Libertarianism the wave of the future? 9

The Left likes to believe – as Obama and Harry Reid often iterate – that it is “on the side of history”.

Is history then stuck with those stale and failed ideas of a Marxian stamp propagated by the likes of Kenneth Galbraith, John Maynard Keynes, or the bone-headed strategies of Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Priven?

Or tending back to the Dark Ages with a resurgence of Islam?

Surely not. A civilization that has put a man on the moon; has invented the computer, the internet, the driverless car; that watches the expansion of the universe; that can replace a faulty human heart with a new one; that has used liberty to become rich, knowledgable, and ever more inventive, is not going to go back to communism or the law of the seventh century desert?

Quo vadis then?

The maliciously lefty and deeply nasty New York Times notices a rise in libertarian opinion in America.

Libertarianism has been touted as the wave of America’s political future for many years, generally with more enthusiasm than evidence. But there are some tangible signs that Americans’ attitudes are in fact moving in that direction.

The NYT goes on to substantiate its claim with figures and a chart.

It defines a libertarian, fairly enough, as “someone who believes that the government is best when it governs least”.

There have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand, to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand, that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

The Tea Party movement also has some lineage in libertarian thinking. Although polls suggest that many people who participate in the Tea Party movement have quite socially conservative views, the movement spends little time emphasizing those positions, as compared with economic issues.

The perception that the Tea Party – whose chief issue is the need for fiscal responsibility – has “some lineage in libertarian thinking” is remarkable for that newspaper. It seldom removes its red blindfold long enough to replace it for a short time with blinders. For it to see something that is actually there but not obvious is a lucky moment of illumination worth a cheer or two. The author of the article is Nate Silver. Perhaps he found some cunning way to let that uncongenial revelation slip past editorial oversight.

Or perhaps he and his editors think that libertarian thinking is bad anyway. If we didn’t know that to be the case already, there’s a hint of it in what comes later.

The libertarian opinions, revealed by a CNN poll and quoted in the article, are these:

Some 63 percent of respondents said government was doing too much — up from 61 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2008 — while 50 percent said government should not favor any particular set of values, up from 44 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2008.

The author, apparently not happy to accept what the poll reveals, comments:

Whether people are as libertarian-minded in practice as they might believe themselves to be when they answer survey questions is another matter. Still, there have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand …”

So a tolerance with which he has sympathy …

 … to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand …

So a skepticism he condemns  …

 … that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

How confusing for Nate Silver! Libertarians like some of the things he likes. But they also dislike things that he holds dear.

Well, actually, that is the case with us too.

We welcome the spread of libertarian sentiment.

We too see no reason why marijuana should be illegal.

As for same-sex marriage, we think it is an hilarious farce, but would on no account oppose it. A 12-year old boy once defined marriage for us as “a legal union between two or more things”.  Why not  more than two? Why not things or beasts as well as humans?  If – as the argument goes – they love each other? (Well, we said it’s a farce.)

Where we are strongly with libertarians is on the issue of economic freedom. As our contributing commenter Don L often recommends: accept that the Austrian School is right and allow no government interference whatsoever in economic activity – and abolish the Fed. We also advocate keeping taxes (flat-rated) very low. So low that they cannot sustain a government that does much more than it absolutely has to do – protect the liberty of the people, from outside enemies, and domestic criminals. And enforce the law of contract.

But we too have some quarrels with libertarians.

There are those among them who outrageously condone the corruption of children, even the use of them for pornography “as long as they are willing and are paid for their services”!*

Quite a large number of libertarians are historical revisionists, and some who ridiculously and with evil intent deny that the Holocaust ever happened.**

And most libertarians want America to take no notice of what’s going on in the world beyond its borders, except for trade and vacations. As if ignorance is a protection from a world full of expansionist tyrannies and ideologies.

No. None of that.

But a libertarianism that holds individual freedom as the highest value, and knows that it is only possible under the rule of law; and at the same time is committed to preserving the best of everything America has achieved in the past, is a libertarianism that we can – and do – embrace.



* We cannot link to articles that discuss this. Access to them is “forbidden”.

**Although the article we link to here does endorse what we say that some libertarians deny  the Holocaust, it goes too far in criticizing Reason and its sponsors.

  • A.Alexander

    The problem of the social movements is the natural inequality of the human abilities and gifts.And the growing start conditions equality makes this inequality disturbing. The “rich”,bankers – signs of the inequality images.Conservatives preserve the moral values that weakens,justificate this inequality.Libertarians deny this code,so they invented collectivism for creation of the moral code.(Ayn Rand delared the intuitive cod based on the reason).The inequality of the “free of envy” human who does not hate the rich is the Libertarian problem,prevents the unity.

    • I don’t think Libertarians object to social or economic inequality, A. Alexander. It’s the American “liberals” – ie. Leftists – who do that.

      • A.Alexander

        Libertarian is the utopia human.He is primordial rational with the good intentions.He is built on the civilizational principles,not the natural ones (as conservatives` think) ,and so he is a bit of internationalist. The Bible human is a bit of bad, otherwice the human progress will stop,even the birth-rate will fall. So the idea of the peaceful international politics is principle as “the world goes to peace not war” – the Party.These peculiarities grow the problems of the “social justice”,splitting the Libertarians,their conflicts with the Big ,not so anarchist, business and others. America have to get accastomed to the Utopia.

  • Azgael

    They ARE on the side of history as the victors write the history and, they are winning big time and thus will write history to favor them

  • Don L

    The Austrian School of Economics’ icon, Ludwig von Mises, was emphatic when he admonished that economics was only about economics. It is a social science and not an ideology or philosophy. It is what it is and it is about human reality relative to interaction and exchange as people set about satisfying their self interests as to needs and wants given scarce resources. Based on nearly 600 years of critical scholastic observation, evaluation, analysis and deduction, the Austrian School describes, demonstartes, explains and irrefutably proves that free market capitalism is the highest and best economic sytem to maximize the prosperity, opportunity of every individual while encouraginhg innovation and sustaining scarce resources. It is a conclusion based on the reality of human free, willing and agreeable actions.

    Austrian Economics is the only school of economics that advocate free market capitalism. Indeed, it is the only school of economic thought that mirrors the uniquely American principles of unalienable rights, consent of the governed and that the sole purpose of government is to “…secure these [unalienable] rights.” and no more. ALL OTHER SCHOOLS of ECONOMIC THOUGHT are theoretical and designed to satisfy the contrived nuances of this or that ideology or philosophy. In fact, humans do not factor except as subjects whereas these schools all incorporate, to one degree or another, government central planning at their core. In fact, these schools are not about economics qua economics but rather about pretend hard science mathematical modeling of historic static points in time economic data toward social engineering society for the benefit of government. The differnce is Austrian Economics is based on the reality IS; while all other schools are based on SHOULD — fair share, social justice, income redistribution, “It takes a village”, supply-side, trickle down. et ceteras.

    Now, whereas Austrian Economics proves liberty and prosperity results from the absence of government intervention in economies, it complies with the libertarian perspective. Indeed, a travesty in my opinion, many of those involved in the Austrian School flagship learning center, The Ludwig von Mises Institute, are libertarian and of late have been acting to promote liberterainism at the expense of their mandate…to promote free market capitalism. Again, economics is about economics, only.

    Not all libertarians adhere to the Austrian school. Fox’s host John Stossel follows the Public Choice school. This school, like Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of monetarism (and its many derivatives), arrives at free enterprise as a good thing and then irrationally negates this finding by incorporating government control and manipulation of the currency. Sans a full discussion, money is the medium of exchange…if government is setting the rules, there are no free markets…PERIOD! This scenario does, however, deliver institutionalized unemployment, unnatural income inequality, wars of adventurism/empire, pork barrel funding, incumbent entrenchment and. among many other nasty results, Boom & Bust economic tragedies.

    Jillian presents a good collection of examples of the different divisions of libertarianism. Like Jillian, I accept a good deal of the libertarian view. Excluding the anarcho crowd, the problem I have with the libertarianists, as represented primarily by Ron Paul, is the extrapolation of Austrian economic principles into an ideology. Austrian economics demonstrates that War is economically damaging. This is contrary to the populist/central planner inculcated idea that war brings prosp[erity: WWII ended the depression untruth. And, true scholarship shows that it is government manipulation and control of the currency, as opposed to the free market that created sound workable money over thousands of years, that funded political wars; as opposed to wars of defense. Or, it can be shown, if people had to voluntarily sacrifice and do without to fund a war…direct taxation as opposed to hidden inflation and secret fiunding, there’d be few wars and they’d be truly wars of defense.

    Therein lies libertarians’ failure. They have taken this demonstarble truth and idealized it and adopted a strict pacifism stance. Like the lefties, whom they charge with adhereing to an ideolgy notwithstanding practicality and evidence, they too fail to see the danger of an Iran with nuclear weapons. Ideology before evidence and practicality. The libertarian argument for allowing Iran nukes, as presented by Ron Paul goes something like: They are rational (they are theocratic); we contained a larger enemy, the USSR with MAD (the Iaranian islam seeks doomsday…life hereafter as a living goal…do you recall soviet suicide bombers?). The libertarians fail to recognize that if they are wrong it is a terminal risk.

    At this point how or why we are faced with an Iran on the verge of acquiring nukes is irrelevant. Whereas they are avowed to destroy the USA, Israel and all things not islamic…there is nothing for it but to destroy Iran’s nuke capabilities as a defensive measure. Thereafter, we must vow to free trade and no more foreign entaglements.

    Regressing, my goal here was to impart the idea that Austrian economics is not libertarianism. I can only hope the shortsightedness of the libertarians doesn’t damage the reputation of the Austrian principles…the socuiialist central planners already blame free market capitalism for everything they damage.

    • This analysis is extremely informative and useful.

      Thank you, Don L.

  • liz

    I agree on the quarrels you have with libertarians. But that site linked to on libertarian historical revisionism seems to feature critiques by socialist historical revisionists.
    For instance, one criticizes a libertarian author who’s ideas “don’t square with common sense notions of social justice”.

    • Thanks, liz. I might have chosen the site in too much haste. I’ll look again.

      • You are right, liz. And I did choose carelessly. Every essay, as far as I can see from the summaries of their content, is from a Leftist point of view. So I have removed the link. It is Don L’s criticism in his comment here that argues the case rightly.