Libertarians: Stop trying so hard

Every time I meet libertarians, they seem hellbent on making themselves look like horrible human beings. Not for their pro-limited government views, which seem refreshing in a time when The Government Is Taking Over Everything and still retaining the Bush administration’s national-security rationales (best of both worlds!).

Cross-posted at Cultural Imperialist

The problem is libertarians don’t want you to think they’re Squares. Everything is fucking ridiculous or shitbrained – try making it through a libertarian sentence without casual swearing of the fourth-grader-fitting-in variety. They love alcohol, tobacco and drugs – I mean, who doesn’t? But they have no perspective on how to enjoy oneself imbibing, smoking or ingesting of other forms. Everything has to be over the top, to show you’re not a Prude.

A Washington Post profile of Reason magazine’s re-location to D.C., and the anything-goes parties it brought along, has always stuck in my mind: “Once a month, culture comes in the form of magazine release parties at assorted Dupont dives and wafts of conversation like ‘This can’t be good for my liver’ and ‘Jeremy has passed out in his own vomit.’” Yes, we get it – you obey No God But Yourself, or Adam Smith’s invisible hand, or that cute coed dressed as an NC-17 anime character at your Burning Man Lite party. Anything with the whiff of traditional morality, Christian charity or personal humility – such as frowning on Randian spouse-swapping – is simply poor taste.

Of course, I’m simplifying and in some sense inveighing against a particular cultural anarchy espoused by the young, hip libertarians in urban settings. If you were around farmland for any period during the 2008 campaign, you saw the Ron Paul for President signs flowering like fields of Afghan poppies, and surely freedom farmers share little in common with leather-clad, swarthy magazine editors in D.C.

But these are the folks who give libertarianism its national face, to the extent anyone could pick it out of a police lineup. They would do well to remember Ben Folds’ proverb: “There’s always someone cooler than you.”

Author: GREG PIPER

I'm a tech journalist who's making a TV show about a college newspaper.

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17 Comments

  1. Libertarianism is a ludicrously flawed concept. I find the folks who support it are either a) incredibly short-sighted or b) closet or borderline low-grade criminals who simply want to get away with things, whether it's dumping household chemicals in rivers or stockpiling cop-killer bullets or committing insurance fraud or planting landmines on their property out of fear of other “libertarians”.

    We are a society. We can't survive as a collage of individuals doing whatever we please. Everything we do affects others, and everything others do affects you. That's just a plain, simple fact that libertarians, and quite a few Teabaggers, miss.

  2. Like almost anything else, good things become bad when taken to extremes. I lean libertarian in a lot of areas but I still think the Libertarian Party and the “hard core” libertarians are a bit crazy. Many libertarian principles are good ones as long as they are taken in moderation.

  3. To me the libertarians make a great deal of sense on many issues until you look at their platform. A moderate libertarian view is quite reasonable, but like the article indicates, many libertarian figures aren't exactly moderate.

  4. Libertarians : Libertarianism :: Michelle Bachmann : GOP

    Which is a shame.

  5. My experience with libertarians goes back several years, and I've had the “opportunity” to engage in online discussion, and debate with them on many, many occasions. While I appreciate the spirit of freedom that informs their philosophy, I've found that spirit almost invariably works in concert with a huge lack of concern for consequences of actions. Their law of the jungle approach to society and govt., that sort of free-ranging, unfettered predatory vision is something I believe we've already seen enough of thanks. And that tendency to abandon civil discourse – and launch into the demonizing, colorful language, etc. I've seen that too. Now to the crux of the biscuit: I've discovered that when making factual, cogent, and well-sourced arguments against many libertarians, it wasn't unusual be to be met with an unusually high level of intellectual dishonesty. I mean we've all dealt with people who cherry-pick to form and support their conclusions, but to actually voluntarily turn away from reality in order to cling to an ideology enters the realm of superstition.

    Last observation: I've often seen (self-identified) libertarians running interference (steadily and unashamedly) for republicans, all the while slamming democrats. If they want to be republicans this badly, then they should stop pretending they are something else! Now, I realize my experiences with libertarians may not be shared by others, and I realize they are anecdotal, but I've frequently seen these common threads among their ranks. Here's the deal: Taking responsibility for outcomes and planning accordingly IS part of being a grown-up. Many libertarians seem to have this infatuation with Ayn Rand. Now, I was a great fan of Ayn Rand myself at one point in my life, read all her books, was very infatuated with her bold brushstrokes pitting the genius of the individual vs. the dumb collective, and about how one could make laws for oneself that transcended the laws of society, etc.. Heady stuff for a teenager, and I ate it up! But by the time I was out of high school my infatuation had run it's course and I was ready to continue my evolution into adulthood.

  6. They love alcohol, tobacco and drugs – I mean, who doesn’t?

    This, to me, suggests a profound misunderunderstanding regarding what libertarians believe. Libertarians are not pro-alcohol, pro-tobacco, or pro-drugs. Nor are they pro-pornography, pro-prostitution, or pro-gay marriage. What they are is pro-freedom, which means that they do not sanction the use of aggression toward individuals who are not infringing upon the lives, liberties, or properties of others.

    It it simply untrue that libertarians, as a group, support alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or any of the other subjects I mentioned above. Libertarians–as with the rest of the American population–have differing opinions on such topics. But no matter what a libertarian personally thinks about alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or any of the other subjects I mentioned above, what unites them is that they believe that the government should not be prohibiting such things.

    The thing you have to remember is that being libertarian means being pro-choice on a particular issue. That doesn't mean that a libertarian personally supports the particular choice in question. It merely means that libertarians believe that the choice is an individual's to make and that the government should neither be prohibiting nor subsidizing such choices.

  7. One quick point before I start: Capitalized Libertarians are members of a political party. Lowercase libertarians just like the general philosophy. I'm both.

    Like many groups, Libertarians vary a bit with the area. Since I'm in the mid-west region, where most people are religious, most Libertarians are religious. Indiana is also one of the better organized states, and one of the few that has full time staff. California, although it's a much larger state, has about the same sized organization, and a less religious makeup. The active membership in my county come mostly from the Democratic party, since the region is strongly Democratic. When I was in Indianapolis, which is more Republican, most of the members were ex-Republicans (the son of the state Democratic chairman was an exception). But, like all groups, there's no certification committee or test before you can claim to be part of the group.

    Like most all Libertarians, I'm not a pure libertarian. I have no problem with laws that accomplish a noble goal, but I do have a problem with people that declare all laws, regulations, and policies to be good or “progress” unconditionally. That, to me, is blind acceptance and an excuse not to think or look at the results.

    I would also like to second nicrivera, that there are a lot of things that I dislike, hate, or detest that I don't believe should be part of the law, because I know that there are quite a few things that the government simply can't do. As a religious libertarian, I describe myself as someone who worships only one god.

  8. “Taking responsibility for outcomes and planning accordingly IS part of being a grown-up.” By that standard of judgment, Democratic and Republican leaders are no more mature than libertarians who “turn away from reality.” Starting a war in Iraq would be one example of not facing consequences. Enacting health care that forces people to buy health insurance when they do not have a job is another.

    Good remarks. Thanks.

  9. We Libertarians don't “pretend” to be Republicans; WE ARE REPUBLICANS! And damned proud of it. It's only the tired old faction in the Libertarian Party that seeks to play the “not a dime's worth of difference between the major parties” card.

    You apparently, have never heard of the Republican Liberty Caucus or Libertarian Republican blog.

  10. If we Libertarians seem a bit crazy and far-out at times, it's only because we're so severely depressed as to how far we're now removed from the original libertarian-oriented tennants of the US Constitution and our Nation's founding.

    Would you call Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson “somewhat nutty” or “foul-mouthed extremists”?

    We're in a desperate battle to save our Republic. Sorry you all don't see that. But as one great Libertarian once said: “Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice…”

    Call me an extremist if you must. But I'll go to my grave with a smile on my face, knowing that I did everything in my power to save our Nation from Tyranny.

    Eric Dondero, Publisher
    Libertarian Republican
    Founder, Republican Liberty Caucus

  11. I am a member of the Libertarian Party, and I ran for congress three times as a Libertarian, knowing I couldn't win but wanting to provide voters with a chance to vote their consciences. I opposed invading Iraq as “immoral, illegal, and very risky,” while the Republican and Democrat candidates were all for imperialism. I beleive our foriegn and domestic policy should be based on “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I disapprove of aggression and bullying, including those who say, “We know better than you do what is good for you, so we're passing another law to protect you from your own stupidity.” I oppose those who regard government as a way to redistribute income in their own direction. I spent almost all my working life working in government or for government, and I know from experience that power corrupts, that decisions are justified as being in your interest but are actually made to be in the decision maker's interest. Our last Republican president was a deluded war criminal and economic idiot. Our current Democrat president, who promised change, follows the same policies. I conclude that the donkeys and elephants are just squabbling factions of the same organized crime syndicate, a conscienceless Kleptocratic Party. It doesn't matter which you vote for, if they are both scoundrels.

  12. We Libertarians don't “pretend” to be Republicans; WE ARE REPUBLICANS!

    This is why I stated “But, like all groups, there's no certification committee or test before you can claim to be part of the group.”

    There are groups out there that are trying to reform their parties from within. Most Libertarians gave up on that concept.

  13. Labels, labels. Thank goodness for the “moderate” one. I can be pro-choice, anti-Supremes (on the last one), pro-gun-control, anti Rush and Andrew, like Libs because they don't agree with Dems or Reps, hate Dems that think Reps wear hob-nailed boots and Reps that think the poor should eat cake. But most of all, I can say 97.39% of politicians are spineless schmucks. All with out worrying about a knock on the door in the middle of the night (the greatest).

  14. I don't defend libertarians, who don't really understand Rand, or moderates either. Who wants moderate protection of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? As a radical for Capitalism, I do defend reason, rights and reality. The only ones who “grow out” of Ayn Rand are those who give up the ideals she espouses.

  15. “Like almost anything else, good things become bad when taken to extremes.”

    Many capital-L libertarians and others take things to extremes, which is regrettable. (Others use “libertarianism” as their rationalization for poor behavior.) It would be better to begin with the obvious, that mainstream Americanism inherits libertarianism as part of our English heritage, and that it remains a sound basis for politics and economics (with the burden of proof always, and rightfully, falling upon advocates of interventionism or of authority to justify it). We have learned since before the start of our modern welfare state (in place of constitutional federalism, which included features with a libertarian heritage), but with the development of “the fatal conceit” of collectivists and socialists and social engineers, that government does much wrong, and that the ordered, planned, centrally directed and controlled economy and society is a destructive false god to worship.

    “Pure” libertarianism is the honor system, with its low costs and naivete', is not as bad as collectivism and faddish European-style imitations but has its own drawbacks from being atomistic and anarchistic, and rarely features an abnormal demonization of government. (Roger Bootle recently decried US libertarianism and said that the two best other examples of it in the world are where it may be thought of as leading, namely Liberia and Haiti. Bootle criticizes libertarian “extremes” also in a newer book he has written — probably much better than anything that, say, Krugman or Ravi Batra ever will write — about “Saving Capitalism from Itself.”) That's about how the rare “extreme” could or should be viewed.

    Most of the problem is reflexive and pathological views of libertarianism by collectivists and socialists, because libertarianism is inimical to them. (Anything with a usually honest treatment of liberty is.)

  16. We Libertarians don't “pretend” to be Republicans; WE ARE REPUBLICANS! And damned proud of it. It's only the tired old faction in the Libertarian Party that seeks to play the “not a dime's worth of difference between the major parties” card.

    Sorry, Eric, but you're not going to get away with your pseudolibertarian propaganda here at TMV. Not on my watch.

    To everyone here at TMV,

    Mr. Dondero is well known throughout the libertarian movement as someone who poses as a libertarian despite having some very unlibertarian beliefs. Among these beliefs are a strong support for pre-emptive war and that libertarians who oppose non-defensive wars are “leftists.” Despite calling himself a libertarian, Mr. Dondero is a partisan Republican with a habit of endorsing some of the most unlibertarian Republicans for high office. Among Mr. Dondero's most ridiculous claims is that Rudy Giuliani (a strong supporter of pre-emptive war, the war on drugs, and gun control) is a libertarian.

    Mr. Dondero is well known throughout the libertarian movement as a very fervent supporter of waging war in the Middle East and yet calls himself a libertarian. He was a Ron Paul staffer back in the 1990’s, but the two parted ways after 2001 over differences in foreign policy. Ron Paul was one of the few Republicans who opposed the Iraq War while Mr. Dondero was then (and has continued to be) and unapologetic supporter of the Iraq War.

    I do not use the phrase “very fervent supporter of waging war in the Middle East” lightly. I certainly would not lump anyone and everyone who supported the invasion of Iraq in the same category. But Mr. Dondero’s low threshold for resorting to military attack and support of indiscriminant killing of foreigners knows few equals. Shortly after 9/11, Mr. Dondero advocated that our government drop a nuclear bomb on Mecca. He has also endorsed several different conspiracy theories regarding Iraq and Saddam Hussein, including endorsing the idea that Saddam Hussein was behind the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995.

    On October 25, 2005, Mr. Dondero went onto the late Harry Browne’s radio show to debate the former Libertarian Presidential candidate on foreign policy. Mr. Dondero put on quite an embarassing performance—launching tirades against libertarians who didn’t support the war and literally shouting at listeners who called into the show to oppose his fervent support for military attacks in the name of libertarianism. The chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus (an organization that Mr. Dondero co-founded and lavishes so much praise upon) called into the show to disavow any relation to Mr. Dondero or his views.

    If anyone thinks I am exaggerating in the slightest, please click on the links to Harry Browne vs. Eric Dondero debate below. Words cannot explain how unhinged Mr. Dondero becomes when discussing foreign policy:

    mms://www.harrybrowne.org/harrybrowne/05-10-29a.mp3

    mms://www.harrybrowne.org/harrybrowne/05-10-29b.mp3

  17. esbuck,

    You have my thanks for running as a Libertarian against the establishment Democratic and Republican parties. Running as a third party candidate can be a thankless task, especially when the mainstream media ignores you.

    I'm not a member of the Libertarian Party, but I''ve supported Libertarian candidates for congress in both New Hampshire and New Jersey as well as Badnarik for president in 2004.

    I hope you will continue to visit TMV in the future. We actually have 2 or 3 libertarian/libertarian-leaning commenters here and I personally wouldn't mind hearing from another.

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