The New Libertarian Generation?


dan2100

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See http://mises.org/daily/4463

A passage that some here might find disagreeable:

"...there is nothing even remotely libertarian about the tea parties. There is nothing even remotely libertarian about Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin. Yet these are the specific examples Lilla refers to throughout his article, as particular instances of the "politics of the libertarian mob" he so deplores.

"Now ask yourself, does either Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin have even the slightest interest in "neutralizing, not using, political power"? Does Glenn Beck? Do any of his colleagues on Fox News? Could you say of any of these conservative Republicans what Lilla says of the proponents of the libertarian spirit, that "they want to be people without rules"? Merely to pose such questions in so open and bald-faced a manner is to see instantly what a preposterous absurdity we would have to pretend to believe in order to answer them in the affirmative. As Johnny Carson would say, "it is to laugh."

"The only sense in which the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, the majority of the tea partiers, and the best known and most representative figures on Fox News may be said to represent the growing libertarian impulse or spirit in the land is this: their employment of a lot of libertarian rhetoric that doesn't at all match the policies they endorse and proselytize for is in itself a kind of indirect symptom of the growth of the libertarian spirit. Conservatives have been using libertarian rhetoric for many decades now, but they've increased this tactic recently in response to the very phenomenon Lilla is writing about — the growing spread of the libertarian spirit through the land. Libertarian ideas have come to exercise enough influence among the general public that at least certain major party politicians and major media feel compelled to pretend to espouse them themselves and do all they can to co-opt them."

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So, where goeth the libertarians?

--Brant

I'm not sure what you mean? Is the choice here run with the conservative statists or sit it out?

If these guys are so bad, why don't the libertarians step up instead of complaining?

--Brant

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So, where goeth the libertarians?

--Brant

I'm not sure what you mean? Is the choice here run with the conservative statists or sit it out?

If these guys are so bad, why don't the libertarians step up instead of complaining?

--Brant

I'm not sure what you mean by "step up." I do see libertarians doing all sorts of things -- various forms of activism, writing, speaking out, and the like. Your statements makes me think you believe all libertarians are just sitting back waiting for a messiah to come along. What is it exactly that you're looking for from libertarians?

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See http://mises.org/daily/4463

A passage that some here might find disagreeable:

"...there is nothing even remotely libertarian about the tea parties. There is nothing even remotely libertarian about Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin. Yet these are the specific examples Lilla refers to throughout his article, as particular instances of the "politics of the libertarian mob" he so deplores.

Although I agree with Jeff about Limbaugh and Palin, Beck is not as easily dismissed. I would even say that Beck's libertarian tendencies are more than remote, as illustrated by his opposition to the call of the Obama administration to suspend habeas corpus for American citizens suspected of being terrorists. Although this plan has been applauded by many conservatives, Beck has spoken out against it numerous times, and with some eloquence. Moreover, Beck frequently has libertarian guests on his radio and television shows, and he treats libertarianism with respect, despite his disagreements.

As for Fox News, Jeff has despised this channel for a long time, and I doubt if he watches it very much, if at all. I, on the contrary, watch it a lot. True libertarians, such as Judge Andrew Napolitano and John Stossel, are frequent guests on various talk shows (both also have their own shows on the Fox Business channel), and other libertarians, such as Randy Barnett, pop up fairly often. I would say that these facts make the Fox News channel "remotely libertarian," at the very least.

As for the "hard news" on Fox, it is not nearly as slanted as some critics claim. I have noticed definite improvements over the past couple years, but even in its worst days, it never approached the left-bias of MSNBC, which is an absolute disgrace.

MSNBC is where you will find the real enemies of libertarianism, as witnessed by the feeding frenzy after Rand Paul criticized the Civil Rights Act. That was the big story on MSNBC for at least two days on both the talk shows and the hard news. You would think nothing else was happening in the world, and I lost count of the number of times I heard how "racist" libertarians supposedly are. The conservatives on Fox News can get condescending about libertarians, but the MSNBC liberals actively hate us.

Then there was the infamous MSNBC report of an early Tea Party protest during an Obama speech. MSNBC repeatedly showed a close-up of a holstered gun, while talking heads droned on about how this protester and others were probably white power types who hate Obama because he is black. What MSNBC didn't show -- and what it took Fox News to reveal -- was that the guy carrying the gun was himself black. That was not an innocent mistake.

As for the Tea Party protesters, many were libertarians during the early stages of the movement. But it has been increasingly co-opted by traditional conservatives, so, as the movement now stands, I tend to agree with Jeff.

Ghs

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I had read Lilla's piece when it came out and had some pretty strong disagreements with it. While the American people are perhaps more libertarian in their personal dealing (maybe more libertine is more apt), more Americans than ever want to rely on the collective effort of others.

As for Riggenbach, while I think that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are fairly sincere in their views (even though I have my varying disagreements with them), I do think that a lot of the Republican leaders are cynically trying to co-opt the energy of the Tea Party movement when they supported a big-government agenda and large decifits under George W. Bush. While I hope that the Republicans retake the House in November, I have strong doubts that the current leadership is committed to reversing the tide of collectivism.

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So being libertarian is something like being pregnant? Either you are or you are not?

After all, there is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant.

Does that mean ditto for being a libertarian? There is no such thing as being a little bit libertarian?

Thus, does that mean there are no degrees of approximation--and that the ideas of, say, Sarah Palin are just as anti-freedom and evil as the ideas of Chairman Mao?

Just wondering...

Michael

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So being libertarian is something like being pregnant? Either you are or you are not?

After all, there is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant.

Does that mean ditto for being a libertarian? There is no such thing as being a little bit libertarian?

Thus, does that mean there are no degrees of approximation--and that the ideas of, say, Sarah Palin are just as anti-freedom and evil as the ideas of Chairman Mao?

Just wondering...

Michael

I agree that there are degrees of libertarianism; for example, I would describe Ron Paul as a conservative libertarian, in contrast to radical libertarians. But these graduations result from different interpretations and applications of some shared fundamental principles, most notably self-ownership.

Many modern liberals are good on civil liberties, but I wouldn't call them libertarian to a degree. Rather, I would call them liberals who happen to agree with libertarians on certain policies. The same is true of conservatives, such as Limbaugh and Palin, who happen to agree with libertarians on some issues.

So how can we tell in particular cases? Well, I think drug legalization is our best litmus test. Regardless of how much a person claims to believe in freedom, if he doesn't defend the fundamental right of the individual to ingest whatever substance he likes, then he doesn't uphold the right of self-ownership. The right to control what you put into your own body is absolutely fundamental to libertarianism.

One reason I separated Beck from the conservative crowd is because of his statements about drug legalization. Although he doesn't favor legalization, he clearly understands the argument from self-ownership, and I have heard him say numerous times that he is sympathetic to it but can't quite convince himself to embrace it. I wouldn't be surprised if Beck eventually changes his mind on this subject, as William Buckley did.

All this is a far cry from the positions taken by Palin and Limbaugh, both of whom are dedicated drug warriors. I've even heard Limbaugh go ballistic over medical marijuana initiatives. These are not people who accept the right of self-ownership; they are not libertarians, even to a degree. They work from different premises altogether.

Ghs

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So being libertarian is something like being pregnant? Either you are or you are not?

After all, there is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant.

Does that mean ditto for being a libertarian? There is no such thing as being a little bit libertarian?

Thus, does that mean there are no degrees of approximation--and that the ideas of, say, Sarah Palin are just as anti-freedom and evil as the ideas of Chairman Mao?

Just wondering...

Michael

I agree that there are degrees of libertarianism; for example, I would describe Ron Paul as a conservative libertarian, in contrast to radical libertarians. But these graduations result from different interpretations and applications of some shared fundamental principles, most notably self-ownership.

Many modern liberals are good on civil liberties, but I wouldn't call them libertarian to a degree. Rather, I would call them liberals who happen to agree with libertarians on certain policies. The same is true of conservatives, such as Limbaugh and Palin, who happen to agree with libertarians on some issues.

So how can we tell in particular cases? Well, I think drug legalization is our best litmus test. Regardless of how much a person claims to believe in freedom, if he doesn't defend the fundamental right of the individual to ingest whatever substance he likes, then he doesn't uphold the right of self-ownership. The right to control what you put into your own body is absolutely fundamental to libertarianism.

One reason I separated Beck from the conservative crowd is because of his statements about drug legalization. Although he doesn't favor legalization, he clearly understands the argument from self-ownership, and I have heard him say numerous times that he is sympathetic to it but can't quite convince himself to embrace it. I wouldn't be surprised if Beck eventually changes his mind on this subject, as William Buckley did.

All this is a far cry from the positions taken by Palin and Limbaugh, both of whom are dedicated drug warriors. I've even heard Limbaugh go ballistic over medical marijuana initiatives. These are not people who accept the right of self-ownership; they are not libertarians, even to a degree. They work from different premises altogether.

Ghs

I believe being a libertarian means accepting the libertarian core principle -- noninitiation of coercion. The problem is deciding how exactly this applies in different situations. I think the distinction should be made between people who operate from mixing or not really holding this core principle and merely applying it in a different manner. The former is usually what happens when there are people who hold certain libertarian positions, but really are not libertarians.

This might even apply to George's litmus test. If my memory serves me, Buckley was mainly if not solely againt drug prohibition not because he believed in self-ownership, but because he felt the policy was too costly and didn't work. This means, to me, that were drug prohibition cheaper -- in his terms -- or more successful, he'd have stayed for it. I might be wrong about this particular case as I'm relying on what I read about his position around a decade or so ago.

The latter are just people who are likely misapplying the principle -- as in, I believe, minarchists (who don't see the contradiction inherent in a monopoly in legal authority: it necessarily must involve initiation of force) and, say, people who are tout court against unions (as unions are not necessarily coercive, so being against them is initiating force -- in this case, to prevent freedom of assocation of workers and freedom to contract as they see fit).

But this really seems like I'm saying being a libertarian is like being pregnant. In a sense, I think it is. Once one holds the core principle, if one is consistent, one is bound to weed out unlibertarian positions one holds. (One must, of course, beware of people who merely pretend to hold the core principle. This might be something of the case with Alan Greenspan -- though less in terms of his being a libertarian and more in terms of his support of free markets. In his case -- and I've listened to his auto-hagiography -- he seems to have clearly set off his supposedly radical free market views from ever clashing with his rabidly pro-interventionist policy stances: never the twain shall meet. He seems, in many ways, like the joke about people who listen earnestly to the sermon on Sunday and then break ever percept of it Monday through Saturday.)

In the case of Beck, George admits that Beck currently fails the litmus test. Yes, he might come around at a future date, but this is kind of strange, especially since Beck isn't usually portrayed by his supporters here as either a moral coward (i.e., too afraid to go all the way with his principles) or as one having major problems in his principles (such as a conflict at the core level).

I do agree, though, that people can move closer to being libertarian. I'm not sure I've met a single libertarian I know who didn't start out as a statist of some form or other. And some of them were pretty far out there in statist-land. (And I'm not sure I can generalize on who takes libertarianism to the radical extreme: those who are out and out statists but succumb or those who are much more milder types of statist.)

Another matter here is how can libertarians work with various non-libertarians, especially when the latter might hold some libertarian or proto-libertarian position. I believe one must be very careful here and realize in many cases not to be either over-optimistic (as in believing the non-libertarians are all closet libertarians, just need a little prodding, or can be duped into supporting truly libertarian positions) or over-pessimistic (as in "it'll never ever work, so let's never take any chances"). I think each person is probably going to have a different view on where the balance falls, but I'd be careful of believing someone is a friend merely because he's against [some of] your rivals. And one must remember, too, that no one has limited resources and opportunities. On this, I mean, time and effort spent coalitioning with non-libertarians takes away from other things you might be doing.

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I believe being a libertarian means accepting the libertarian core principle -- noninitiation of coercion.

NIOF is a corollary of self-ownership. Either will do.

The problem is deciding how exactly this applies in different situations.

Kinda, but not quite. There are also problems of interpretation -- theoretical problems that precede specific applications. For example, if you are a self-owner, does this mean you can sell yourself into slavery? This problem, which played a major role in debates over social contract theory and which was addressed by differentiating between alienable and inalienable rights, is more an issue of interpretation than application.

But this really seems like I'm saying being a libertarian is like being pregnant. In a sense, I think it is. Once one holds the core principle, if one is consistent, one is bound to weed out unlibertarian positions one holds.

There is another issue here, namely, the priority that one gives to the principle of self-ownership (or the NIOF principle, if you prefer). This issue arose in debates between abolitionists and gradualists in antebellum America. Both groups appealed to self-ownership in their arguments against slavery. Gradualists, however, argued that the immediate abolition of slavery would cause various economic and social problems, so slavery should be phased out over time. Abolitionists, in contrast, argued that self-ownership is the fundamental issue. As William Lloyd Garrison put it, "the right of the slave to himself [is] paramount to every other claim." (My emphasis.)

In the case of Beck, George admits that Beck currently fails the litmus test. Yes, he might come around at a future date, but this is kind of strange, especially since Beck isn't usually portrayed by his supporters here as either a moral coward (i.e., too afraid to go all the way with his principles) or as one having major problems in his principles (such as a conflict at the core level).

I wouldn't call Beck a libertarian, but I would say that he is sympathetic to libertarian principles in a way that Limbaugh and Palin are not. It is scarcely accidental that he has so many libertarian guests on his programs. I would be amazed if either Limbaugh or Palin converted to libertarianism, but I wouldn't be surprised if Beck did. There is a different quality or "feel" (for lack of better words) to Beck's approach; it definitely exhibits libertarian tendencies.

I can't cite chapter and verse to prove this assertion, but I think those who listen to Beck regularly will know what I mean. I also think this is why some libertarians like Beck. I like Beck -- sometimes more, sometimes less -- and I am not predisposed to like conservatives. Far from it; conservative buffoons like Sean Hannity drive me up a wall. Despite his theatrical manner and religiosity, Beck, whatever he may be ideologically, is no buffoon.

Ghs

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I believe being a libertarian means accepting the libertarian core principle -- noninitiation of coercion.

NIOF is a corollary of self-ownership. Either will do.

No disagreement from me on this.

The problem is deciding how exactly this applies in different situations.

Kinda, but not quite. There are also problems of interpretation -- theoretical problems that precede specific applications. For example, if you are a self-owner, does this mean you can sell yourself into slavery? This problem, which played a major role in debates over social contract theory and which was addressed by differentiating between alienable and inalienable rights, is more an issue of interpretation than application.

I was initially going to write both, but, again, no disagreement here.

But this really seems like I'm saying being a libertarian is like being pregnant. In a sense, I think it is. Once one holds the core principle, if one is consistent, one is bound to weed out unlibertarian positions one holds.

There is another issue here, namely, the priority that one gives to the principle of self-ownership (or the NIOF principle, if you prefer). This issue arose in debates between abolitionists and gradualists in antebellum America. Both groups appealed to self-ownership in their arguments against slavery. Gradualists, however, argued that the immediate abolition of slavery would cause various economic and social problems, so slavery should be phased out over time. Abolitionists, in contrast, argued that self-ownership is the fundamental issue. As William Lloyd Garrison put it, "the right of the slave to himself [is] paramount to every other claim." (My emphasis.)

You've mentioned this before, but wouldn't agree that the priority means another principle is deciding the issue -- namely, a non-libertarian one? If someone were to say, "I agree totally with libertarianism, including on legalizing drugs, but, at this time, we can't legalize because this would cause various economic and social problems," then that person is saying the core libertarian principle must be set aside -- i.e., that it's okay to violate self-ownership (or initiate force) and that her or his true core principle, in this context, is something other than self-ownership (or NIOF)?

In the case of Beck, George admits that Beck currently fails the litmus test. Yes, he might come around at a future date, but this is kind of strange, especially since Beck isn't usually portrayed by his supporters here as either a moral coward (i.e., too afraid to go all the way with his principles) or as one having major problems in his principles (such as a conflict at the core level).

I wouldn't call Beck a libertarian, but I would say that he is sympathetic to libertarian principles in a way that Limbaugh and Palin are not. It is scarcely accidental that he has so many libertarian guests on his programs. I would be amazed if either Limbaugh or Palin converted to libertarianism, but I wouldn't be surprised if Beck did. There is a different quality or "feel" (for lack of better words) to Beck's approach; it definitely exhibits libertarian tendencies.

I can't cite chapter and verse to prove this assertion, but I think those who listen to Beck regularly will know what I mean. I also think this is why some libertarians like Beck. I like Beck -- sometimes more, sometimes less -- and I am not predisposed to like conservatives. Far from it; conservative buffoons like Sean Hannity drive me up a wall. Despite his theatrical manner and religiosity, Beck, whatever he may be ideologically, is no buffoon.

Ghs

Allowing that your view here is correct, do you believe this is because libertarianism itself has become ever more something to be reckoned with? Rush Limbaugh seems to come from an earlier time -- Glenn Beck is thirteen years his junior -- when libertarian influence was less. Do you think that had some impact? (This doesn't explain Palin, who seems to be just a mainstream conservative statist who will use libertarian rhetoric when it'll score points, but is otherwise anti-libertarian.) Or is it, perhaps, Beck simply came to his ideas from a different path than Rush and this doesn't necessarily add up to some generational difference? (Rush and Hannity also seem much more partisan -- much more Republican cheer leaders than independent thinkers.)

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