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… and pigs might fly

On April 23rd, the Daily Kos had an article called Bringing libertarians into the Dem fold. In it, the author proposes:

I have argued for the past year that libertarians (with a small “L”) have a more natural home in the modern Democratic Party than with the GOP.

He goes on to describe how the Democratic party can leverage Republican abridgements of civil liberties to show libertarians that the Democratic party is their natural home, and that it is in fact ‘The party of personal liberty’.

Demonstrating at least a partial grasp of the difficulties of selling this notion to libertarians, he concedes that for this to have any chance whatsoever to work, the party of Charles Schumer and Joseph Lieberman is going to have to abandon its position of progressively abridging the right to keep and bear arms.

Although I left a long comment about the article on the Daily Kos, and mentioned that the idea of trying to appeal to ‘the other side’ was something I also had views on, there are a few interesting things about this that make it clear to me why Daily Kos does not understand the nature of the pool they are fishing in. Whilst the author understands the right to bear arms issue as being directly related to the issue of personal liberty, he also clearly sees the great majority of other things the Democratic Party does as being either neutral or unrelated to maters of personal liberty and thus not being ‘deal breakers’ in his proposed hand of friendship to libertarians.

For example, when he wrote about how the Republicans have consistently opposed business regulation, admiringly quoting an article elsewhere decrying GOP attempts to deregulate economic matters, presumably Daily Kos thinks that having the state regulating the control of several means of production is unrelated to issues of personal liberty. Perhaps in his eyes anyone who runs a business is not a person-who-has-liberty but rather some sort of collective entity and creature of the polis to whom issues of liberty are simply not germane. Perhaps this is a product of the ‘them and us’ class warrior view of the world found amongst the statist mainstream on both left and right.

And when he writes about how backs Wesley Clark as a Democratic candidate for President to run against Bush:

As everyone here already knows, he’s my favorite in this race. He’s solid on national security, well-spoken, presidential, pro-choice, pro-gun, pro-affirmative action, anti-PATRIOT Act, and believes strongly that the government should provide for the less fortunate amongst us.

I read that and when I hit the bit about ‘pro-affirmative action’ I hear the sound of screeching brakes. Now whilst I may think ‘affirmative action’ (I prefer to use the term ‘anti-white and anti-asian male state mandated discrimination’) is not materially different morally to apartheid, the fascinating thing here is that Daily Kos obviously does not even see this as an individual liberty issue! So when a specific individual white or asian man does not get a job because of a force backed state law that requires a quota of women and certain favoured ethnic groups to be hired, presumably his personal liberty, and the liberty of the owner of the company offering the job, is simply not an issue of ‘personal liberty’ at all.

Then of course we have the ‘government should provide for the less fortunate amongst us’ remark, which to most libertarians is tantamount to an apologia for proxy mugging at gunpoint. Also implicit in this is the hilarious notion (to a libertarian) that the Republicans do not take money at gunpoint from various ‘fortunate’ sections of society to give to the ‘less fortunate’… and that would be, bad, presumably. Would anyone care to list the number of violence backed redistributive ‘welfare’ acts signed into law by Republican law makers in, say, the last 30 years? Please use no more than 100,000 words.

What we have here is a fundamental failure to understand that what separates Republicans and Democrats is mostly a matter of policies within a largely shared meta-context (the framework within which one sees the world)… that is to say the Elephants and Donkeys both pretty much agree on the fact the state exist to ‘do stuff’ beyond keeping the barbarians from the gate and discouraging riots. The language and emphasis may be slightly different (forms of educational conscription with the tagline “No child left behind”… media control legislation described as “Fairness”… etc.), but the congress exist to do much the same sort of thing for both parties, just that whoever is their favoured group should have their snouts deeper in the trough.

Yet almost everything the Dems or Republicans do, beyond a narrow range of legitimate functions that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, are regarded as grievous abridgements of ‘personal liberty issues’ by almost all libertarians. That Democrats like Daily Kos cannot see that it is at the level of axioms and meta-context that libertarians disagree with them, not mere policies is astonishing. Sure, the absurdly named ‘Patriot Act’ is a monstrous abridgement of civil liberty, but the idea that this Republican law should make the Democrats more attractive to libertarians indicates just how little understanding there is of what makes libertarians think the way they do.

Of course, ‘libertarian’ is a broad term, as divisions on the war against the Ba’athist regime in Iraq have demonstrated, and many libertarians in the USA do indeed vote GOP on the grounds they would rather be ruled by the lesser evil (which is to say they vote against the Democrats rather than for the Republicans). But the fact so many people do not vote at all suggests to me that a large proportion say “a plague on both your houses”, and will continue to do so. If folks like Daily Kos realised the sort of disdain libertarians have for matters most in the statist ‘main stream’ would consider beyond debate, I suspect the hand of friendship from the Daily Kos would be withdrawn very quickly indeed for fear it might get cut off with an axe.

Democratic Party talent scout looking for libertarians

105 comments to … and pigs might fly

  • I think actually the biggest problem is that many people (especially but not only on the left) have trouble seeing the level of taxation (and consequently the size of government) as an individual liberty issue. If you can’t make that point get through, then there really isn’t much hope.

  • …not only might pigs fly but they might also be seen on the Paris catwalk sporting Versace dresses!

  • This is hilarious.

    But watch, they managed to steal the world “liberal” (as in Hayek, Mises…), they might try to steal “libertarian” as well.

  • John J. Coupal

    …and looking mighty hot, too!

  • Julian Morrison

    Libertarians voting D makes as much sense as them voting R. In both cases they get a few marginal things right in theory (personal liberty and free speech / free trade and RKBA) and in both cases largely betray even these in practise.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Well put Perry, and dead on. As Michael Jennings also points out above, I can see no chance of appealing to Democrats (or in the British context, the Labour Party) while so many members of these parties believe, without much argument, that it is okay for the State to grab nearly or more than half of our wealth at source and then interfere with what remaining wealth we have or may try to create.

    And the same applies to all sorts of lifestyle issues, where the Democrats and Labour Party are often highly authortarian, backing vast assaults on the Common law, trial by jury, calls for ID cards, etc, etc. Do we really want to get into bed with these folk?

    Mind you, as the Santorium controversy about the rights of gay adults shows, the Republican Party is little better when it comes to a congenial political ally.

    love the pig picture, by the way!

  • The party that’s out of power is the party of small government, because they spend most of their time complaining about the ruling party’s big government programs, while putting their own big government programs on the back burner to some degree until they’re in a position to implement them. Complaining about the Patriot Act will be the Demo’s way of pretending to favor small government while they are in the wilderness.

  • And what about economics? When choosing between Dem or Repub, I ask myself who is more of a free marketeer?

    Neither. But there’s definately a better chance for deregulation if I were to vote GOP.

    For me to vote democrat, they would have to drop their “democratic socialist” economic policies. And we all know that that is not going to happen.

  • David R Beatty

    Perry, that was an excellent analysis of the Daily Kos article; while some issues regarding liberty are correctly identified, he misses the point regarding many other issues, including self-defense, affimative action, welfare, and taxation.

    Scanning through the comments on the article, many of the responders don’t get the libertarian perspective, either.

  • T. Hartin

    Granted that both the Donks and the Phants are fundamentally un-libertarian, I have to say that the Donks are more hostile across the board to personal liberty. They uniformly oppose tax cuts, oppose what little deregulation is put on the table, constantly push redistribution of wealth, and have their own agenda of controlling thought and speech that easily matches and probably exceeds that of the Phants. There may be a few isolated rights-of-the-accused type issues where the Donks are less aggressively statist than the Phants, but that would be about it.

    In short, a libertarian would have to be completely insane to vote for Democrats on any consistent basis.

  • son of a… sorry about the triple post.

    comment systme is acting wierd

  • Russ Goble

    For some reason, this post reminded me of something Bill Maher said. (In case Maher’s name doesn’t have resonance across the atlantic, he’s an American comedian who does mostly political humor and hosted a show called Politically Incorrect, that was anything but). Anyway, he once described himself as libertarian because he believed pot should be legalized. Yet, if you ever followed his other beliefs, he was a tried and true left wing statist to the core. This just reminds me of that for some reason.

  • Brian

    Tomas–

    But watch, they managed to steal the world “liberal” (as in Hayek, Mises…), they might try to steal “libertarian” as well.

    Oh they try. I think it was Chomsky who called himself a “libertarian socialist.” The politer version of this is “civil libertarian.”

  • S. Weasel

    Thirty years ago, you might have persuaded me that the Left represented personal freedom. Since then, though, they’ve been in power often enough to show their true colors: when they hold the reins, they yank them until our mouths bleed.

    Being pro-taxation is, as others have pointed out, a hugely important aspect of this. But, more to the point, both the Dems and Labour are very much proponents of minding your own business for you, because they are worthy meritocrats and you’re just…some guy. They’d like to nanny, micro-manage and control as much of your life as possible – from what you eat to what you drive to what you wear to how much you get paid, and how much of that you get to keep.

    Hate crime legislation, environmental restrictions, affirmative action, product liability law, congestion charges, video surveillance. Geez. The Republicans have let me down again and again by not living up to their promises, but I’d be terrified to live in a world where Democrats really lived up to theirs. I’d chew off my lever-pulling arm before I’d vote Dem.

  • Dave Wolfe

    On the bright side, isn’t it encouraging that both the Dems and Pubs are taking the Libertarians seriously enough to exert the effort to win our allegience?

  • Russ Goble

    I may be butchering the quote and the source, but I think it was Churchill who said the problem with capitalism is the capitalists but the problem with socialism is socialism. To paraphrase, the problem with the Republican Party are the Republicans, but the problem with the Democratic Party is the Democratic Party.

    It’s certainly a nice idea in the States to vote Libertarian, I’ve done it several times, including Harry Brown in 2000. But, sadly, in this day in age (you know, post Sept. 11th and all), I have to throw my hat in with the Republicans, despite the Lott’s and Santorums. Republicans, at least, have a lot of the rhetoric correct. Republicans are the only party in the country that still gives any credence to federalism (and yes, I’ve read Glenn Reynolds’ notes about fair weather federalists and largely agree). Republicans still largely believe in smaller government as an overarching philosophy, despite various hypocricies on certain matters. And, just to throw in some cheap shots, the Republicans who seem to mostly advocate intrusive or larger government on certain matters tend to either be a) former Democrats (Trent Lott and many older Southern Republicans) or b) represent somewhat liberal voting bases (the Northeastern Republicans). Yeah, it’s a generalization, but, hey any time I can get a dig in about Dixiecrats I will.

    The Patriot Act, like Homeland Security, is not, at this time, a serious abridgement of civil liberties. If made permanent, it COULD be. If Patriot Act II comes down the pike (which is still just a rumor) then, yes, serious abridgement. Homeland Security under Bush and Ridge is not anything to be seriously concerned about, yet. However, like any government agency, it’s the inevitable mission creep and redefinition of priorities that worries me. And, yes, I’m as fearful of the religious right as anyone else here, but honestly, their power in the Republican party is more imagined than real, especially in the last 2 presidential elections.

    But, I do believe libertarianism has a significant place in the American consciousness, even if most folks don’t know what to call it. What needs to happen is for libertarians to try to exert power in one of the two political parties as opposed to having one of their own. The current Libertarian party is far more concerned about being fundementally sound (regardless of the real world situation) than getting elected. That’s admirable I guess, but in the end, it really doesn’t advance the cause of liberty. Until that changes dramatically, that’s the wrong horse to bet on. And I believe, libertarians best choice to exert influence is the Republican party, which is already partially on the same page. And as long as libertarians stress freedom OF religion, as opposed to freedom FROM religion (like the Dems), then they can coexist with the more religious members of the party.

    It isn’t as easy as, perhaps, I made it sound, but it’s far more feasible to advance libertarian ideas than lining up with the Democrats. Yes, Jefferson may have been one of the great libertarians and he did found the Democratic party, but that doesn’t change the fact that T. Hartin’s post above is dead on.

    Great post Perry, though I may quibble a little with your conclusion.

  • Someone once said the US doesn’t have two political parties, it has two identical political cousins both played by Patty Duke.

  • sage mclaughlin

    Property rights, guns, affirmative action, education, health care, drugs, freedom of association, labor law…other than that and a few other minor things like discrimination law, confiscatory taxation, judicial restraint and states’ rights, we’re really on the same page.

    Is this really his argument? Sheesh. What a joke.

    The real problem with leftists is that they deeply misunderstand both the roots and branches of their own philosophy–Kos honestly believes that the intellectual children of socialism are the guardians of personal liberty and individual rights. As I always say, these guys may know the words cold, but they haven’t got the tune.

  • “What if they gave an election, and nobody came?”

    Don’t vote, ladies & gentlemen. It really does only encourage them. And, if they had no popular sanction of the victims, then they would have to expose their premises to the broad light of day with explicit force to claim our productive energies, instead of the mere implication deeply buried under all the glittering euphemasia.

    No culture in history has ever voted its way out of despotism, and this one won’t either.

    Mark my words.

  • sage mclaughlin

    Property rights, guns, affirmative action, education, health care, drugs, freedom of association, labor law…other than that and a few other minor things like discrimination law, confiscatory taxation, judicial restraint and states’ rights, we’re really on the same page.

    Is this really his argument? Sheesh. What a joke.

    The real problem with leftists is that they deeply misunderstand both the roots and branches of their own philosophy–Kos honestly believes that the intellectual children of socialism are the guardians of personal liberty and individual rights. As I always say, these guys may know the words cold, but they haven’t got the tune.

  • Most people dont vote because they are too busy living life in a society that they feel no need to attempt to change, they are comfortable and satisfied, apathetic, or cynical.

    America may have only 2 major parties, but both parties have large libertarian contingents. I do not think Libertarians will ever be a prevalent political party on its own, but it will always have a prevalent place in other political parties. It is too abstract for practical application, or to put it another way, it is too logical to work in our fuzzy logic world.

  • Supporting your point, it should be remembered – even though many Dems want to slip this fact down the memory hole – that the “Patriot Act” was not a “Republican Law” – it was voted for overwhelmingly by Democrats as well. It was a bipartisan measure, and to the extent to which it was folly, it was folly of both parties.

    What seems to be happening now is Dems and their sympathizers are saying “yah, we want credit for strengthening anti-terror laws from the voters, but all blame for the infringement on civil liberties, well we weren’t in the room, wasn’t us, don’t hold us accountable”.

    Lack of a sense of responsibility for their own actions is also something that IMO should turn off Libertarians. They, not just the Republicans, made this bed. They just don’t want to be caught laying in it.

  • Andrew Millard

    The left has already been working hard to co-opt the word “libertarian” by tying it to the word civil, as in “civil-libertarian” – one who is concerned with the civil libery, i.e. the ACLU is a civil-libertarian organization. I’ve heard it used this way on network news programs numerous times in the past year or so.

  • Russ Goble

    FYI: If you make a post and it gives you an error. Hit back, then copy and paste your comments to the clip board just in case. Then go to the main page and reclick to get here. More than likely, your post did go through despite the error. In case it didn’t, you should be able to paste your comments back in and repost. That should save on the repetitive posts. And I see this has been linked by instapundit. Prepare for the traffic.

    Also, a clarification on my earliar posts in case anyone cares. I didn’t mean to imply that the Homeland Security Department was either a good idea or well run. I think it’s full of incompetence and has problems defining its mandate. On top of that, the FBI is loaded with problems that run the gammut from incompetence, administrative disarray, to outright violation of some liberties and over interpretation of the Patriot Act. But, my point is that I don’t think Bush or Ridge want this to happen and believe some of the policies put in place are meant for this unique war time stance. My concern, which I’m sure is most of yours, is what happens when their isn’t a war on terror but yet the Homeland Security is still there thinking of stuff to do with it’s billions of appropriated funds. I just don’t think it or the Patriot Act is as bad IN PRACTICE OR DEFINITION as people seem to think. But, I certainly think they could BECOME that bad.

  • White Sambo

    Nobody has mentioned Rep. Ron Paul. He is a libertarian. That is one libertarian congressman for the GOP, how many for the Dems? Also, check out the Republican Liberty Caucus.

    Call me partisan but the Dems are for the most part anti-liberty, both personal and economic. I remember when I had some Dems in my office take the LP quiz…did they score…liberal? centrist? libertarian? Nope…authoritarian. These were soccer moms, a primary target of the Dems…scary.

  • in the kingdom of kos, there is only one truth and that is to elect a democrat in the next presidential election.

    the kossites believe that republicans are evil and bush is an exceptionally evil man. whereas libertarians and greenies are naive, if only they could see the light.

    in dealing with kossites, i have only one suggestion don’t play too hard with them or you may be exiled from the kingdom of kos; the kingdom is closed to new ideas or open discussion, hardly libertarian.

  • h0mi

    I got a laugh out of this comment:

    It is obvious that on balance, personal freedoms are better protected by Democrats than Republicans.

    He forgot Feinstein’s proposal to regulate the internet & ban books in the aftermath of Ok City and the other anti-terror regulations proposed by the Reno/Clinton Justice Department.

    Then when he said this:

    That leaves guns, and it’s a deal-breaker with many libertarians. Which is why I say, fine. You win. The NRA wins. We’ll work hard to enforce existing gun laws

    We don’t want you to enforce existing gun laws Kos, we want them GONE. We’re not “states rights” supporters.

    With the PATRIOT act, we need to tar and feather the politicians who voted for it and never read it. Especially those who are now against the act, or think it goes too far. Just as a reminder to them to say “Where were you on….”

  • I don’t agree that Libertarianism doesn’t “work” as well as Republicanism or Democratism, unless by “work” you mean “get people elected”. It would work better if it were ever tried. But objectivism would work even better, if by “work” you mean “safeguard and maximize personal liberty and opportunity”.

  • dude

    This is a very broad statement which isn’t accurate in all cases, but anyway:

    Republicans believe in economic freedom. They do not believe in personal freedom and civil rights.

    Democrats believe in personal freedom and civil rights. They do not believe in economic freedom.

    So, I guess you have to pick what you’re more concerned about.

    Basically Republicans are a little bit better about taxes, and rather much better about national defense. As far as federalism, limited govt, etc., I think they aren’t any worse than Democrats. Although to tell the truth they mainly pay lip service to those two concepts. Republicans also don’t play racial/sexual identity politics much. (There are Dixiecrat exceptions, of course). So. . . I find them a little more tolerable. Democrats have to lose the socialism and anti-war pacifism stuff before I’ll even think about it.

    Now, where can I find a party that believes in personal freedom and civil rights and in economic freedom?

  • in the kingdom of kos, there is only one truth and that is to elect a democrat in the next presidential election.

    the kossites believe that republicans are evil and bush is an exceptionally evil man. whereas libertarians and greenies are naive, if only they could see the light.

    in dealing with kossites, i have only one suggestion don’t play too hard with them or you may be exiled from the kingdom of kos; the kingdom is closed to new ideas or open discussion, hardly libertarian.

  • dude

    This is a very broad statement which isn’t accurate in all cases, but anyway:

    Republicans believe in economic freedom. They do not believe in personal freedom and civil rights.

    Democrats believe in personal freedom and civil rights. They do not believe in economic freedom.

    So, I guess you have to pick what you’re more concerned about.

    Basically Republicans are a little bit better about taxes, and rather much better about national defense. As far as federalism, limited govt, etc., I think they aren’t any worse than Democrats. Although to tell the truth they mainly pay lip service to those two concepts. Republicans also don’t play racial/sexual identity politics much. (There are Dixiecrat exceptions, of course). So. . . I find them a little more tolerable. Democrats have to lose the socialism and anti-war pacifism stuff before I’ll even think about it.

    Now, where can I find a party that believes in personal freedom and civil rights and in economic freedom?

  • in the kingdom of kos, there is only one truth and that is to elect a democrat in the next presidential election.

    the kossites believe that republicans are evil and bush is an exceptionally evil man. whereas libertarians and greenies are naive, if only they could see the light.

    in dealing with kossites, i have only one suggestion don’t play too hard with them or you may be exiled from the kingdom of kos; the kingdom is closed to new ideas or open discussion, hardly libertarian.

  • BR

    I agree with the “the problem with the Republicans is the Republicans” post. If you let the Republican party have its way, and it didn’t have to worry about re-election, most of the big government reforms since the New Deal would be turned back. Education would be shipped back to the states where it belongs, along with medicare, welfare, criminal law, environmental law, and the rest. The problem is getting elected.
    Which is where the judges come in. The Republicans will nominate judges having a proper view of the Constitution, the Constitution as Madison intended, and not the one rewritten by socialist Democrats. Thats a start, but the Republicans and all libertarians need to do a better job convincing people that its not the federal governments job to fix every problem.

  • Will Allen

    Perry, having had many exchanges with Democrats (along with some Republicans) on this issue over the years, what has become apparent to me is that they are truly unable to acknowlege that, at it’s core, the state is an instrument of violence, and that all activities of the state are inherently violent.

    The irony, of course, is that so many Democrats desribe themselves as non-violent in orientation. Democrats lie to themselves regarding the use of violence, most commonly by sentimentalizing democracy to the point where they actually believe that violence engaged in by a majority is somehow magically transposed into non-violence via numerical superiority. Thus, as long as democratic processes are followed, any violent suppression of individual liberty by a majority is rendered morally legitimate, particularly when it involves private property. When I point this out to Democrats, they often deny it, by maintaining that they support Constitutional limitation of majority power. When I then point out that the Constitution is itself infinitely malleable by sufficient majority will, either in the broad population or by 5 votes on the highest court, and I then ask what PRINCIPLES they would employ to limit majority will, without reference to infinitely malleable Constitutionalism, I am met with deafening silence. In fact, the Democrats (and many Republicans, to be fair) have no principles that would limit majority use of violent state power, and are unable to even acknowledge the implicit violence of the state, and thus have no basis to strike common ground with those who hold individual liberty as paramount. They are like goldfish in a bowl for whom the entire universe is wet, because non-wetness cannot be comprehended.

  • Jenn

    I think one of the reasons why libertarians seem to be more compatible with republicans (I do not mean this generally, but as compared to libertarian compatibility with democrats) is that there seems to be well-defined subgroup of libertarian-leaning republicans (e.g., the Republican Liberty Caucus). You also have conservative think tanks championing issues that are very libertarian (school choice and free market health care, for example). From time to time there may be one or two libertarian-leaning democrats, but, as a species, they’re drifting into extinction.

    There are some libertarians who have joined the Republican Party so that they can promote the idea of individual liberty and still seem electable. If there weren’t libertarians, like Rep. Ron Paul, around trying to keep the Republican party honest, then most libertarians would probably also view it as a hostile party.

    Russ, you may remember that Bill Clinton also once claimed to be a libertarian. Even though he didn’t “inhale,” I assume his definition of libertarian extends about as far as Bill Maher’s.

  • Mark Buehner

    Want a laugh, just have a look at Gepherts new stealth healthcare takeover plan. Bottom line goes, look instead of letting you keep your tax break money, we’re going to take it from you on spend it on your health care insurance, whether you need it or not! Oh, and guess what else, most of it wont even be spent on you but on people who dont even pay federal tax to begin with. But thats got nothing to do with personal liberty. Right. My advice to dems, dont go printing up those extra bumper stickers just yet.

  • Lee

    Daily Kossacks are delusional; “Why yes, libertarians ARE Democrats at heart.” Pfeh!

    Daily Kos is a closed world of closed minds. Fortunately, if the little troll ever comes out of his mother’s basement into the light of day and reality he will melt.

  • Timmy the Wonder Dog

    sorry about the multiple posts

  • How do Democrats score on the Smallest Political Quiz? I posted the link over at Kos:

    http://www.self-gov.org/quiz.html

    Interesting to see if any take it and score remotely close to “libertarian.” Also interesting to see if Democratic positions score closer than GOP positions.

    (yes I know that the quiz is biased as hell toward libertarians, that is the whole point!)

  • I got as far as this sentence: “He goes on to describe how the Democratic party can leverage Republican abridgements of civil liberties to show libertarians that the Democratic party is their natural home, and that it is in fact ‘The party of personal liberty’.”

    At which point I said to myself, “Are we supposed to have forgotten that all those abridgements were things that the Democrats tried and failed to pass under Clinton?”

  • From Russ: “What needs to happen is for libertarians to try to exert power in one of the two political parties as opposed to having one of their own. The current Libertarian party is far more concerned about being fundementally sound (regardless of the real world situation) than getting elected. That’s admirable I guess, but in the end, it really doesn’t advance the cause of liberty.”

    So right. The realities of power in America require that one participate if one wishes things not to continue in the direction they are going. It seems libertarians have a great untapped pool of political preference but not the will to exercise it, even in voting on candidates. The place that this will is best exercised is in the party primaries. One must review candidates and their voting records and do one’s level best to pick the candidate who seems least likely to stomp on us in future, or facilitate someone else’s doing so. Once it gets to the presidential level — and even to the level of congress — one is often left with choices that raise the gorge.

    Russ: “Until that changes dramatically, that’s the wrong horse to bet on. And I believe, libertarians best choice to exert influence is the Republican party, which is already partially on the same page. And as long as libertarians stress freedom OF religion, as opposed to freedom FROM religion (like the Dems), then they can coexist with the more religious members of the party.”

    Stressing the freedom OF religion is wholly libertarian. The entire point is to coexist with those different so we can pursue our separate interests without abuse. Stressing freedom FROM religion is the same as stressing freedom from nicotine on the legislative level, but infinitely more sinister and with an much farther reaching effect. As I recall, the USSR recently concluded an experiment including that element of control, among others. I’m convinced that the eminently logical readers of this blog can see the difference.

  • Regrettably, the Republican Party generally marks the lesser of two evils when voting in the United States. Both parties look to rescind civil liberties, they only differ on which liberties they would prefer to see gone. But the Republicans do generally lower taxes and decrease regulation, while Democrats generally look to cripple business and jack up taxes. Voting Republican in the United States is almost a defense mechanism for libertarians.

  • A couple of folks have mentioned it, but it bears emphasis – the euro style national health that so many Dems favor is not wholly consistent with individual freedom and personal responsibility.

  • It might interest Perry to know that many a dedicated Libertarian in the Libertarian Party started out life in, or, if independent, at least strongly leaning toward, the Democratic Party. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of current party members switched from the Demos.

    I myself made that switch in 1980, when Reagan’s GOP was courting the so-called “Reagan Democrats.” Reagan was trying hard to erase the association of Nixon with the GOP, but I could remember only too well that the drug war in its current form started with Mr. Nixon, not to mention any number of other civil rights abuses, justified by a need to fight the “terrorists” of the day (war protestors, SLA, etc.). I did not trust Reagan and his promise to “get government off our backs,” as appealing as that promise was for me. At the same time, I knew I could not stay anywhere close to the Democratic party. True, at the time they were still seen as being huge proponents of civil rights and civil liberties, but I had seen their welfare state first hand and knew that it wouldn’t work, and that rights and liberties would eventually have to take a back seat to entitlement claims.

    So, I started voting Libertarian, and soon afterward joined the Libertarian Party. In the 20+ years since, I have seen the promises of Reaganite Republicans made and broken over and over again. I saw the Democratic Party and the elected officeholders from that camp enlist in the drug war and fight it as fervently as any Republican right-winger. Indeed, I saw both parties getting our country involved in actual military conflicts, and encouraging the public to think of those conflicts as “war,” without ever actually declaring war as the Constitution requires, leading directly to the most recent abomination in Iraq. I saw the taxing and spending increasing, regardless of which party controlled congress or the white house. I came to view the two parties as merely two faces of a single party, playing a game of “good cop, bad cop” with the American people.

    During the same period, I saw the number of libertarians in elected or appointed office grow from a hundred or so to several hundred (today I think the number is over 500, but you can check with the Libertarian Party to get the most accurate number). I saw the LP and libertarians mount and win court challenges to taxes, zoning, and infringements of civil liberties. I saw initiatives and referrenda that were openly supported or opposed by Libertarians (even to the point of libertarians writing the corresponding argument in official ballot pamphlets) go on to the Libertarian-endorsed victory or defeat, respectively. I saw Libertarian candidates for House, Senate, Governor, and President be interviewed seriously on important television news shows, and covered respectfully in newspapers and magazines; many were able to fight their way into “official” candidate debates, and garner larger vote totals as a result than they might have done, campaigning in obscurity. I saw Libertarians gain ballot access in state after state — and sometimes even seats on state election-fairness commissions. Best of all, I saw the two major parties pull out the dirty tricks, attempting to crush and smear the Libertarians whenever it looked like the upstart third party might actually do some damage to the two-faced monoparty.

    When the “big boys” took off the kid gloves, and started treating us as a threat to be neutralized or destroyed, rather than as an amusing sideshow of the political circus, I was finally convinced that the Libertarians must be doing something right. Combined with my observations of where both the GOP and the Demos have taken our country, I realized that Libertarians must resist the siren call to “return home” to either the Democratic or Republican parties. That way lies “assimilation” and ultimate impotence to make a difference, as was borne out by the experiences of several friends or acquaintances who bolted the LP to “work within the system” as “libertarian democrats” or “libertarian republicans,” only to return, cynical and burned out, without having had nearly the impact that their “recruiters” implied they would. On the other hand, I am encouraged to have seen Libertarians and the Libertarian Party make more and more of a difference with each passing year, although I am disappointed that we haven’t hit a flashpoint of high-profile electoral success yet. If, however, we pay close attention to cultivating our grass roots during this “simmering time,” I think we will be all the stronger and more effective when we are finally seen as an “overnight success.”

    I urge Libertarians to steer clear of either the Democrat or Republican parties. I left that whole scene behind 23 years ago, never looked back, and have no regrets: the march of time has confirmed every suspicion I ever had about the GOP and Demos, while also confirming the potential of a sincere, ideologically focused third party to make a difference, given patience and persistence of vision.

    The major parties simply want power, and have shown themselves adept at acquiring it by any means necessary and wielding it for any purpose — usually having something to do with their own aggrandizement. The Libertarian Party was founded to promote the judicious and controlled use of group power in service of individual rights and the proliferation of individual liberty. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been home to its share of clowns, bunglers, and scoundrels over the years. On the other hand, it has been about as effective as a US third party can be in promoting its stated aims. More importantly, its aims are stated clearly and are consistent with the party’s founding theme of liberty. The platforms of the Demos and GOP have morphed alarmingly over the decades, as one might expect of organizations that draw their “principles” from the current direction of the political wind on any given day. It is hard to pin either party down to what they believe except, perhaps “hooray for our side.” So, as imperfect as it is, I’m still betting on the LP to do more to advance the cause of liberty in the next decade than the Democrats or GOP were able to do in the last CENTURY.

    Hang in there, Libertarians, and if you can find libertarians within the ranks of the GOP or Demos, bring them to the party, too.

  • Bill Clinton would have claimed to be an alien pod person if he thought there were a couple of votes in it. Witness how his supporters called him our first black president.

    I’m one of those libertarian-leaning Republicans you speak of, and quite comfortable in that party. It is a real and vital part, and the source of most of the ideas that become policy. Ashcroft is no favorite of mine, and Santoro’s benighted analysis gives me stomach cramps (why on earth do you care what other people do with their moist parts?). Nevertheless, when I get in the voting booth and ask myself which realistic choice is most likely to stay out of my hair for his term of office, it keeps coming up Republican.

    Libertarianism seems to be one of those ideas that works better in its weak form. We can cherry pick some of the better ideas (smaller government, low flat tax rates, individual over the state, etc.) without enacting one of those grand systematic experiments that so enlivened the twentieth century. The conservative impulse, properly considered, is a reluctance to mess with something that is working. As one of the students of the immortal Murphy observed, if you screw around with something long enough, you’ll break it.

    I do agree with your analysis, and I hope the Daily Kos doesn’t read it. I feel it is a waste of resources to wise up a chump. You might need one some day.

  • S. Weasel

    Here’s S. Weasel’s handy guide to American voting:

    If the race is dangerously close, and there’s a clear difference between candidates, vote the better candidate.

    If the race is not close, and there’s an interesting third-party candidate, vote the third party…just to rattle the bastards a little.

    If the race, close or not, is between two hopeless losers, stay home and cast a vote for apathy.

    It’s an imperfect system, but it’s my own.

  • Interesting post, James. I believe we posted at the same moment. You included a lot of information that is new to me.

    I think that for me it will remain a case of judging on the merits for each candidate, but it’s nice to know there’s finally a third perspective being heard.

  • confused

    White Sambo: I took the quiz, and guess what, I scored “libertarian.” Who knew? I can’t accept drug legalization, however. I did vote libertarian in 1976, and again in 2000. But because of all the ruckus over the popular vote in 2000, I’ll have to vote Republican next election. There is no way I’ll ever vote Dem after the 2000 Fiasco. (The Fla Supreme Court should be impeached.) I’d like to do everything I can to squeeze the Dem party into insignificance. Maybe they’ll do it to themselves.

  • Tom Kince

    Which party more respects personal liberty? The party that most supports an individuals right to self-defense. What is more fundamental to personal liberty, than being personally able to defend your liberty. The Dems may be making some gun-rights noises but we all know its bu@@. Any group that thinks Bush and Ashcroft are dictators even though Bush and Ashcroft generally support gun rights is brainless.

  • Regrettably, the Republican Party generally marks the lesser of two evils when voting in the United States. Both parties look to rescind civil liberties, they only differ on which liberties they would prefer to see gone. But the Republicans do generally lower taxes and decrease regulation, while Democrats generally look to cripple business and jack up taxes. Voting Republican in the United States is almost a defense mechanism for libertarians.

  • Regrettably, the Republican Party generally marks the lesser of two evils when voting in the United States. Both parties look to rescind civil liberties, they only differ on which liberties they would prefer to see gone. But the Republicans do generally lower taxes and decrease regulation, while Democrats generally look to cripple business and jack up taxes. Voting Republican in the United States is almost a defense mechanism for libertarians.

  • White Sambo

    As was mentioned we should be very very careful when we hear Leftists trying to win over libertarians, as they may try to appropiate our language and labels while distorting our positions. It happened in the past and may happen again.

    The word LIBERAL used to mean libertarian, now it is almost a synonym for socialist. The Founders were liberals. Hayek and Mises were liberals and Hayek even objected to being called a conservative. Labels and slogans are powerful things, and we must guard ours to protect the ideas behind them.

    The Left is morally empty so it steals whatever slogans and labels it can to get itself in power. As its on a very weak postion today, we should be taking back the word LIBERALISM for our own.

  • Jeff P.

    “Donks” and “Phants”. I love it!

    I am a libertarian Phant, and held minor elective office, but I am getting a little tired of my trunk and big ears.

    The major political parties now look like street gangs fighting over turf and patronage. There is a veneer of ideological respectability (respectable, that is, to their own political bases), but that is all. The Donks and the Phants are business politicians, meaning that they are in the business of getting reelected, and they are driven by campaign contributions, patronage and not making fatal mistakes. They avoid making any statements on high-minded political principles whenever they can, because these are dangerous and alienating to some segment of voters or another. The big-L Libertarians have the luxury of staking out their ideology because they rarely have to worry about getting elected or reelected, and therefore don’t have to cut the corners and the deals or to slime themselves to make this happen.

    Disregard the freedom-loving mouthings and platitudes, recited by the voters as some sort of mystic holy writ. Most Americans don’t really care whether they are free; they want to be safe. This, I acquired through painful education, but the Donk and Phant careerists learned it long ago. I wish it were otherwise.

  • “Most Americans don’t really care whether they are free; they want to be safe.”

    Here is the real problem and let me assure our US readers that however bad you think it is in the USA it is worse by an order of magnitude in Britain.

    The vast majority of Brits do not perceive of themselves as unfree so an ideology of personal freedom falls on so much stoney ground here. The British are only too pleased that their ‘caring’ government keeps them safe from nutters with guns. Similarly, the only way to a decent and civilised society is through very high taxes and government micro-management.

    In such circumstances who can blame politicians for pursuing statist/socialist policies when they will argue (correctly) that they are only doing what they were elected to do.

  • confused

    Jeff P. –

    “Most Americans don’t really care whether they are free; they want to be safe.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. There are probably a lot of fuzzy-haired, liberal, Dem, soccer-mom types and their “significant others” or whatever, who fear for their safety on a moment-to-moment basis, but they are not most Americans. Most of us “Red-State” Americans cherish our freedom, are willing to aggressively defend our homes and families, are willing to fight and die for the freedoms of our country, and are not afraid. I sleep soundly at night, even though we have minimal police protection — our Sheriff’s office closes on the weekends! On the other hand, freedoms are taken away in small increments. Little laws, like you can’t do your own plumbing, or you are forced to contribute to NPR through your taxes, and so forth. Where will it all end?
    (By the way, its the “Blue-State Americans” who divided the country into “US” and “THEM”)

  • This is such a joke it’s not even funny. The number of libertarians I’ve known who lean toward the Democrats rather than the Republicans is very small, the number that lean to the Republicans is huge. Mainly I think it’s this. Republicans are at least marginally for limited government, most of the time the things they do that go against that grain are temporary or fairly easily changed. Democrats on the other hand seem to enjoy creating whole new legal codes and government bureaucracies at the drop of a hat, and put in place systems which are harder to get rid of (afirmative action, gun control, civil service unions, etc.) About the worst sort of thing like that the Republicans have is the Drug War, and the Democrats support that too so it’s a wash. Add to that the fact that the core of the Democratic platform is much more hostile to libertarian ideals than the Republican platform (high taxes vs. low taxes, redistribution of wealth and strong regulation vs. free enterprise, gun control vs. self-defense, racial quotas vs. color blind laws, etc.) and you can easily see why libertarians are unlikely to flock to the Democratic banner.

  • Will Allen

    Alas, it is many “red staters” who supposedly love freedom, who gladly lobby for agriculture subsidies, redundant military bases, access to water below market value, etc.. What many ostensible “freedom lovers” want is the freedom to dip into somebody else’s wallet, by diktat of the state.

  • A plague on both their houses.

    The only reason for a libertarian to vote Democrat or Republican is whether you would prefer to fight the inevitable battle against Big Government yourself, or have your son do it in twenty years’ time.

    Goodness knows, the Republicans do many things to piss me off — but I’m pissed off by everything the Democrats do.

  • This is such a joke it’s not even funny. The number of libertarians I’ve known who lean toward the Democrats rather than the Republicans is very small, the number that lean to the Republicans is huge. Mainly I think it’s this. Republicans are at least marginally for limited government, most of the time the things they do that go against that grain are temporary or fairly easily changed. Democrats on the other hand seem to enjoy creating whole new legal codes and government bureaucracies at the drop of a hat, and put in place systems which are harder to get rid of (afirmative action, gun control, civil service unions, etc.) About the worst sort of thing like that the Republicans have is the Drug War, and the Democrats support that too so it’s a wash. Add to that the fact that the core of the Democratic platform is much more hostile to libertarian ideals than the Republican platform (high taxes vs. low taxes, redistribution of wealth and strong regulation vs. free enterprise, gun control vs. self-defense, racial quotas vs. color blind laws, etc.) and you can easily see why libertarians are unlikely to flock to the Democratic banner.

  • Although the Republicans don’t go near as far on fiscal and regulatory policy as the Democrats go, they’re the party of economic and general personal freedom of the two majors, while the Democrats tickle the libertarian fancy more on sex and drugs.

    What do y’all prefer, prudish dynamism or permissive statism? Most libertarians, if they aren’t capital L ones, wind up holding their nose and choosing the former, unless sex and drugs is their big issue.

  • I very much agree with White Sambo. The very fact that the power party is trying hard to co-opt the term “libertarian,” and that the left-wing seems to be working especially hard at this today, indicates that the term “libertarian” has positive meaning to a significant portion of the electorate, even if only as a synonym for “interesting alternative.” The power party is trying to keep the alternative from being “viable.”

    When I switched to the LP circa 1980, I thought of myself as a “liberal,” in the traditional sense of that term. I only knew “libertarian” from the phrase “civil libertarian,” and I didn’t like it very much. I was fascinated to watch, as “liberal” came to signify less and less of what I ever thought was “liberal” — eventually becoming practically its own antonym! — thanks to the hard work of the left and its partner, the Democratic Party (not to mention the gleeful cooperation of the smear-masters on the GOP side, who quickly changed “liberal” into a term of derision).

    Over the years, my beliefs have become more sharply defined, but they still match what I originally thought of as “liberal.” Today, however, “libertarian” is the term that best matches those beliefs.

    If you look at the history of politics, you will see (as, for example, cynical leftie George Orwell saw clearly and discussed in “Principles of Newspeak” appendix to “1984″) that it is at the same time the history of the erasure or outright hijack of the words that people use in poltical discourse. So White Sambo has it exactly correct: “Libertarian” is as vulnerable to semantic shift as “liberal” was, and those who know the meaning of “libertarian” must work hard to promote and defend it. So many people have claimed themselves or their views to be “libertarian” or (as Clinton did) “sort of libertarian,” that the word is in danger of losing any power whatsoever to distinguish one sort of person or worldview from another.

    This truth, unfortunately, seems to be the source of Shana’s complaint about the LP’s fixation on ideological purity, not to mention the impetus for any number of internecine battles that have been waged within the Libertarian Party, or between the Libertarians in the LP and those who have decided to work “within the system” as members of the GOP or Democrats. Libertarians within the two-faced power party must be seen as espousing a libertarianism that is compatible with the face to which they have attached themselves. Libertarians within the LP know that, the more they become like the Demos or GOP, the more they lose the fight altogether, so are strongly invested in finding and maintaining the “one true libertarianism(tm).” This leads to a lot of ugliness, as people take out the long knives, fighting literally for the lives of their personal political religions.

    What’s at stake, of course, is what the public will think “libertarianism” is, whether they will see it as a valuable thing to pursue, and where they will go to get it. Heaven help them if they are convinced that they want it and can get it from the Demos or GOP.

    The conundrum is especially precious: unless those who know and love the word “libertarian” defend it vigorously and even firecely, they will lose it, as “liberal” was lost. Yet, most people are repelled by the intensity necessary to successfully defend terms like “liberal” and “libertarian” against semantic hijacking; they come to view as irrelevant and even dangerous, those who engage in such activities. Shana’s take on the Libertarian Party, for example, seems to me to be a mild form of that perfectly natural reaction.

    It seems to be that the most effective defenses of “libertarianism” — as concept and vocabulary term — which I have seen have also been the most thoughtful, courteous, and civilized: Charles Murray’s “What It Means to be a Libertarian”; and the presidential campaign speeches and writings of the Libertarian Party’s Harry Browne. These gentlemen got through to their audiences with intelligence and respect. Although that approach didn’t work for everyone in the audience (and seemed especially mis-matched against, for instance, the bare-knuckle tactics of someone like Bill O’Reilly when Browne appeared on his show), and although any number of libertarian and anarchist “purists” have decried the views of both men as being “watered down” libertarianism, I think they managed to convey the essence and key issues of full-strength, no-apologies libertarianism in ways that were accessible to and could appeal to (or at least draw the attention of) a broad enough swath of people to keep “libertarian” and “libertarianism” from being co-opted or hijacked. Both of these guys have been villified, in and out of the LP, so their approaches aren’t antidotes to internecine, ideological knife-fights. But the knife-fights, to borrow a saying about war, don’t ever determine who’s right, only who’s left: they deplete the number of libertarian activitists and repulse or frighten new people from getting an accurate understanding of libertarianism. The approaches of Browne and Murray, on the other hand, increase the number of people who have a clear understanding about libertarians and libertarianism. I feel that increasing the population of “libertarian speakers” is the only way to keep the words and language from being hijacked, or from disappearing altogether.

    In America, at least, I think that the Libertarian Party needs to exist, and to convey accurate meanings of “libertarian” and “libertarianism”; otherwise, nobody else can or will step forward to keep those words from going the way of “liberal.” With luck, the party can exemplify the terms through the words and deeds of its candidates, especially as they gain and hold increasingly higher-profile elective office.

    Libertarian candidates need to be keenly aware of their status as role models, and live up to it. This is not to say that we all need to be button-down inoffensive types shaped by the same cookie cutter. But without mangling their own unique personalities or losing their souls, libertarian candidates must, each in his or her own way, strive to bring honor and clarity to the terms “libertarian” and “libertarianism.” Win or lose, after the election is over, will people have a clearer or more muddied idea of those words as a results of the candidate’s work? Win or lose, after the election will people come away with more or less respect for libertarians, and more or less interest in finding out more about how government can be used to secure freedom and liberty? Will they be more or less likely to take a second look at a future Libertarian candidate? “Outrageous” campaigns, or those initially deemed as “quixotic” or even “silly” can and have achieved these goals as well as the button-down, “serious,” “marketing-driven” ones. However we apporoach them, people will determine their personal definitions of our “proprietary labels” from our own words and deeds, so we have to be aware of that process and act accordingly. If we don’t we’ll still have to live with the consequences, which could mean that we’ll be calling ourselves something else in 30 years, while lefty (or neocon-style “righty”) faux-”libertarians” are being elected (and the term “libertarian” is turned into an insult by their political “enemies). All the time, the noose of big government will continue to tighten around everyone’s necks. Let’s not have that!

  • Fred Boness

    A totalitarian country without personal freedoms has certain markers like restrictions on personal property, concentration camps, and President for life.

    The closest America came to that was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Americans had their gold confiscated, concentration camps were set up for Americans of Japanese ancestry, and the tradition of serving two terms that had stood from the founding of the Republic was violated.

    Democrats. I hate those guys.

  • confused

    Will Allen: Speak for yourself, partner. It should come as no surprise that not all red-staters are alike. Unfortunately, this is the danger of dividing people into US and THEM categories (as the Dems are wont to do). They are bigoted. I don’t want anything the government has to offer, except protection of our borders, our shores, etc., like the Constitution says. I was once qualified for food stamps, many years ago. There was no way in hell I would have taken them. I know plenty of people like me. One of the the most disturbing things I hear Dems say is that they want to give the money (your and my tax money) to the “right” people. Of the two parties, I’d say the Dems are the most dangerous. They need to be marginalized.

  • confused

    Will Allen: Speak for yourself, partner. It should come as no surprise that not all red-staters are alike. Unfortunately, this is the danger of dividing people into US and THEM categories (as the Dems are wont to do). They are bigoted. I don’t want anything the government has to offer, except protection of our borders, our shores, etc., like the Constitution says. I was once qualified for food stamps, many years ago. There was no way in hell I would have taken them. I know plenty of people like me. One of the the most disturbing things I hear Dems say is that they want to give the money (your and my tax money) to the “right” people. Of the two parties, I’d say the Dems are the most dangerous. They need to be marginalized.

  • Re: Republican vs. Libertarian party as a practical matter. I have been intrigued for a while by the Republican Liberty Caucus; though I don’t know a whole lot about the group. Evidently it is an effort to work within the Republican party to promote libertarian-leaning canditates. Since they are working within one of the main parties, it has a much more practical chance of success than a third-party effort.

    And it is difficult to imangine someone adopting the same strategy successfully within the Democratic party of 2003 – which speaks volumes about why many libertarian types usually hold their nose and vote Republican.

  • White Sambo

    I think one of the reasons that the Dems are trying to split libertarians away from the GOP is that it is having an affect. Check out this recent column from the Nation:

    http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20030512&s=greider

    What the Dems and the Left fear the most is that libertarianism is making inroads into the GOP and eventually into the majority. They fear this, hence they wish to chop us at the knees by spitting us into two among two major parties. The ironic thing about this is that to do this they must actually appeal to libertarians, which is a very good thing (which is why I applaud Kos’s post).

    Conservatives are not necessarily libertarians, but they are close and are very much influenced by libertarian philosopy, publications and think tanks. Fox News is completely consevative (but honest about it) but really that is the only place I have ever seen libertarians on TV.

    As for the LP, it needs to exist. It is what keeps the GOP honest. I contribute to both. Maybe someday the Party of Jefferson (the Dems) will return to its classical liberal roots. That would be a good thing for both liberty and America.

  • Jeremy

    It used to be that that Democratic Party was the party for social freedom, and the Republican Party for economic freedom, but I think that’s changed quite a bit. The Republican Party has gotten better, thanks in part to the so called ‘neo conservatives’.
    And the democratic party has gotten worse. Most of the social freedom types have left to join the Green
    Party (which ironically, also appeals to those who hate economic freedom the most).

    I also think those social conservatives in the Democratic party are scarrier than the ones in the Republican party. Joseph Liberman and Tipper Gore are very much in favor of banning things like rock music and video games (and in Tipper’s case, Dungeons and Dragons). Most republicans who do the same aren’t really taken seriously. Tipper Gore is a very very scary and disturbed woman (read her books) – essentially a fascist, yet she was almost the first lady.

  • Jeremy

    It used to be that that Democratic Party was the party for social freedom, and the Republican Party for economic freedom, but I think that’s changed quite a bit. The Republican Party has gotten better, thanks in part to the so called ‘neo conservatives’.
    And the democratic party has gotten worse. Most of the social freedom types have left to join the Green
    Party (which ironically, also appeals to those who hate economic freedom the most).

    I also think those social conservatives in the Democratic party are scarrier than the ones in the Republican party. Joseph Liberman and Tipper Gore are very much in favor of banning things like rock music and video games (and in Tipper’s case, Dungeons and Dragons). Most republicans who do the same aren’t really taken seriously. Tipper Gore is a very very scary and disturbed woman (read her books) – essentially a fascist, yet she was almost the first lady.

  • Tim Butler

    Libertarians should remember the Lesson of Florida, circa 2000, when Naderites took the electiona away from Al Gore. By all means agitate for libertarian goals. By all means push candidates in all levels of electoral politics with sympatico views. But never cast a vote which aids the worst candidate, or fail to vote for the better candidate. Remember, the perfect is in fact the enemy of the good.

  • There is a significant amount of Dems who just do not “get” what motivates a libertarian. They seem to believe the sole motivation is personal sexual issues (gays, abortion sex etc). When challenged with Democratic positions on drugs, PCism and high taxes (Dems/socialists do not seem to believe that high taxes are not a limit to personal freedom.) they look befuddled. Generally they revert to the all Republicans are bible-bashing fascists argument.

  • Ditto, Perry. Calling the Democrats (or Republicans, but especially the left in general) The Party of Personal Liberty is one of the more astounding cases of bad judgement I’ve seen in some time.

    Individual liberty (and all it implies and requires) is lost on them too often.

  • Eric Coe mentions the Republican Liberty Caucus. While I respect them and the work they do, I must say that they seem gelded, at least in terms of aggregate results since I started hearing about them in the early 1990s. In fact, I would point to groups such as the RLC as prime examples of the “assimilation into impotency” effect that I mentioned earlier. Despite the RLC, government just keeps getting bigger and more intrusive. Also, remember that the GOP likes to campaign on libertarian rhetoric, and said for years that, “if you just give us the congress and the white house, boy will you see a change (presumably toward the libertarian direction they were promoting at the time).” Yet now, the GOP has Congress and the White House. Even if the promised big change hasn’t yet taken place, you would think that the RLC would be more in the driver’s seat than they are now. But they are still a relatively “fringe” organization within the GOP, apparently tolerated and used as window-dressing (to attract the libertarian-minded to the GOP’s “big tent” and away from third-party or independent effort) rather than being power players within the larger party in their own right. Go check out the cited website and see for yourself.

    I do think that libertarians who think that there is still hope for the GOP may feel more “comfortable” in the RLC, but from paying attention to them and their results for the past ten years or so, I can’t say that you’ll feel more “effective,” if smaller government and more individual liberty really are your goals. I personally think that the GOP spin-doctors visit the RLC during their normal campaign rounds, and pick their brains for words and phrases that will push the buttons of libertarian-minded voters, then toss them back into the dark closet until the next election rolls around. The biggest problem with the RLC is structural: they are pledged to rally around the general election candidate, regardless of who they supported in the primaries. This often puts them in the position of actively opposing Libertarian candidates who may have positions identical to those of GOP candidates they supported in the primaries, in favor of “official” GOP party nominees who will, at most, pay lip service to libertarian concerns just long enough to get elected. I can’t see that as an effective way to take the GOP, much less American politics in general, in a more libertarian direction. I think that libertarian views — and the will to put them into government policy — must survive, undilited, into the general election. The party nomination processes have the effect of homogenizing and neutering any strong or sincere ideological approaches. Only an independent candidate or a third-party candidate can bring the full-strength message to the general public prior to the election. If Libertarian approaches are to succeed, there should be no question that it is libertarianism that the people want. If they fail, they need to fail by virtue of having been rejected by the people, rather than by the filtration effect of major party pre-election processes.

    I don’t think the RLC is bad, mind you, I just think it is very likely to be more of a waste of time than even a third-party campaign.

  • confused

    This is a great blog. By reading the original post, and the fine comments, I am perhaps becoming a little less “confused.” I have to admit that I tended to be somewhat apolitical before the 2000 election. However, after seeing the gall of the Dems in that Fla challenge, and their endless attacks since then (“President-Select,” Lawrence Tribe’s and liberal law professors’ attacks on the Supreme Court decision, attacks on the Constitution, yada, yada, yada), I now view the Dems as very dangerous. I believe that the endless attacks on Bush and the accusations of a “lack of intelligence” has undermined respect throughout the world for the Presidency and for our country, even moreso than Clinton’s follies. We may never overcome the damage done to this country by the Dems. I think they will do or say anything to gain/retain power, regardless of the damage they may cause. I am pragmatic. I must vote Republican in the future, just to do my part to keep a Dem from being elected. But I think I must be a libertarian at heart, and just didn’t know it. Thanks to all of you for your comments and insights. I hope to learn more in the future.

  • Confused, if you really are libertarian at heart, I hope you don’t end up having to change your name to “Heartbroken,” once you see, as I have seen over the decades, that voting to keep the other guy out of office only slows the slide into the abyss, at best. If you want to climb out, you have to do something positive to climb out, so I hope you will continue to pay attention to Libertarians, and that you will someday find a reason to vote for them. If all the people who ever said “I have to vote for the GOP just to keep the Dems out of office” (or for the Dems to keep the GOP out of office) had instead voted for the Libertarian that time around, we’d at least have libertarian senators and house reps by now. Instead, we keep getting the same-old same-old. Thanks for your interest, and please stay tuned.

  • confused

    James Merritt: I have voted libertarian twice: 1976 and 2000. However, I can’t say that my philosophical reasons for those votes were well thought out. I liked the way Harry Browne sounded in 2000. But I am really pissed at the way the Dems have used Gore’s popular vote to attack the Constitution. At least until things settle down (maybe the 2004 election will be enough of a disaster for them that they will change) I’m going to have to add one more to the tally of anti-Dem votes. I understand about being stuck in the hole, but this is war. I do plan to learn more about Libertarian.

  • We’ve heard Republicans and Democrats alike offer that the Constitution is quaint, outmoded, and even irrelevant in recent years. If your hope is that voting anti-Dem will save the Constitution, again, I think your name will soon be “Heartbroken.” Democrat Johnson and his crowd damaged the Constitution, as did Republicans Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Bush, and Democrat Clinton. Without the damage that these earlier administrations did, the current blows wouldn’t be so significant (or so possible, I think). Putting more of the machine pols in power will only further exacerbate the situation. Let me tell you: I said the same thing ten years ago. Yet people put more machine pols in power, and we went even further down the dark road. Ask yourself how you can win their game by playing it according to their own good-cop bad-cop rules?
    It isn’t a war between GOP and Democrats, however it may look. That’s a WWE staged fight between stars of Smackdown and Raw. I am simply saying, you’ll keep seeing the same thing unless you change the channel.

  • veryretired

    I notice a couple different posters who keep trying to define libertarianism and encourage participants to vote for libertarian candidates. This is of course a fine idea, as I have voted several times for libertarian and other third parties both to support them and to protest the bankrupt collection of party hacks put forward by the main parties. I personally was fortunate to read Atlas Shrugged, The Road to Serfdom, and other writings by Friedman, Arendt, et al, in high school and college in the ’60′s and ’70′s. These ideas were like innoculations against the ferocious attempt by the new left to overwhelm any competing views on the proper ordering of society. It seems to me the average age of the bloggers and readers is much younger than mine, so I mention the above in order to set the context for a few observations.
    The first is that government in this era has become an enormous corporate entity which in many ways is now completely out of control. By corporate I don’t mean business, but an organization which now exists for its own sake, with a semi-permanent management group, an enormous workforce which has a distinct self-interest in its own expansion, and an even more enormous clientele, the beneficiaries of the huge amounts of money which this entity now controls and dispenses. The growth of this entity by means of one emergency after another, from the depression, ww2, cold war, great society, etc., etc., has oustripped any possibility that either main party, much less any minor party, can control it. It should be remembered that even Reagan, who was elected to start shrinking the federal government, could only slow its growth to a small extent.
    Secondly, the venomous struggle by the main parties to control the enormous wealth of the government, now measured in trillions of dollars, a scale of riches and power unkown to Augustus at his height, is now the sort of insiders game that only a small group of professional political power brokers have access to. I am not postulating some type of conspiracy, but that there is an elastic group of people on both sides who have devoted their lives to gaining and manipulating political power. Clinton is a perfect example of this. Both Bush and Gore were second generation political heirs, like members of the extended Rockefeller or Ford families trying to jockey for the top spot.
    Third, any cooperation or compromise between the main parties is usually a loss for the individual, as the Republicans will agree to another liberal control on business or some huge booddoggle that the greens or health lobbies want, in return for some type of tax shift or military program, which then rewards their constuency. The point is that the citizenry are the dairy herd, those who are to be milked, the pressure groups are the constituencies, because they can turn out the voters, and the only true winners are those connected to the paying end of the process, who end up with the appointments, contracts, etc. This is most eloguently described by Rand as the politics of pull, and is the reason so many times that it seems like something good is going to come out of an election or particular piece of legislation, but after awhile nothing actually is accomplished. The purpose of corporate government is not to solve problems, but to find problems, to expand its client base, and at all times to coopt and absorb any potential rivals. There is much more to be said on this subject, of course, but I have certainly gone on too long already.

  • I voted for Harry Browne in 2000 – but was relieved when Bush prevailed in the Florida post-election mess. After 9/11, I was absolutely disgusted by the line taken by Harry Browne and the LP concerning the WOT. Isolationism is not a viable strategy now, and the hyper-rationalist Libertarian live-and-let-live theory of trade-oriented minimalist foriegn policy does not cut the mustard with me. It simply does not address the irrational nature of our Islamo-fascist enemy. This is a major flaw.

    Other that that basic issue of self-defense aginst suicidal religous nutcases colluding with evil governments, I could go for the LP platform, etc. pretty much as-is. But it seems to be pretty strong medicine for most people to take.

  • Will Allen

    Confused, I only used the term “red state” because you used it first. As to your contention that most red staters love freedom, well, what do you suppose the chances of a red state Senatorial candidate would be if they opposed agriculture subsidies?

  • Warmongering Lunatic

    Where are the Democrats calling for the repeal of anti-tobacco measures? Oh wait — that isn’t personal liberty, that’s “public health”. Of course, there are Republicans in favor of those measures, but, critically, there are Republicans who oppose them, too.

    Helmet laws, seatbelt laws, tobacco laws — a Republican is (marginally, to be sure) more likely to allow me to choose risks for myself than a Democrat. A Republcan (marginally) is more likely to support school choice and homeschooling. A Republican (marginally) is more likely to oppose “campaign finance reform” that stifles political speech. Republicans support my right to keep and bear arms to a greater extent than Democrats. Republicans are significantly less likely to consider my personal beliefs (on religion or race or the like) a reason to punish me more severely for a crime.

    On personal liberty, frankly, the Republicans and the Democrats are dead even. And on economic liberty, even if it’s marginal, the Republicans are better.

  • Veryretired’s comments are quite insightful, but they seem to imply that there is little or nothing that can be done through the political process or by voting, much less by independent or third-party efforts. I’m not ready to concede yet, after only 23 years “out in the cold,” but maybe I’ll come around in a few years, veryretired! You could be right! I think that the telling reaction of the Demos and Republicans to a little Libertarian competition indicates that even that small amount of defection from the dairy herd is problematic for the drovers, and that a larger defection might even cause the power pullers, of whom you speak, to lose some sleep. THAT would be a great accomplishment in its own right!

    Eric Coe imputes qualities to Harry Browne’s arguments that I have never seen. First, to call Browne’s position “isolationism” is to misrepresent it right off the bat. From his own mouth, I have heard Browne say that he wants America to be in and engaged with the world, but culturally and economically, for the most part, not so much politically and not at all militarily unless the military force is used to defend America against a real threat or attack. This isn’t “isolationism,” it is “non-interventionism.” People reading this blog can learn more about Browne’s real views on the issues at his own website.

    Second, Browne makes some very good points about the claims of our “Islamo-fascist” enemies (as Coe calls them). They almost never castigate us for our freedoms; they certainly don’t kill themselves to deny us or protest our freedoms. From their own lips, our middle eastern enemies say that it is our policy of stationing troops in foreign countries, propping up dictators, and supporting their national enemies in their military military adventures, which inspire the kinds of terrorist strikes that have so surprised and infuriated us here in America. The motivation sounds very rational to me. Browne would have us prudently change our foreign policy to kick the stilts out from under people like Saddam and Osama: they might still hate us and want to do us harm. But they only get the average middle eastern person on the street to go along with them because the average person can SEE American interventionism and its results, and so has RATIONAL motivation to engage in or support horrific acts of violence.

    Browne has been clear that the people who are responsible for such things as the 9-11 attacks ought to be identified, captured, and brought to American justice. He has never once tried to excuse their actions. He does say, wisely I think, that if America doesn’t change its ways with regard to foreign policy, we can expect more desperate actions to be taken by terrorists in the future. One thing we should NOT have done, says Browne, was to invade Iraq as a follow-on to our retalliation for 9-11. If Joe takes a swipe at you, then runs away and hides in a cave, do you turn around and smack John, his brother? And if you do that kind of thing, aren’t you naive to believe that Joe’s whole family, perhaps his whole neighborhood, won’t take a VERY dim view of you?

    When somebody behaves in a way that he knows will cause the laws of physics to punish him, we tend to say that the mishap was his fault, at least in his ingorance. If he initially DIDN’T know the likely consequences of his actions, yet continued to do the thing that led to the bad result after the initial demonstration, we say that he is definitely at fault due to his stupidity or willfulness.

    Terrorists have a choice. If someone provokes them and they respond with terrorist violence THEY, the terrorists, are morally responsible for their actions and should be held legally responsible as well. No question. But if someone understands that certain actions are provocative, that person also can exercise some choice in trying to avoid the provocation, insofar as this doesn’t unnecessarily contort his life. He can try to use less provocative behavior and methods to achieve his goals; he may find that such methods are even more effective and satisfactory! As I have heard and read his words, Browne is only asking that American foreign policy be more intelligent in that regard. If, after trying to live with other nations in peace via intelligent foreign policy, we are still attacked by terrorists, let’s get the damned terrorists! If we are attacked by a nation, let’s fight and win the war against that nation. Browne points out that we haven’t even been faced with those impossible situations yet, and are far less likely to be if we pursue non-inteventionism.

    These are reasonable points to make, and reasonable concerns. Yet when Browne or others of like mind make them (Ilana Mercer, for instance), they are called “isolationist,” “unpatriotic,” and far, far worse. Their arguments are distorted in paraphrase, and they are villified for things that they never said or wrote. I would ask Eric Coe and others who aren’t happy with Harry Browne to address the real points that Browne has attempted to make, rather than the image he has been given by those whose agenda apparently doesn’t include the promotion of fair and accurate debate.

  • Right on, Warmongering Lunatic! You’ve got the Demos dead to rights.

    I disagree that the Republicans are so much better than the Demos in the realm of economic freedom: they certainly TALK a better game, but their actual achievements amount to a few percentage points that history has shown are easily rolled back or negated by other money-grabs, whenever the political winds change. Look at Bush’s “tax cuts,” for instance. If he doesn’t cut spending as well — by a LOT — then the necessary “taxation” will either be pushed into the future, levied unfairly on some and not others, or even factored into a future inflation.

    Libertarians, on the other hand, would cut spending so that the actual budget would be lower, rather than not growing as fast as the other guys’ budgets. This is what I mean when I say that we can’t expect change if we keep buying the PPV wrestling matches on the politics-as-usual channel.

  • veryretired

    I was addressing the issue of whether or not the dems or repubs were viable carriers for libertarian principles and my general point was that they are not. I am not a pessimist, however, and firmly believe that the ideas of individual freedom which have made such huge strides in the last few decades, esp with the collapse of the marxist empire, which was funding so much of the “indigenous” revolutionary movement around the world, can be continually put forward.
    However, it will not ever be the purist form that the libertarian platform calls for, and it will require many years of hard work at the local level starting with school boards, college faculties, and media outlets, city councils, etc. in order to teach a very unknowing public that much of the multi-culturist drivel they have been fed these last few decades is a distortion of reality. The internet and blogs like this have a role to play, as they allow discussions which are verboten for all practical purposes in media and acedemic circles. The idea of individual human rights and dignity is still so new and strange that many people even in this country and other democratic states are confused and threatened by the thought of other people acting freely without all sorts of controls. The cultures of tribal and religious conformity have even more difficulty accepting the concept that freeedom is for others as well as one’s own group. The power of western culture, for all its many glaring faults, is that it is pervasive and very hedonistic, attributes which make it very tempting and almost impossible to avoid anywhere in the world.

  • confused

    James Merritt: I don’t disagree with anything you
    have said, but I’m too crusty to get my heart
    broken by anything a politician says or does.
    If volunteering to fly in VietNam and later
    finding out that the whole thing could have been
    avoided if we (was it Truman or Eisenhower?)had
    allied with Ho Chi Min when he approached us
    instead of us kissing French ass to get their
    alliance in NATO after WWII doesn’t break one’s
    heart, what will? After I learned about that, my
    attitude to politicians was pretty much F**K OFF!
    I never took another politician (except Reagan)
    seriously until 9/11, and then I thanked God Gore
    wasn’t president. Bush is not the best of all
    possible presidents, but I think he is better than
    any of the alternatives. In some future election,
    I might agree that it isn’t a Dem vs Republican
    war, but if a Dem gets the presidency in 2004, I
    fear that much will be lost. Look how far left
    they have moved since last fall’s elections. I
    have this sick feeling that they must be stopped,
    at least this time. Thanks for your comments. It
    sounds as if you have done far more thinking on
    this issue than I have.

    Will Allen: I am not really prepared to argue
    specifics of Libertarian/other politics. I also
    did not take offense by your previous post. As my
    pseudonym indicates,I am “confused” as to what
    Libertarianism is all about. But there are many
    things I am not confused about. One of these
    is how the Dems have played the class war, the
    race issue, and other divisive issues to split the
    country for their benefit. Clinton was a master
    at this. 50% of the people pay 4% of the taxes
    and 50% of the people pay 96% of the taxes. So
    most of us who pay taxes are called “rich” by the
    Dems, so they can steal our money and use it to
    buy votes for themselves from the other half, so
    they raise taxes to buy more votes. They want to
    give the money to the “right” people. I don’t
    like that. I prefer to have taxes cut. The
    red-state blue-state thing was sort of tongue
    in cheek. What with Terry McAuliffe (or
    was it Paul Begala? — whatever, all the Dems
    are of the same stench) calling us red-staters
    racists, that’s pretty divisive, and offensive.
    I’d like one of those bastards to say that to my
    face, or to my wife’s face. She would kick his
    ass (Karate). I think she has done more for the
    good of poor African-American children as part
    of her normal routine work, than any Northern,
    teary-eyed, big-government, blue-state liberal.
    More freedom in the red states? I don’t know.
    But at least most of our unversities don’t plunge
    to the depths of a Berkeley or an Ann Arbor. I
    don’t know much about farm subsidies or probably any of
    the other “hot-button” Libertarian issues. I am
    just very offended (not by you, let me add) by
    the whole red-states blue-states thing. I lament
    the loss of the so-called “American Consensus.”
    (“Ask not what your country can do for you,” etc.,
    etc.) I am also just happy to be reading all
    the things in these posts and getting some idea
    what Libertarianism apparently is all about.
    I’ll explore further.

    To anyone: So let me ask, what IS the Libertarian
    approach to dealing with Islamo-fascists? Also,
    what can you tell me to convince me that
    I did NOT waste my vote on Harry Browne
    in the 2000 election?

  • Well, I had decided to not post anymore to this thread today, but I had to respond to one thing in veryretired’s latest perceptive post. I mentioned that I had been knocking around libertarian circles for the past two decades and change. I wouldn’t have hung in there so long, had I not agreed with the basic, build-from-the-ground-floor, marathon race approach that veryretired mentions. So long as the Libertarian Party has kept piling up victories on city councils, school boards, county boards of supervisors, regional commissions, and the occasional judgeship, sheriff, District Attorney, or even state house rep, etc., I have been satisfied that progress of the right type is being made at a sustainable pace. Now, we’re talking about hundreds of libertarians in office across the US; once, not long ago, it was only dozens. If I had put dozens of dollars into a bank account twenty years ago and came back today to find hundreds there, I’d be rather pleased, and it is in that spirit that I try to keep reminding people that real, sustainable progress has been made, to combat the disappointment and apathy felt by those who expected big breakthroughs soon (analogous to the disappointment felt by those who sink their money into a stock fund, expecting to be rich in week or two). I am cheered by the knowledge that, had I put my “dozens of dollars” into the bank of the GOP or Democrats twenty years ago, I’d be politically bankrupt today.

    Where I’m going with this is, veryretired makes excellent sense, but if we agree, then I think it is only fair to give the Libertarians props for plotting and staying that course in the face of great obstacles and at great cost in time, effort and money (especially costly, when you consider how hard it is for third parties and independents to qualify for ballot listings, debate inclusion, etc.). The Demos and GOP, on the other hand, have proven themselves, over and over again, to be merely lip servants and fair-weather friends of liberty.

    When you read an article saying that “libertarians” are “most naturally at home” in one of the two major parties or the other, here is the only thing you can believe: defections to the libertarian party, or by libertarian-minded voters who either go independent or opt-out of the electoral system altogether, are hurting and scaring the poobahs of the major party in question. This is good news, indicating weakness in the good-cop/bad-cop party, and relative strength or effectiveness of the Libertarians. It is at those times that the Libertarians could probably most use your support to keep the pressure on the major parties.

    Veryretired mentioned the “marxist empire,” which collapsed like a poorly constructed dam after the first few warning trickles of dissent could not be stopped. Might the two-faced monoparty now be a similarly hollow power structure, which could crumble to the ground if people weren’t so susceptible to the old, dependable dodge of “ya gotta vote against the more evil guy”? Perhaps articles such as the one on the Daily Kos (not to mention any number of articles I’ve seen from neocons, asserting that libertarians are a “natural subculture” of conservative Republicans!) are the attempts to stopper the trickles before the political dam bursts once again. Why not put that idea to the test at the next major election?

  • James Merrit: “Isolationism” is not the right term, conceded. But Harry Browne’s “non-interventionism” is:

    1. Politically impossible. It would require abandoning Israel to the wolves, for example, which we won’t do.

    2. Not sufficient to avoid confrontation with Islamo-fascism anyway. The fundamental beef they have with us has to do with who we are, including our wealth, our success vs. their failure, and our freedom (and our women’s freedom, especially). While Bin Laden listed our presence in Saudi Arabia as a justifcation, it was bascially an extra item tackd on to the more general cultural complaint. (And now, of course, we can finally leave the place because Iraq is no longer a threat to the world’s oil supply. The sooner the better.) Ultimately, we can’t have peace with them on their terms, and they won’t have peace on ours. The “War on Terror”, of which Afganistan and Iraq are merely campaigns in a larger context, came to us in spades on 9/11. But it had been brewing for years, long before the first Gulf War and the Saudi Arabian deployment.

  • James Merrit: “Isolationism” is not the right term, conceded. But Harry Browne’s “non-interventionism” is:

    1. Politically impossible. It would require abandoning Israel to the wolves, for example, which we won’t do.

    2. Not sufficient to avoid confrontation with Islamo-fascism anyway. The fundamental beef they have with us has to do with who we are, including our wealth, our success vs. their failure, and our freedom (and our women’s freedom, especially). While Bin Laden listed our presence in Saudi Arabia as a justification, it was basically an extra item tack on to the more general cultural complaint. (And now, of course, we can finally leave the place because Iraq is no longer a threat to the world’s oil supply. The sooner the better.) Ultimately, we can’t have peace with them on their terms, and they won’t have peace on ours. The “War on Terror”, of which Afghanistan and Iraq are merely campaigns in a larger context, came to us in spades on 9/11. But it had been brewing for years, long before the first Gulf War and the Saudi Arabian deployment.

  • Jacob Levy on the Volokh Conspiracy was saying something like this vis-a-vis Santorum & Sodomy.

    “As between someone who believes that all non-heterosexual-marital sexual activity ought to be criminalized and someone who does not believe that, there’s a difference in kind, one I have trouble commensurating with the tax difference [between Republicans & Democrats]. ”

    To which I replied — Casting the Dems as pro privacy, pro protection of intimate relations, and pro sanctity of the home is disingenuous. Any party that claims the right to design your toilets and the width of your bedroom door for you [and imprison you for disobedience] can hardly gain absolution from charges of tyranny by permitting you some forms of sexual intercourse.

    See my link above for further idiosyncratic comments on the Dems as the Party of Liberty.

  • Jacob Levy on the Volokh Conspiracy was saying something like this vis-a-vis Santorum & Sodomy.

    “As between someone who believes that all non-heterosexual-marital sexual activity ought to be criminalized and someone who does not believe that, there’s a difference in kind, one I have trouble commensurating with the tax difference [between Republicans & Democrats]. ”

    To which I replied — Casting the Dems as pro privacy, pro protection of intimate relations, and pro sanctity of the home is disingenuous. Any party that claims the right to design your toilets and the width of your bedroom door for you [and imprison you for disobedience] can hardly gain absolution from charges of tyranny by permitting you some forms of sexual intercourse.

    See my link above for further idiosyncratic comments on the Dems as the Party of Liberty.

  • Jacob Levy on the Volokh Conspiracy was saying something like this vis-a-vis Santorum & Sodomy.

    “As between someone who believes that all non-heterosexual-marital sexual activity ought to be criminalized and someone who does not believe that, there’s a difference in kind, one I have trouble commensurating with the tax difference [between Republicans & Democrats]. ”

    To which I replied — Casting the Dems as pro privacy, pro protection of intimate relations, and pro sanctity of the home is disingenuous. Any party that claims the right to design your toilets and the width of your bedroom door for you [and imprison you for disobedience] can hardly gain absolution from charges of tyranny by permitting you some forms of sexual intercourse.

    See my link above for further idiosyncratic comments on the Dems as the Party of Liberty.

  • Gah! Double, triple, quadruple posts! This forum could stand some moderator intervention. Sorry for contributing to the problem.

  • Ron

    Rand Simberg posted something last year on his blog that relates to this issue. He pointed out that while both parties have views that are really scary, on the whole, the Democrats have been more successful in passing their scary legislation (gun control, massive federal programs, thought crime legislation) than have the GOP (whose views on abortion and consensual sex are not resounding with anyone outside of their hardcore constituents). It boils down to voting for the party which is least effective in passing pet projects, and the GOP wins hands down in that category. (Name a single social-conservative type program that has passed since Bush came into office 27 months ago, if you doubt me.)

  • Warmongering Lunatic

    Yeah, I was careful to say the Republicans were only marginally better on economics. I do think there is a slight margin there — the difference between bad and worse. Just enough to get me to vote Republican instead of Libertarian in close enough races, to ward off the Democrat.

  • cydonia

    It’s deeply flattering that a Democrat should regard the miniscule libertarian vote as worth courting in the first place!

    Cydonia

  • I tried being a big-L libertarian for a while (a good four+ years). I voted for HB in 1996 and 2000, and was at the victory party in Atlanta in 2000. Realistically, though, in most of the country there’s a chicken and the egg problem for the LP, and I think the best hope for libertarianism (at least in my neck of the woods) is to subvert the GOP from the inside.

    As far as HB’s position on the WOT: I’m with Eric; it was a big turnoff. I know Harry’s heart is in the right place, and I can appreciate the principle he’s standing for, but even “non-intervention” is no longer a realistic option. Americans have been, are being, and will be for the forseeable future killed both at home and abroad even if every single U.S. soldier and airman comes back to CONUS. Osama and his ilk are still pissed off at America because of the damn Crusades, which happened centuries before Locke wrote his Two Treatises and set down the tenets of (classical) liberalism, centuries before there even was a United States. It’s all grade-A path dependence.

    Anyway, I talked a little about my decision to leave the LP here.

  • From James Merritt: “The conundrum is especially precious: unless those who know and love the word “libertarian” defend it vigorously and even firecely, they will lose it, as “liberal” was lost. Yet, most people are repelled by the intensity necessary to successfully defend terms like “liberal” and “libertarian” against semantic hijacking; they come to view as irrelevant and even dangerous, those who engage in such activities. Shana’s take on the Libertarian Party, for example, seems to me to be a mild form of that perfectly natural reaction.”

    My point isn’t that the intensity required to defend the terms is repulsive; rather, I am looking at the argument from a perspective that is practical, as I see it. By all means, defend the terms, please please! And I will join in as my arguments are relevant. However, someone must be in the trenches to actually do the work of the citizens of this country. Note that I didn’t say “to do the work of the Libertarian Party.” The Party is necessary, but each person has an obligation separate from the party, if the particular election concerned is between a Donk and a Phant.

    I think the issue is less of people’s unwillingness to defend the terms with the necessary ferocity, and more a matter of not knowing how that defense is to be undertaken. People tend to define a term in their own mind and settle the issue for themselves, which becomes the opening for liberals’ co-opting of terms, in that they re-label themselves to take advantage of those mental definitions. The matter, I think, is less one of intensity of defense, and more a matter of finesse and fine-pointed refutation, which is always a difficult thing to undertake.

    As to defenders of the terms being irrelevant or dangerous: not in the slightest. That may be one of the most important roles in the Libertarian Party. However, when it comes to practical matters — installing candidates NOW who will not seek to expand ridiculous laws — I cannot agree that it is solely an intra-Party activity. Voters MUST be willing to cross Party lines, at the very least in a close race, as outlined by S. Weasel’s terrific set of rules. Semantics and the election of acceptable candidates must work together from both ends to meet in the middle, if we can expect success.

  • Interesting discussion. It is easy to find lapses in both parties as far as adherence to liberty goes. The Democratic ones are, uh, well-covered here but the R’s have their own catalog. The general drift here seems to be that the R’s are better on taxes and regulation broadly speaking, so they keep the franchise. But one libertarian by the name of Milton Friedman says that deficits are nothing but deferred taxes. Spending is the issue, whether tax-financed when conducted or not. Bush has been spending and borrowing enough (and not just for defense and homeland security) to shame Clinton. Heard about his $400billion drug benefit?

    Regulation works better for the R’s, but one might reckon with the implications of monopoly for aspiring capitalists (not just successful ones). Deregulation leaves the little guys as food for the large corporations. Freedom not secured by government will be abrogated by private actors.

    I would agree that on personal grounds, there is not enough to convict the R’s. But the prospect of a buergeoning fundamentalist national security state (think “The Handmaiden’s Tale”) will drive some libt’s into the D’s column.

    [Sidenote: you will never again hear a national Dem candidate talk bad about gun ownership.]

    Most important, before I wrote this I searched for the word “empire,” and found it only in the phrase “marxist empire.” But U.S. empire is obviously on the agenda of some people with standing among the R’s. All real libertarians comprehend this.

    So potential serial war-mongering and the loss of personal freedom could outweigh the D’s disadvantage (such as it is) on taxes and regulation. It will depend on how much the Bushies overreach. They don’t seem to know the meaning of the word.

  • Tom Grey

    WOW, what great comments.
    One thing missing is understanding what Dems want — good outcomes. Yes, they’re blind to their support of gov’t violence to get the good outcomes; and often the “good” outcomes are PC only, but they DO, truly, want to be good, and do good.

    If a few more poor countries do better economically based on free markets, and “Other Paths” type private property protection, there will be some more dems more sympathetic to some Lib econ arguments. Similarly, the Rep greed corporate welfare is always ugly, when seen.

    Plus, dems have emotional passion! (OK, so do many neo-cons)

    I have some fantasies of it happening with middle class blacks and hispanics, about 10 years after school vouchers demonstrate clear improvement in poverty area voucher districts.

    I also liked Pink Floyds “Pigs on the wing”.

  • Will Allen

    Mr. Sawicky is correct, as far as how I might be convinced to vote for the Libertarians again, which for the Democrats would be a sufficient victory. If I conclude that the Republicans are as committed to increasing domestic spending as much as the Democrats, I may as well abandon the Republicans. Mr. Sawicky is being disingenuous in comparing Clinton-era spending with Bush-era, in that it ignores what spending would have been if Hillarycare had been passed, over Republican opposition, and the effect of changes in defense spending after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. If Bush actually works hard to get a prescription-drug benefit passed, I may go ahead and vote for the capital Ls. Unless I suffer a stroke and and adopt the Democrats’ position regarding the importance of property rights vis a vis other liberties, however, it will be difficult to vote for a Democrat.

  • I’m really pleased to see what appears to be a lot more light than heat in this thread (although a little heat is always welcome to liven things up). For my part, I think that a sufficient number of pertinent points have been made and examined, so I don’t expect to do much more posting to this article, but I thank everyone who weighed in for their intelligence and civility. I did want to mention to Eric Coe and the others who see Harry Browne’s position on the WOT as a “turn off” that we have a wonderful chance to judge the wisdom, or lack of it, in Browne’s position, so long as the US goes ahead with a pullout from Saudi Arabia, as reported in the papers today. A large number of the 9-11 terrorists hailed from Saudi Arabia (none from or supported by Iraq, to my knowledge), and key Al Qaida demands have included the withdrawal of American troops from the Arabian holy land. Browne’s contention has always been that rabble rousers like Osama can only rouse the rabble against us when our foreign policy gives them real grievances and reasons for supporting or participating in terrorism.

    By leaving Saudi Arabia, we should markedly lessen tensions and religously inspired anti-american feeling in the region. This still won’t pacify those who feel that our support of Israeli military operations, for example, was at least in part responsible for the deaths of their family, friends, and neighbors; or those people who feel that Iraq ought to become a religious state; or those who simply resent American presence in (or occupation of) any part of the middle east. But the number of people who are convinced that they will go to heaven and consort with scores of virgins for freeing the holy land from infidels should go WAY down. Browne wouldn’t have recommended an invasion of Iraq as a way of getting our troops out of Saudi Arabia, but he certainly recommended getting them out of Saudi Arabia just the same. If the middle-east situation for Americans seems to become more stable and tractable because of this — yet to be seen, but let’s keep watching — might we have any justification for concluding that 1) middle easteners aren’t all about hating the US for its wealth and culture; and 2) a smarter, more non-interventionist foreign policy might actually contribute more to homeland security than turning the US into a locked down fort? Might we concede that maybe Browne was on to something, even if we might not be willing to go as far in the non-interventionist direction as he prescribes?

    I close by saying that many positions taken by Libertarians or the Libertarian Party were once considered to be odious, repulsive, and crazy, by “right-thinking, average Americans.” Clearly, some of those positions, such as non-interventionism, still are, if the reaction of many self-described libertarians here is any indication. But many others — elimination/privatization of social security, elimination of the income tax, re-privatization of education, and the end of Drug Prohibition, just to name a few — are now the subjects of mainstream discussion and much mainstream support. As the positions taken by Libertarians are more consciously, carefully determined from principle than the positions taken by the power parties and many other political handicappers, is it just possible that, as events unfold, we will see the validity of the currently unpopular positions (which are drawn from the same libertarian principles) as well? Just keep an open mind, and always ask yourself:

    1. To what extent are the positions taken by the LP soundly based on the principles of liberty?

    2. To what extent are the positions that seem most consistent with the principles of liberty, ultimately supported by events and developments?

    You have to make up your own mind about how applicable and appropriate liberty is in the real world. Maybe it works in some circumstances and not in others, but you need to be able to distinguish those circumstances based on clear vision of what’s really happening, compared against the accumulation of past evidence. I’ll be paying attention to see what happens in the aftermath of a pullout from Saudi Arabia. I think that installing an “oil-friendly” regime in Iraq means that we don’t need to be as close to the Saudis (or as in their faces) as we have been up to now. If “liberating” Iraq was necessary to keep control of oil as we disengage with the Saudis, and if disengagement was necessary to lessen pressure-cooker religiously-inspired hatred of the US in the region and around the world, then maybe the war really was about oil: how we can keep it flowing, without pissing people off so badly that they “repurpose” airliners into bombs. On the other hand, the pursuit of a non-interventionist foreign policy would prompt us to diversify our economy to not be as dependent upon foreign oil as it apparently is. As long as the leaders can continue to come up with various pretexts for us to go into foreign countries with guns blazing, in order to make the world safe for the oil trade, and as long as we put up with that, we’re very likely to keep getting the same old thing.

    Eric Coe implies that we are in too deep for non-interventionism to form a practical foreign policy. Maybe so, but I ask, what will it take to get us out, can that be accomplished by private action, and how long might it take? The answers could provide the basis for true, workable libertarian alternatives to the current, mainstream domestic and foreign policies that seem to have led us, inexorably, to war.

  • James raises some interesting points, but when he starts talking about a foreign policy designed to ‘diversify our economy to not be as dependent on foreign oil’ he goes off the edge. Our economy is dependent on oil, true enough. And because oil is a commodity, we’ll always be vulnerable to foreign oil prices because a disruption overseas will raise prices here, even if we don’t get a drop of oil from overseas. The notion that we can somehow ‘diversify’ our economy to reduce our dependence on oil is a pipe dream for at least the next ten to twenty years. If that’s the foreign policy plan of the Libertarian party, then it’s little wonder they don’t draw much support.

    I’m all in favor of working to maintain ideological purity within a political party, as much as is practical. But for a political party to be taken seriously, it has to inculcate a certain degree of pragmatism that appears to be wholly lacking in the Libertarian party to date.

  • Lloyd

    A couple of points- Firstly, I’d like to second the Wonderdog on the inclination towards mutual masturbation over at Kos. Try posting more than 2 or 3 articulate opposing comments and see how long it takes to get banned. I think the numbers of banned must be in the dozens and maybe hundreds by now. Naturally, its his site, but interesting nonetheless given his open invitation to libertarians to join his party. Concur in spades with Russ. To Merritt on maintaining loyalty to the big L Libertarians, keep in mind that while the “Socialist” party is virtually nowhere to be found these days, one would be hard put to see what difference that makes, given the adoption of the planks of their 1932 platform. So- yes, keep the meaning of “libertarian” well defined. But unless we have a return to chattel slavery or some other societal/political earthquake, don’t expect the donks or phants to go away after some 150+ years of coopting the “fringes” in order to survive. Our electoral laws, as well as history, make that a bad bet. I vote with the work from within strategy.

    Also, I’ve never heard of this Republican Liberty Caucus. I have hear of the Club for Growth. They have money for low tax/pro growth Republicans and they have used it to support the right kind of Republicans in primaries to some effect. With the anti-speech laws, whoops I mean “campaign finance reform”, now on the books, they and others like them will become more influential.

  • Lloyd

    A couple of points- Firstly, I’d like to second the Wonderdog on the inclination towards mutual masturbation over at Kos. Try posting more than 2 or 3 articulate opposing comments and see how long it takes to get banned. I think the numbers of banned must be in the dozens and maybe hundreds by now. Naturally, its his site, but interesting nonetheless given his open invitation to libertarians to join his party. Concur in spades with Russ. To Merritt on maintaining loyalty to the big L Libertarians, keep in mind that while the “Socialist” party is virtually nowhere to be found these days, one would be hard put to see what difference that makes, given the adoption of the planks of their 1932 platform. So- yes, keep the meaning of “libertarian” well defined. But unless we have a return to chattel slavery or some other societal/political earthquake, don’t expect the donks or phants to go away after some 150+ years of coopting the “fringes” in order to survive. Our electoral laws, as well as history, make that a bad bet. I vote with the work from within strategy.

    Also, I’ve never heard of this Republican Liberty Caucus. I have hear of the Club for Growth. They have money for low tax/pro growth Republicans and they have used it to support the right kind of Republicans in primaries to some effect. With the anti-speech laws, whoops I mean “campaign finance reform”, now on the books, they and others like them will become more influential.

  • dvgulliver

    For all the democRats who try to lure in unsuspecting Libertarians with the spectre of John Aschroft and the eeeeevil Patriot Act, I have but four words:

    Attorney General Janet Reno.

    Any party responsible for the torching of a church to kill 80-some people in a fiery blaze–replete with automatic weapons fire–for the “crime” of allegedly having guns on the premises should be considered the absolute nemesis of libertarianism.