Saturday, August 03, 2013


Nick Gillespie is the Reason editor known to readers of Balloon Juice as "the Fonzie of Freedom," for obvious reasons:

He was given some column inches in The Washington Post yesterday for an op-ed titled "Five Myths About Libertarians." Now, if he really wanted to reassure assure us that libertarianism isn't dangerous -- in fact, a menace to society -- he would have reassured us that libertarians don't really seek to eliminate any and all aspects of government that enforce the social contract. He would have told us that in the libertarians' ideal America, we really wouldn't get rid of, for starters, Medicare and Social Security, child labor laws, the minimum wage, and food safety laws.

But he can't do that because, as you'll see if you check the links in that last sentence, Nick Gillespie actually opposes all of those things and actually does want them eliminated.

So instead, the "myths" he reassures are untrue are mostly trivial surface aspects of libertarianism. And he doesn't even handle that debunking effectively.
1. Libertarians are a fringe band of "hippies of the right."

... Libertarians are often dismissed as a mutant subspecies of conservatives: pot smokers who are soft on defense and support marriage equality. But depending on their views, libertarians often match up equally well with right- and left-wingers....
Who cares? Oh, I forgot: the Republican establishment cares. That's why this op-ed is running in The Washington Post: The elders of the party that's dominated the D.C. zeitgeist since 1980, regardless of who was nominally in power, need reassurance that the Paulites aren't seeking to take their phony-baloney jobs. Well, not to worry, Gillespie says: we're going to be a pain in the ass to the Democrats, too.
2. Libertarians don't care about minorities or the poor.
This, at least, concerns substance. However, Gillespie's rebuttal is not very convincing:
... But at least two of the libertarian movement's signature causes, school choice and drug legalization, are aimed at creating a better life for poor people, who disproportionately are also minorities....
No, they are not "aimed at creating a better life for poor people." They're "aimed at" drastically reducing the reach of government. Any impact on poor people is a side effect, as far as libertarians are concerned, except to thr extent that the benefits, real or imagined, can be used as a selling point for libertarianism.
Libertarians believe that economic deregulation helps the poor because it ultimately reduces costs and barriers to start new businesses....
But again, the consequences of deregulation are irrelevant. For libertarians, deregulation is a sacrament. Libertarians would regard it as necessary no matter who was helped or hurt by it.
3. Libertarianism is a boys' club.
More trivia -- and, again, not convincingly debunked:
While the stereotype of a libertarian as a male engineer sporting a plastic pocket protector and a slide rule once had more truth to it than most libertarians would care to admit, the movement is in many ways the creation of three female intellectuals.

... the modern libertarian movement was hugely influenced by best-selling novelist and writer [Ayn] Rand; writer and critic Isabel Paterson; and author Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose work she edited.
So this argument is on the same intellectual plane as "Republicans in 2013 aren't racist because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican in the mid-nineteenth century." Bzzzzt! Next!
4. Libertarians are pro-drug, pro-abortion and anti-religion.

Charges of libertinism are, alas, exaggerated....
Well, a bunch of male engineers with pocket protectors whose only female companions have been dead for a century aren't likely to be up to much hanky-panky, or at least not much that could end in abortion. But I digress.

From my perspective, the biggest problem is that libertarians aren't libertarian enough on the subject of reproductive rights -- a concern Gillespie attempts to dispel unconvincingly:
About 30 percent of libertarians -- including many libertarian-minded politicians such as Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) -- are staunchly pro-life. But most believe that the best way to change behavior is through moral suasion, not versions of prohibition that don't work.
Er, yeah -- except that one of the libertarians who is very much in favor of "prohibition" is the one who really, really wants to be president of the United States. From Rand Paul's Senate Web site:
I am 100% pro life. I believe abortion is taking the life of an innocent human being.

I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life.

I will always vote for any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion. I support a Human Life Amendment and have co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue. In addition, I support a Sanctity of Life Amendment, establishing the principle that life begins at conception. This legislation would define life at conception in law, as a scientific statement.
Um, that's a bit beyond "moral suasion."

And finally:
5. Libertarians are destroying the Republican Party.
If only.


The fact that this is running in The Washington Post reminds us that that Hillary Clinton is not inevitably going to be elected president in 2016. The Beltway insiders would prefer a fresh new teen idol. A lot of them would really like this new pinup boy or girl to be a Republican. They're perfectly happy for it to be the radically right-wing Rand Paul -- but there is the nasty problem that neocons and social conservatives on the Georgetown cocktail party circuit might not be too pleased. This op-ed won't ease all their fears, but it's a start. Libertarianism is being mainstreamed.


(Gillespie link via Memeorandum.)


Glennis said...

This may be a nitpicky comment, but I note that while citing "author" Rose Wilder Lane, instead of citing her works that "hugely influenced" the movement, he cites her mother's literature for children. What, she's so influential he can't cite her on her own merit?

(I had no idea Rose Wilder Lane was a libertarian. Off to teh Google.)

Anonymous said...

I am not unsympathetic to criticism of libertarianism particularly in its more extreme forms. However, I am very definitely un-sympathetic to the opinion that somehow government is always and forever beneficial, an idea as silly as that which states that government should be abolished.

Governments should always and forever be treated with suspicion and contempt especially when they attempt to allay fears by claiming, almost always untruthfully, that what they propose is for the benefit of 'the poor'. Upon hearing that sort of talk you should automatically feel for your wallet and check that your passport is up to date!

Uncle Mike said...

"reduces costs and barriers to start new businesses...."

You know what else greatly reduces costs and barriers to starting new businesses? Single payer health care.

But are you for that? Hmmm?

Victor said...

Well, if I was a greedy, sociopathic, pot-smoking/drug-taking (NTTAWWT!), woman-hating, chickenshit, I'd prefer the label "Libertarian," too!

It's shorter, easier to remember, and has "Liber" in it - to fool people about my true aims, which are liberty for me, and uh... whatever's left over for all y'all!

And yeah, after almost 5 years of having a Democrat in the Oval Office, the DC Villagers are getting restless, and want a new face - preferably, a Republican one, since the Village is wired that way, anyway.

Steve M. said...

I am very definitely un-sympathetic to the opinion that somehow government is always and forever beneficial

A good point -- or it would be a good point if anyone had ever actually expressed this opinion. Whereas plenty of people clearly that government is always at least somewhat evil.

Unknown said...

"But depending on their views, libertarians often match up equally well with right- and left-wingers...."

Well, that's got enough qualifiers in it to mean exactly nothing ...

Anonymous said...

Marxists, and their lesser brethren, socialists, are always very keen on government, can't get enough of it, apparently!

Steve M. said...

They're not keen on non-Marxist government.

Examinator said...

I'm with you on this one...the (bogus) assumptions in many of the comments here are as presumptive and predicated on the fanciful and non existent *binary extremes* (versions/interpretations) as those in the article.
I read the Wapo article, some of the comments here and laughed.

I do wish many commenters both in the media (ill informed overly simplistic) and on the web would actually *read* the source documents of the various 'political philosophies' *before * they rant. Many

Sadly much of the US media is a. biased and b. a. Bloody big self serving echo chamber. They write what will sell to the great unwashed not necessarily the WHOLE truth. They create a 'truth'.
i.e. (Uncle Mike) Big Pharma and corporate Medical don't like 'socialised '(sic?) medicine simply because it hobbles their (excessive?) profits. If one is objective (not balanced? [sic]) one could look around the world and see that it is HOW you measure the costs (what you leave out) that raises the demonstrably false assertion that business can do things better (for who?) than governments under all circumstances. Likewise it is equally nonsense to argue emphatically the other way.

(Duffandnonsense) “Marxism and Socialism” comment implies that the US is in danger of becoming one of the above. It is not! Fact: Most political philosophies SHARE attributes. Social welfare exists in most and is an intrinsic component of the concept of SOCIETY and it's purpose. The difference is motivation, business is by definition interested in themselves not the society. If government's interests isn't primarily about the society as a *whole * then It is flawed and it or the way it's structured needs change.

The arguments are generally over entitlement and boil down to myopic self interest (usually base on limited understanding of the true costs to society). Consider this the US has the highest level of Multi drug resistant diseases in the west... these diseases pay no attention to the extremes of esoteric political ideologies.

In reality the Wapo article should be regarded in the same merit as details about Kadasian's baby's bum rash cure.

Anonymous said...

"They're not keen on non-Marxist government."

@ Steve: They're not keen on the *ideology* of non-Marxist government but they just love the machinery and levers of power that ALL governments possess.

@ Z: I can only report that as seen from 'over here' the USA of free enterprise is wilting and an era of European-style 'democratic' socialism is well on its way. It's a pity but it's not the end of the world, it just makes it that much easier for the Chinese to take over as the supreme global power.

Unknown said...

" I can only report that as seen from 'over here' the USA of free enterprise is wilting and an era of European-style 'democratic' socialism is well on its way."
What in the hell are you talking about? The government has never been more business friendly than it is today. Large corporations are making record profits; regulations have been reduced to the point of having little to no impact on those corporations.
For god's sake, if trying to ensure a secure retirement for all americans makes us entirely "Socialist", then good luck to you in your old age if SS and Medicare are destroyed.
It's amazing to me how short-sighted Libertarians are. Apparently they believe they'll never get old or sick.

Anonymous said...

@ Peabody Nobis:
Adolph Hitler and his particular brand of European socialism was tremendously business friendly as any old Krupps shareholder would aver!

You see, socialist-minded governments (ie, most of them!) have a choice when faced with business activities. They can either take them over or they can interfere with them - or, to use the current jargon word, 'nudge' them. If they take it over completely they become responsible for it, so much better to 'nudge' it particularly if the nudging results in considerable donations to the party funds.

The reason Mr. Gillespie, above, is so agitated is that he knows that the difference between a 'nudge' and a smack across the kidneys with a truncheon is only a matter of degree.

GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Shorter duffandnonsense: "National Socialism has SOCIALISM right in the name!!!!11"

Steve M. said...

Anyone who parrots the stupidest talking point on the right -- that Nazism is socialism -- is asking to be banned from here. Don't push it, duff.

(And "stupidest talking point on the right" is an extremely high bar to clear.)

Unknown said...

" Marxists, and their lesser brethren, socialists..." Name one, and show your work.

Unknown said...

(Me, cont.) And Eugene V. Debs doesn't count, although something tells me he would not be too "keen" on the "war on women," as it's being waged by today's Republican party.