Why is libertarianism such a target?

Bryan Caplan considers this question in a very useful blog post.  He serves up these hypotheses, though I think without committing to any particular one of them:

1. Despite their rarity and absence on the front lines of politics, self-conscious libertarians still strongly shape mainstream conservative politicians’ economic policies.

2. Self-conscious libertarians, though rare, have still managed to sharply shift public opinion in a libertarian direction.

3. Self-conscious libertarians, though politically impotent, are a symbol of what’s wrong with American politics.

And then there are the stories the critics won’t embrace, but perhaps they’re true nonetheless…

4. Libertarians, unlike mainstream conservatives, openly defend many unpopular views.  Intellectuals who want to loudly champion popular views have to engage libertarians because there’s hardly anyone else to argue with.

5. Libertarian arguments, though mistaken, are consistently clever enough to get under the critics’ skin.  The purpose of the criticism is not shielding the world from bad ideas but giving the critics some intellectual catharsis.

6. Libertarian arguments are good enough to weigh on the critics’ intellectual consciences.  They attack libertarians to convince themselves that we’re wrong.  And they keep attacking us because they keep failing to fully convince themselves.

But I see more options.  Consider a simple model where bureaucracies maximize output, and try to produce correct output.  In my view, the more mainstream thinkers criticize libertarians so much because a) it helps them generate output, and b) they think they have the better arguments.   There is a clear target, easily explained (not always correctly explained, however), and very often the target can be taken on with a minimum of detailed empirical investigation.  Furthermore the arguments against the libertarian often position the critic in a favorable ideological space, especially for left-wingers: “look, there are people who believe this, better come ally with me!”

If we are talking about “The Left,” the libertarian is about the most welcome intellectual opponent there is.  The real scourge, correctly or not, is the common sense morality of the center.  That’s right, the people who favor and distrust big government at the same time, the people who think the poor deserve welfare support but only so much, the people who distrust intellectual elites and cosmopolitanism, the people who side with police more than they ought to, and yes the people who think Medicare is more based on just deserts than is Medicaid.

That set of views does not describe me well, but the funny thing is — unlike with both far left and libertarian ideas — we do in fact know you can build a workable polity from them.  The libertarians are so much more of a tempting opponent.


I believe that the libertarian provides intellectual cover for center to center right non-intellectuals. The days of Pastors doing so are basically over, and the world view of most other conservative movements can be characterized (fairly or not) as anti-intellectual or isolationist.
When a center to center right position is attacked by the left in an intellectual way, it casts about for a defender. Libertarianism, with its consistent and robust world view, provides it, even if the conservative doesn't completely or even essentially agree with it. Until this protector is slain, the center right can st least blunt the force of the intellectual left.

Libertarianism is an intellectual movement, and conservatism largely is not. Thus, if you go looking for a conservative argument, you will more likely find a libertarian one.

Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, Eric Voegelin, Michael Oakeshott, Charles Murray and others called and asked you to read some of their books.

Some of the authors you site (Burke and Hamilton) would have considered themselves "liberals" during an era where "liberalism" meant putting more power into the hands of man, and "conservatism" meant supporting the monarchy.

Labels change.

The modern conservative movement as practiced by today's Republicans originated not from the philosophies of our Founding Fathers, but as a reaction to the proposition given by progressives with the "New Deal" and "Great Society" reforms that somehow active government involvement can build a better society. But for decades that reaction had little intellectual backing; folks from the John Birch Society, for example, saw communism and wanted nothing more than to push back this "red tide."

It wouldn't be until the (rather radical) economics of Milton Friedman (who helped popularize the notion of "Free Markets"--an idea which was so successful we attribute it to 18th century philosophers rather than give credit to places like the Chicago school where it rightly belongs) that modern conservatives had an intellectual hat to hang their reactionary thinking on, and today conservatives within the Republican Party are still grappling with the conflict between social conservatives and libertarians--the former seeking State intervention to codify certain codes of conduct that the latter wish to leave to individual choice.

Burke would probably have considered himself both a liberal and a conservative, in a day when those labels were not thought to exhaust the political choices. He certainly was not a supporter of the "rights of man" or any such radical Continental philosophy, nor was he opposed to monarchy, of the constitutional variety.

I own Charles Murray's, "What it Means to be a LIBERTARIAN".

And I subscribe to National Review.

But I think my comment still stands. Conservatism is LARGELY not an intellectual movement. Certainly not the way libertarianism is.

No popular political movement is also an intellectual movement, because most people don't find political philosophy interesting enough to devote a huge amount of time thinking and reading about it. (That's true of libertarians, too--many a guy who wants to see legal weed, wants to keep his guns, and doesn't care who you sleep with will never pick up one of those thick books by, say, Rothbard.)

Also, any political movement that doesn't have to govern has a huge advantage in terms of intellectual appeal--it doesn't need to embrace the nauseating compromises that inevitably come from political coalition-building, or pretend to respect and like intellectual movements he can't stand, or take politically popular but intellectually or morally bankrupt positions to stay in office. A free-market Republican intellectual ends up justifying a lot of what his party does, even though that's mostly the result of political compromises and coalition-building. (In order to be a successful free-market Republican congressman, you probably have to oppose abortion and support Israel, even if you as a human being have no particular interest in either issue.)

Having heard quite a few 'intellectual' left wing arguments I suspect the conservatives just get up and leave. They are smart enough to figure out that there are better things to do.

Implicit in your viewpoint is that the portside incorporates an 'intellectual' movement when it is nothing of the sort except in the hands of a few wonks like Harold Pollack. The left is about status games and the interests of various economic sectors and professional guilds. It has little value in our time.

I'll second that. The only arguments for American conservatism lie in religion, racism, and economic self interest. The only sane ideological arguments from the American right are made from the Libertarian perspective.

Racism? Please cite a source of these types of arguments that isn't media matters or mother jones. Surely the first person to bring up race in any argument are those on the left

Voter ID laws

Yes the left has tried to argue that they are but they tend to come off as more racist than the laws themselves in trying to do so. They've already been instituted in thirty states in multiple elections which have broken records for minority participation.

tend to come off as more racist than the laws themselves in trying to do so

Red herring. Even if leftist arguments did come off racist, which they don't, only one side has the force of law on its side.

Next you can explain how Nixon's Southern Strategy really appealed to the better angels of our nature, and the mere coincidence that the Solid South has become Republican.

I grew up in the South. My parents used to get Christmas cards from Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. My mom served multiple terms as an officer with the state Republican party and was a delegate to multiple RNC conventions. I know what Republicans say behind closed doors.

Please explain how saying minority voters can't be expected to get an ID for themselves when the ID's are freely provided by mail doesn't come off as condescending and overtly racist. Reuters also did a study and showed that the number of whites w/o ID's was roughly the same value so the whole argument is moot to begin with.

I agree that's why libertarianism gets attacked form the left.

I think it's attacked from the christian right because they realize it has a much stronger intellectual foundation but without the conservative cultural component. If libertarianism envelops the mainstream right they're worried that the US could undergo the same political secularization that most other Western countries have experienced.

Libertarians buy into the left position that policy is about reason and argument while conservatives view it as about experience, tradition, power, stability, and values that are largely immune to them.

Are you really saying that the left only appeals to reason and not into emotion and identity in their arguments?

I wouldn't say that and I don't believe he said that either.

Liberals make appeals to reason, logic, emotion, and identity, as do libertarians.

But I do think it's an unfortunate truth that American conservatives have largely abandoned reason and logic as foundations for their policies.

If you're going to speak in generalities then the discussion largely stops there, if you care to cite examples on both sides then that's a good starting point.

David Barton, a prominent "historian" on the right who's career is based on spreading falsehoods regularly associates with prominent Republicans and presidential candidates.

Ben Carson, a presidential candidate, claiming the President can ignore the Supreme Court (and ObamaCare is the worst thing since slavery).

Ted Cruz, a leading presidential candidate, fanning conspiracy theories about Jade Helm 15.

Mike Huckabee, another presidential candidate, shilling quack CANCER treatments to his mailing list.

These are just things I noticed in the last few days and they're all from what would have to be considered fairly mainstream elements of the Republican party.

Wow if that's the best you can come up with then I think we're done here. I meant actual policy discussions or proposes legislation from actual mainstream office holders or minds. I'm sure I can look at left leaning mailing lists and find quacky stuff as well.

BTW Ted Cruz's comments were:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said his office has reached out to the Pentagon about the exercise and he has no reason to doubt what the Pentagon is saying.

"I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty because the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration. The natural consequence is that many of the citizens don't trust what it's saying," said Cruz.

That's hardly fanning conspiracy theories or abandoning reason.

Keep in mind these are all things from the past few days!

The Barton reference wasn't as relevant as many of this other distortions, but his argument is that the constitution was based on the Bible and was meant to give Christianity special status. This has huge policy implications.

Ben Carson is a long shot but he still represents a pretty significant portion of the Republican party, remember Herman Cain from 2012? Either way the POTUS ignoring the supreme court is a very massive policy claim.

As for Cruz he doesn't actually say he doesn't doubt the Pentagon, instead he's actually saying "yes, it's perfectly rational to think Obama is planning to carry out a major military operation in Texas". I'm sure Cruz doesn't believe it but he's definitely blowing a Dog Whistle to those who do.

As for the mailing list this was Mike Huckabee directly endorsing quack products, and it directly speaks to their general disregard for scientific findings and research which again has massive policy implications with research funding and climate change, not to mention the whole ethics issue in spamming your own supporters.

LOL, the left is definitely not intellectual.

When your arguments consist in logical fallacies, youuuuu might not be an intellectual.

When you argue a point by declaring it decided already, youuuuu might not be an intellectual.

When your supporters support your positions purely out of the self interest of career advancement, youuuuuu might not be an intellectual.

Indeed the "intellectual left" is the glorious absence of intellectual sophistication.

#6 is a special case of #5, and I suspect the most important case.
It think #1-#3 are all correct.

#4 is wrong: intellectual samurai will chose some topic where there is someone worthy to argue against. A more cynical version is a little-bit true: #4(b) intellectual cowards posing as samurai will pick on the distincitive views of some minor sect.

I consider myself a classical liberal, but would never admit it in public. Why? Because most of the people I've actually met who call themselves "libertarians" are raving lunatics.

This. Would you like as a friend, lover or spouse some that describes as libertarian?

I think I wouldn't drink a beer with someone that after 5 minutes of conversation comes out as libertarian. It's not about their ideas, it's because these people like to argue and are more than eager to convince you. I respect ideas but I get annoyed really fast by pushy people. I've met 20-40 yrs old self-named libertarians that behave just like Jehova's witness or conspiracy loonies, but boring.

I would add a number #7: it's not about ideas, it's just the lack of social skills.

I don't disagree with your characterization, but while it explains why a leftist wouldn't want to drink beer with libertarians, it doesn't explain why he would spent much time penning rhetorical attacks and formulating counter-arguments to libertarianism. You may choose not to spend much time conversing with Jehova's Witnesses, but I bet you don't spend much intellectual energy deconstructing their ideology either.

You're right. I just described feelings. Some people actually listen to libertarian pundits and spend time looking for counter-arguments. I'd go for Tyler's #4. Public debates are great publicity stunts for politics. If you want to win easily, get into a public debate on higher education funding with a libertarian. You know who is the unpopular one.

Yeah, unfortunately, I think this is a lot of it.

I say that as someone on the border between libertarian and conservative, who likes a lot of libertarian ideas and wants a much smaller state.

If you want any crazy idea to sound reasonable and balanced, argue for it against Bryan Caplan.

Perhaps that's all for the best.

There are all sorts of people.

I myself became libertarian from a (weak) liberal. However, until then, I never really realized how much (many) liberals like to discuss politics. And it gets worse with alcohol. Particularly when the assumption is that everyone in the room is a liberal.

I never really realized how much many conservatives like to discuss politics. And it gets worse with alcohol. Particularly when the assumption is that everyone in the room is a conservative.

Equally true.

I used to attend meetups of the group Drinking Liberally here in Oakland. It got tense at times arguing with them, but it never descended into ugliness because a big part of the point of meeting up is to enjoy yourself. Can't say the same of online efforts at cross-ideological chat.

"I would add a number #7: it’s not about ideas, it’s just the lack of social skills."

Perhaps the lack of social skills is part of the deal.

Those who most readily adopt positions which benefit them or increase their image in the eyes of someone in power over them certainly do not lack social skills.

I think you have tunnel vision.

When you have a beer with someone on your own team, you tend not to have an experience that you've just described. You don't think that I, a libertarian, have ever encountered a progressive, a tree hugger, an SJW, or an intolerable feminist who would ruin the experience of a good beer?


Proclaiming oneself as a libertarian is much more popular than *being* a libertarian. To say "I'm a libertarian" is a way of saying "I'm a tough-minded, independent, two-fisted son-of-a bitch", with no down-side risk of having to live in an actually existing libertarian polity. I'll grant an exemption to those who emigrate to Somalia or Papua New Guinea or Bangladesh or Madagascar.

How many leftists moved to Venezuela?

Unfortunately for your argument those places are not libertarian. No place is libertarian. You need the rule of law and property rights for libertarianism. You are confusing libertarianism with anarchism.

"Well why don't you move to Somalia!!!" is a fairly common refrain among leftish self-styled social justice activists when someone questions the wisdom of a particular social program. Alex's comment is a more eloquent, but no more substantial, articulation of the same. It is not a serious rejoinder; it is a Jon Stewart-esque way of eliding the meat of the issue while signaling to the audience that you are on the 'correct' side.

XVO has unwittingly nailed the debate very succinctly.

If libertarianism was such a great idea, you would think that out of the billions of people and two hundred or so nations on this planet, someone somewhere would have implemented it.

Why are there no actually existing libertarian polities?

The social conditions aren't right. There were no democracies in the 17th century, for example.

Governments do not tend to reduce their own power.

Bangladesh is libertarian? A place where a politician openly asked for the political murder of an atheist? And got it?

"with no down-side risk of having to live in an actually existing libertarian polity. I’ll grant an exemption to those who emigrate to Somalia or Papua New Guinea or Bangladesh or Madagascar."
-Go move to China, stinking commie. Or Saudi Arabia.

Ron Paul and Thomas Woods are bizarre, as is Bryan Caplan. I haven't encountered any 'raving lunatics'. I have encountered characters who are quite status conscious, including the moderator here, and also quite indifferent to any social stratum they do not belong to (manifest in Caplan and Tabarrock).

And yet here you are, still tilting away.

Capital-L Libertarians are nuts.

And small-l libertarians aren't much better. And I say that as someone who generally agrees with their policies.

The progressive and conservative groups are big enough that the crazies in their midst can be drowned out.

A hell of a lot of what seems crazy in politics depends on what you're used to hearing about. Sensible ideas that nobody talks about seem crazy, and crazy ideas that everyone talks about seem somewhat sensible.

One way to see this is to look at things we now take as pretty sensible, but which were crazy-sounding ideas 50 years ago. Consider widespread smoking bans in public, or gay marriage.

Another is to look at things we now think are crazy, but were widely discussed and supported among many of the great and good in the past. Lots of writers up until the late 40s were big supporters of eugenics, which is now out in crazy/evil land.

People who obsess over "big L" vs "small l" libertarianism and think it is a fun topic are lame.

...but the $18 Trillion national debt is perfectly sane....

This comment describes me as well.

I have many libertarian leanings, and in a few small ways I diverge. But I consistently find myself unable to support candidates like the Pauls. Too much goldbuggery, isolationism, and lack of any policy compassion for the working poor. I find conservatives these days to be a bottomless pit of bad ideas.

So all I am left with is democrats, who at least sometimes get what I want.

So out of the pan, and into the fire.

If you want to vote left then by all means go ahead, but I usually find these "well I'm mostly libertarian but the right just freaks me out so I vote left" very unconvincing since there is virtually zero overlap in the libertarian platform and the modern Democratic party (yes I'm not forgetting gay marriage and drug laws, their positions are different in important ways).

Holy cow, why are you here on this blog? I think of this as a place we econ addicts can so as not to bore our family and friends.

"The real scourge, correctly or not, is the common sense morality of the center. That’s right, the people who favor and distrust big government at the same time, the people who think the poor deserve welfare support but only so much, the people who distrust intellectual elites and cosmopolitanism, the people who side with police more than they ought to, and yes the people who think Medicare is more based on just deserts than is Medicaid."

It is possible to be a common sense centrist and an intellectual. The highbrow reasons for why moderate common sense positions are correct are particularly interesting to anybody with a strong desire to understand how the world really works.

For example, I am particularly struck by how much of the theory behind today's common sense stance was worked out by Benjamin Franklin over a quarter of a millennium ago in a series of pamphlets that, much later, influenced Malthus and Darwin:


There is no such thing as "common sense". It's up there with "international law" in the pantheon of meaningless phrases.

I don't know about Franklin's work, but I agree with the the 2nd paragraph of this comment quite a lot. The mushy middle has very little in the way of intellectually satisfying clear cases, but I've more or less decided that's frequently the ground where optimal policy lies and you have to figure it out. There is still a lot badly wrong with centrist opinion too, but a lot of very reasonable balancing going, especially with respect to well-fare provision issues.

Precisely. The real world lies in the middle. The real world is a pretty good place, and has been getting better on almost all metrics since forever.

I guess the numbers on abortion, bastardy, and divorce do not qualify as 'metrics', and neither did crime statistics prior to about 20 years ago.

If there were more abortion there'd be less bastardy. Maybe less divorce too.

They may qualify, but they are merely a few of the many ways to judge overall health and happiness. The world is a better place for more people today than 50 years ago, than 100 years ago, than 200 years ago, etc. And divorce is not a priori negative, nor is terminating unwanted pregnancy, nor even is bastardy.

If one is inclined to think of pregnancy termination as murder, then that's one metric of many you might not be happy about in this day and age...on the other hand there are FAR less deaths of children (and mothers) in childbirth today, much less infanticide (since one can abort), and much less death overall (7 billion+ humans on the planet). It's pretty difficult to characterize the world as a worse place (for the average person) today than in antiquity. As always, I direct you to Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist"

"If there were more abortion there’d be less bastardy. Maybe less divorce too."

What do you mean "if"?

Have you ever heard of history or data?

When there was less abortion, there was less bastardy and fewer divorces.

Then the court legalized abortion and bastardy and divorce went up. So, at a minimum, it has been proved that increasing abortions 1000 fold did not reduce bastardy or divorce.

Self-conscious or self-aware? Because to be honest, neither term seems to apply to a typical libertarian.

And from the article - 'There isn't a single 20th-century president or any ruling governor in the same philosophical ballpark as Milton Friedman.' However, the number of presidents influenced by Friedman's economics is quite large, when measured by changes to entire regulatory frameworks - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deregulation#Deregulation_1970-2000

But then, being neither self-conscious nor self-aware, that Caplan missed a generation's worth of Friedman based philosophical economic change is about par for the paying attention to reality libertarian course.

"However, the number of presidents influenced by Friedman’s economics is quite large, when measured by changes to entire regulatory frameworks."

You could also argue that Friedman's ideas have had influence on issues that Democrats tend to favor as well: an end to the military draft, gay marriage, negative income taxes (I would have added 'an end to the drug war' too, if it could be said that Democrats generally favored that -- but unfortunately I can't). The fact that we've seen both economic and social liberalization in the last 50 years, though, definitely doesn't mean that libertarians have held positions of power in government. But it may be a good indication that electoral success is not really necessary.

"gay marriage" hasn't a bloody thing to do with libertarian ideas. It's favored by libertarians in their capacity as a subcultural affiliation.

No. Many libertarians (though not Milton Friedman so far as I know) would go farther and get the state out of the marriage business entirely (other than in enforcing marriage contracts signed by consenting adults -- the state would have no more role in determining who could and could not enter into a marriage contract than who could enter into a business contract). From a moral foundations perspective, a lot of opposition to gay marriage derives from the respect for tradition/authority and purity (aka 'yuck' factor) moral dimensions. Libertarians are low on both of these. Libertarians have long favored allowing gay marriage (while leading Democrats like Obama have only recently 'evolved'),

He was against it before he was for it.

And once He saw the light, it was all over for those benighted Christ-worshippers.


Gay marriage - an extension of government power to subsidize a wealthy and powerful group - should never have been a libertarian issue. The libertarian position should have been "call yourself whatever you want, but we're not paying for it."

"Gay marriage – an extension of government power to subsidize a wealthy and powerful group – should never have been a libertarian issue."

What a ridiculous formulation. The perfect is not the enemy of the good. It is perfectly consistent to support gay marriage in the short term and favor the longer-term removal of all barriers to free association.

What does 'we're not paying for it' mean here? What do 'we' have to 'pay for' when gays marry?

I'd guess any marriage tax breaks?

Not something a libertarian would approve of.

What marriage tax breaks are there, except on the estate tax? Isn't there instead a marriage penalty?

In any case the same reason there are some tax advantages to hetero marriage (to encourage family formation) also applies to homo marriage, doesn't it?

Unless you just hate gays, in which case just come out with that and don't pretend it costs you anything for them to marry.


Other than the estate proctection, charitable contributions and IRA limits (if the spouse is jobless) are raised for married couples. Also filing jointly is cheaper if you use an accountant.

Encouraging gay people to give more to charity seems like a plus not a 'cost'. As is allowing them to save more in IRAs.

And how does using an accountant make filing jointly cheaper than, say, using TurboTax?

My point stands....it costs almost nothing and may even ultimately be fiscally beneficial to let gays marry (via increased savings and charity). So let's just get to the real objection: gays aren't people.

@msgkings I was using an accountant as a proxy for "you have substantial tax preparation costs" and it is cheaper if you file jointly rather than separately. I'm making no judgements as to the topic you were discussing and was just answering your question. I myself hold the typical libertarian position that marriage is nothing but a contract between two people and that the government should see it as such and leave the churches to make moral judgements about it.

@msgkngs, the marriage penalty exists when the two people have roughly equal incomes. When they have vastly different incomes (one partner is a homemaker or is supported to the point of being able to spend their time volunteering, work a hobby job, or simply idle about) marriage is a tax break.

Thanks Jay and Jeff, my point is just that if the tax code indeed encourages stable partnering, that's a good thing if gays do that as well. And thus there isn't a real fiscal objection to gays marrying.

"However, the number of presidents influenced by Friedman’s economics is quite large, when measured by changes to entire regulatory frameworks"
-Perhaps. But being mildly influenced by and being in the same ballpark as are entirely different things.

Seeing the way Silicon Valley is exploiting the "independent contractor" thing - it applies to carpenters and long-haul shippers, NOT people clearly in your employ - has made me far more sensitive to leftists' complaints of neo-liberalism run amok. This despite libertarians' complaint that we "don't really have a free market." Sure, but for startups it must certainly feel like one. I cop to some mood affiliation here, but that just makes me human and not Robin Hanson.

My explanation is that liberals think that libertarians take their agents seriously and so in principle might be persuaded. we feel that if we could just get them to reason with us about costs and benefits we could agree on ways to reform politics.

Liberals have no interest in reforming politics and many are fond of criminal behavior by their own partisans. Nat Hentoff's an exception. He's also about 90 years old.

When the left talks about reforming politics it always, always comes down to giving more power to the people they like to stomp on the people they don't. Always. There is no common ground with libertarians.

Yes, they want to end corporate welfare - but only for oil companies. Don't you dare talk about cutting subsidies for wind and solar.

This is ridiculous. To the extent that liberals want to subsidize wind and solar it's because they think it's good policy for the benefit of the public. They don't think oil should be subsidized and they think the reason why it is subsidized is due to political corruption. There is a difference between using money to influence the political process to financially reward yourself and attempting to develop a democratic consensus to encourage certain kinds of industrial activities in order to benefit the common good. I'm not going to claim that every leftist is thinking this way, but this is a very reasonable description of the thinking within a broad set of liberals, many of whom don't even support unions anymore which addresses Derek's comment.

Of course that is what they think. Of course they think that the things they think should be subsidized are objectively good and right, and that the things other people think should be subsidized are objectively bad and wrong, and those people are just corrupt assholes.

As derek said:
"When the left talks about reforming politics it always, always comes down to giving more power to the people they like to stomp on the people they don’t."

The point is that they are incapable of undertsanding that different people have different interests and ideas of the good and thus are incapable of compromising or agreeing to some sort of general principle or standard like "No corporate welfare for anyone.". It's always "No, our side is right, so we should just get to do whatever we want, and you should just go along with it."

Nevermind that in practice subsidziation of wind power is every bit as corrupt as subsidization of oil companies. They have good intentions, so that's impossible.

Right. It only sounds ridiculous to base your politics on outcomes, a totally reasonable thing to do, if you're a libertarian.

When's the last time you heard an argument that any subsidies for oil production are due to optimal economic consideration rather than some political or lobbying factor.

The post by TC is too abstract but fun to decipher, however, it leads to people talking past each other. Kind of like Marxist theory with the different schools, all based on faulty logic and each school thinking it's the last word. Carnival of Ideologies as the great mural in Guadalajara shows.

I wish I hadn't skipped he first paragraph. I checked the date several times after the reading most of the list having been sure I'd read it before, since the style is much more MR than anything else I regularly read.

Was this an assorted link?

May I provide another option?

7. Most modern American's who present themselves as "liberal" are acting out of both mood affiliation and peer approval. They are basically squishy Republicans who are not actually interested in Progressive positions if it costs any money at all, let alone their own. They are liberal because they don't want to be judgmental or kill joys. They don't think of themselves as racist or predjudiced and being soft liberals is a way to signal they are socially good. While they most likely approve of the idea of religion they are not themselves religious. They are pro choice, pro gay marriage, anti racist, etc... Unlike those socially awkward backward Republicans, but they also like law and order, think the poor are lazy, and don't like to pay taxes.

Actual Leftists realize this, and see libertarians as a huge threat, they are an alternative to Progressive politics that isn't scary, homophobic, and judgemental. This is why they spend so much time declaring opposition to welfare spending is racist for example. The only hold they have over a large mass of ordinary educated Americans is that they are the non judgemental party of cool nice people. Libertarians offer a path to being cool without supporting any part of the Progressive project other than hedonism, which actual leftists are actually opposed to.

I lived in San Francisco for 8 years, mostly I kept my head down, but if someone asked my opinion I would sell the parts of my ideology that were most cuddly. Before 911 I could present as a liberal republican, by 2003 my only hope to avoid ostracism was to present as libertarian. Today when I visit I can only do that in select company, yet most people I know in the City are really not that progressive. If the Left let up its attacks on libertarianism they might see large defections of middling voters, some of whom would slowly drift to the Republicans while simultaneously dragging the Democrats rightward.

It is not that libertarianism appeals to actual Progressives it is that actual Progressives do not have the numbers if libertarian ideas become socially ok.

I like this explanation. It gives me hope...

Funny then that in the privacy of the ballot-box, all these Shy Republicans let Erbermer in twice.

Occam's Razor: The monied part of the GOP is libertarian. They try to get as much libertarianism as voters will allow them to get away with.

Non-libertarians are aware of this and resent it.

They aren't shy Republicans, they are social conformists who have no native attraction to Progressivism. They vote Progressively because of mood affiliation. Republicans evil, Democrats good. The libertarian label undermines this. But almost none of these people are actually libertarian, they are too statist for that, ie they are not very different from socially liberal Republicans.

Shy Republicans are people who vote Republican yet hide their sympathies. They know exactly what they are, they are just closeted.

You only believe in mood affiliation because of mood affiliation.

Something like this, yes. In urban enclaves where progressives dominate, libertarianism is the last thing standing in their way with the end of Pat Buchanan style conservatism.

This shot across the bow of libertarianism is one of my favs: http://exiledonline.com/its-hip-its-cool-its-libertarianism/

"Actual Leftists realize this, and see libertarians as a huge threat, they are an alternative to Progressive politics that isn’t scary, homophobic, and judgemental. This is why they spend so much time declaring opposition to welfare spending is racist for example. "

No, that's pretty much exactly backwards, so let me articulate reason #8 and #9..
Liberals, in a social and market sense, have profound dislike for the lack of maturity and empathy displayed by libertarians for the less fortunate in a society. Libertarians are essentially the manifestation of a political philosophy by pre-adolescent boys (which incidentally explains why so many privileged teenage boys get so engrossed by the horrendous one-dimensional novel Atlas Shrugged).
Liberals have a instinctual dislike for libertarians because, it is as if they accepted pedophilia is illegal because it's morally wrong, but still thought killing babies in sex orgies was fine. In effect, libertarians have some good ideas, but they've kept the most disgusting elements of conservatism, which results in the worst possible combination.

An additional explanation, #9, why intellectually open-minded and data driven liberals dislike libertarians is because they are dogmatic fundamentalists that never let facts penetrate their bubble. By this measure libertarians are closely related to other fundamentalists and ideologists of different stripes, e.g. paradoxically to the Marxists of the early 20 century. The problem with all fundamentalists, is that to them, belief always triumphs reality.

Ain't working. This is MR, not Salon or Slate.

I don't think libertarianism is such a target.

I think libertarians like to think they are such a big target, because they like to think they are the only people on earth who hold the views they do. So whenever anyone expresses views similar to theirs, they declare victory and proclaim to have changed people's opinions.

And of course, since their views, for most self-proclaimed libertarians, are nebulous, inconsistent and schizophrenic enough to actually encompass almost all possible positions on any possible topic...it is quite impossible to not have libertarians proclaim themselves as victors or targets on any topic.

because they like to think they are the only people on earth who hold the views they do

They are, if you are referring to the whole package of views, and not cherry picking one or more positions.

And of course, since their views, for most self-proclaimed libertarians, are nebulous, inconsistent and schizophrenic

Actually, libertarians' views are remarkably consistent and crystal clear. It's all (and just) about maximizing individual freedom up to the point where it starts to infringe on others' individual freedoms. It's Asimov's Laws of Robotics applied to human society. Now if only human nature wouldn't get in the way...

+1 Kris. Which is why so many libertarians are also into sci-fi: they're nerds. And that's perfectly fine, nerds tend to be smart, useful, moral people. If the whole world was like that libertarianism would work just fine. But it isn't, so libertarianism is best when it influences the center and counterbalances the loony left.

If everyone was like Cowan or Caplan or Hanson (smart, open minded, law abiding, non-violent etc) then I would be a libertarian.

Now if only we could define libertarianism, and figure out what it is. Because it seems to me one can hold virtually any position on any topic, and be considered a libertarian.

I.e., there is nothing consistent in it. Its a self-applied label, which other self-labeled libertarians will disagree with and call you an evil statist. I.e., the Misses.org crowd calling everyone else who isn't "ideologically" pure as they are, "statists".

As for the rest of your comment, what you're saying is essentially that it is a utopian ideal with little relation to real life.


What's wrong with having utopian ideals? In real life, one could relax those ideals depending on how human turn out to be, as opposed to what the idealist thought they ought to be. As for consistency, there is no philosophy that applies to every context (time and place). Liberals (lefties, that is) and conservatives prefer to be goal-oriented, while libertarians prefer to be ideal-oriented. Can you prove one is better than the other?

1) There's nothing wrong with having utopian ideals, if the intention is to engage in an intellectual exercise. As ideals for organizing human societies...the drawbacks are obvious.

2) You're absolutely right that there is no philosophy which can consistently apply across all human conditions. This, however, is the problem with most strong-form libertarians: they do not recognize this fact. They do not recognize trade-offs. When trade-offs are pointed out to them...the response is generally to assume that they do not actually exist and are an invention of "statist". Which is how one ends up with the Mises.org crowd proclaiming Milton Friedman a...statist. Purity requires no trade-offs.

3) Can I "prove" that one is better than the other? Of course I can. The very fact that throughout human history no societies corresponding to the strong-form libertarian ideal have ever existed, or sustained themselves for more than momentary glimpses of time...is proof enough.

I.e., it's easy enough to theorize of such an ideal society, or to dream of creating floating cities of anarchist delight. It is quite another thing to explain why such things never happen. At least, without resorting to the excuse of "other people are malevolent towards us and prevent us from doing so".

I'll give you an example of the folly of such utopian ideals, applied in the real world.

I once had a conversation with a strong-form libertarian (i.e. anarchist) on the Balkan wars. His position was that the US getting involved in the wars in Bosnia and elsewhere was what caused the wars in the first place, and caused the massive loss of life.

His logic, based on standard libertarian ideals...was that the Balkan peoples would eventually, and rather quickly, realize that war made everyone worst off, and they would stop fighting rather quickly. It was only the fact that the US intervened on one side, that allowed that side to take a more aggressive stance since it gave them the prospect of winning over the other side.

Now, nevermind the completely 180 deg opposite interpretation of reality (i.e. it wasn't the side the US sided on that was the aggressor, but the other side!)...the problem of course is that in the last 10,000 years of human history we've seen countless wars and genocides etc similar to Bosnia. NEVER...has there been a similar situation to what he describes as would have been the outcome of that war. NEVER...has human nature acted in that way.

Of course, I also recognize that this person (along with very very many others like him on Mises.org), are not actually starting off from libertarian puritanism. In fact, they're starting off from an anti-American position, by which all "bad" things in the world must be attributed to some intended or unintended consequence of...US...action. That's the actual starting point of most of these positions. From which they have to work backwards to construct a completely fictional reality, where they try to jam libertarian ideals into it (as poorly as they may fit) to attain an image of "ideological consistency".

The mere fact that we see these same...clowns...which on one side of their mouth criticize the US government for its foreign policy in the most absurd ways...while on the other side of their mouths they...DEFEND...Putin's Russia as carrying out totally justifiable and acceptable actions (and appear on RT, and defect to Putin's Russia etc etc.)...is evidence enough of ideological inconsistency.

And evidence enough that they are actually just charlatans. For evidence of this, just look at who is working with Ron Paul or with CATO or with Mises.org: paid Kremlin trolls.

PS: I started off saying that this was an application of libertarian utopian ideals, but then concluded that this was actually just paid trolls with agendas. Well, the paid trolls with agendas...define...what acceptable libertarian utopianism and ideology is. The useful fools at the bottom of the supply chain, then parrot the talking points throughout the internet.

But that again is evidence that ultimately...libertarianism is whatever the talking heads of Mises.org, CATO, or Ron Paul institute...say it is on this particular day.

I.e., Marxism for the right.

It does often seem to me that the Marxist anarchists and the libertarians have a lot in common with regard to their views of the state.

Libertarian political philosophy is far more consistent that that of liberals/progressives and conservatives.
Liberetarians actually have a set of first principles that they attempt to derive everything from. Liberals philosophy is just an ad-hoc collection of policies that benefit aligned identity groups and "feels", and conservatives are just based on tradition (also "feels").

In terms of overall coherence and consistency the only rival is probably hard-left Marxism.

I think you can probably get an intellectually consistent progressivism or conservatism with a little work. What you're not going to get are intellectually consistent Republicans or Democrats given that the views that the parties hold are just random grab-bags of historical contingency.


Put a bloc of 30 Libertarians in Congress, and the ideology will quickly get a hell of a lot less pure, because they'll have to make compromises, kiss unsavory asses to get campaign donations and votes, support evil but popular things, etc.

The problem is that there is no such thing as a "libertarian philosophy". There's 36 different "first principles" and philosophies, each contradicting the other, and each camp calling the other "statists" (the ultimate insult)

You're absolutely right however that the rival is hard-left Marxism. Like Marxists, they split into consistently smaller camps of "purity", where each camp considers the other to be the "enemy of the people" on consistently smaller differences. And like Marxism, it is inherently contradictory in nature.

Like Marxism, "libertarianism" is an exercise in childishness. And exercise in utopianism.

And like Marxism, its main philosophical underpinnings have already been addressed by countless other political or social ideologies...but just like Marxism, libertarians refuse to accept trade-offs or the reality of life, and continue the quest for purity and utopia.

So, nothing to be taken seriously.

You think you have described some deep insight in libertarianism.
All you have done is point out that political philosophies that haven't been influenced by the realities are more idealistic than those that have.
You have also made some claims that there are libertarians that come to their positions to justify already existing biases. This describes people in literally every political philosophy. And to lesser and greater extents, every single human.
You also claim that libertarian beliefs of the masses of libertarians are controlled by the corrupt. Again, this charge can be leveled at all groups.
Just admit that you hold libertarianism to a standard you don't hold your own philosophy to.

*by the realities of governing

Quite the contrary. The first "charge" is indeed a serious one. I.e., an idealistic ideology based on utopianism...isn't one that merits serious consideration in the first place. Hence the distinction between ideologies such as libertarianism and Marxism....with the rest.

The second charge is quite a serious one indeed...if that bias is in many cases simply "anti-Americanism". As such, it deserves the wrath of American political media.

The third charge is also a serious one. An insulated ideology that is the opposite of "free thinking" and "open minded" as it claims to be, but rather a cult of personality, with cult members that are quite distasteful individuals.

On all three counts...libertarianism (in its strong form) is indeed quite different from mainstream American political ideologies.

Liberetarians actually have a set of first principles that they attempt to derive everything from

And we all know that the operation of human societies can be fully explained by just a handful of axioms and their logical consequences. No need to measure, observe, make moral choices, modify one's conclusions in the light of evidence or anything messy like that.

You've described precisely what's wrong with libertarians, and Marxists of course. The theory is everything. That's a giant mistake.

I'll echo Steve Sailer's position a little more precisely. But, unfortunately, that requires a mildly impolitic presentation:

(a) while libertarianism (an economic preference) informs the nation's christian conservatism (a normative preference), libertarianism is not informed by the conservatism. That's the reason that libertarianism fails to expand its influence in the electorate: libertarianism outside of the classical liberal model is objectively immoral. That's right: objectively immoral. And I'll answer why, below.

(b) All three influential enlightenment movements sought to express group evolutionary strategies as universal strategies (i) the anglo empirical (Smith, Hume and eventually Darwin) - to create an aristocracy of everybody, (ii) the german obscurant rationalist ( Kant thru Heidegger) - to preserve hierarchy, and (iii) the jewish pseudoscientific: (Freud, Marx, Cantor, Mises, Rothbard) - to preserve authoritarianism and separatism. Unfortunately, all three of these movements have failed at developing a universal ethics with which to inform our politics.

(c) Politics is a moral not empirical means of decision making (Jonathan Haidt). Voting for representatives is a form of abstract aggregation. In such cases of comparing abstractions, People can do nothing else but vote their ancestral (and possibly genetic) morality. (Emmanuel Todd, David Hackett Fischer). They vote their evolutionary strategy. Monopoly decision making (majority rule) exacerbates conflict between peoples of disparate interests. And classical liberal libertarians (anglo american, empirical libertarians) have failed to produce an institutional solution that allows cooperation on means (a market) for the production of commons despite our various heterogeneous and necessary ends.

(d) Conservatives are unconsciously aware (and unable to articulate) (a) norms are the most expensive commons we create, and those high trust norms must be protected at all costs - they are our competitive advantage in this world, and the reason for our rapid ascent in both pre-history, ancient, and modern eras; (b) that policy must reflect the inter-temporal interests of families, while law must be constructed for individuals, because the family is the means of transmission of those norms for each class, and because disputes must be objectively decidable regardless of class.

For some reason it doesn't occur to libertarians that the competitive advantage of western civilization lies in our unique ability to construct civil commons relatively free of privatization, and that we can do so because of our high trust society, and that our high trust society is possible because of all the people on this earth we generally tell the truth. And that truth telling is the most expensive commons one can produce.

People cannot vote for change that is not institutionally articulated. Asking people to 'believe' is for prophets and priests, not scientists. Justification is for rationalists. Scientists must construct operational definitions for us to test the truth of their propositions (that is the entire point of the Austrian method.) So until classical libertarians reform the current model, and provide an institutional solution that satisfies: the exclusion of the bottom from the benefits of production of the normative, institutional and physical commons (the left); the ability to dynamically restructure the patterns of sustainable specialization and trade, free of rents and frictions (libertarians); and the preservation of the high trust norms and the family that make the construction of our commons possible, by prohibiting their consumption and requiring universal production (the right); libertarianism will remain an immoral, selfish, utopian specialization, that advocates an obscurant form of free riding on both left and right's the construction of the voluntary order of cooperation that we call capitalism.

Because profiting from the contributions of others (the cost of respecting property in both normative, institutional, physical commons, and in private hands, is free riding. And free riding is immoral. Because all objective moral rules are a prohibitions on free riding. And because cooperation is irrational in the presence of free riding. Thats why evolution gave us moral intuitions - despite our different self serving emphases on one part of the moral spectrum or another.

No corner of the political triangle is correct. Each simply senses some part of the reproductive division of labor: progressive=consumption, libertarian=production and conservative=saving: just as the market forms an information system, human moral differences constitute a division of perception, cognition, knowledge and labor; and voluntary, fully informed, warrantied, exchange free of negative externality is the only test of the aggregate validity of our perceptions.

We (libertarians) aren't right. But we're the smart ones. And productivity is our specialization. So we must find an institutional solution for everyone - (consumptive, productive, and retentive) not one for just us as specialists. It's not that others aren't informed. It's that we haven't succeeded.

( That's enough radicalism for one post. )

Thanks, very interesting.

"the voluntary order of cooperation that we call capitalism"

That's hilarious. Capitalism is not a 'voluntary order'. It's a hierarchical system of power based on force, in which some people own most of everything and some people own nothing. No one voluntarily agreed to have nothing. No one agreed to be at the bottom of the hierarchy. But if they step out of line and disobey the rules that put them there, force is used against them to make them obey.

Guess you must feel lost without the Occupy movement.

I guess you have nothing to say which has any content.

1. There is such a thing as free contract and private property and everyone with goods recognizes what's there's and what isn't.

2. You elect to pretend there is not and expect to be taken seriously.

Well, that makes two of you.

It’s a hierarchical system of power based on force, in which some people own most of everything and some people own nothing

You can't have my car, at least not until you bathe.

^ typical idiotic comment.

This is just a massive equivocation on the meaning of "order". Please try again.

Someone just got a demand for payment for money owed.

As opposed to what? My neighbor left Poland for a better life in Canada two years before the collapse of communism. He had a family and any way of improving his lot in life was illegal. Commerce was illegal; to buy and sell something was considered exploitation, meaning that people couldn't get what they wanted.

Capitalism has been the most effective way of lifting people out of poverty. When it isn't working what you find is political power limiting people's freedom.


"Capitalism is not a ‘voluntary order’."

Markets are ways to solve problems for each other via decentralized division of labor and exchange. The rules, once agreed to, require mutually voluntary interactions and prohibit coercive, zero sum interactions.

"It’s a hierarchical system of power based on force, in which some people own most of everything and some people own nothing. No one voluntarily agreed to have nothing. No one agreed to be at the bottom of the hierarchy."

We are all born with nothing. Absent effective action, each of us will die of natural causes in a couple of days. Free enterprise is a proven method of collective problem solving, which is on average twenty to one hundred times as productive as the alternatives (self sufficiency, predation or command). Note only self sufficiency is absent any force, and self sufficiency can support less than one tenth the current world population, and it will do so at levels which make welfare recipients look like princes.

I am not sure what hierarchy you are referring to. The rewards of mutually voluntary interaction go to those who solve the most problems the best that are most in demand by others. It is a self amplifying recipe for the creation of value. Those creating little value for others as per above are not rewarded. Market signals.

"But if they step out of line and disobey the rules..."

Rules do serve a purpose to coordinate human behavior and facilitate human cooperation.

Capitalism is based on coercive interactions, not 'mutually voluntary interactions'. Ask a poor person whether they voluntarily agreed to own nothing, not even a piece of land on which to live, whether they voluntarily agreed that a minority should own most of the world and hold all the power.

"We are all born with nothing". False, some are born into wealth, privilege and power whilst others are born into poverty and powerlessness. That's capitalism.

"I am not sure what hierarchy you are referring to" Take your absurd ideological blinkers off and look around at the real world.

"take your absurd ideological blinkers off and look around at the real world"

Pot kettle black. 20th century experiments in abolishing property/privilege were a bottomless pit of cruelty.

"20th century experiments in abolishing property/privilege were a bottomless pit of cruelty."

False. Anarchist and libertarian socialist experiments have not resulted in a 'bottomless pit of cruelty', not have socialist and social-democratic efforts to reduce inequality and abolish poverty resulted in a 'bottomless pit of cruelty'. What you are referring to are totalitarian dictatorships, in which power and control was just taken over by a new ruling elite, which no one who is opposed to hierarchy and domination by a ruling class would support.

I think the evidence is largely exaggerated by the fact that we were industrializing around the time that markets were becoming freer than they were in 1945. Then again, it is difficult to industrialize without eventually having to be competitive in some market.

I think what you're looking for is called "thick libertarianism".

Good comment. It's my opinion that it's hard to avoid this being actually liberalism. That doesn't mean you have to be a socialist though.

It depends what social norms are embedded in the thick part.

A thick libertarian could be a social conservative or a social liberal in the "thick" part, depending on what social norms they believe ought to be promoted.

I think what I am trying to do is to construct institutions, in constitution and law, that provide the means of eliminating demand for the state, rather than trying to convince people that a state monopoly bureaucracy is a bad thing - and trying to convince them it's a bad thing without providing sufficient replacement of its functions to render a minimal state a rational preference for all but a tepid minority.

Unfortunately, 'thin' libertarianism (NAP/Intersubjective verifiable property) is objectively immoral and increases demand for the state, and 'thick' libertarianism (the Bleeding Heart Libertarians for example) may have intuited a sentimental and pragmatic middle-ground but they have no logical argument, and no criterion for decidability on which to base their intuitions, nor have they institutional solutions to implement them. Mainstream (classical liberal) economists, like our noble host's peers, have provided no innovation to classical liberalism sufficient to institutionalize in rules and processes.

Some of us work on those arguments, means of decidability, and institutions. I may succeed or fail, and so might the others. But someone has to do it. ;) Because 'selling' the message as if we are a priesthood trying to convert the masses hasn't been successful for more than a century.

It would be interesting to see more discussion on your free rider point in the context of consumer and producer surplus. Who has a potential claim to those, why and how do those claims change over time?

One aspect of the domestic, and international, economies over the past few decades has been a parsing of those surpluses, voluntarily, by design, or otherwise, to probe demand (for example, price discrimination) and supply (for example, the China price) curves.

Enquiring Mind

Actually that's the most interesting empirical question that we have to solve. I think that there isn't any way to reason it out, other than to start with a rule of thumb and discover it.

I generally argue that the cost of producing the voluntary organization of production (property, commons, money, prices, interest, contract, trust, truth telling - what we call capitalism) is extremely high (which is why the west is unique in our production of commons), and that dividends should be equally distributed and progressively accumulated. In other words, pay people for constructing capitalism, and ostracize them if they don't. The problem is in eliminating political manipulation of such a system. So it would need to be rule-based (formulaic), and independent of political interference.

In the past, participation in the market was a sufficient incentive that people will pay the cost of property rights in order to join the market as producer and consumer. But if people cannot produce goods and services (cannot find work) in increasing numbers, that does not mean that they cannot construct the voluntary organization of cooperation, and obtain compensation for doing so. And I think that all the evidence is that this problem of unemployable people is going to do nothing but increase. And as such what is their incentive to construct the voluntary order?

Anyway. I agree that this is the most interesting question. My primary concern (which Krugman frustrates me with daily) is that the past 500 years of data may describe nothing more than the incremental distribution of anglo capitalism around the world, and that going forward, I am not sure that monetary policy that worked in the past will work in the future.


Is this really a hard question?

Attacking an extreme version of your opponent's views is one of the most basic tactics of debate. Libertarians are the conservative "extremists", so they are the best target for an effective attack on conservatism. They are straw men who have the benefit of actually existing (though barely).

Yes, this is an oversimplification of libertarian views, since you can't simply put them on linear ideological continuum to the right of conservatives. But this simplification is baked into the debate. On economic policy and role of government, libertarians are to the right of mainstream conservatives. And that is where libertarians are being attacked, not on issues like drug legalization.

Seems reasonable. Though often a strawman of even libertarian ideas is used (basically anarchism), that strawman does seem less strawy when there are literate people defending an idea close to it.

"He serves up these hypotheses, though I think without committing to any particular one of them". Cowen, ever the ironist, couldn't help himself. The founders certainly weren't libertarians, knowing as they did that liberty didn't just happen, that liberty required an activist government lead by men (there were no women) like them. I'm always amused when I hear or read that the founders believed in limited government; sure, limited by the founders' imagination. Franklin is remembered as a printer because he became the first government printing office, a nice gig for the political theorist. Washington, as the leader of the patriots, knew first hand the folly of "limited government", as he had to beg a recalcitrant congress to provide food, clothing, and armaments for his troops, the "limited government" a greater threat to the cause than the British; indeed, if the British had given the Ohio Territory to the great man after he surveyed it as he expected, history may well have taken an entirely different turn. God Save the Queen! Jefferson not only doubled the geographic size of the new nation, he was the first president to send troops into combat in a far away conflict to protect and promote private maritime commerce. And then there's Hamilton, his libertarian streak about as long as his moral compass in matters of the "heart". There's a reason the founders became public servants: it served their interests. A lesson today's libertarians know full well. Myths, whether in politics or religion, serve a valuable purpose: they justify us.

It is easy to criticize the imperfections of visionaries in retrospect. And it is very easy to play word games with terms. But by any stretch of the imagination, the founders were attempting to control their new territory without having interference from that they considered the warlike peoples of the continent.

And none of that impinges upon the fact, that they restated the ancient anglo saxon political order at a much larger scale, and in specific terms, as an alternative to the emerging expansion of the state as we saw on the continent.

These men were not libertines or anarchists (which is the criteria you seem to judge the term liberty). They were anti-statists. They still produced the greatest innovation in world history. And it was made possible by distance from the established interests of Europe.

(JP Mallory. Emmanuel Todd. David Hackett Fischer. )

You confuse relative with absolute position.
The founders were closer to anarchists of today than anything you favor.
Perhaps they were more statist than the average of the day, but it's silly to argue that makes them not libertarian.

Libertarianism was always a left-wing movement. Right-wing 'libertarianism' is a completely nonsensical concept.

[Citation needed]

ask Rothbard:

"One gratifying aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time in my memory, we, “our side,” had captured a crucial word from the enemy . . . “Libertari­ans” . . . had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety. But now we had taken it over. . ." - Murray Rothbard (The Betrayal of the American Right, p.83)

Regardless of what some people may have referred to using the term "libertarianism" in the 1800's, the present meaning of the term is neither left-wing nor right-wing

in the US, people who (erroneously) call themselves 'libertarians' are usually right-wingers who are talking nonsense.

in the US, people who (erroneously) call themselves ‘liberals’ are usually left-wingers who are talking nonsense.

No, in the end he's right. Wish I'd seen it sooner.

Leftist trashed the 'liberal' name, and had to abandon it for 'progressive'. Now that 'progressive' is trashed you want 'libertarian'?

Arnold Kling's three axes help explain this. Libertarians generally want to view themselves as pacifist, non-coercive types promoting prosperity through voluntary cooperation. Tolstoy was a libertarian. Conservatives and left-wingers object to being lumped together as coercive statists and have to expend a lot of energy dealing with the cognitive dissonance produced by their view of themselves as well-intentioned people whose approach to improving the world is better than that of other tribes. Nevertheless, evolution provides a better approach to understanding this phenomenon. Termites and roaches are members of the same insect family but termites evolved into eusocial, highly ordered, rationalist living arrangements. Roaches remained merely social insects with decentralized nests and living arrrangements. Humans are undergoing a similar split between urban and rural subspecies. The eusocial trend will progress faster if the urban termites can effectively enslave rural roach types to provide food and raw materials for their colonies. The roach trend will progress faster in a symbiotic trade relationship with the termites. This tension underlies most of the political/economic blather. Herman Melville's The White Jacket, contrasting life on a Navy ship versus life on a whaling vessel, is the seminal text here.

Libertarians are perceived, sometimes unfairly, as dogmatic zealots by both the right and the left. By the left they're also seen as heartless Randians who would sooner let poor children starve in the streets than vote for any sort of government aid. Whereas the left sees them as cruel, the right sees as dangerous. They want to open the borders, legalize all sorts of dangerous drugs and stick our collective head in the sand in terms of foreign policy.

That's how libertarians are perceived, at least, by their attackers.

Libertarians and (American-) liberals agree on the fundamentals of a worldview, e.g. most of them are in favour of Enlightenment values and prefer reason over revelation as a source of authority. They also consume similar media. Furthermore, libertarians do not disagree with A-liberals' principles of liberty and equality but apply them differently: liberty from many types of widely-accepted state compulsion and formal legal equality.

I suggest A-liberals see libertarians as being more debatable than conservatives, whose worldview often comes from religion, is propagated on media where they aren't heard, and is much more concerned by morality while being apathetic about equality.

I think this is right, but that "debateable" should probably be "convertable." Libertarians should seem like potential converts to the extent they share a lot of the same premises, but should also seem like a constant threat to convert current adherants away. Evangelizers targeting the same groups of people will of course have the most frequent disputes.

"Libertarians and (American-) liberals agree on the fundamentals of a worldview"

No. Liberals in the US are statists, libertarians are for individual rights. Polar opposites.

Wrong. They both believe in some kind of state founded on the vindication of some mix of property and non-property rights stemming from the application of reason to the nature of humanity. The modal conservative more often believes in a state which facilitates the fulfilment of a divinely-ordained set of principles.

Thought we were talking American.

I think I more or less agree, but I'd put it in another way. Libertarian thought is more of a target because it disrupts the unipolar nature of our political status-quo.

This means that both our society is set up to target these type of behaviors, and that those who manage to not get trapped by the status quo will be of the more 'free thinker'/'radical' (pick your mood affiliation) type and therefore more likely to give ammo to the opposition by promoting unpopular ideas.

Liberals and Libertarians despise each other for the same reasons Commies and Nazis hated each other, close enough in ideologies that they compete for the same target audience, but different enough to be viewed as dangerous apostates.

Does anyone think this quote by Hitchens has any resonance with people regarding libertarianism:

“I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.”

It resonates with me as an example of how little people understand libertarianism.
Outside of objectivist, which are a small part of the greater libertarian movement, the idea that people ought to be selfishness is not a key part of libertarianism.

Libertarians are popularly known as Ayn Rand freaks because the most popular ones are, in fact, Ayn Rand freaks. Caplan is, Greenspan was, Rand Paul chose to go by the name "Rand" because he identifies with her so closely. Even this blog has some Ayn Rand stink to it.

Wrong on multiple accounts. Caplan is not and Ayn Rand freak, he is not an objectivist and his favorite philosopher wrote "Why I am not and Objectivist". Part of that essay explicitly rejects egoism.

Greenspan was but he wasn't a libertarian except in the very loosest sense.

And I would like to see where Rand is cited as choosing that nickname because of Ayn Rand instead of just simply because his name is Randall.

But your point does illustrate the phenomenon I was talking about, where critics don't even do the basic work to find out what libertarians believe.

Ayn Rand is a problem for libertarianism because she herself conflates libertarianism (a political philosophy) with egoism (a moral philosophy). Egoism tells people that they ought to behave selfishly in their personal lives. However, libertarianism as a political philosophy doesn't actually say anything about how one ought to behave privately. If you want to go form a commune, have at it. You just can coerce anyone to join. There are many left-libertarians who believe in mutual aid societies and other such voluntary collectivist or communitarian modes of social organization. And it's entirely possible for there to be social-conservative libertarians who think nobody should have sex before marriage or do drugs. They just can't impose those rules on everyone else.

Rand is such a huge problem because by conflating libertarianism with egoism she's not only creates ongoing confusion between those two separate things, but she's stimulate a libertarian sub-sect that also advocates egoism, which further adds to the confusion.

But there's not *necessary* reason why the two ought to go together. The best way to think about libertarianism is that is allows egoistic individuals the freedom to pursue their own interests, but it does so within the confines of a political system that restrains them from violating other people's rights in the process. Since the political system is based on non-aggression, the egoistic individual can only get what he wants through voluntary cooperation.

Oh, another big reason why the left hates libertarians: Libertarians were right about the whole socialism/communism thing and the old guard left cant stand that. Just look at the lefts general reaction to Pinochet's Chile for proof.

Libertarians are a target only in the imagination of libertarians. Political discussion goes on without them.

Oh, is that what you call it?!

Whenever I hear a Liberal tantrum about libertarianism I always suspect that someone lost an argument with a college age kid. This is what frustrates the left; college is supposed to be a time when leftist and marxist ideas are valid and discussed. When libertarians offer a different, and frankly far more compelling argument in that context, and if someone agrees, it is one less convert to the cause.

To avoid getting too frustrated with libertarians, it's nice to think of them as relatively tolerant conservatives, rather than as liberals with bad economic policy.

Whatever gets you through the day, pal.

I think on average you're probably right.

Libertarians are attacked because those in power always fear truth .

libertarians are good sparring partners for those of us on the left because you can actually have a discussion without anyone invoking jesus as a trump card.

And good sparring partners for those of us on the right because you can actually have a discussion without anyone invoking trigger warnings/ fainting spells.

You can say the same thing from the POV of the right and just insert "race, gender, social justice" for Jesus.

I knew Americans were a religious bunch, but really?

Are libertarians really a target? I'd say the opposite as Rand Paul was on the cover of Time Magazine called the "Interesting Politician" and it is own fault he has done poorly in the Republican Primary with lousy interviews.

I'd say the simplest problem is the only incentive for libertarians is money and property so it is awfully hard to enforce other morals on society. Bryan really hates poor people with limited skills getting an education and putting off married and kids but he offers them no benefit to make it desirable.

Unless it's some other country's poor people, in which case he has their best interests lovingly at heart: http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/upcoming-debates/item/909-let-anyone-take-a-job-anywhere

"the only incentive for libertarians is money and property"

Sure, that's why they became libertarians. The chicks, the cars, the Benjamins, the.... oh wait

I'd say Alan Greenspan had a huge impact on the way the nation governs as a result of his chairmanship of the fed over such a long period. So Libertarian policies ended up being far more common than their electoral success suggests.

Wait. Are you saying that as Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan practiced libertarianism?

I can't think of a less libertarian institution on the planet than the Fed, unless I misunderstand what libertarians believe.

No, but he used his control over the Fed and fame that resulted from the massive economic expansion to push for and get a healthy number of pro-libertarian policies (NAFTA, capital gains tax cuts, financial deregulation he had far more direct control over that).

Progressives target right-wing libertarianism because, first, they view it as thinly veiled Social Darwinism and, second, they see it as the intellectually articulated form of the ideology subscribed to by the capitalist elite. That is, they believe right-wing libertarians say what Wall Street actually thinks. To put it another way, Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein aren't available to argue with, so the Tyler Cowens and Megan McArdles of the world have to do.

I like to argue with libertarians because: 1) you guys punch way above your weight in terms of your influence on economic policy; 2) I think your ideology is based on a set of deeply naive and unrealistically optimistic assumptions about human rationality, competency, and agency and thus the public policy prescriptions you derive from those conceptions are intrinsically bad and, if implemented, will be horrifically destructive, making life significantly worse for the majority of people subjected to them; 3) I'm interested in your moral calculus, specifically how you justify prioritizing property rights over other peoples' lives and how your conceptions of compassion, empathy, and justice work; 4) I'm interested in the extent to which you recognize, understand, and are willing to acknowledge explicitly the downsides of your policy prescriptions and what, if any, suggestions you have to mitigate them.

I am more compassionate than you etc etc

Your story seems more like a fleshed-out version of my argument #4 than an actual alternative.

One sideline here: In the 2008 and 2012 election, I remember a fair bit of ink being spilled by liberal writers about various unsavory associations and ideas of Ron Paul. My take then was that this wasn't coming from a desire to engage with Paul's ideas, but rather from a desire to *avoid* engaging with his foreign policy and war on terror ideas, where he might have appealed to a lot of Democratic voters who were disappointed with how hawkish Obama turned out to be in office.

I don't think anyone yet has got this 'target' thing right.

In the first place, I think the perception of libertarians as a 'target' is something most people don't think of, except libertarians themselves, where it serves as a form of narcissism. Self-preoccupation is of course not limited to libertarians; everyone loves talking about themselves and thinking themselves the center of the world, so this is just a particular manifestation of that human fallibility which afflicts people of all political positions.

So libertarians are far less of a target than libertarians think they are.

It's still true, though, that the intellectual engagement libertarians get is outsized compared to their political mainstream support. And the reason for that has nothing at all to do with politics, but rather with the difference in quantity vs quality.

Caplan and most of the commenters here seem to inherently buy in to the notion that political support and intellectual engagement *should* be correlated, and are confused as to why they are not in the case of libertarians. If you think about it for a moment, though, you'll realize this supposed correlation is preposterous; the size of a person's following does not make their arguments more or less valid, which is the fallacy that has got people confused here.

So I'd argue that the reason libertarians get outsized engagement compared to their support is that in the realm of ideas, debates, forums, and chat rooms, it's a world of quality of arguments. The number of people who support an idea is immaterial.

Of course, if there is a messageboard where 1 person is a libertarian and 5 are liberal, of course the libertarian will be drowned out and numbers play an effect. But we live in a much larger world, where the numbers might instead be 5 million liberals to 1 million libertarians, and then it no longer matters what the difference in political support is, because for the purposes of intellectual debate between a small number of people, each side can be treated as having infinite supporters, and so numbers don't really matter.

Libertarianism is corrosive and atomizing. It's also strangely dishonest: the State exists and corporations exist; but families, creeds and tribes do not.

I don't know about tribes, but I don't know many libertarians who deny that families exist.

I've never seen a family I really believed in.

At first glance Anti-Gnostic's remark looked like baffling gibberish.

Having now read it twice I can confirm it is nonsense.

It's the Ayn Rand obsession.

The Ayn Rand obsession exists more in the minds of the left than in any libertarian. Sure, plenty of libertarians have read her at some point in the past, but she plays a vanishingly small role in the thoughts of your typical libertarian. Liberals, on the other hand, prefer the objects of their hatred to be flesh and blood rather than abstract concepts, Ayn Rand, and, to a lesser extent Milton Friedman fill that role nicely.

When i saw Jon Oliver's "Why is Ayn Rand still a thing?" i thought to myself, why do you care if people like Ayn Rand or not?

+1. I've never read Rand (although to be fair I'm not squarely a libertarian), but any time I start reading a vaguely leftish essay that begins with a distinctly spittle-flecked aura, I can be sure her name will come up.

Yet Libertarians continue to invoke Ayn Rand. Both Tyler and Alex have multiple times on this very blog. Caplan writes in his bio that he lost his intellectual virginity to her.

If someone tells me they are a pragmatic liberal and not a Marxist but every so often mentions how much they love the writings of Karl Marx, I'm going to suspect that they are really kinda a Marxist at heart.

Invoking Rand is not the same as an Ayn Rand 'obsession' (your words). I think you and the left, generally, are projecting their own obsessions onto others.

You can read someone, be challenged by someone intellectually and even quote them without being obsessed.

Maybe obsession is the wrong word. The mere connection with Rand is the PR/branding problem. I'm more sympathetic to the libertarian position than you probably realize, and whenever a libertarian brings up Ayn Rand, I say "This is why people hate Libertarians. You respect Ayn Rand."

Most people hate Ayn Rand, so if Rand is associated with your brand, they will hate your brand.

Most people have never read Ayn Rand, myself included. I think the hate association is the other way around, liberals hate libertarians and that hatred becomes personified in Ayn Rand.

Liberals also hate how Rand illustrated the worst of New Deal Liberalism in her villains.

I think there are several contributing reasons aside from the ones listed by Bryan and Tyler. Part of it is that libertarians are fairly loud on the internet, so people think that they are more significant in the general population than they actually are. Second, libertarians tend to cause some cognitive dissonance for both the left and the right (but moreso on the left because the right can just refer to the Bible). Why support individual freedom in some areas but not others? Both the left and right need to answer that more strongly than the libertarian, whose basic answer is that there is no reason beyond the direct harm of others.

Libertarianism is a rhetorical punching bag for simple reasons, albeit a target for only a small and relatively unsophisticated section of the left. At present, self-identified progressives (not to be confused with mainstream Democrats) in the United States want to sell people a mix of subsidies that people like and taxes that people hate. Some section of that group also wants people to buy into a repulsive and entirely too self-satisfied "social justice" ideology, where everyone else is responsible for foam-rubbering the world against these so-called progressives' feelings. They actively seek to erode the distinction between norms and policies, and demonize others in the strongest terms for raising questions about where their ideals lead us. They deploy a set of recursive one-size-fits-all arguments - an argument that a policy isn't racist is evidence that the speaker is racist, multiplied by however many rounds their opponents are willing to continue.

So imagine their fevered scribblings on Tumblr where the universities where they teach or study play host to either big-L or small-L libertarians. Here, then, is another group that will grant all of the most imaginatively deviant people on earth the same rights - and won't tax them for the privilege! The left has been about big-tent coalition building for a long time, and you can sense the anxiety of these ersatz champions of the left about losing the support of people who want to have a recognized five-way marriage and barter magic mushrooms for manual labor but don't want to subsidize things that don't interest them. The fact that the left will lose these potential supporters precisely because they've allowed angry, catty, due-process-ignoring barn-burners to run the show is lost on those who are too busy bemoaning libertarianism as heartless, racist, privileged, micro-aggressive, or any of the other buzzwords.

In short, libertarianism is for people who think that they shouldn't need to bribe scolds before they can make their own arrangements. When your peer group is nothing BUT scolds, you're going to freak out about libertarianism.

The typical libertarian is pro-drug legalization, pro-gay marriage, pro-choice [though not all], pro-open borders, anti-religion. Just like liberals.

Liberals attack libertarians because they rightly deem them heretics since they also hate paying taxes and/or like guns.

That does not make them conservatives.

Libertarians function as an ideal "controlled opposition" from the point of view of the left. Libertarians for the most part do not oppose the multiculturalist agenda of the left and support economic policies that are very unpopular with White working class Americans.

What is the Libertarian solution to the free-rider problem in the anti-vax crowd? I can't seem to find it.

"caedite eos, novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" i think...

What is the libertarian solution to the inevitability of death?

What is anyone's solution to that?

In an American context, I wonder how much this has to do with collective memories of the Johnson campaign's attack ads on Barry Goldwater.

I'll put this in assertion mode:

There are three types of libertarians -- intellectual libertarians, crypto-conservative libertarians, and hedonic libertarians.

Of the three, crypto-conservative libertarians -- those conservatives who believe the state shouldn't interfere because religion and patriarchy would dominate as the default option -- are the most numerous. This contains people like Ron & Rand Paul. They are a "target" because they are disingenuous. They want a right wing state, but see libertarianism as a cover. The typical person in this group is a Republican voter from Texas.

Intellectual libertarians become a "target" because they don't call out the Ron & Rand Pauls and because they sometimes say weird things. Robin Hanson is the prototype of this group and represents its typical voter. And may possibly be its only member.

Finally, we have the hedonic libertarians (the punk rock kids with Ron Paul stickers and the crypto-anarchists). They are concerned with legalizing marijuana and scaling back police power. (There was a good story somewhere on the internet about how in Colorado, once they legalized marijuana, the activist base pretty much evaporated in a puff of smoke.) The typical voter is a white male from Colorado or the West Coast. Cory Doctorow at least sympathizes with this group -- they form a lot of his readership. They are a target because they have a tendency to say things like "its not race, its class" and "women aren't paid as much as men because they take less dangerous jobs".

Anyway, this is for entertainment purposes only; take caution when reading or risk serious injury or death.

You fail to explain why the "crypto-conservatives" Ron and Rand Paul would advocate the policies that the Hedonic Libertarians support. Or why the hedonic libertarians would be wearing Ron Paul stickers.

Basically, I agree that crypto-conservative libertarians exist, but I don't think Ron and Rand Paul are actually part of this group. They have some social-conservative beliefs, but their stances on war, criminal justice, and drugs separate them distinctly from the crypto-conservatives.

Glenn Beck and Cliven Bundy are probably better examples of crypto-cons.

My evidence is circumstantial, but it is probably not a coincidence how frequently the Ron and Rand Paul come down on the Republican side of issues from abortion to the enforcement of civil rights. Additionally, Rand Paul is currently becoming more hawkish in his 2016 primary campaign in an effort to win over the conservatives.

But I'd agree about Beck and Bundy!

You're vastly underestimating the importance of link-bait for libertarians who like to read about themselves (see: Salon).

This seems plausible.

Libertarians are more camp. Conservatives are seen as faintly dull fans of Jesus, soldiers and Mom and Pop, whereas libertarians are self-aware gadflies whose most significant figure was a Russian émigré sociopath.

Ultimately the issue boils down to one thing:

Libertarians, like Marxists, do not recognize trade-offs and cannot engage in compromises. Which is an inherently anti-economical and anti-human nature way of approaching the world.

So they make themselves easy targets for virtually anyone, because their views and positions are...easy targets.

I recall a couple of years ago I attended a "talk" by some big-shot libertarians from Mises.org (I forgot his name, the guy who always wears a bow tie). Anyway, an hour long speech which was appallingly insulting to anyone who held even the slightest differing view.

After the "talk", I walked up to him to ask just some basic questions about public goods, transaction and coordination costs etc...things which he clearly didn't think about in his prescriptions for utopia on earth. His response? Ahh! Those are just things statists invented to justify their state, but which aren't real!

I.e, dismiss reality and substitute your imagination for it. Of course, the audience of several dozen teenagers loved the "talk". Me, I was left with my mouth hanging open.

Of course, I realize this is the "strong-form" libertarianism. I.e., its in essence utopian anarchism. But once one starts coming down to earth and take more "reasonable" positions but still calls oneself libertarian, than one runs into 2 problems:

1) Once one comes down to earth, one recognizes that the "libertarian" ideas are no longer unique or exclusive. In fact, they are widespread, since this country was founded on virtually identical ideas. But the way in which they are applied in the real world, requires the recognition of trade-offs, of compromises etc. And then one simply finds oneself in an indistinguishable position from one of the two major parties.

2) Once one comes down to earth, the wrath of the pure and true libertarians up in Heaven will rain down upon you, and you will be labeled a statist. Which only goes to show, that there is no such thing as "libertarianism"; rather there is a universe of self-proclaimed groups attacking each other for the smallest infractions against the anarcho-capitalist dogma.

Please name any political philosophy that meets your criteria.
You name problems with all of humanity and act like these are more salient to libertarianism.

Virtually all that aren't utopian in nature.

Dismissing reality and sticking to imagined utopias is a characteristic of only a handful of ideologies: libertarianism, Marxism, and maybe a few others.

Hang on, have we even established in the first place that libertarianism is "targeted" disproportionately? Surveys of the general public can't tell us whether that's true because the absolute majority of the general public has no detailed knowledge of politics and only very vague and half-formed political commitments (as Tyler notes talking about "the common sense morality of the center".) We ought to be looking at college graduates, or people with post-graduate degrees, or people who work in academia, or people who've published academic books about politics... and I suspect the number of libertarians would continue to go up.

5. Libertarian arguments, though mistaken, are consistently clever enough to get under the critics’ skin. The purpose of the criticism is not shielding the world from bad ideas but giving the critics some intellectual catharsis.

6. Libertarian arguments are good enough to weigh on the critics’ intellectual consciences. They attack libertarians to convince themselves that we’re wrong. And they keep attacking us because they keep failing to fully convince themselves.

These two points tell us more about Caplan than about critics of libertarianism.

Take #5. He is unwilling to say that the alleged cleverness of the arguments provokes thought. Can't give the critics that much credit. No. The criticism must not be regarded as a legitimate response. It is, per Caplan, "intellectual catharsis," whatever that means.

Now #6. Again, Caplan is unwilling to accept that the critics arguments are put forward as legitimate arguments. No. They are all some sort of trick whereby the critics are tying themselves to the mast to prevent themselves from being seduced by libertarianism.

This is just blind ideological faith on Caplan's part. It couldn't be, could it, that at least some criticsms are just intended to criticize, and don't have these deep infernal psychological motivations?

Ahh! I missed that this was a blog post by Brian Caplan. Yes, I think you're right. Caplan generally takes the position of many libertarians: they are always right, and everyone else is always wrong. If reality doesn't pan out as they predict it should...it's because everyone else is wrong.

And this is once more a demonstration of the hubris of libertarians, as it is for most (or all) utopian exercises in childishness.

Instead of starting off from the proposition that the world is at is for...generally...good reasons...they start off from where the world ought to be in utopia, and work backward by explaining why the world isn't utopia due to malevolence of one particular group or another (i.e., similar approach to Marxism).

So when a libertarian starts off (as in the case of the strong-form libertarianism), that we don't need states or governments or police or courts...because we CAN do things without them...then the obvious follow up question becomes: so why don't see that in human history? Their response? Well, for a few weeks in 16th century Iceland, they had a private police force, so that demonstrates that it CAN be done. But it isn't done, because...statism that's why!

Why aren't all things privately owned? Because...economists invented this "public good" myth which they malevolently use to prevent private ownership of everything. Never-mind observed reality.

I.e., they take, generally as most utopian ideologies...the opposite of a scientific approach to analyzing the world.

Caplan, unfortunately, is one of the best examples of this, because he is obviously clever and smart enough to get some data on his side. But it is unsurprising that the positions and conclusions are always: everyone else in the world is wrong.

For the love of Satan,
Please name the political philosophy that doesn't think it is right.
This is getting pretty stupid.

Virtually all political ideologies that are...practicable...and have been practiced and sustained over the long run...recognize that they only operate in a limited set of circumstances, and a limited set of objectives. They also all recognize that there are huge overlaps between the positions of themselves and others.

They also actively seek input from the external environment to readjust and change their positions, to recognize trade-offs, and to make compromises.

In fact, that is the main reason why they are practicable political ideologies: they create "big tents" of sufficiently large segments of the population in order to have a ruling position.

Libertarianism on the other hand, like Marxism, is about the creation of utopian societies, which requires the creation of a new "human being", and hence has few if any limiting factors as to its scope.

Other political ideologies operate within the constraints of human nature. Libertarianism, like Marxism, doesn't operate within such constraints.

Libertarianism is the conservative version of Marxism. It often has a useful critique of mainstream policies, but I don't think many people would enjoy living in a pure implementation of the ideal. It's much better as a spice than as the main course.

Actually, it is the liberal version of Marxism. Maoism is the conservative version.

Three reasons come to mind:

1: (folk) libertarianism is on the rise. The public has become very skeptical of the elites and government. While the left may cheer the public opinion shifts towards gays and marijuana, the public has turned sharply individualistic on guns, welfare, health care, and the competence of government.

2: Libertarians are very clever, very smug people. This makes it very satisfying to take them down.

3: (Probably the strongest) The underlying value of leftism is empathy. Allocation of resources, regulation of speech, attitudes towards groups, are all to be decided based on feelings and empathy, with little regard for logical consistency.

Anyone who has attempted to use the words "by your logic" when arguing with a leftist has quickly noted that they don't have much logic.

Libertarians prize individual logic above all.

Anyone who has attempted to get a libertarian to empathize with someone negatively impacted by the consequences of a strict application libertarian principle has quickly noted that libertarians are quite short on empathy.

That itself is a creation of the government. Lets be clear, if I was capable of starting a "junta". "Glibers" would be on of the first against the wall. Because they take "freedom" as a intellectual fantasy. "Individualism" of the weak and crass "Individualism" has no basis in nature. It is who rules and sets the rules that rule. Americans aren't anymore "individual", just more crass and anti-social. If falls right into the hands of the monied elite who want more wealth for less.

"Guns" are part of the fantasy. "liberals" believe in gun control because they think it protects the bourgeois state from exactly what many glibers believe guns should be a open ended ownership issue. The government itself has created the "illusion" of freedom by collectivism for the weak. They allow property, material hoarding, rights within the law(if you want to have orgies with children or spray the plague in the air, you lose those rights). Your "folk" individualism is pure bullshit. That already goes on and can go on. The time will come when the government will fall and new empires will develop. You will cry and cry to the government to save you, but it simply won't be. That is a gliber.

Not bad, but "needs" more quotation "marks" around "things". Also, throwing in a "WAKE UP AMERICA" (in quotes or not, your choice) helps signal what your post is about.

Several issues here, however:

1) The turn "against" welfare, gov health care and gov in general is certainly not a unique or exclusive feature of libertarianism. In fact, it is far from it. So as I said earlier, "libertarianism" by the nature of its adherents can mean anything to anyone, and hold any and all positions on any issue. Hence, whenever a commonality is encountered, libertarians claim that...THEIR...position has won out. When in fact, it's the other guys position that won out. Libertarians just happened to also agree with it.

2) If the definition of libertarianism is simply "socially liberal and fiscally conservative"...then that pretty much describes about 80% of the American public. Clearly, that is the definition libertarians like to have, but that isn't libertarianism.

3) If you think libertarians are "clever" people, spend a couple of hours reading the posts on Mises.org. Clever will never enter your thoughts. Clever is someone who recognizes the holes in his argument, and works around them. Libertarians assume no holes.

4) Logic in libertarianism is as hard to come by as it is in Marxism. It's the illusion of simplicity. One-two sentence axioms to describe the entirety of human existence. Sounds logical, and appealing, It is, in fact, the opposite.

Of course, all this applies to the strong-form libertarianism. I.e., the Ron Paul, Mises.org, CATO Institute types. It does not apply to more...mainstream...self-labeled libertarians like Richard Epstein, for example. Once you fall from Heaven and back down to earth, and recognize the complexity of human relations, then it becomes almost inevitable that one ends up in the same position as either Republicans or Democrats...despite calling oneself a "libertarian", by which they mean "socially liberal and fiscally conservative". That description, describes at least 50% of adherents of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Hence, it is no longer "libertarianism", but simply "centrism".

Libertarians are fine, they just don't know anything about foreign policy. You can't buy off all the thugs in the world.

All the thugs will stop fighting each other once the US stops meddling in their affairs, because they will recognize that there's nothing to gain from war.

In fact, I have it on good account, that there never was a war or conflict in human history prior to 1776.

But apparently you can fight them all off. That is why all opponents of the US never come back to haunt us.

Libertarians receive no more criticism than religious conservatives or bleeding heart liberals and they suffer from some of the same sloppiness in thinking.

The "center" actually is a more intellectually defensible position because it does not begin with a-priori assumptions like: police are always good or evil or we must chose between putting faith in the free market or regulators and that in the end people's values, not science, are what determine the correct trade-offs.

I am of a libertarian opinion and disposition. And yet, after some thought, I don't see libertarianism as being any kind of a sensible scheme for governance.

Actually, I think that whenever a progressive writer or website needs to up the clicks (Salon, Slate, Mother Jones), an anti-libertarian or anti-Ayn Rand screed is posted. It drives traffic (for the ads, ironically) and it acts to reassure their regular audience that they're superior to everyone else.

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