We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Why are libertarian principles like gravity?

Taylor Dinerman, a professional New York City journalist and long time Samizdata reader, sent us this short and incisive article on the impact of blogs and libertarian ideas on the current political environment.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that most things in this universe revolve around a) The law of gravity and b) The Law of Supply and Demand.

The best case for this is the way the US election is being impacted by ‘New Media’. The combination of Talk Radio, Fox News and the Blogosphere made it impossible for the traditional Big Media to ignore the Swifties. Thus John Kerry’s character and personality were exposed in ways that would never have come out if it were up to just the New York Times etc.

The demand, in the US, for a non left wing media was always there, it was just when Limbaugh and the others showed that one could make money at it that others came in. The Blogs were more a pure product of technology but the demand for people all over the world to make themselves heard could not be held back. The flow of ideas is frankly, amazing.

Libertarian ideas have tended to triumph over the long term because they are better adapted to human nature. Sadly, resistance to these ideas is also deeply ingrained in the hearts of men. It is interesting to see how difficult it is to make people accept things that are manifestly in their own interest. While the ideas tend to win, libertarian leaning politicians tend to loose. Newt Gingrich was probably the most libertarian major politico in recent history, he was easily defeated by Clinton even while slick willie was grabbing his major ideas such as welfare reform.

Bush on the other hand pays little serious attention to libertarian ideas, but he may move America closer to those ideals with his ownership society set of proposals, than Newt ever could.

The point is that Libertarian ideas have become the ‘default’ position for the Republicans in the same was that socialist EU-centric ones are for most European politicos.

19 comments to Why are libertarian principles like gravity?

  • “The point is that Libertarian ideas have become the ‘default’ position for the Republicans in the same was that socialist EU-centric ones are for most European politicos.”

    I dispute that. President Bush is a Big Government Conservative. Neither his words nor his actions show any inclination towards libertarian ideas, even in the mildest sense. Nor is there any reason to suppose that he is unrepresentative of Republican thinking generally.

  • jon

    Maybe I’m missing some subtle subcontext, but isn’t this about libertarian “principles” rather than those folks who work as school administrators?

    Mnemonic device (not necessarily true, but it can help us remember): The princiPAL is your PAL.

  • D Anghelone

    Maybe I’m missing some subtle subcontext, but isn’t this about libertarian “principles” rather than those folks who work as school administrators?

    Perhaps ‘principals’ refers to the principal actors in the libertarian drama. If so then they either have gravitas or are rather grave folk. :-)

  • Guy Herbert

    I don’t believe in the “Law of Supply and Demand” or the general existence of a market-clearing price.

    It hasn’t stopped me either approving of free markets or having libertarian approach to social policies. The former is more a consequence of the latter. I like free markets because they are free, not because they are markets.

  • “I don’t believe in the “Law of Supply and Demand” or the general existence of a market-clearing price.”

    I obviously watch Friends too much.

    “Well, it’s not so much that you know, like I don’t believe in it, you know, it’s just…I don’t know, lately I get the feeling that I’m not so much being pulled down as I am being pushed.” (Phoebe on gravity)

  • I don’t know what exactly the ‘ownership society set of proposals’ are but I doubt that they have much to do with libertarianism.

    Libertarianism is about reducing the amount of state aggression in society so unless a party is proposing sweeping tax cuts and huge deregulation is is difficult to see that it has much of a connection with the core of libertarian ideas. Extending ‘ownership’ or whatever is a distraction from these main libertarian ideas.

    The idea that the Republicans under Bush are advancing libertarianism is either wishful thinking, self delusion or both.

  • MinuteMan

    Bush’s father was also a patrician statist, mistrusted by Reagan and only tepidly endorsed as his successor by the Gipper.

    The GOP, under the lash of 9/11, has lurched far towards the centralised warfare/welfare model of the USA. To claim that libertarian ideas are more prevalent than in the tranquil post-Cold War mid-1990s with Gingrich is ludicrous. Bush II has managed to alienate both paleocons such as Pat Buchanan and free marketeers who object to his endless dirigiste meddling in agriculture, steel, education and Medicare. Washington’s finances are a madhouse in the making for which generations unborn will have to pay. “Compassionate conservatism” is LBJ-style tax-and-spend liberalism with a patriotic sugar coating.

    The GOP’s rising star, Arnie S, is a thoroughgoing statist and race-panderer behind his “I chose freedom” rhetoric. Psephologists who look at America’s changing demography and tell Republicans they can never win elections unless they appease blacks and Hispanics are stoking the fires of welfare-state extravagance.

  • ancap joe

    GOP is libertarian? Count me up for a vote on “I strongly disagree”

  • Err, what they all said. Whatever you may claim, if you’re a Republican (or a Democrat come to that), you’re not a libertarian. Even if Bush’s performance on the fiscal side were less woeful, no real libertarian could contenance John Ashcroft’s social authoritarianism.

  • ajay

    FOX is not new media – it is a TV news channel just like any other, but with a different editorial slant.

    A party which advocates increased government spending, expanded law-enforcement powers, and the intrusion of government on far more areas of private life is not a libertarian party. And to say that Republicans are default libertarians is not supported by their own public statements or their policies in office.

    Newt Gingrich was not defeated by Clinton. In fact, he led the ’94 Republican takeover of Congress, a move opposed by Clinton. Therefore to say that he lost is false – he failed when in office, but he was hardly unelectable.

    What left-wing policies have the mainstream media proposed? Has the New York Times, for example, consistently advocated the nationalisation of major industries? It has not. Has the Washington Post called for the nationalisation of the universities? It has not. Has CNN advocated sympathy for the leftist regime of Venezuela’s President Chavez? It has not. Has NBC proposed the expropriation of foreign businesses in the USA (for example, the UK’s BAE Systems) and their control by workers’ councils? No.
    Thus, is the mainstream US media left-wing? No.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    ajay wrote:

    What left-wing policies have the mainstream media proposed? Has the New York Times, for example, consistently advocated the nationalisation of major industries? It has not.

    Well, I see a lot of calls for the nationalization of health care made in the media.

    Has the Washington Post called for the nationalisation of the universities? It has not.

    There seems to be quite a bit of support for giving the federal government more control over primary education.

    Has CNN advocated sympathy for the leftist regime of Venezuela’s President Chavez? It has not.

    They’re too busy shilling for Fidel Castro.

  • Ted beat me to it. Yes, healthcare faces overt socialist nationalisation in the USA… but is also shows the absurdity of the left-right’ paradigm. Nationalisation is no longer the main way as statists as early as the German Workers National Socialist party realised that ownership of the means of production was not required as long as you have control over them… and the modern manifestation of that is regulatory statism.

  • John J. Coupal

    Sorry, ajay

    Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel is the best thing to happen to American news reporting since Marconi.

    When Clinton was in office and kept saying that the US had a strategic alliance with China, our news sources (“Olde Media”) like CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC repeatedly said that that statement sounds about correct.

    Throw a little competition into the old boys’ networks, and such nonsense “reporting” is no longer possible. The bloggers – for one – say “we can fact check your arse”. When the dinosaurs see they can’t get away with deception any longer, evolution causes them to evolve.

  • The Mighty Mole

    I suspect the main impact of the internet on politics in the post-Drudge era is to turn more and more people off the corny old notions of everyone having to be Left and Right, “parties” which pretend they have a monopoly of wisdom and virtue, candidates who have to have full heads of hair to be admissible to the White House, “conventions” like hysterical high school pep rallies, etc, etc.

    The more analytical disdain for these outmoded and intelligence-insulting rituals gets aired and shared over the web, the lower the turnouts. Then the pols have the nerve to accuse us of “apathy”. Maybe, as Brecht once suggested, they should sack us and appoint a new electorate.

  • Wild Pegasus

    1. Libertarians are generally anti-war.
    2. Republicans are generally rabidly pro-war.
    3. Libertarians are sceptical of government’s power to achieve positive change.
    4. Republicans believe in government’s power to achieve positive change.
    5. Samizdata writers increasingly espouse 2 and 4.

    How to solve this problem? Call in someone to define Republicans as libertarians! Shit, that was easy!

    - Josh

  • veryretired

    One of the more childish notions that infects libertarianism, and especially the political party that tarnishes that name, is the idea that one can be significant while at the same time defining every issue as narrowly as possible into “libertarian belief”, and any other opinion, which becomes a “non-libertarian” belief which immediately disqualifies the holder as being in any way a “true libertarian”.

    Couple this with the constant demand that everything be absolutely, perfectly libertarian in every way or I am going to take my marbles and go home, and you have a recipe for the 1% of the vote, if that, that organized libertarianism usually gets in any major election.

    Therefore we are subjected to “Oh, you support military action? Then you can’t be a libertarian.” “Oh, you don’t want to close all the schools tomorrow? Then you can’t be a true libertarian.” “Oh, you support the initiation of force by the repressive regime to prevent sex with small household pets? Ta da ta da ta da.

    I can’t be the first one to point out to the “true believers” that this is the attitude of cultists and bolsheviks, not the frame of mind of open, tolerant, independent thinkers who accept a wide range of diverse viewpoints, and who ACKNOWLEDGE that their ideas are out of the mainstream, and are unlikely to be adopted wholesale by everyone who hears them.

    Just once, I would lke to see a serious discussion of weighty issues on this, or any other forum, without the dancing parade of martinettes who leap to their keyboards, after kissing the cover of whatever “answer to the problems of the world” libertarian bible they have just read, so they can start insulting anyone who dares to disagree with them.

    These are complex issues, and men and women of goodwill, and intellectual integrity, are trying desparately to formulate options that will preserve and protect the safety and freedom of of BILLIONS of ordinary people. This is not some beerhall debate, where whoever has the most “superior” attitude, and can engender the most snickers among the audience because he’s just, so, you know, intellectual and all, gets a free pint.

    If you wish to honestly work toward libertarian solutions to difficult problems, stop sneering and belittling everyone who doesn’t “fall into line”. Maybe you won’t feel so alone every election day if you have some realistic proposals to put forward into the policy debate instead of “Stop the world, I want to get off!”

  • Dale Amon

    I will have to take blame for not catching the spelling error. When I received this story I carefully checked the body but entirely forgot the title which I had dropped into the title box. So it is Editorial undersight to blame…

  • “The point is that Libertarian ideas have become the ‘default’ position for the Republicans in the same was that socialist EU-centric ones are for most European politicos.”

    In the UK, can the Nu Labour government really be described as “socialist” ?

    Does anyone really believe that the “blogosphere” has had a real impact on mainstream politics, anywhere at all ?

  • Well, why don’t you ask Trent Lott?