Tag: Libertarianism

Three Things Conservatives Believe


I take the following to be among the most important principles that inform and motivate conservatives. I am not giving an argument in hopes of persuading non-conservatives, just an explanation of some foundational principles.

I say “foundational” because a decent statement of conservatism might not actually contain any of them. These aren’t the principles that are conservatism, but principles that motivate conservatives. Sometimes one of them (especially one of the first two) is an unstated premise lurking behind a conservative argument that just doesn’t seem to reach non-conservatives.

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The scenario: You’ve just been given a magic machine.  It has two buttons.  When you press the red button, you get to name the one foolish thing that Republicans could do between now and November 2016 that would be guaranteed to end the most important political alliance–and the magic machine will make sure they won’t do it.  (You get to name the most important alliance–SoCon and FiCon, Con and […]

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Sometimes an article articulates what one has been trying to say so comprehensively and with such passion there is nothing more I can add. Anthony Esolen has written such an article on the subject of the sexual revolution and its aftermath and how it relates to Liberal/Libertarian positions on the issue. It’s titled “Fools or […]

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Focus on the People, Not the Numbers


Conservatives and libertarians face a common problem: our principles. Once you catch the passion for liberty and understand how the freedom of billions of humans can coalesce to make a world undreamable by any individual person, it is increasingly difficult to take seriously complicated schemes of regulation and legislation that purport to know better than the market. But why is this really a problem?

I have long been searching for a way to reframe libertarian issues as human interest stories for two reasons:  1) that’s what they are; 2) that’s what people really care about and connect with. To that end, I have been thinking about Jim Pethoukoukis’s “Generation Katniss” post, which walks through exactly the problem i’ve been trying to sort out.  I think a lot of the comments on that post missed the point. It is not that libertarian-conservatives need to change what they talk about, it is that we need to change how we talk about it.

The Mystery of the Missing Conservative Investor


shutterstock_252584134In an earlier, post I argued that fighting a defensive, reactive culture war the way conservatives have been doing for the past half-century is futile. I also suggested that, because technology is the most important driver of cultural change, our best shot at bending the arc of the culture back toward the light of sanity may be an indirect approach – i.e., focusing on finding “conservative or libertarian” technologies. All technologies empower; the question conservatives and libertarians should be asking is: what technologies empower the individual relative to the State?

There is a lot of spilled ink out there arguing that the still-unfolding information technology revolution should in theory make us more libertarian. Karl Rove has argued, unconvincingly, that computers are making the country more fiscally conservative by liberating everyone’s inner entrepreneur. And there is much concern on the left that Silicon Valley, which floats on a bottomless ocean of cash, is becoming a libertarian stronghold, led by people like Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen and Michael Arrington. Here, for example, is one breathless Salon article on the subject.

Much of this is obviously wishful thinking or unfounded panic, depending on your point of view. Silicon Valley is largely left-leaning. Steve Jobs was a major Obama supporter, as is Google’s Eric Schmidt. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is an Obama bundler. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is a prominent Democratic Party cheerleader. When an industry titan like Andreessen supports a Republican, it’s big news.

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Note from the author: This post is a rewriting of my former post, 90 Varieties of Libertarianism: Which One Are You?  I am reasonably confident that the distinctions, definitions, and names given here are somewhat better than in the original; they are more precise, in what I think is a useful way. For further explanation, see the […]

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At My Wits’ End in the Culture War


Bad-CommunicationI’ve never had great difficulty in getting along with my liberal friends. It is a skill I likely learned growing up with conservative instincts in the state of New Jersey. Most of life can be enjoyed with others without our political differences getting in the way. At the margins however, there are always issues. Some ideas permeate the culture so thoroughly, that a friend will often state what they believe to be an innocuous statement of truth in passing, working under the assumption that all good-hearted people will agree with it. Since I do not share many of their beliefs, the obvious implication is that I am not a good person.

It has always been a character flaw of mine that I cannot allow these remarks to pass without challenging them. Close friends know me well enough to either engage me in a friendly debate on the point, or concede that they probably shouldn’t have thrown the statement out like that. Casual friends and acquaintances are generally caught off guard by my challenges. Issues of taxation can be laughed off, along with any number of others in regards to the size and scope of government. It is only in the culture wars that friendships are lost.

Culture would seem an easy issue for one with strong libertarian leanings, such as myself, to deal with. I don’t care how you live your life, or who you share it with, provided you not encroach upon the rights of others. My world view is inherently easy to get along with. I am supportive of same-sex marriage and disapprove of institutionalized discrimination. These facts buy me nothing though when I challenge media lies about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Teenage Libertarian Leads Brazil’s Largest Protest in Decades


Kim KataguiriSince several decades of military rule ended in 1984, Brazil mostly has been led by a series of left-wing presidents. The South American nation’s current leader, Dilma Rousseff, has been regularly rocked by scandals and a stubbornly moribund economy. The previous president, Lula, had a similar experience, since it’s basically impossible for big government to collude with big business and not create corruption and stagnation.

As Rousseff continues borrowing and building for the upcoming Rio Olympics, many Brazilians have had enough. But instead of advocating a purer form of leftism or a return to authoritarianism, the young are demanding a far more radical approach: freedom. It isn’t cigar-smoking businessmen or stodgy think tanks advocating free markets and free minds, but a funny, tech-savvy teenager named Kim Kataguiri.

The March 15 demonstration was the largest Sao Paulo had seen in more than three decades, since 1984 protests demanding democratic elections after a long dictatorship.

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.

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Americans seem to live with the illusion that love is a good thing. This is because democrats do not read books. In English, the great writer is Shakespeare, than whom no greater can be imagined. One cannot read the love stories in Shakespeare without coming to three basic insights: First, love leads to civil war […]

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The Case For Libertarian Nationalism, Part II: Defense


armed-porcupineEarlier this week, I argued that libertarianism is wholly compatible with a nationalist policy on immigration, despite many (if not most) libertarians believing that national borders are arbitrary abridgments of the inherent right to travel, work, and settle freely. Today, I argue for why a certain kind of hawkish foreign policy is, similarly, utterly congruent with libertarianism.

It’s worth remembering that libertarianism is a political philosophy regarding the nature of the relationship between citizens and states with whom they are in political compact; a philosophy that places a high premium on individual autonomy and the enforcement of negative rights. As such the government of the United States exists for the benefit of its citizens, not those of other countries. While foreigners have the same inherent, inalienable rights as Americans, their protection is simply outside of the responsibility of the United States government.

With regard to other civilized nations — i.e., those nations who have at least a semblance of the rule of law and whose values are sufficiently in concert with our own — our federal government should seek to maintain peaceable, honorable, and open relations. Our citizens should be allowed to trade freely with theirs, and are obliged to follow their laws when visiting abroad, just as their citizens are obliged to follow our laws when here. We should seek non-aggression pacts with all who will treat us honorably, and alliances with those of good reputation whose interests align closely with our own and who can carry more than their own weight militarily.

The Case For Libertarian Nationalism, Part I: Immigration


416PwkXMKaLLibertarianism is often associated with cosmopolitan and dovish attitudes toward foreign policy and immigration. This is wholly understandable — indeed, justified — in that libertarians and libertarian organizations are disproportionally allergic to military intervention and state-imposed restriction of immigration, albeit not as much as their more vociferous critics often allege. That said, libertarians with these positions have misapplied their principles, and fail to account for both the practical need for a healthy nationalism and its consonance with liberty.

As a matter of principle, American political society — as well as that of other liberty-minded countries — is based on a social contract between the state and its citizens, in which the former provides the latter with some degree of safety from coercion and force. As such, the United States government exists for the benefit of its citizens, not those of other countries, and consequentially owes them a wholly different set of duties. Libertarianism does not speak directly to the relationship between the government of one sovereign people and those of another nation, other than that one should not unjustly harm the other. Foreigners have no more claim on our domestic policy than we have on theirs, and control over our borders and admittance into our polity are core responsibilities of that government.

While US immigration policy has a great many problems, the greatest is the matter of illegal immigration from third-world countries, particularly those of Latin America. The reason we have this problem is not simply that we have a porous border and poor enforcement of our laws, as the same applies to Canada. The third, equally important, factor is that the United States offers a degree of opportunity, safety, and liberty that vastly exceeds that available in Mexico, Guatemala, or the Caribbean in a way that cannot be compared to the (relatively) minor differences between the United States and Canada or Western Europe.

On Net Neutrality, the GOP Is Making a Mistake


Prelude: Troy asked me to adapt this piece from a private thought that I distributed to a conspiratorial listserv of which I am a member. Because I know Troy, I am reasonably confident that he suggested this piece to me principally because it would open me up to immolation at the fingertips of Richard Epstein, whom I have had the pleasure of hosting for dinner in Palo Alto several times, on no occasion succeeding in winning an argument against him. Richard wrote recently on this page that net neutrality is “a solution in search of a problem.”

Conservatives should be for net neutrality. It isn’t a perfect solution, but network discrimination is indeed bad, and the last-mile Internet industry is more like a government whose actions we should seek to restrain than a private market which, unmolested, will constantly improve.

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The rights based arguments for libertarianism are extremely popular, including on Ricochet. They seems simple and elegant. All you have to ask yourself is: Who violated another’s right to property? This works for all the cases that readily come to mind, but there are trickier ones, which I would like to explore. These aren’t the […]

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About Libertarianism


We’ve seen recently here on Ricochet lots of threads trying to parse libertarianism, or qualify libertarianism, or trying to understand libertarianism. How about, rather do all that, let’s just say that libertarianism means one thing:

People should be free to do as they please so long as they don’t aggress against other people.

Embrace Your True Scotsman


willie-300x225One of the most powerful forms of bias, brought on by evolutionary survival, goes by the name myside bias. It’s the tendency to defend people in your group even if they are no-good evildoers.

This is especially a problem in large un-selective groups, such as political and philosophical ones. Anyone can claim to be a member, and when someone who does also commits some offence, be it ethical or logical, there is a powerful incentive from people in the group to downplay and become apologists. This can also happen in large (somewhat) selective groups like “Catholics” or “Muslims.”

As my favorite economist, Bryan Caplan put it:

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On my recent comment thread, I have been asking for help about libertarianism. I am woefully ignorant of libertarianism, I lack any powers of observation, and my intelligence level is embarrassingly low. “Help me if you can, I’m feelin’ down. And I do appreciate you being ’round. Help me get my feet back on the […]

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I would like to move the debate into a new area, one where we compare the unintended consequences of each side. If we do this, we can consider which side’s unintended consequences are more harmful to the idea of “limited government.” Wouldn’t it be interesting to consider the debate in this new way? I think […]

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