90 Varieties of Libertarian: Which One Are You?

 

Extreme state libertarianismDid you ever notice…

  • that it’s possible to prefer libertarianism for federal policy, and be a Marxist for your state?
  • that many on the Left do it the other way around? (I.e., the more they think nothing at all should come between little Julia and her father/husband/God/the federal government, the more they support Libertarianism for the state governments!)

Outlined below are four distinctions between various types of libertarianism, making for a total of 90 available libertarian positions.

What kind of libertarian are you? Mix and match from the different categories to find the name, and please object to these names and definitions and distinctions. Also, quibble over words since a good definition is a good thing; getting the definitions right is a good activity.

(I myself am a conservative, but I also am a Federal Constitutional Weak Economic and Social Libertarian. And maybe, just maybe, I could go for a Federal Ideal Weak Economic and Social Libertarianism–but weaker.)

Strong vs. Weak Libertarianisms

Strong Libertarianism: Everyone should have the legal right to do whatever he wants, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else’s rights.

Weak Libertarianism: Generally, everyone should have the legal right to do whatever he wants, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else’s rights. But it is okay for government to carve out a very few limitations on freedom, if it leads to some greater good.

Economic vs. Social Libertarianisms

Economic Libertarianism: Everyone should have the legal right to do whatever he wants with his own money, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else’s rights.

Social Libertarianism: Everyone should have the legal right to do whatever he wants with his own family and body and relationships, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else’s rights.

State vs. Federal Libertarianisms

Federal Libertarianism: The proper way to structure the federal government is along the lines of libertarianism.

Own-State Libertarianism: The proper way to structure the government of my state is along the lines of libertarianism.

All-State Libertarianism: The proper way to structure the government of every state is along the lines of libertarianism.

What Is Allowed by Law vs. What Is Best

Constitutional Libertarianism: The Constitution (state or federal) requires libertarianism.

Ideal Libertarianism: Libertarianism is the best way.

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  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Augustine: (I think I am a Federal Constitutional Weak Economic and Social Libertarian, and possibly a Federal Ideal Weak Economic and Social Libertarian–but weaker.)

    “SPLINTER!”

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Why am I a Federal Constitutional Libertarian?  Because I’m an originalist, and original Constitutional meaning doesn’t leave much room for the federal government to do much.

    • #2
  3. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Augustine: (I think I am a Federal Constitutional Weak Economic and Social Libertarian, and possibly a Federal Ideal Weak Economic and Social Libertarian–but weaker.)

    “SPLINTER!”

    Sorry. Is this a reference to a movie I haven’t seen, or an inside joke for more experience Ricochetti?  Or am I, perhaps, simply an ignorant moron?

    • #3
  4. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    I am the only True Scot Libertarian.  I have the liberty to do, say, expect and receive whatever I want, regardless of its effect, infringement, impact, or influence on others.

    No True Scot Libertarian would disagree.

    • #4
  5. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Augustine:

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Augustine: (I think I am a Federal Constitutional Weak Economic and Social Libertarian, and possibly a Federal Ideal Weak Economic and Social Libertarian–but weaker.)

    “SPLINTER!”

    Sorry. Is this a reference to a movie I haven’t seen, or an inside joke for more experience Ricochetti? Or am I, perhaps, simply an ignorant moron?

    Perhaps.  It is from a movie.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE brief clip.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Augustine:

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Augustine: (I think I am a Federal Constitutional Weak Economic and Social Libertarian, and possibly a Federal Ideal Weak Economic and Social Libertarian–but weaker.)

    “SPLINTER!”

    Sorry. Is this a reference to a movie I haven’t seen, or an inside joke for more experience Ricochetti? Or am I, perhaps, simply an ignorant moron?

    Perhaps. It is from a movie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE brief clip.

    I can’t access YouTube.  Thanks anyway.

    • #6
  7. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    This is not mine, and I take no credit for it, but is relevant:

    I was walking home one evening and came upon a clearly depressed man standing at the edge of a bridge, looking like he was about to jump. I called out to him to wait, and ran over to see what was the matter.

    “It’s this country,” he lamented. “It’s falling into ruin and there’s nothing I can do about it. The election was the last straw. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

    “Well cheer up,” I said. “We’re all in this together. Say, are you a conservative, or a libertarian?”

    “A libertarian,” he said.

    “That’s great!” I said. “See, you’re not alone. Are you a free-market libertarian or a libertarian socialist?”

    “Free-market libertarian,” he said.

    “Me too!” I said. “Paleo-libertarian or neo-libertarian?”“Paleo-libertarian,” he said.

    “Hey, so am I!” I said. “Chicago or Austrian school of economics?”

    “Austrian,” he said.

    “Me too,” I said. “Hayek or Rothbardian strand?”

    “Rothbardian,” he said.

    “Same here,” I said. “Are you a consequentialist or deontological libertarian?”

    “Consequentialist,” he said.

    So I said, “Die, statist scum!” and pushed him off the bridge.

    • #7
  8. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    For the record, I am deontological, Rothbardian, Austrian Economics follower, Paleo, Free market libertarian.  Depending on if you catch me before or after coffee / wine, can me either minarchist or voluntarist anarchist.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Barkha Herman:

    For the record, I am deontological, Rothbardian, Austrian Economics follower, Paleo, Free market libertarian. Depending on if you catch me before or after coffee / wine, can me either minarchist or voluntarist anarchist.

    Very good!  These distinctions are probably at least as useful as some of my distinctions, and more authoritative.

    I cheerfully confess: I don’t know all of those words.  (And I may have an imperfect understanding of some I do know.)

    (If you feel like defining all of those terms and make all those distinctions in comments, it might be good for me and others who don’t know it all either.

    Or maybe in a new thread.  In fact, can we set up Knowledge Base threads outlining that sort of thing: overview of varieties of libertarianism, overview of major political philosophers, overview of some other topics that regularly come up around here?)

    • #9
  10. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    vol·un·ta·rism

    ˈvälən(t)əˌrizəm/

    noun

    1. 1.

      the principle of relying on voluntary action (used especially with reference to the involvement of voluntary organizations in social welfare).

    2. 2.

      PHILOSOPHY

      the doctrine that the will is a fundamental or dominant factor in the individual or the universe.

    • #10
  11. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman
    1. Minarchism (also known as minimal statism) is a political philosophy and a form of libertarianism. It is variously defined by sources.
    2. Deontology (or Deontological Ethics) is an approach to Ethics that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions (Consequentialism) or to the character and habits of the actor (Virtue Ethics).
    3. Paleolibertarianism is a form of libertarianism that was developed by Murray Rothbard and Llewellyn Rockwell that combines cultural conservatism in social thought and behavior with a radical libertarian opposition to government intervention
    • #11
  12. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Oh, good. I’d wondered if deontology might be used with some different sense in this context.  But that’s how we use it in philosophy.

    Thanks!

    • #12
  13. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Augustine: (I think I am a Federal Constitutional Weak Economic and Social Libertarian, and possibly a Federal Ideal Weak Economic and Social Libertarian–but weaker.)

    “SPLINTER!”

    I think you mean “SPLITTER!”

    • #13
  14. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    To “get” the difference between Hayek and Rothbard, one just has to read both…

    • #14
  15. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    Barkha Herman:For the record, I am deontological, Rothbardian, Austrian Economics follower, Paleo, Free market libertarian. Depending on if you catch me before or after coffee / wine, can me either minarchist or voluntarist anarchist.

    But then again Rothbard was once told that he was not Rothbardian enough.

    • #15
  16. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    So which version of Libertarianism were they practicing in the Shire before Saruman’s minions took over?

    (Or was that conservatism they were practicing?)

    • #16
  17. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    I think (and I may be completely wrong) that the term libertarian only came in vogue after the term liberalism got hijacked by the statists.

    Hume was not creating any “isms” when he wrote on human nature and free will.

    The difference between libertarians and conservative at it’s heart lies in the use of government to implement morality, not the morality itself.  IOW, your distinction of strong and weak libertarian.

    Of course the Party of Lincoln is more Whig and Hamiltonian than Jeffersonian / federalist.

    Labels just confuse things…..  unless examined.

    • #17
  18. user_966256 Member
    user_966256
    @BobThompson

    Here’s a question for this discussion that has hobbled my strong libertarian leaning.

    With everyone doing as it suits them, when some create conditions for themselves that require the help of others to survive, how is this to be handled?

    • #18
  19. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    National Libertarian.

    Believe in strong borders and immigration control.

    Minimal government, at the closest possible level, for those here already.

    • #19
  20. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    Bob Thompson:Here’s a question for this discussion that has hobbled my strong libertarian leaning.

    With everyone doing as it suits them, when some create conditions for themselves that require the help of others to survive, how is this to be handled?

    Can co-operation only happen through Government?

    Create a contest for the solution – let people compete for the prize.  If it worked for transatlantic flight, why could it not work for your problem du jour?  Incidentally X-Prize uses this and has kick started many an industry including private space exploration.

    The point is that there is no pre-subscribed solution.  For each person you ask, there may be a new way to deal with this.  Look at spontaneous organizations such as Uber, KickStarter etc.  Given no restrictions, people will come up with solutions.

    • #20
  21. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Barkha Herman:For the record, I am deontological, Rothbardian, Austrian Economics follower, Paleo, Free market libertarian. Depending on if you catch me before or after coffee / wine, can me either minarchist or voluntarist anarchist.

    Austrian Economics is false! :)

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Barkha Herman:The difference between libertarians and conservative at it’s heart lies in the use of government to implement morality, not the morality itself. IOW, your distinction of strong and weak libertarian.

    If that’s the case, then either conservatism should be identified with weak libertarianism, or the term weak libertarianism should be dropped and replaced with conservatarian or something.

    Labels just confuse things….. unless examined.

    Nice.

    • #22
  23. user_966256 Member
    user_966256
    @BobThompson

    Barkha Herman:

    Bob Thompson:Here’s a question for this discussion that has hobbled my strong libertarian leaning.

    With everyone doing as it suits them, when some create conditions for themselves that require the help of others to survive, how is this to be handled?

    Can co-operation only happen through Government?

    Create a contest for the solution – let people compete for the prize. If it worked for transatlantic flight, why could it not work for your problem du jour? Incidentally X-Prize uses this and has kick started many an industry including private space exploration.

    The point is that there is no pre-subscribed solution. For each person you ask, there may be a new way to deal with this. Look at spontaneous organizations such as Uber, KickStarter etc. Given no restrictions, people will come up with solutions.

    Most (maybe not quite all) solutions to meet needs, as you describe, succeed on the principle of exchange. This principle is very harsh for parties who have nothing to offer in exchange.

    • #23
  24. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    This is as good a place as any to ask: Assuming originalism, and assuming that the federal government can’t ban alcohol without an amendment, how exactly are federal marijuana restrictions legal?

    I don’t really have a problem with that sort of law; but I suspect it of being unConstitutional.  (State marijuana laws restrictions and federal restrictions on interstate marijuana commerce are another matter, of course.)

    —–

    And on that note, I must announce that it is nearing bedtime in my time zone.  I’m sure I’ll check back in in the morning, but not before then.  Thanks for all the comments, and have fun while I’m gone!

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Ok, one quick note.  The liberal instinct to trust in government to ensure social cooperation is not particularly useful.

    Only God knows how to make a pencil.  Yet pencils are made.  An example of near-miraculous social (and international) cooperation.

    • #25
  26. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Augustine:This is as good a place as any to ask: Assuming originalism, and assuming that the federal government can’t ban alcohol without an amendment, how exactly are federal marijuana restrictions legal?

    Wickard v Filburn.

    • #26
  27. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Barkha Herman:….The difference between libertarians and conservative at it’s heart lies in the use of government to implement morality, not the morality itself. …

    I’d say the difference is in how we assess harm.

    • #27
  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Augustine: Economic Libertarianism: Everyone should have the legal right to do whatever he wants with his own money, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else’s rights.

    This label is somewhat confusing to me because there are a lot of economics geeks who are libertarian, and whose interest in economic goods extends far beyond money, seeing money as merely a convenient cost-signaling device and medium of exchange.

    Ronald Coase, though he didn’t call himself a libertarian, is known by everyone other than himself as a “libertarian economist” because of his pioneering work in property rights and… nuisance law. He co-founded the Journal of Law & Economics – turns out there’s a lot of economic analysis of the law worth exploring!

    I’ve sometimes called myself a Coasian, in honor of Coase, though I suspect I’m somewhere between Coase and David Friedman (another economist) on the libertarian spectrum. I’m one of like three people on this site who’ll put in a good word for anarcho-capitalism. Not because I have enough hope of it working in the real world to agitate for it, but because I’ve discovered that anarcho-capitalists (at least the ones who are also economists) have some interesting insights into why existing law functions as it does.

    Ronald Coase won a Nobel prize for work in economics that requires no mathematics beyond simple arithmetic. For insight into how great economic thinking works without all the pesky calculus, I highly recommend this short volume of his papers.

    • #28
  29. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:

    Augustine:This is as good a place as any to ask: Assuming originalism, and assuming that the federal government can’t ban alcohol without an amendment, how exactly are federal marijuana restrictions legal?

    Wickard v Filburn.

    Again, assuming originalism, . . . how exactly is it legal?  Surely Wickard v Filburn, borrowing words from National Review, “stretched the commerce clause, and as a consequence the powers of the federal government, far beyond what the framers had intended.”

    • #29
  30. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Augustine: Economic Libertarianism: Everyone should have the legal right to do whatever he wants with his own money, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else’s rights.

    This label is somewhat confusing to me because there are a lot of economics geeks who are libertarian, and whose interest in economic goods extends far beyond money, seeing money as merely a convenient cost-signaling device and medium of exchange.

    So would you recommend a new name for that definition, a new definition to go with that name, or not even using the same distinction between economic and social libertarianism?

    For a new definition to go with the name Economic Libertarianism, how about this?  Everyone should have the legal right to do whatever he wants with his own financial resources, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else’s rights.

    • #30

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