No, Libertarians Don’t Agree With Me About Some Things

LibertariansSince the “glibertarians” (that is: libertarians who call themselves glibertarians) noticed Friday’s article, I started thinking about libertarians again. There’s one thing that especially annoys me about libertarians: the claim that they agree with liberals on half the issues. That is to say, libertarians might be totally against taxes and such, but they agree on social issues. They also agree about war. This is hogwash.

Let’s discuss war first. Libertarians claim that they are against the war machine. In most ways, libertarians are stuck in the 18th century when having a voluntary militia could keep a country safe, as long as it didn’t have any major resources that a large empire wanted. That’s just not true anymore. So if libertarians ever got their utopia, they’d need a great big military to protect it.

Property Rights Lead to War

Think about how focused libertarians are on property rights. There’s pretty much no level of government that they aren’t in favor of when it comes to protecting those rights. Well, when it comes to the military, the situation is even more intense. After all, what would you not do to protect your utopia?

There is, of course, disagreement among libertarians on this point. They can be roughly divided into two camps: those who have thought about it and those who haven’t. Those who have thought about it, understand that they will have to protect their utopia and that it won’t be cheap. Those who haven’t thought about it push fantasies about how libertarianism requires a change in the way people think.

I’ve had many conversations with the latter type of libertarian. I point out that there will always be some Genghis Khans around who think that the best way to get ahead in life is to just take what they want. So libertarians have to protect against that. And if they think they can fend off such an attack with a volunteer army funded by voluntary taxes, I have a whole herd of unicorns for sale at a great price!

So libertarians may be anti-war in theory, in practice, they are very much for it. And there is no distinction because “they crossed our boarders” and “they interfered with our supply chains.”

Social Issues

Social issues is the primary idiocy of libertarians. Let’s look at this from the issue of drugs. There are a lot of people who are libertarians because they want their drug of choice (usually cannabis) to be legal. But libertarians always caucus with Republicans. Which political party has moved toward more sensible drug policy? Not the Republicans. It has been the Democrats — and not for libertarian reasons.

So on a practical level, why would these people not support the Democrats? Because the libertarians talk a good game? When a libertarian manages to get into Congress, they show themselves to not really care about the liberty of being able to put whatever substance you want in your body. That kind of liberty is way down on list. At the top of the list, it’s always the same: tax cuts — almost always highly regressive.

Libertarian Answer to Bigotry: Nothing

But let’s look the rights of different “races” and the LGBT community. These are illusory. They are much like the Republican’s new healthcare bill: you have the right to the best healthcare in the world — if you can afford it. Since there wouldn’t be laws against discrimination, all these groups would get would be platitudes like, “Racism is bad for business.”

Guess what? Racism isn’t bad for business in a country where about 30 percent of the people are explicitly racist. So libertarians don’t agree with liberals on social issues. Their ideas are just not to make any laws like, “You can’t run for president if you’re black or queer.” They don’t do anything else. In the libertarian utopia, we would have more public bigotry. Life would be harder for minority groups. How is that agreeing with liberals on social issues?

Really what libertarians are saying is, “I’m not racist!” There are a couple of issues there. One is that at this point, there is damned little difference between libertarians and neo-confederates. But the second is more important: who cares what you specifically believe; the system of government you are pushing would make bigotry worse.

Libertarians Don’t Agree With Liberals

Libertarians can live in their own little fantasy world built on top of a huge pile of unstated assumption with no concern for the practical effects of their policy prescriptions. But I do wish they would get off this arrogant kick of claiming that they are “economically conservative” and “socially liberal.” Libertarians are just conservatives who are smart enough to realize that “conservative” has been poisoned and now can be defined as “hateful bigot” for the vast majority of people.

Since libertarian policy would make intolerance toward minority groups worse, they don’t get to claim the liberal mantle when it comes to social issues.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

24 thoughts on “No, Libertarians Don’t Agree With Me About Some Things

  1. I’m sure it’s some kind of accident that Ron and Rand Paul are stridently anti choice. Rand seems to be trying to burnish his credentials recently. The stunt where he led reporters on an snipe hunt for the healthcare bill was quite silly. And why the press participated is, well, not a mystery, but sad. If there’s one guy (and there are many) that is such a clown that the press could mock him to his face it’s Rand Paul.

    • I don’t even think of Rand Paul as a libertarian. I think I’ve called him libertarian-ish. At least his father is an actual libertarian. Although the idea that any libertarian is anti-choice is a joke. That’s one issue that Ayn Rand was right on about. That’s not to say that I completely agree with her, but if you are a libertarian, that’s what you should think.

      • Ron Paul is mega-anti-choice. Now Rand was pro-choice because she wanted to have abortions because she was right she shouldn’t have kids. The males in the movement think differently.

  2. Yeah, it was pretty surprising how much can of whip-ass you opened with that post. It was fair and gently argued, per the usual. I suppose True Believers don’t cotton much to having their faith questioned. When irrational faith is the primary way one defines oneself, questioning that faith (even gently) is a threat / insult.

    I keep running into religious fundamentalists online, and it’s the same deal. I really have no problem with Christianity. After all, I was raised in it. For fundamentalists, though, their beliefs are The Truth and they define themselves by how many others reject The Truth. What a miserable existence that must be. Friendship and love take a backseat to being onto 😉 The Truth. It sounds quite lonely.

    And, having grown up in fundamentalism, I can tell you straight up it ain’t a very supportive community. If your kids are starving, they’ll bring canned soup to your door. But they’ll be jerks about it. Like, if you were As Holy As Me, your partner wouldn’t have contracted that disease. Again — it’s a bogus community. It promises inclusion to adherents, yet delivers almost nothing in terms of human compassion. Why this is the case for adherents of extremist viewpoints, I leave to the experts. I simply find it a miserable existence.

    Shit, go hang out at a local bar every night. You’ll make friends there, with the same level of commitment to an equally worthy (if not worthier) cause — getting drunk. And these friends will be exactly as reliable as the ones you meet in your True Believer world of libertarianism or fundamentalist religion.

    Downside: it costs money. Upside: you get drunk. I used to be a barfly, and I finally lost my virginity because of it, after many, many years of failing badly. That’s one hell of a better upside than True Believing some other nonsense.

    Further plus: a few chronic alcoholics are actually very interesting people to hear.

  3. I only have time to address one part.

    But libertarians always caucus with Republicans. Which political party has moved toward more sensible drug policy? Not the Republicans.

    It’s true that the GOP is horrible on drug policy. But overall, the (stated) underlying principles of the Republican Party are more in line with libertarianism. Republicans are very bad about following those principles, but the Democratic Party rejects those principles outright.

    There are only two or three Republicans who could be described as libertarianish, but that’s better than the other side of the aisle (zero).

    • Republicans are also horrible on surveillance. On war. On LGBT rights. And on and on… They aren’t even good on taxes; note how in repealing Obamacare they get rid of the taxes affecting the wealthy but not those affecting the middle class. And they love local taxes, which just happen to be regressive. Really, please read this and the report it is based on: States Screw the Poor and Middle Classes.

      So you’re saying that policy doesn’t really matter, as long as the Republicans say the right words?! Principles lead to practice. If the Republicans don’t practice what they preach, then they are lying about their principles.

      I wouldn’t go around crowing that people who accept my political philosophy caucus with a proto-fascist party. It would cause me to reflect. In fact, it did cause me to reflect. I’m not sure why it causes other libertarians to well up with pride. I think you would be better reflecting. I’m not the one you should be reading; I have almost no time to work on this blog — although over the years, I’ve managed to write a lot about libertarians. Of course, if you insist, you might check out, American Libertarianism Is Fascism-Friendly. But I think the article on state taxes is far more important.

      Note that we all believe in liberty. Libertarians are being fatuous when they claim that they alone stand for liberty. But my definition of liberty is broad. I don’t define it in such a way that it is only the government that limits my liberty. You think taxes take liberty away? I think not taxing allows the powerful to take my liberty away. Libertarians don’t have a monopoly on support for liberty. They just have one of many claims to it. It’s too bad that most of them don’t see it. Sadly, most libertarians spend their time reading Ayn Rand instead of Robert Nozick. I wonder why that is?

      • To your first paragraph, I would say that virtually all taxes affect the middle class in one way or another. Taxes that purport to target the wealthy directly (luxury taxes and the like) have proven to harm the middle class in the form of lost jobs for people who cater to the targeted luxuries. And I know you dislike them as well, so that’s fine. Progressive tax rates on levels of income that the middle class cannot attain still affect the middle class in that the wealthy have the means to adjust their earnings in ways to avoid such taxes. If you compare tax rates to federal revenue as a percentage of GDP, you’ll see that the top rate fluctuates significantly over the course of the 20th century, but revenues remain around 18% of GDP. The result of this is that government programs that were planned to be paid for by these taxes instead add to the deficit, and then to the debt, the monetary affects of which harm the middle class moreso than the wealthy.

        I really don’t see many libertarians ‘crowing’ or ‘welling up with pride’ that they caucus with Republicans as opposed to Democrats. But it’s an inarguable fact that there are currently no Democrat politicians at the federal level who can compare with Republicans like Congressmen Thomas Massie and Justin Amash, and (arguably) Senator Rand Paul as far as libertarian principles go. When one party at least provides some lip service (or even a pretense of it) to libertarian thought and the occasionally not-entirely-horrible elected official, it’s far and away better than a party that is proud of being openly hostile to libertarian economic ideas and has been consistently late to the party on libertarian social positions (acceptance of gay marriage, uncoerced racial equality.) Until the political duopoly is broken libertarians will have to take their allies where they can find them.

        Anyhow, I’ve said my bit. Now if you’ll excuse me, some of the unpaid orphans in my monocle mine are wailing for a second ration of gruel, so they’ll have to face the lash. :)

        • I liked your funny last paragraph! Thanks for that!

          It’s quite true that rich people can find loopholes in the tax code. Solution: fix the loopholes. If a casino finds someone counting cards or cheating on slot machines, they don’t get rid of the slots or card tables. They ban the cheats. They figure out ways to make cheating more difficult.

          As to the notion that taxing the rich hurts our economy — is this the “yacht tax” bit again? I don’t find that debate especially relevant to my life. What is relevant to me is that rich people put excess cash in investments — hedge funds, stocks & bonds, etc. — which have a limited effectiveness in stimulating economic growth. It does some, not a lot.

          OTOH, poor people who pay less taxes spend virtually all their money buying things from area stores. This has a massive effect on the economy. When rich people have less, it doesn’t make a huge difference. When poor people have less, it causes recessions or depressions.

          So, to me, as someone who is not rich, and whose income depends on society functioning properly, the moral argument against taxing rich people has no weight. It’s like debating how many angels fit on the head of a pin; it’s meaningless to me. Taxing the rich causes very little harm. Shifting the tax burden to poor people, cutting government services which make them less poor, causes terrible harm.

          If libertarians can find a way to balance their principles with a viable economy, I’d be open to listening. In my view, they have yet to do so.

          • It’s common among conservatives to believe in Say’s Law (supply creates its own demand), even though it has been shown to be total nonsense. So you are unlikely to get a conservative to ever believe that giving rich people more money won’t create loads of jobs. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve been hearing it for years. I’m not sure they believe it. It’s just such a simple way to justify what they want to do for different reasons.

        • Your last sentence would make up for almost anything else you could have said before it. It did make me chuckle.

          When I spoke of “crowing” and “welling up with pride,” I was referring specifically to the writer who was arguing that libertarians caucusing with the Republicans was a good thing. I found that especially offensive because when I was a libertarian, I really did see the movement as utterly distinct from the Republican Party. Of course, I was what is now called a “bleeding heart libertarian.” And I found it very troubling how many libertarians listened to Rush Limbaugh — people who were effectively Republicans who had just become too embarrassed to call themselves such.

          • Really. And the “negative rights” thing, which poses as a firm moral stance but essentially means whatever the author wants it to. It’s like if I said “the only good movies have spaceships in them,” then defended “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” on the grounds that Planet Earth moves through space. Hence, technically, a spaceship…

      • Sorry I took a while to respond. Just got home through the nor’easter.

        You’re equivocating when you say that we all believe in liberty. And you basically admit to that equivocation when you write “But my definition of liberty is broad.”

        Libertarians (deontological ones at least, and most utilitarian libertarians in their heart) view liberty in terms of rights, negative rights. The outcome is not the key. You have the right to own a multi-million dollar estate on the coast of a Caribbean island, whether or not you have the means. But if you don’t have the means or if there are no coastal property holders who want to sell to you, and you therefore can’t exercise that right, then your liberty is not infringed. You have the right to a world class education, but if you can’t afford the tuition or every school turns you down because your grades suck, and you therefore can’t exercise that right, then your liberty is not infringed. You have the right to a sandwich, but if you can’t afford one and no one will give you one and you starve to death, then your liberty is not infringed.

        Is libertarianism a cold, heartless philosophy? Perhaps. In a way. But it doesn’t forbid charity. It doesn’t forbid social pressure. It doesn’t forbid stigma. Any libertarian can have the same goal as you do. They just have limits on how to achieve that goal; limits based on an underlying, consistent philosophy. If you disagree with that philosophy, fine. Argue that the philosophy is cold and heartless. Argue that it’s unsustainable. Argue that it’s incompatible with human nature. Argue that liberty isn’t a reasonable goal. But don’t twist the word and argue that anyone other libertarians support liberty.

        • I’ll give you one thing — you seem to be willing to admit that pure libertarianism may not produce a strong economy.

          If this reading of your posts is correct, then you are not glib or shallow — you take your libertarian faith quite seriously. I respect that. I do not agree in the slightest with the libertarian faith, but I respect seriously-held beliefs.

          It is a faith, though. No less irrational than many others. I only wish it was more akin to Hinduism and less to evangelical Christianity. No Hindu, or at least very few, feel a need to convince worshippers of some other God to change. Libertarians and fundamentalists always feel a mission to spread their Recieved Truth.

          I prefer the faiths which say, “it works for me. If you’re interested, I can tell you more.”

          My particular faith is that there’s nothing sad in the human heart which listening to baseball on the radio can’t fix. This faith is tested every winter. And renewed every spring. It works for me. If you’re interested, I can tell you more!

        • Also, sorry about the East Cosst snowstorm. It sounds horrible. Drive safe. You may know how to drive on icy roads, but remember — not everyone does. When in doubt, assume that oncoming car will start sliding into your lane.

          Minnesotan delivering the safety lesson, here! We know us our snow.

    • Frank ain’t crying — he’s getting nasty with his keyboard in a way he’s spent many years practicing. As have I. We could teach you how to do it, but I strongly doubt you have the work ethic necessary. So keep repeating troll memes, shitcastle. Yes, I just called you a sandcastle, except made out of shit. And probably just a bunch of poop piles you enjoy molding with your salt-swollen fingers. (Water retention is a risk of living entirely on Doritos and fast food.)

      Now, see, that’s insulting. It’s called being original when you decide to be rude. Which shouldn’t be an easy decision. Rudeness is rarely OK.

      It sure was an easy decision to be rude to you.

      “Your tears are delicious?” Really? That’s the best you can do? I’ve met five-year-olds with more flavorful insults. But hey, if it makes you feel like the Big Manly Man, I guess it works, right?

      • I thought about making a comment about cannibalism, but what’s the point? The website is actually fascinating. It isn’t libertarian; it’s more standard MRA/alt-right. If I were a libertarian, I’d be really annoyed. But I did manage to write about 2,000 words for tomorrow’s post. It’s kind of my final comment to all of them. It isn’t mean. It’s meant to get the couple of people who are slightly thoughtful to, you know, think. But it’s a vile website. I’m sure it’s going to be very successful. The articles are short, mean, without nuance. And it has a decent sized group of people who clearly have no jobs, so they can comment all day (SSI conservatives). There are some thoughtful libertarian types there. But I suspect they will be squeezed out before long. Why we would need yet another of these hate-fueled sites, I’m not sure. But there’s no lack of demand.

        On the funny side, someone mentioned me in a comment thread and said that I “claim” to have a PhD. It makes me think that I should take that out of my bio. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it does smack a little of putting on airs. If idiots are impressed enough with it to question my honesty, I really don’t need it. I think 1 in 100 of Americans have some kind of doctorate, so it isn’t even that unusual. Maybe I’ll replace it with the time when I did magic shows for children’s parties or worked as a sports handicapper for the mob.

        • Do be proud of your Ph.D. It’s a tremendous accomplishment for a person of modest means. It represents an original contribution to knowledge at a very high level. In the case of most disciplines and particularly hard-sciences, it represents one of the very few indices of merit that cannot reasonably be denied. It’s a lot lower than 1% of the population, son.

          All of this is aside from the advisability of mentioning this on your blog intro.

          And of course, it is libertarians, not their opponents, who are twisting ‘liberty’ when they claim that only the government can coerce you in a morally actionable way. For the vast majority, it is the boss who is the greatest threat to freedom. Whatever you think of him, Mr. Bruenig’s older posts met the libertarian ‘proprietary’ notion of freedom head-on. Essentially, if you think the boss cannot oppress you, you just don’t know what you are talking about (and are therefore not worth talking to).

          The poorly-off have no moral obligation to obey the law under minimalist government. They’d be suckers to do so.

          • First of all:

            ..it is libertarians, not their opponents, who are twisting ‘liberty’ when they claim that only the government can coerce you in a morally actionable way.

            Libertarians don’t claim that only government can coerce you. Muggers coerce. Murderers coerce. Rapists coerce.

            Second, you’re using “liberty” and “freedom” willy-nilly, not to mention “oppress”. In a libertarian philosophy, no one’s employer is obligated to provide them with a job, or to pay them a certain amount, or to set 9-5 hours, or to hire them based entirely on merit. Even if you’re broke and about to be evicted and are late to work because of a flat tire during a hurricane that your boss didn’t close the office for, and he fires you, and you end up homeless and destitute, he didn’t infringe on your liberty or freedom. He’s just an ass (maybe).

            If you don’t accept the underlying premises of libertarian philosophy, then just say so. Say that you don’t believe in absolute negative rights. Say that you want equality of outcome (or whatever end it is you want) and that you’re willing to use violence (or at least the threat) to achieve those ends. Libertarians aren’t giving up their definition of “liberty”. So if you use it without qualification or a disclaimer, then we’ll assume you accept our premises.

        • If they are SSI conservatives, that answers a question which was bugging me. Just from a blog management standpoint. I do not run any blogs nor wish to, but my favorite day at any job is the first day, when you get to see the back room. Learning how stuff works. Mr. Rogers used to have little films where he’d go visit a bowling pin factory or some such, and I always loved those.

          You criticize right-wing thought all the time. And you provide quotes from a wide variety of others who do; a sidebar of others more.

          So why the fuck is there such a blowback when you mention the magic words “John Birch Society” or “libertarianism”?

          It’s almost like those Catholics who think “child rape, that’s blown out of proportion” but get ballistic when Pope Francis proposes allowing women to be deacons. What an outrage! A stain upon the great legacy of our Church! (Um, folks, papal infallibility. Your rule, not mine. If you don’t like it, find some descendant of the Borgias who’ll poison the guy. Pay the killer ten indulgences and a new moped.)

          If you’re right, and it’s people at home with oodles of time to burn, that would explain it. They have acolytes looking all over the web for anyone saying disparaging things about their magic belief. Somebody finds a new one. Summon the troops! Deploy the flying monkeys!

          At least most of these folks seem polite, except this one. Sorry I lost my cool, but I’m so fucking sick of “tears are delicious” and “snowflake” and “SJW” and these other nonsensical insults which assert the poster’s He-Man-i-Tude.

          Probably because I have a new job where I work entirely with men, and for 20 years prior my fellow staff were mostly women. I’m already bored by the male “you think you’re better than me?” bullshit. It’s about as interesting as someone using a broom handle to jab you in the foot while going “see? See? See?” Jesus Christ, masculinity is the dullest fucking thing on Earth.

          Also, in a way, quite tragically limiting for those trapped in it. Yet we can’t save everyone, and must prioritize where our efforts go. I simply have too many souls I worry about for faith-based far-righters or insecure males to even register on my “try to help” radar. I wish I could find them useful employment; it’s a painful statement on our society that I can’t.

          • Mr. Fillmore, you are a remarkably constrained and polite person. Nothing you said represents a break from your typical practice.

            “Your tears are delicious” says very much about the person saying it, not complimentary. It simply is not what a serious person would open up a conversation with. And drive-by commenters, regardless of political persuasion, are assholes. Plain common sense, not partisan.

            We need to continue discussing also why ‘asshole internet behaviour’ [AIB] correlates so strongly with right-wing polarization. The narrative has many aspects. The most important one for the present is how the far right-wingers have more or less openly offered a safe space for AIB.

            I continue to hope against hope that large numbers of basically decent conservative-identified people will eventually not want to be associated with those who routinely practice AIB. Because being an asshole is bad, and the long-forgotten case for conservativism is in the maintenance of basic decency. Don’t laugh.

            • Thanks for the nice words! I’ve been a major jerk on the internet like everyone has sometimes. It’s usually when some other aspect of my life is driving me nuts, and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Anger will out.

              While I’m not a social media guy, I have participated in a baseball blog for six years or so, and your observations about AIB ring true — it’s almost always conservatives who do it. (Of course, there are many conservatives who don’t engage in AIB and it’s possible to have polite disagreements with them.)

              And I don’t mean just obvious trolls, like this “Bacon” nitwit above. I mean people who aren’t inherently trolling, but can never stop an argument. William Burroughs once wrote that “the surest mark of an asshole is someone who has to be right.”

              There’s a few liberals like this, but most are conservatives. Another thing I’ve noticed — you can get in a pretty bad internet fight with a liberal, and with some eating of crow and peace offerings, they will forgive you. Conservatives you piss off? Once they’ve decided you’re The Enemy, they loathe you forever.

              What shapes these choices? Why do some people take pleasure in the neighbor’s house having a tree fall on it, and others think, “I loathe those people, but I sympathize because I wouldn’t like that if it happened to me.”

              And I know I was more “ha-ha, sucks to be you” when I was younger. Why do I not feel that way now? Reading inspiring authors? Meeting people who were a huge influence? I can’t even begin to track it all.

              Anyhoo, to return to your post, yes, I agree that traditional conservatives embrace a level of social decorum. Basic politeness. In my experience, they tend to be the older ones. I don’t know why this is.

        • I am going to call you Dr. Moraes every time we go out in public in LA. Because it will make me laugh at their reaction to my respectful tone when I call you that.

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