Why the Libertarian Moment Isn’t Here

Libertarian_Protest_SignThe debate over whether the “Libertarian Moment” has arrived and whether it will arrive on Monday or Tuesday is symptomatic of why the moment hasn’t arrived.  No one is debating whether the socialist moment has arrived. They’re either championing it or fighting a rear guard action against it.

The debate over the libertarian moment and its train schedule is a debate about ideas and issues rather than people. And it’s the people who make the moment.

Socialism’s big moments arrive when people feel helpless. It does well during depressions and recessions. That’s how we ended up with FDR, Clinton and Obama.

Socialism is a sleazy insurance salesman. Its product may be bad, but people are a lot more likely to buy it when they’re worried about the future. Europe turned to socialism after its people lost confidence in the future and themselves. America is turning to socialism after a similar crisis of confidence.

Reagan’s greatest gift to his country was averting a similar implosion by trading the malaise of the Carter years for a sense of national confidence. Aside from all his policies, he kept the sense of failure at bay.

Cheerleaders for the libertarian moment note that confidence in government is low. But so is confidence in the future. Those who don’t believe in the future also don’t believe in themselves. Without a sense of individual confidence and competence, there is no libertarian moment. It’s not enough to realize that government has failed. People also have to believe that they can succeed.

Some libertarians think that discrediting government by showing where it has failed is enough.  It’s not. The libertarian moment can only arrive when people have more confidence in their ability to succeed on their own than they do in the institutions of government. The black community is an extreme example, but confidence has plummeted among middle class whites at an alarming rate.

The libertarian moment hasn’t arrived in some of the most corrupt countries in the world whose populations are well aware that their leaders are incompetent thieves. It isn’t going to arrive here just because Americans decide that their country is run by incompetent thieves.  It won’t make them any more willing to change than many of the migrants arriving from south of the border and looking for an even bigger big government than the corrupt totalitarian mess that they left behind.

Predictions of a libertarian moment have been based on conflating liberal trends, such as pot legalization and gay marriage, with libertarian ones. It’s easy to sell the future as libertarian if you prioritize social liberalism over fiscal conservatism. And as David Harsanyi put it, there is no libertarian moment without fiscal conservatism. If you can’t tie fiscal conservatism to social liberalism, all you have left is the left.

Libertarians have found it a lot easier to sell social liberalism to conservatives by promising them the youth vote. They haven’t had much luck selling fiscal conservatism to their allies on the left except when it comes to military budget cuts. And that isn’t a libertarian value, unless Obama is the libertarian moment.

Can fiscal conservatism be reconciled with social liberalism? That question is a lot easier to answer in Silicon Valley than it is in Detroit.

The libertarian paradox is that those Americans who stand to benefit the most from fiscal conservatism are also social conservatives. Fiscal conservatism has something to offer prosperous middle class families who are less likely to be enthusiastic about social liberalism.

The mix of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism is appealing to wealthy men. It’s much less appealing to a single mother raising two kids, a family in the ghetto or for that matter a family in one of the suburbs that host much of the actual drug trade.

Libertarianism was rooted in the individualism of a society where values and character were taken for granted. A society where single motherhood is the norm, where families are vanishing and there is no meaningful sense of adulthood is a place where social liberalism is popular and fiscal conservatism is an act of wanton cruelty.

Pajama Boy dreaming of cocoa and permanent ObamaCare and Sandra Fluke agonizing over the cost of unsubsidized birth control are the permanent children of the future. They want their social liberalism, but they also want someone else to pay for the consequences.

The only way to bring fiscal conservatism and social liberalism together is responsibility. And that’s not as popular a libertarian selling point as denouncing the NSA or agitating for legal pot.

A workable libertarianism will have a social conservative edge. Its social liberalism will be premised on the innate conservatism of responsibility. That won’t mean everyone wearing gray suits and avoiding strong language. But it will be based on a society of adults accepting responsibility for their actions.

The left accepts social liberalism and rejects fiscal conservatism because it rejects individual responsibility. The right accepts fiscal conservatism and rejects social liberalism because it is skeptical of the sense of responsibility of a lot of the population.

There is no libertarianism without individualism and there is no individualism without individual responsibility. Without responsibility, social liberalism is a gateway drug to socialism.

Rugged individualism isn’t an immutable law of nature. It comes from the individual character.  Or it doesn’t. A relevant libertarianism must be a movement of character as it once was. That’s a bigger challenge today than it was during the days of Rose Wilder Lane or Ayn Rand.

The trendy libertarianism of the moment is too focused on removing laws and not nearly as conscious of what laws everyone will live by. That is why its moment will never come. It advocates ideas such as amnesty without considering the consequences. Like its socialist counterpart, it insists that something must work because its ideas say that it will. It does not take into account how people actually behave.

Government is not the enemy. It is a symptom of the problem. There is no way to get rid of a nanny state, until the child grows up. A trendy libertarianism that cheers a dissolute social liberalism of irresponsible behavior and then wonders why it can’t convince the potheads filling up Denver’s homeless shelters to buy into fiscal conservatism is not the solution. It’s part of the problem.

The libertarian moment will come not when there are no laws, but when everyone lives responsibly by their own laws.

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  • truebearing

    A timely and well argued polemic.

    Libertarians are contemptuous of social conservatives, because they want freedom at all costs, including being free of guilt. The standard complaint is that social conservatives want to “legislate morality,” as if that is unique to social conservatives. Socialists legislate morality to the point you have to be careful what words you use, and libertarians would legislate levels of individual freedom that would lead to utter chaos, but the socialists and libertarians are fine with their own morality, or lack thereof, so their legislation of morality, with attendant hypocrisy, is fine with them. The truth is that one way or another the party in power will legislate its own morality.

    Diverging from a society that values the broad range of moral precepts contained in the Judeo-Christian tradition is a big problem if one expects an electorate to govern a nation without it degenerating into totalitarianism or devolving into anarchy. Of the two alternatives to a well balanced moral society, only socialism has succeeded, if you can call it that, in actually governing nations… right into the ground. Libertarianism’s only attempt is what necessitated the Articles of Confederation be supplanted by our magnificent constitution. Pure libertarianism has never governed anything successfully, primarily because there aren’t enough people in any country with the morals and discipline to not need some centralized government.

    Any political ideology could work magnificently if every member of a given society was a moral, disciplined person… yes, even communism. The reason being that ideology would be superfluous in a society where people were all honest, compassionate, generous, forgiving, etc. Ideologies are created to politically compensate for human moral failure.

    If a population doesn’t behave in a moral way, the government will enforce laws, or externalize “morality,” on unruly people. We have to choose between being intrinsically moral as individuals, therefore requiring minimal policing and having the opportunity and capacity for self-governance; or indulging ourselves in every manner, degenerating as individuals and forfeiting our freedoms to statists who will gladly impose their external morality. One way or the other, there will be a ruling morality.

    The current libertarian trend is driven by escapism. It is like people who work in huge cities, filled with pollution and crime, rushing to their cabin on the lake on the weekends to escape for an idyllic couple of days. They can’t stay there. It is impossible, but they need something to look forward to. Libertarianism as it is conceived today is similar. It is ideological escapism. It is an utopian economic ideology wedded to social liberalism. What massive historical falilure does that sound like?

    • https://www.youtube.com/user/KizoneKaprow Kizone Kaprow

      freedom from guilt

      Yep. As I noted above, libertarians are ethical agnostics. Theirs is the morality of the ’60s hippie: Do your own thing, man. That’s why libertarians revel in pornography, prostitution, drugs, and why they spend so much time obsessing over these behaviors. It’s one thing to call sex between consenting adults a victimless crime; it’s quite another to glorify the professions of prostitutes and porn “stars.” That’s where libertarianism, ethically, goes off the rails.

    • cacslewisfan

      I really like that you said “The current libertarian trend is driven by escapism.” Your last paragraph could not describe most of the Libertarians I know better. I’m not trying to be offensive, but I think most of the Libertarians I know are very timid Conservatives who like to smoke pot.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      I doubt that any group when given power wouldn’t end up legislating their own morality anyway. And fanatical ideologues will act like authoritarians even if they claim to do so in the name of freedom.

      That’s why it’s dangerous to have an ideology without an ethical system.

      Libertarianism of this kind also has a narrow people and much of it is to people who exist outside these social problems or can escape them. They don’t meaningfully address what happens to the other 2/3rds of the country.

      There’s a lot of overlap with liberal policymaking in this regard.

      • truebearing

        “And fanatical ideologues will act like authoritarians even if they claim to do so in the name of freedom.”

        Truer words were never spoken. I honed my views on libertarianism debating hordes of Paul supporters who basically thought that once elected, Paul was going to right all wrongs, singlehandedly. When I pointed out that they claimed to be libertarians but wanted a dictator, they predictably came unglued. It was kind of fun debating them, but ultimately disturbing that people of so much zeal didn’t understand the consequences or hypocrisy of what they thought they wanted.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          Those with the most zeal are the least likely to have any self-awareness

        • De Doc

          I backed off from my own misguided Paul ferver when he started seriously flirting with the 9-11 Truthers. And his foreign policy view are simply untenable. Playing nice to the bad guys in the world and expecting them to reciprocate in kind is naïveté at its worst.

          • PATRIOT.WW48

            De Doc, P.S. a little on the anti-Israel side too. Both he & his papa might wanna read the part about bless those who bless and curse those who curse. It’s to bad to, they have good ideas on the domestic side.

        • http://www.BushelBob.com/ Bob Williams

          Although Paul, a classical liberal GOP congressman, holds some libertarian-leaning views, he is not a libertarian. It is helpful, therefore, to keep in mind that the term ‘libertarian’ is under debate as various political segments struggle with one another to provide definitions for the term. Soon, every American and his brother will call themselves a Libertarian, and its meaning will be just as varied. On that day, William F. Buckley’s ghost will smile.

    • http://www.stubbornthings.org NAHALKIDES

      Communism couldn’t “work” even if men were angels – without the freedom to act, production becomes impossible. The North Korean economy couldn’t produce no matter how “good” both the rulers and the ruled are – and remember, exercising arbitrary power over your fellow man is extremely corrupting. No ruling class could ever remain “good” for long.

      • truebearing

        Keep in mind it was a hypothetical point about the relationship between people of moral character and ideologies of governance. A supremely moral population would never impose communism on each other, nor would there be any people that would follow it, therefore, it would “work” precisely because it remained an unmanifested theory. The point is that enlightened people of high moral rectitude need little in the way of any political ideology, but that doesn’t mean I’m endorsing anarcho-capitalism. It means that in that hypothetical world, governance is intrinsically motivated, therefore law enforcement and tons of regulation aren’t necessary. Such people don’t exist, or at least not in enough numbers, so it isn’t a possible reality, but it is the reality necessary for pure libertarianism to be a governing ideology.

        I am all for liberty, but when people want unqualified frredom, I want to ask: freedom to do what? Or freedom from what? If the answer is, “freedom to do what I want,” then I know that that person has a narcissistic, naive, and immature utopian form of libertarianism in mind, and that kind of stupidity can never work. That vision of libertarian utopia is more often than not the kind desired by people with addictive personalities and an undeveloped moral awareness.

        Keep in mind that “freedom” always needs a qualifier. You can have the “freedom to” or the “freedom from” which means there will be conflicts when one person wants the freedom to smoke pot all day, everywhere, but others want freedom from stoned drivers or the incessant smell. They are both forms of freedom. Whose freedom is more important?

        • http://www.stubbornthings.org NAHALKIDES

          The only answer I know of is to carefully define man’s rights, which are never in conflict with each other, since no man can claim the “right” to violate someone else’s rights. As to your pot-smoking example, I imagine the best solution is to limit smoklng in public places and make driving while stoned a crime.

          The typical Libertarian is very much as you describe him, wishing the “freedom to do what I want” without regard for the consequences either to himself (the subject of moral questions) or to others (the subject of both moral and legal questions). Anarchy is generally not far from the Libertarian heart.

          • truebearing

            Yes, they flirt with anarchy as long as they have no restraints, but aren’t so willing to extend unlimited freedom to others. Doctinaire Libertarians are walking contradictions.

    • PATRIOT.WW48

      Well-frig’n-said.!!!!!! HALLELUJAH and AMEN……….”The Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” JOHN ADAMS.

      • truebearing

        Thank you, sir. That comment is the distillation of a thousand battles with Paul supporters. Hopefully it will do some good. This Libertarian trend concerns me. It will only help the Left.

    • Debbie G

      Bravo to you and Mr. Greenfield. You dissections of libertarianism have opened my eyes. Individual responsibility and a moral standard are absolute essentials.
      I’ve often wondered if my being anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage stood in the way of abiding by the constitution (freedom to choose), but after reading the above, I am content with my social conservatism.

  • I_Am_Me


  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

    The analysis is accurate. Those who tend to be libertarians have a “sense of individual confidence and competence” in that “they can succeed.” When they embrace “fiscal conservatism” it is because they believe (1) they can spend their money better than the government (a utilitarian argument) and (2) they are indignant when government bureaucrats run their lives (a rights argument).

    There is a difference between the libertarians who see liberty as a precondition to achieving values and the libertarians who are subjectivists that omit values as a bases of their social ethic. The “high standards” libertarian, for examples the Randian kind, see legalization of certain disreputable practices only as a logical consequence of individual rights and not a motivating factor. They don’t want government deciding their values so that they may flourish but accept that others will flounder.

    John Locke writes: “The care, therefore, of every man’s soul belongs unto himself and is to be left unto himself. But what if he neglect the care of his soul? I answer: What if he neglect the care of his health or of his estate, which things are nearlier related to the government of the magistrate than the other? Will the magistrate provide by an express law that such a one shall not become poor or sick? Laws provide, as much as is possible, that the goods and health of subjects be not injured by the fraud and violence of others; they do not guard them from the negligence or ill-husbandry of the possessors themselves.” He argues the same freedom applies to the spiritual realm.

    The libertarian accepts that one may flounder spiritually as one may flounder materially. That is a side effect, not the motivating factor for a value-oriented libertarian. To champion profligate behavior (like Walter Block) is not, never was, and can never be the foundation of a liberal order. Those libertarians who seek liberty without advocating the cultural change to establish an ethnical foundation the underwrites liberty, will fail dismally. On that issue I have to agree with Rand.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      “The “high standards” libertarian, for examples the Randian kind, see
      legalization of certain disreputable practices only as a logical
      consequence of individual rights and not a motivating factor. They don’t
      want government deciding their values so that they may flourish but
      accept that others will flounder.”

      And that’s the only way that a society can work.

      The problem is a wave of party libertarians who can’t even seriously address the fact that there will be negative social consequences.

    • Habbgun

      Ayn Rand fails because she was so anti-religion. It is one thing not to believe. It is another to prefer America to the Soviet Union but then wipe off religion as a factor. It is intellectual cowardice. It avoids a thorny problem of why religious people were rewarded and dialectical materialists were not. Sure you can argue that the values and not a deity was responsible but at least you are making some kind of argument and you do have to say where do values come from if not from a deity.

      From what I could tell Rand simply replaced the idea of work as being communal as under communism with the idea of work as being solely in the private interest but in either case it is work itself that is some kind of liberation and not life as a whole. Trying to separate man from his Maker and still get a functional society is very hard. Libertarians have failed just as the communists have and they can’t offer free stuff, unicorns and fairies.

      • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

        You may want to read John Locke. Also, see Jerome Huyler’s Locke in America, in particular, his chapter “The Virtue of Industry.” Prof. Huyler writes for the American Thinker and is active in Tea Party affairs.

      • http://www.BushelBob.com/ Bob Williams

        Mrs Alice O’Connor, nee Rosenbaum, hated libertarians and said so – often.

        • Habbgun

          I really don’t understand your comment. Are you saying that my take on Rand’s position on religion is wrong or that Rand was simply anti a certain type of libertarian. She is famous for telling Buckley he was too smart to believe in religion. If a philosopher or philosopher wannabe simply refuses to acknowledge a fact may not be a very good philosopher. If smart, productive people are believers there very well may be something to belief. When she advocated totally against religious belief she no longer explained America but became a competitor with it. If that was not her intention than she made a serious error.

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/KizoneKaprow Kizone Kaprow

    Ayn Rand famously called libertarians “hippies of the right.” Things haven’t changed much since then. Libertarians are still trying to get by on politics alone while eschewing the fundamental branches of philosophy on which politics is dependent: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics. Especially ethics.

    Libertarians are ethical agnostics. Their morality is typically summed up with the simplistic, “Dude, don’t hurt me and don’t steal my stuff!” Libertarians attempt (and fail) to apply the nonaggression principle to every social concern and conflict, whether it’s taxes, censorship, micro-brewed beer or deep-dish pizza.

    I’ve even seen libertarians argue against a woman’s right to control her own biological processes by defining abortion as “aggression” against a fetus that wasn’t first consulted about it. I am not making this up: “Abortion violates the non-aggression principle, it goes against the concept of self-ownership and nobody asks the fetus if he or she wants to be aborted, so there’s nothing ‘voluntary’ about abortion.”

    Anyway, did you miss The Libertarian Moment?
    Here it is again!

    • Daniel Greenfield

      The problem with any ideology is that it’s dry on its own. You have libertarians who argue for slavery. If you stick to a set of ideas and assume that your principle is innately right, you can justify anything.

      • De Doc

        The lockstep libertarian crowd is as obnoxious in their zealotry as the die hard Marxist. Everything must be filtered through their ‘libertarian world view’ to derive the proper answer. The movement has devolved to crazy, self-caricature, which is why I’m no longer active in it.

        • truebearing

          Despite my criticism of “libertarians,” I always considered myself to be a libertarian conservative. Since then I have learned to resist defining conservatism. Sometimes the libertarian wing is right. Sometimes the neo-conservatives are right. The key to what is appropriate is the understanding of the consequences of any political position. People who try to think with their ideology are people who have forfeited their intellectual freedom — especially ironic for libertarians.

          It isn’t any wonder that the Paulist goose steppers act like Marxists. Many of the young ones were Marxists in college until they became disillusioned with the Left and decided to become deluded by Ron Paul. They are immature Utopianists, looking for a one-size-fits-all solution that lets them have their cake — with pot baked in — and eat it too.

          • Daniel Greenfield

            There is a danger in rigid ideologies. People start thinking that the ideology defines reality.

          • truebearing

            So much for their freedom…

      • Lysander Spooner

        You have libertarians that argue for slavery?! Please name two.

        Bonus question: What libertarian idea or principle is regarded as innately right that can justify slavery?

        Ideology may or may not be dry on its own, but methinks you’re all wet on this one.

  • cacslewisfan

    You hit it! I have Libertarian family, and where personal responsibility and social liberalism meet, nothing but crickets. I told one I would be OK with legal drugs as long as I didn’t have to pay for the social programs needed to mop up the wreckage. Outrage over my heartlessness ensued because basically, in my opinion, many Libertarians recognize the tyranny of socialism, but can’t bear the thought of being called a social Conservative. So uncool.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      They’re not really libertarians. That’s where the whole thing implodes.

      The party libertarian circuit has created a lot of liberals who think they’re libertarians. Eventually they realize they’re not.

      • Lightbringer

        Some seem to confuse libertarianism with libertinism. The former could theoretically, possibly, work, while the latter is a certain recipe for disaster, both personal and societal.

  • antisharia

    Libertarians can be contemptuous as much as they want. In truth I detest libertarians. It’s a juvenile philosophy for a juvenile mind. For me there is no excuse for anyone over the age of 25 for being a libertarian. I knew a lot of libertarians when I was a student. Now, in the real world, not so much. Many of those same people found out that the real world doesn’t mesh with the editorials of Reason magazine and the collected works of Ayn Rand. (Rand, I know, didn’t consider herself a libertarian, but many libertarians are influenced by her. Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, just to name a few). I think part of the problem for me is that some libertarians, say of the Robert Nozick variety, have a utopian streak to them. They believe that if we just cut enough taxes, deregulate, and privatize everything will be just fine. For the record I’m in favor of lower taxes, deregulation, and privatization. But I don’t believe that a perfect society is ever possible. Libertarians, like socialists, see the world through an economic lens. Yes, they see things from a radically different perspective, but they are still seeing through an economic lens.
    Then there is the cultural element of libertarianism. Which is little more than hedonism wrapped up in the language of freedom. These little twerps wouldn’t know freedom if it jumped up and bit them on the ass. Freedom, as so many point out, requires responsibility. Social libertarianism, like social liberalism demands total freedom but they never think about the consequences. They champion gay marriage and drug legalization. Neither one is a sign of enlightenment or freedom. They are signs of societal rot. They’re children who want to party and have a good time, they just don’t want to see the bill. And there will be a bill. It might not be in dollars and cents but there will be a cost. A weaker, coarser, culture with the traditional values that made the foundation of America reduced to irrelevancy is far more costly than any tax.

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    I would fully agree with this argument if I were not dubious about the clarity of “individual responsibility.” It is a religious notion, but in the world we live in, it is not so clear where responsibility lies, for we do not choose our institutional context. See http://clarespark.com/2013/01/08/is-ahab-ahab-the-free-will-debate/: “Is Ahab Ahab? The Free Will Debate.”

    • Daniel Greenfield

      At the simplest level, it means that if you do something, you are responsible for its consequences.

      It’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.

    • truebearing

      If Libertarianism was renamed as “Libertarian consequentialism,” there would be reason to believe the movement was starting to understand the requirements for success, but it would precipitate the loss of the majority of its members.

  • http://www.stubbornthings.org NAHALKIDES

    There are a number of ways to examine Libertarianism. Daniel looks at it as an incongruous fusion of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism, which I think is the way many libertarians view themselves. But as Mark Steyn once observed, all that social liberalism carries with it a hefty price tag, or as Daniel says, “Pajama Boy dreaming of cocoa and permanent ObamaCare and Sandra Fluke
    agonizing over the cost of unsubsidized birth control are the permanent
    children of the future. They want their social liberalism, but they also
    want someone else to pay for the consequences.”

    And this is essentially correct. I view Libertarians as basically wishing to escape being judged and who therefore try to separate politics from morality, with disastrous results all the way around. Libertarianism has been around for a long time now (the Party was formed in 1971). If its moment were going to ever arrive, it would have by now, but Libertarianism’s moment is not about to come today, nor will it ever come at any time in the future. Americans concerned about preserving their liberty need to ally with Conservatives – all-around Conservatives – who in turn need to either take over the Republican Party or found their own.

    • truebearing

      A good dose of mature libertarianism is exactly what the Republican Party needs. What bothers me about the “libertarian movement” is that they don’t understand the consequences of their own beliefs…just like leftists.

      • nightspore

        True. Going a little further, if you don’t take a monocentric view of this business, then libertarians can be seen as an important part of the mix. They can act as another check on governmental excess, for example.

        • truebearing

          Exactly. Libertarianism is great in a supporting role, but a disaster as the lead actor. Or an essential spice to a great recipe, but too much ruins the meal. It is not balanced enough to stand alone, but it very helpful in contributing to balance, especially fiscally.

  • De Doc

    Spot on Daniel. To work properly, a libertarian society needs individuals with high standards of morals and ethics.

  • seewithyourowneyes

    Well said.

  • Viet Vet

    There’s a huge difference between libertarianism and Libertarianism. Small ell libertarianism is first cousin to conservatism, where Libertarianism is kooksville, and share more tenets with Liberalism than conservatism.

  • camp7

    Great article, excellent commentaries.

    The problem with libertarianism is, it simply isn’t realistic. Not at the national level, global scale, or even within the domain of a nuclear family. The libertarian idea of substituting morals with ethics is as deficient as Ayn Rand’s philosophy of unreserved objectivism. They both dismiss “duty”, the unselfish altruism of an advanced society. A conscience that by nature embraces morality and responsibility beyond one’s self.

    The dichotomy of libertarianism is that it can only exist in a democracy or republic that protects it’s ideals at the cost of regulating some of it’s freedoms. Libertarianism will not survive as an institution of it’s own. One only has to imagine a family with no real authority structure, or world governments that would easily oppress a pacifist society burdened with liberal entitlements and the closet mentality of “to each their own” libertarians.

    The beauty of a democratic republic is it has the potential to institute liberty and at the same time temper a (hypothetical) pure democracy that has the potential of mob rule by the generational dynamics of states with larger populations. Our Founders got it right, the Constitution was based on conservative values that go beyond the mere concept of liberty, it calls for citizen duty.

    • truebearing

      You zero in on another factor motivating this libertarian fad, narcissism. Selfishness is a big part of the desire to have unlimited freedom and recognize no obligations to friends, neighbors, the nation, or allied nations. It is obsessively about one’s own freedom.

      Ron Paul’s foreign policy was basically a national fetal position.

      • camp7

        Libertarians, like their liberal cousins, deny the moral high ground for the sake of secular ideals to sustain their lifestyle presumably as free or at liberty, ultimately at someone else’s expense.

        Picture a foxhole with five soldiers hunkered down when a grenade lands in their midsts. Does one of the soldiers jump on the grenade because of his/her political ideals, nationalism or even heroism? (If it was to become a hero it represents a conflict of interest with egotism – being a self destructive act. Heroism or valor is an analysis after the fact of intent.)

        No, he/she jumped on the grenade to save the other four soldiers in the foxhole. Not ethics or nationalism, no time to rationalize, it was a spontaneous act of moral duty above the concept of freedom, most likely inspired by a Judeo-Christian culture. I doubt a libertarian would even be in that foxhole unless perhaps it was on their soil.

        Now if all those soldiers jumped on the grenade at the very same time, that would be the most noble of societies.

    • truebearing

      This is an enjoyable thread, from Daniel’s great article to the excellent commentary. One of the reasons for the interesting commentary is that we didn’t have any trolls causing trouble and disrupting everyone’s thoughts.

      • Daniel Greenfield

        the trolls are off drinking raw sewage directly from the spout

        • truebearing

          I’m glad they have something to do that is more in line with their tastes and talents.

  • DogmaelJones1

    The libertarian movement has, since its inception many, many decades ago, has been philosophically and morally rudderless. A few more steps to the “right” and it would be advocating “pure” anarchy. It eschews any kind of philosophical base, thinking that one is not needed. “Rights” just exist, they grow on apple trees or can be picked out of the air, and can be picked at random one by one or by the bushel. In terms of its ideational antecedents, it owes much of its whimsical rhetoric to the anarchists of the 20th century, who usually were crypto communists or genuine bomb-throwers against the “establishment.” Libertarianiism advocates “competing” governments, which, in practice, would mean gang warfare.

    • http://tinatrent.com/ Tina Trent

      Kind of like ideological fruitarians — Note Reason Magazine is the brain trust that planned to start a new society in Honduras, one that would have no laws or police but would be crime free because — well, just because and so people would prefer that and move to the crime-free places and it would be utopia there.

  • kevinstroup

    A “free man” is a very self-disciplined man, a very studied man, an action man. Do you really see that happening with the population we have? That is what I thought, too.

  • Erudite Mavin

    Excellent commentary Daniel.
    Among the many good replies, what is missing, there is no society without National Security, a subject Libertarians are against and state on their sites, what is going on around the world is America’s fault, thus they believe the U.S. should look the other way when thousands of Christians and other minorities in Iraq are being killed, beheaded, starved to death, kidnapped, Churches destroyed 10s of thousands more fleeing to other areas for their life.

    I read the libertarian sites especially Ron Paul’s site for his new organization
    to know what they are pushing.

    Ron Paul’s new site is the same as reading sites funded by George Soros, the usual Radical Left propaganda also you can throw in Storm Front type propaganda.

    The bottom line, the libertarians believe the problems of the world are America and Israel’s fault.

  • Viet Vet

    Most of them are also religious atheists.

    • PATRIOT.WW48

      most correct, however I saw many of them in fox-holes. at least they didn’t go to Canada.

  • Viet Vet


  • William James Ward

    Libertarians demand freedom to damn themselves and every one
    else’s moral and ethical convictions. Freedom is fine but there must
    be lines that call for self control that keeps anarchy from being the
    order of the day. Without and education based in moral, civic and
    ethical responsibility we are not a society but a collection of misfits.

  • 1Indioviejo1

    Excellent. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan did a study on the the dissolution of family ties, single parenthood, teen age ‘Baby Mammas’ and its destructive effect on society. The usual suspects came out and attacked him. They even called him a ‘racist’. Well, he was right and they were abysmally wrong. Michael Walsh at PJ Media called the Demonrats a criminal syndicate, and I totally agree with him. Our problem is that the stupid party, the GOP, are incapable of standing up for the Judeo-Christian civilization which brought the Barbarous Europeans up from paganism. Our Libertarians are really Libertines confused in their ethics and morals. You do a good job in pointing out some of their confessions.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Without a stable family structure, the nanny state becomes inevitable.

      If there is no family, government becomes the family.

      • 1Indioviejo1

        Thank you Daniel, for being on the same page with me on this one. We owe the Democrat Party which Michael Walsh call an organized crime syndicate, the erosion of our core values and the debasement of our society.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          It was part of a plan and it’s unfortunately working too well

          • 1Indioviejo1

            Why couldn’t the Republicans, supposedly the opposition Party, see it coming and act accordingly? They deserve as much blame as the leftist. The RINO’s are just an elitist gang looking out for themselves.

  • Bulan Sabriel

    Libertarians and Cheap socialism are the ideologies of teenagers, ie
    people who want to have fun and have others deal with the consequences.
    The problem for libertarians is that with the destruction of cultural
    capital, the only one left to play daddy is the government. Left
    libertarians are handmaidens of the nanny state just like the
    communitarian left, they claim to oppose.

    • Daniel Greenfield



    That was my era, I hatted Hippies then and hate Hippies now. Except for the Hippie-Chicks, they were really cute. Then I took my S.E.Asian vacation.

    • Viet Vet

      All expenses paid vacation.

      • PATRIOT.WW48

        Yes indeed, All Expenses Paid. In fact, they even Paid Me……:o) :o)

  • Lysander Spooner

    Individual responsibility is the foundation of libertarianism. Individual responsibility is the sine qua non of libertarianism. Libertarianism embraces a set of principles, then develops political policies from those principles. Social liberalism is a term used here to denigrate liberty. Liberty leaves it up to the individual to choose how to conduct his or her affairs. Fiscal conservatism is an inevitable policy if the principles of liberty are pursued faithfully.

    Dr. Thomas Szasz was a great writer who clearly articulated the principles of liberty in many of his works. His most famous book, “The Myth of Mental Illness”, makes it clear that incarcerating people against their will by falsely claiming that they are “patients” is immoral and wrong. In “Our Right to Drugs” and “Ceremonial Chemistry” Dr. Szasz clearly articulates the case for the repeal of the drug laws. As Szasz clearly points out, you can not legalize drugs, you can only stop making them illegal. (BTW, it is the drug laws which have laid the foundation for the travesty of obamacare.)

    The libertarian moment isn’t here because the left despises individual responsibility and meritocracy, and most on right simply can’t seem to be bothered with understanding the timeless principles of liberty.


      Dr. Thomas Szasz was a total nutcase. Period.

      • Lysander Spooner

        Thomas Szasz was the greatest writer in the defense of liberty and human dignity the world has ever known.

        • CapitalistPig

          I also enjoyed Murray Rothbard.

      • DaveGinOly

        I’m inclined here to believe “Mr. Spooner,” because anyone who has studied liberty enough to adopt the name probably knows more about the principles of liberty than most.

      • nightspore

        No, he was making a good point, but he just went too far with it (to the point where he sometimes sounds like Kate Millet). Or do you think that 20% of young males really have ADHD and need a drug like Ritalin to cope with it?

        • JIMJFOX

          “The Myth of Mental Illness”

          ANYONE who has suffered from mental illness knows this lie to be as offensive as claiming cancer is all in the mind. Szasz was indeed an repulsive character.

  • Texas Patriot

    A false and misleading obsession with the nuances of the “libertarian” vs. “social conservative” debate highlights precisely what is toxic and terminally ill about the Conservative Movement in America today. Authentic American Conservatives pay attention to economic and security issues that matter to the American people, and almost no one in the Republican Party is talking about those issues today.

  • WhiteHunter

    Perfect analysis, Daniel, as always.

    “Libertarianism was rooted in the individualism of a society where values and character were taken for granted” points out Libertarianism’s fundamental unworkability–especially in the here-and-now of what America (and the West in general) have become since the collapse of conventional, universally accepted values in, say, the early 1960s.

    I used to have this argument all the time with quasi-Libertarian friends, especially when they advocate the legalization of all drugs, no exceptions or restrictions. Bad as the drug problem is now, total legalization would make it much worse. Sure you should be able to do whatever your want with your own body, even destroy it. But…

    When I point out that there would surely be many more deaths from O.D., and more junkies’ corpses lying around in the streets and people’s front lawns and needing to be picked up, they always say, “Well, of course we’d also need more rehab programs, more E.R.s equipped to deal with overdoses and I.V.-spread diseases, more shelters and programs for unemployable dopers when they’re fired or not hired in the first place….”

    To be a true Libertarian, one needs to be consistent and let the chips fall where they may, with people suffering the consequences of their own bad choices, with no subsidies, no mercy shown, no help or safety net offered. Which, of course, my friends don’t like at all. And anyone who disagrees is “mean-spirited.” There would no doubt be screams that “we can’t just let these people die!”

    No matter how interesting a few of the Libertarians’ ideas may seem–and there are a few like that–a vote for a Libertarian candidate, certainly in a Federal or state-wide election–is a vote wasted, since no Libertarian (or any other third-party candidate, for that matter) has any chance of winning. Which amounts to a vote thrown to the Democrat demagogue who’s running against a Republican who might otherwise have a chance to win and be, at least, the lesser of two evils..

    • DaveGinOly

      “Lesser of two evils”? You actually vote for candidates you think are “evil” (however you’re defining that word in this context)? Now that is a wasted vote, because when you help an “evil” candidate win an election, you become responsible for the “evil” that person does while in office. This is the only choice the American people have – a choice between “evils”? A thorough indictment of what the major parties have done to this country.

      Mr. Greenfield condemns the right as well:
      “The right accepts fiscal conservatism and rejects social liberalism because it is skeptical of the sense of responsibility of a lot of the population.”
      This is just a restatement of the knock on progressives – that they have no faith in the people’s ability to take care of themselves.

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  • Donald Meinshausen

    Church attendance is down because churches do not attend to social needs like education, healthcare, charity and culture as they used to as the state has stolen those roles with the attended funds. So for social conservatives to reverse that decline they need to ally with libertarians, who are mostly secular, to get the state out of those fields. Libertarians cover the conservative left flank by giving a more ecumenical approach to these worthy goals of separation of the state from education etc. For the social issues that we disagree on let us refer to the Founding Fathers who allowed for localities and the states to experiment on. I would also suggest that divisive social issues, including abortion, to be decided by state referenda rather than legislative bodies as this would allow for more honest votes and education of the public rather than by the cronies in the statehouse

  • http://tinatrent.com/ Tina Trent

    That NYTimes article was painfully on point: libertarianism is praised for being like “a garage band”; its leaders cannot even explain their own and their candidates’ position on amnesty, and after going on about pot as if hemp farming is the cure for all that ails us (a belief even the most addled hippies outpaced by 1972), they equate their political philosophy with having 22 flavors of pop tarts to choose between, apparently without a crumb of irony.

    I can think of nothing to improve the insight.

  • slhancock

    The thought of having a Ron or Rand Paul as president makes me sick. Talk of hypocrisy in all things. Rand is all over the place on issues, often voting for the very thing he earlier demonized “because it was going to pass anyway”. What kind of policy is that? And to take sides in political settings before getting the facts…well, that is becoming his modus operandi. Every time he weighs in on an incident, it makes me cringe. Especially when all the wrong people praise him! I thought I was a libertarian for a while, but when I started asking questions about the real issues and where they stood, it was apparent that there was not a lot of difference between libertarians and Marxists. In fact, there was a lot more in common between them than the libertarians and the republicans (at that time, anyway!). No thanks, to libertarianism!

    • CapitalistPig

      Rand Paul will tell you he isn’t a libertarian–that he disagrees with his dad Ron Paul.
      I happen to like Rand even though I consider myself a small “L” libertarian.
      But yes, some of his statements & positions make me cringe & remind me that he is a self described Republican. As a Republican, he;s better than most……as a libertarian, he just isn’t.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Same policy as Ron Paul inserting pork earmarks that he then “voted against”

      The hypocrisy policy

  • CapitalistPig

    “Pajama Boy……Sandra Fluke……They want their social liberalism, but they also want someone else to pay for the consequences”
    Yep! Greenfield pretty much nailed it one short paragraph. What else si new?

  • Julann Roe

    Daniel, I’m on the campaign trail here in Florida. We are on a craft brewery tour with Adrian Wyllie and every libertarian I’ve spoken with believes in personal responsibility and fiscal conservatism. I’ve spoken with ex-Democrats and Republicans. These are really good people, not as you have described in your article.

    Mrs. Julann Roe, the wife of Greg Roe, Adrian Wyllie’s running mate for Lieutenant Governor for Florida

  • winstons

    The problem is the invasion of America by primitive peoples from Mexico and Central America will lead to a one party Progressive State….and thanks to Jonah Goldberg we all understand Progressive is another word for Fascist.

  • orlandochris

    I am very pleased that Adrian Wyllie will be a part of the debate.
    Floridians deserve to hear from all the candidates to be well informed.
    Adrian Wyllie deserves my vote and yours too. He is a honest average
    Floridian just as you and I , that is willing to stand up and do
    something for the interest of all of us here in Florida. The other
    candidates both Republican and Democrat are owned and controlled by
    special interest, like puppets and will lie to your face to gain your
    vote, then continue the same old agenda that we complain about year
    after year. Time to get off this merry-go-round, election after
    election, thinking it will be any different. Take a stand, vote for the
    candidate that loves this state and is willing to take time out of his
    life, effort and money to SERVE the people of Florida and stop voting
    for these ‘paid for’ career politicians that are only out for money and
    fame and have zero interest in us Floridians. Even if it’s just for
    honesty alone, vote for Adrian Wyllie instead of the other two
    (Scott/Crist) which are proven liars. The choice is yours and yours
    alone, if you want the same old corruption and slap in the face, go
    ahead and vote for one of the two puppets (Scott/Crist) OR do what is
    right for our (yours and your children’s) future and vote for Adrian
    Wyllie. Support him by donating to his campaign, spreading the word and
    contribute to the super brochure program which I think is very powerful.
    Visit his website today.

  • kabayo944

    That’s me, in the red shirt, holding the sign!