Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Libertarian Tent-Shrinkers

 

One of the reasons that American libertarians as a political movement never amount to anything is that they can be incredibly intolerant people. This may seem counterintuitive, but while a great many fiscal and social conservatives are willing to seek compromise in common purpose, libertarians are forever in search of hills to die on for their noble and incorruptible principles, particularly when it comes to locally grown produce or which is the best Von Mises book (Human Action you say? Poseur!). Libertarians form factions within factions, cliques within cliques, and the more libertine they are, the more oppressively dull.

Consider the response of some of the more urban libertarians to the Tea Party, which obviously contains many libertarian minded individuals. But survey data also indicates that much of the Tea Party is opposed to abortion and generally traditionalist in perspective on marriage – they are and were disaffected small-government conservatives, not just fiscal ones. Upon discovering this, some big city libertarians became strongly anti-Tea Party, including certain ones, like David Boaz of the Cato Institute, who took to lambasting Sarah Palin and other Tea Party figures as dull-witted country mice. Where’s the evangelism, folks? If churches took such attitudes toward theological questions, no religious body would exist beyond one or two people.

See this rant from Boaz for a measure of the fault lines between the vast majority of the right and the tiny minority of true libertarians. Boaz argues that conservatives are awful because they have a bad record on personal freedom. Allow me a bit of devil’s advocate: “Conservatives, like National Review, supported state-imposed racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.” Does Boaz support the Civil Rights Act, which included government mandates over the behavior of private businesses regarding segregation? Forget whether that’s right or wrong: how exactly is that libertarian? “Conservatives opposed legal and social equality for women.” Does Boaz support the Equal Rights Amendment? Why not? Was Barry Goldwater wrong to oppose it? “Conservatives supported laws banning homosexual acts among consenting adults… Conservatives still oppose equal marriage rights for gay couples.” Is Boaz not a federalist? Does he disagree with Justice Thomas’s opinion on the matter that this is not an item for the federal purview? Does he believe in a living constitution? “Conservatives (and plenty of liberals) support the policy of drug prohibition, which results in nearly a million arrests a year for marijuana use.” Sure, but what about crack and heroin? And any libertarian who supports drug legalization prior to the end of the welfare state is not really thinking this through. Prior to that happening, isn’t legalization (as opposed to lighter sentencing) just an act of redistribution and subsidization? “Conservatives support state-imposed prayers and other endorsements of religion in public schools.” I’m not sure about that; I can’t recall the last “state-imposed” prayer law. They do support, however, I must admit, that short ecumenical (but Christian) prayer that is offered in the halls of the U.S. Capitol prior to every day of Congressional action. For Boaz, this is evidently a bridge too far toward the impurities of socialism. Get out of the tent, you blasted liberty haters! There is only room enough here for the truly pure of heart. The ideal libertarian political party, you see, is a party of one.

There are 62 comments.

  1. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Guruforhire: Yes, all of that is true, and they are still less insane than the Republican Party.

    But they cannot have a President except through the Republican Party.

    • #1
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:03 AM PDT
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  2. Robert Lux Inactive

    “The ideal libertarian political party, you see, is a party of one.”

    Exactly!!

    Elitist libertarianism is simply the projection of nihilist individuality: Thoughts about Cleavage.

    • #2
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:06 AM PDT
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  3. Skyler Coolidge

    I think you’re wrong. Libertarianism has grown quite a bit. The party is a mess, but the ideology has been very influential, especially with the Tea Party.

    You can say the same of “conservatives,” whatever you might want that to mean. Conservatives will insist that we have school prayers. They will not allow any talk of defense budget cuts. They go absolutely nuts if you talk about immigration. They will not tolerate legalization of drugs.

    The republican party is made up of non-conservatives and the party itself is not conservative. It is an amalgamation of fundamentalist christians, libertarians, and whatever else. There are also plenty of libertarians who are in that group and vote consistently with them.

    Your insult of libertarians is misplaced and indicates that you don’t like them. I’m not sure why you have this hostility.

    • #3
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:23 AM PDT
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  4. Guruforhire Member
    Aaron Miller
    Guruforhire: Yes, all of that is true, and they are still less insane than the Republican Party.

    But they cannot have a President except throughthe Republican Party. · 12 minutes ago

    When has that ever been true?

    • #4
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:24 AM PDT
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  5. Mr. Bildo Inactive

    Speaking of shrinking tents, based on the main feed this afternoon, one might get the impression there is no room left at Ricochet for those lousy libertarians and their ilk.

    • #5
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:31 AM PDT
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  6. Ecdysis Inactive

    The straw man is dead.

    Boaz never said he supported the Civil Rights Act, he does not support state imposed racial segregation. Also, in re: to banning sexual acts, your federalism argument is totally irrelevant, he never said it wasn’t a state issue, he is saying it was intolerant at the state level. The argument that you make about drug prohibition is a good one, but it assumes that if we legalize heroin and crack that the welfare logs with increase. There are reasonable minds that disagree with that premise. I do think Boaz’s comment about state imposed religion is a straw man that he built, I am unaware of any such laws myself. 

    Boaz correctly points out areas where conservatives are more willing to use the power of the state of shape social structure. Pointing out that objective truth is not being intolerant, and I am sure you have reasons why you think some state action to shape social structure is justified. But to say that pointing out disagreements and policy differences is being intolerant is just plain wrong. Libertarians just hate being at the nodding conventions that are the democrat and republican parties. 

    • #6
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:34 AM PDT
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  7. BrentB67 Inactive
    Mr. Bildo: Speaking of shrinking tents, based on the main feed this afternoon, one might get the impression there is no room left at Ricochet for those lousy libertarians and their ilk. · 4 minutes ago

    Between Bob Dylan presidential freedom medals and bikini self esteem I think the main feed is becoming less relevant. The action is in the Member Feed.

    • #7
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:36 AM PDT
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  8. Robert Lux Inactive
    Mr. Bildo: Speaking of shrinking tents, based on the main feed this afternoon, one might get the impression there is no room left at Ricochet for those lousy libertarians and their ilk. · 4 minutes ago

    No, I think — along with most other conservatives — libertarians should just stick to what they know best: strictly economic policies, particularly monetary policy. On moral-political matters they are generally off the map.

    • #8
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:39 AM PDT
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  9. Todd Inactive

    The best thing that has happened to the Republican party in the last 2 years has been the rise of libertarianism in the conservative movement. 

    Reagan built a coalition that included libertarianism and libertarians (he famously said “the heart of conservatism is libertarianism”), but by 2008, the Haster/Delay/W. Bush Republicans had banished them from the movement, and conservatism had turned into a two-legged stool which could no longer stand.

    And are you serious? You are mocking Von Mises?

    Paul Ryan gave every member of 2010 Freshman class a copy of Economics in One Lesson, which is basically layman’s version of Von Mises. How dare he!

    • #9
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:47 AM PDT
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  10. Barkha Herman Member

    If you are looking for people walking in lock step with each other, then cults are the most likely place. For all other groups of people, diversity is the name of the game. Add that to a philosophy that exalts the individual over everything else, and you get libertarians – they are not so much a set of people but a set of sets of individuals….

    To a certain extent, the idea of libertarianism appeals to those who reject those other sets.. so yes, they do appear to be intolerant, disjointed sets rather than a cohesive one.

    The other groups come together over a cause and libertarians tend to have rejection of other causes as the only common theme. Yes, politically, they are not powerful. It’s not important that libertarians unite or follow a cult leader. What is important is that, in every politicians life come moments of libertarian thoughts – especially when signing bills.

    It makes perfect sense to me that the “tent” is really millions of one man tents. So long as we all respect individual liberty and don’t trample on anyone else’s rights, I don’t want to be in any tent with other smelly people…

    • #10
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:50 AM PDT
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  11. Todd Inactive
     Add that to a philosophy that exalts the individual over everything else, and you get libertarians – they are not so much a set of people but a set of sets of individuals….

    The idea of extreme individualism is one small strain of libertarianism – the one advocated by Ayn rand. 

    “Power not liberty or reason, was the central thrust of the Randian movement.” — Murray Rothbard

    Libertarianism is primarily concerned with the idea of state coercion. The idea that it is about extreme individualism is usually a slander we hear from the left.

    • #11
    • June 16, 2012, at 1:57 AM PDT
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  12. Barkha Herman Member

    Exactly.

    Todd
     Add that to a philosophy that exalts the individual over everything else, and you get libertarians – they are not so much a set of people but a set of sets of individuals….

    The idea of extreme individualism is one small strain of libertarianism – the one advocated by Ayn rand. 

    “Power not liberty or reason, was the central thrust of the Randian movement.” — Murray Rothbard

    Libertarianism is primarily concerned with the idea of state coercion. The idea that it is about extreme individualism is usually a slander we hear from the left. · 7 minutes ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    The only thing I will add is that it’s not so much about “state” coercion but coercion by any group. Liberty for each individual. Different degrees – but at the heart is individual liberty.

    • #12
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:15 AM PDT
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  13. Aodhan Inactive

    It’s prejudical screeds like this that make me disidentify with conservatism proper.

    Keep up the good work, Mr. Ecumenical!

    • #13
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:16 AM PDT
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  14. Bereket Kelile Member
    Bereket Kelile Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Great post. This is why I’ve always been skeptical of the conventional wisdom that said the GOP should be nice to Paul in order to keep his supporters. They’re not interested in the GOP. Also, as interesting aside, half of Paul’s supporters approve of Obama’s job. What’s funny is that the same cult of personality around Obama was reflected in Paul’s cult. Libertarians often seem to be the most predictable and lockstep. I think it’s best to think of them as a herd of independent thinkers.

    • #14
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:28 AM PDT
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  15. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Guruforhire
    Aaron Miller
    Guruforhire: Yes, all of that is true, and they are still less insane than the Republican Party.

    But they cannot have a President except throughthe Republican Party.

    When has that ever been true?

    We have always had a two-party system. If Libertarians want a President, they’ll have to usurp Republicans’ position as the party of the Right.

    But Congressional seats are always up for grabs.

    • #15
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:40 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Guruforhire Member
    Aaron Miller
    Guruforhire
    Aaron Miller
    Guruforhire: Yes, all of that is true, and they are still less insane than the Republican Party.

    But they cannot have a President except throughthe Republican Party.

    When has that ever been true?

    We have always had a two-party system. If Libertarians want a President, they’ll have to usurp Republicans’ position astheparty of the Right.

    But Congressional seats are always up for grabs. · 2 minutes ago

    Not entirely true. We have recent history in canada, and the demise of the whig party in america as examples. The republican party WAS a third party.

    • #16
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:47 AM PDT
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  17. Barkha Herman Member
    bereket kelile: Great post. This is why I’ve always been skeptical of the conventional wisdom that said the GOP should be nice to Paul in order to keep his supporters. 

    I have to admit – I am skeptical of any group that has the conventional wisdom that they should be “nice” to someone to keep their followers. I would like to learn more about this. Where is this conventional wisdom acquired / documented / preached?

    • #17
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:48 AM PDT
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  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Mr. Bildo: Speaking of shrinking tents, based on the main feed this afternoon, one might get the impression there is no room left at Ricochet for those lousy libertarians and their ilk. 

    So… libertarians want to shrink the tent and non-libertarian conservatives want to kick libertarians out of the tent?

    This is what the good Lord invented alcohol for. Have a beer. Now you’re in a beer tent. Isn’t that better?

    • #18
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:49 AM PDT
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  19. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What I love about libertarians is how they like to pretend social conservatives are welcome in the Republican Party while libertarians are not.

    It’s not Libertarians versus All Other Conservatives. Libertarians are just one of several variations of conservatism.

    None of us thinks the Republican Party as it is represents us very well. Don’t leave it. Change it.

    • #19
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:49 AM PDT
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  20. Robert Lux Inactive
    Todd
     Add that to a philosophy that exalts the individual over everything else, and you get libertarians – they are not so much a set of people but a set of sets of individuals….

    The idea of extreme individualism is one small strain of libertarianism – the one advocated by Ayn rand. 

    “Power not liberty or reason, was the central thrust of the Randian movement.” — Murray Rothbard

    Nonsense. Whatever the differences between the two, Rothbard’s extreme individualism was why, as Charles Kesler pointed out, William F. Buckley

    deplored those, such as the ultra-libertarian Murray Rothbard, who were “so much the captive of anti-statist obsession” that they “loudly professed” that they couldn’t distinguish “between the leaders of the Soviet Union and the leaders of the United States.”

    And as WFB elsewhere wrote, Rothbarians surely in mind: “If we cannot hold up the Bill of Rights over against the Communist Manifesto and declare the one a benchmark of civilization, the other of modern atavism, then learning is really of little use….”

    • #20
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:56 AM PDT
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  21. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Guruforhire
    Aaron Miller

    We have always had a two-party system. If Libertarians want a President, they’ll have to usurp Republicans’ position astheparty of the Right.

    But Congressional seats are always up for grabs.

    Not entirely true. We have recent history in canada, and the demise of the whig party in america as examples. The republican party WAS a third party.

    Which is my point. A third party must wrest control of one side or the other to become one of the dominant parties. More than two parties can participate in Congress. But the two dominant parties at any given time control the electoral college and, therefore, the Presidential election. The President only ever comes from one of the two dominant parties.

    Am I wrong? I’m no historian. But there is definitely a difference between the American system and the systems of Canada or European governments.

    • #21
    • June 16, 2012, at 2:57 AM PDT
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  22. Civil Sense Member
    Civil Sense Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    First, we need to distinguish between Libertarians (members of the Libertarian Party) and small-‘l’ libertarians who work within the Republican Party. The Libertarian Party is purely based on principle; however, it is a very small party that has no chance to win elections. Small-‘l’ libertarians can work within the Republican Party to influence and sometimes win elections. Rand Paul is very libertarian, but he would not have won his Senate seat if he ran on the Libertarian party ticket. His position in the Republican Party helps move it towards libertarianism.

    William F Buckley, no libertine, declared the drug war a failure. The welfare state causes many problems on many fronts besides drugs, but it does not mean that no movement towards liberty can happen unless we end the welfare state and the post’s author claims. There is a problem with the police state infrastructure we’ve built to fight drugs. We had a drug checkpoint in my city where they pulled over 23 cars for ‘violations’ yet only issued three tickets (not drug-related).

    We should fight to dismantle governmental excess on all fronts. Incrementalism worked for the left, and it works for the right as well.

    • #22
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:01 AM PDT
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  23. Barkha Herman Member

    I have to admit that no one has ever asked me to leave any tents. However, I do get accused of “not accepting” something or the other – since I am a registered independent. I attend tea party rallies and often vote republican. But occasionally I will get accused of not committing because I don’t have the party selected (by Republicans).

    As for “libertarians” not being inclusive – I’ve got news – there is nowhere to sign up. Even Democrat shills like Bill Maher claim to be one…

    • #23
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:03 AM PDT
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  24. Aodhan Inactive

    Is insisting that the individual is inviolably sovereign exalting him?

    No.

    Rather, insisting that the individual is not inviolably sovereign is debasing him.

    However, neither the left-wing nor the right-wing wishes to relinquish the power to ensure that some individuals–the elect–can systematically violate the sovereignty of other individuals–the corrupt–for greater collective ends, whether they involve welfare or warfare.

    Alas, no elite is moral or wise enough to be permitted to violate the sovereignty of individuals. The potential of power to corrupt and mislead exceeds the potential of freedom to do so.

    This message is very unpopular. It is the death-knell of mainstream politics and popular democracy.

    Libertarians never command mass appeal because they never offer, if elected, to implement grand visions at anyone else’s expense or against anyone else’s wishes. Such a platform of mere principle is thin gruel to voters used to being bribed with the opportunity to implement their preferred policies by picking others’ pockets or tying others’ hands.

    And these daft libertarians won’t compromise their principles! How politically naive is that? Don’t they know that pragmatic give-and-take is the only way to get ahead?

    • #24
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:04 AM PDT
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  25. Civil Sense Member
    Civil Sense Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Also, Mr. Boaz’s opinions prove that, contrary to popular opinion, Libertarians split their votes nearly equally between the Democrats and Republicans. Therefore, their candidates do not hurt the Republicans nearly as badly as the Green Party can be to the Democrats

    • #25
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:04 AM PDT
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  26. Guruforhire Member
    Aaron Miller
    Guruforhire
    Aaron Miller

    We have always had a two-party system. If Libertarians want a President, they’ll have to usurp Republicans’ position astheparty of the Right.

    But Congressional seats are always up for grabs.

    Not entirely true. We have recent history in canada, and the demise of the whig party in america as examples. The republican party WAS a third party.

    Which is my point. A third party must wrest control of one side or the other to become one of the dominant parties. More than two parties can participate in Congress. But the two dominant parties at any given time control the electoral college and, therefore, the Presidential election. The President only ever comes from one of the two dominant parties.

    Am I wrong? I’m no historian. But there is definitely a difference between the American system and the systems of Canada or European governments. · 7 minutes ago

    Our early elections had around 6 candidates, and we had some pretty decent diversity around the turn of the century.

     

    The 2 party system is not so much governing as it is detente with one side winning.

    • #26
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:05 AM PDT
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  27. Mr. Bildo Inactive
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Mr. Bildo: Speaking of shrinking tents, based on the main feed this afternoon, one might get the impression there is no room left at Ricochet for those lousy libertarians and their ilk. 

    So… libertarians want to shrink the tent and non-libertarian conservatives want to kick libertarians out of the tent?

    This is what the good Lord invented alcohol for. Have a beer. Now you’re in a beer tent. Isn’t that better?

    That’s kind of what I was asking. 

    So I’ll see you in the beer tent, I guess.

    • #27
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:07 AM PDT
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  28. Aodhan Inactive
    Mr. Bildo
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Mr. Bildo: Speaking of shrinking tents, based on the main feed this afternoon, one might get the impression there is no room left at Ricochet for those lousy libertarians and their ilk. 

    So… libertarians want to shrink the tent and non-libertarian conservatives want to kick libertarians out of the tent?

    This is what the good Lord invented alcohol for. Have a beer. Now you’re in a beer tent. Isn’t that better?

    That’s kind of what I was asking. 

    So I’ll see you in the beer tent, I guess. · 3 minutes ago

    I’ll bring the keg.

    • #28
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:15 AM PDT
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  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Ben Domenech: This may seem counterintuitive, but while a great many fiscal and social conservatives are willing to seek compromise in common purpose, libertarians are forever in search of hills to die on for their noble and incorruptible principles…

    Golly, now I feel all lazy for not searching far and wide for hills to die on. And like a reprobate for not particularly wanting to die on any one hill. Must not be a libertarian, then. Except most libertarian thinkers I read are economists, and accept trade-offs as a fact of life.

    What I’d like to know is: how can libertarians be “stoned all the time” and perpetually irritable?

    • #29
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:27 AM PDT
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  30. Duane Oyen Member

    I tossed Boaz and Cato out of my intellectual support box when I heard Boaz on the Dennis Miller Show accusing Bush of blowi9ng up the World Trade Center as an excuse to launch the Afghan and Iraq wars for the benefit of Halliburton. Pat Michaels is about the only same one left there. Here is hoping for success of David Koch’s lawsuit.

    • #30
    • June 16, 2012, at 3:39 AM PDT
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