very smug to dismiss an idea or set of ideas because it does not wield political power at the moment. It took three centuries for the followers of Christ to be legally tolerated in the Roman Empire, it took Adolf Hitler a dozen years or so after finishing his master piece of statism to become a dictator, with absolute authority. I suppose that for some, might makes right. I want to hope that humanity would have advanced beyond that view but it seems that some people, in power and those who aspire to be in power, stake their self esteem and sense of purpose on their fleeting bits of power over the lives of other human beings.

      Another archaic, antiquated idea conveyed in that quote of yours is the inability to distinguish between law and morality. In 2011, especially in the West, our tradition of reason, introspection and our violent history of strife that was caused by those who wanted to impose their values upon others by force. State religion and State imposed morality is a relic of the past and just because someone sees just how counter productive the current prohibitions on prostitution and drugs is, that does not mean that that same person is unable to see the harmful effects of actually engaging in prostitution and drug abuse.

      Finally, government is showing how little security it can provide in terms of insuring older people against poverty in their final years. Social Security depends on the solvency of your government in the distant future and for a several decades, the social security “trust fund” worked well because of favorable demographics, it was a ponzi scheme that had plenty of new payers.

      If your best and most succint condemnation of libertarian thought is a collection of archaic, almost mediveal notions of law and society and boast about the temporary solvency of a political ponzi scheme, pride in currently getting to lord over the lives and property of other humans and a social security (a program that is antithetical to both) that is surving based on coercing new workers into contributing to a fund that everyone knows will never pay them back what they contributed, I feel very confident that libertarian thought is on relatively solid ground.

      As an aside, it is inaccurate and rude for libertarians to be dismissed as sophmoric and pompous because it so happens that amongs the tens of thousands of pompous, self righteous university undergrads, some happen to be libertarians. Many more socialists, leftists and even neo conservatives emerge from college campuses and libertarians understand that even if we disagree with your views we do not let the most odious minority amongst a group define it and that courtesty is not reciprocated. The majority of libertarians are adults who are either intellectuals who have had time to mature, reflect and amend and refine their views and the rest of us libertarians tend to be adults who work for a living and we simply see the unfairness and inefficiency that exists in government as it current stands.

      • Malaclypse says:

        If you are upset enough with Scalzi’s take that you open up a month-old thread, why not post on his actual thread? It is only nine years old, and still getting comments.

      • Brad P. says:

        Another archaic, antiquated idea conveyed in that quote of yours is the inability to distinguish between law and morality.

        If you don’t like arguing morality without getting buried in mounds and mounds of conflating political and legal ideas, you will not like this place.

        These aren’t philosophers, they are lawyers and accountants and professors (although I’m not even sure that philosophy professors on here readily understand the distinction between moral and legal).

        • Paul Campos says:

          (although I’m not even sure that philosophy professors on here readily understand the distinction between moral and legal).

          I myself am a little fuzzy on the precise boundaries that mark this distinction, and I suspect others here are similarly confused.

          Perhaps you could enlighten us.

          • Brad P. says:

            Perhaps you could enlighten us.

            Explore the topic in a blog post, and I will comment.

            I’m not going to rattle off my opinions on this matter which, if not outright ignored by all, will only be read by those who merely want to disagree with me.

            • Malaclypse says:

              I’m not going to rattle off my opinions on this matter which, if not outright ignored by all, will only be read by those who merely want to disagree with me.

              Brad, as established in the other thread, I can’t want to disagree with you. As “there is no freedom”, I am in fact compelled to disagree by the great algorithm of the universe.

              Or was that just bullshit you were prattling off?

              • Brad P. says:

                As you completely ignored in the other thread, I believe you are defined as a person by the subjective understanding of your actions.

                This is libertarian compatibilism (as opposed to libertarian political philosophy), and because of your overwhelming desire to disagree with me, you have completely ignored that I consider our subjective understanding of ourselves as free actors (even if objectively we are not) for the basis of my moral and political philosophy.

                I offer a line “There is no freedom” as an isolated contrast to show just how important it is to follow our subjective understandings of freedom, and you use it to define my philosophy.

                So take the example and go, CDE Keesee. Im taking my ass over to Balloon Juice and sticking up for ED Kain.

      • Brad P. says:

        and libertarians understand that even if we disagree with your views we do not let the most odious minority amongst a group define it and that courtesty is not reciprocated.

        You will have your resolve tested here.

        I would like to think that most liberals were not snarky windbags who prefer to focus their outrage on fake conservative talking heads, rather than engage in anything that might challenge their presently held beliefs.

        CockRockMag.com said Daily Show viewers: “You know exactly why you hate conservatives but you have no idea why you’re a liberal.” The writers here are top-notch, but that describes the majority of the commenters.

  9. Holden Pattern says:

    Just as we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions, libertarians judge themselves by their theories and everyone else by their actions. Facts be damned, the theory is just.

  10. The main challenge with Libertarianism in the modern USA is that it HAS been captured by the two-party Right-Left paradigm.
    Most of the people I have talked to in the last 10 years who self-identify as libertarians also immediately admit to being Republicans. However, when quizzed about their beliefs, it rapidly becomes clear that they are merely sailing under a flag of convenience. Most of them are authoritarians, wolves in sheep’s clothing, into Big Defense, The War On (Some) Drugs and other Big Gubmint programs. In short they are fans of Small Government only when the government spends money on Stuff They Don’t Like.
    The naive conceit that there is anything approaching a free market anywhere in the world is a peculiar construct of libertarians. However, one of the luxuries that you have if you are a perpetual marginal party is that you can play those sort of games of ideological purity. This pushes “real” libertarians to very extreme positions that result in them suffering massive cognitive dissonance when anybody they consider to be a libertarian is elected and then has to work within the current system, instead of sniping at it from the outside. See the history of the Green party in Germany for an instructive history of how badly wrong that can go.
    Add the extreme diversity and plurality of views withing Libertarianism (a libertarian once joked to me that you would be able to tell if you were in a room full of libertarians- ask 10 of them a question and you would get 11 different answers), and you have a recipe for ideological incoherence, domination of political philosophy by naive principles, marginalization, and perpetual frustration.

    • hv says:

      Most of them are authoritarians, … into Big Defense, The War On (Some) Drugs and other Big Gubmint programs.

      (ellipsis by me)

      You left out their stand on why women wouldn’t have the freedom to purchase abortions in the freedom utopia. Kinda gives away the show.

  11. rea says:

    “Here is someone who doesn’t smoke marijuana,” says Brad P. about me.

    He don’t know me very well, <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037765/quotes"do he ?

  12. David Nieporent says:

    Why does this comment thread call to mind this episode?

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