Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto

DontHurtPeopleby Steve Lancaster    4/12/14
MATT KIBBE is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a national grassroots organization that serves citizens in their fight for more individual freedom and less government control. An economist by training, Kibbe is a well-respected policy expert, bestselling author, and a regular guest on CNN, Fox News, The Blaze TV, and MSNBC. He also serves as Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Austrian Economic Center in Vienna, Austria. Kibbe is author of the national bestseller Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America (2012) and coauthor of Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto (2010).

When you boil it down to the demi-gloss, this is the essence of conservative and libertarian political philosophy. Matt has taken much of libertarian thought that often wanders into the weeds and lays out what most libertarians and conservatives believe and strive to achieve. Many posters on these pages have attacked libertarians as closet progressives that all we want is drugs, sex and rock and roll. Of course, those faux “libertarians” have little or no knowledge of libertarian principles and sadly many critics of libertarians have even less knowledge.  On the first page Matt asks the question that guides the book, “Do you believe in the freedom of individuals to determine their own futures and solve problems cooperatively working together, or do you believe that a powerful but benevolent government can and should rearrange outcomes and make things better?”

I do not doubt that many social conservatives and RINO’s will have real problems with Matt’s opinions. In many ways they have bought into the idea that government solves more problems than it creates.  I have been there and done that myself. “But is it really any of my business to mind the business of the millions of other people working out their own dreams? I don’t think so. I don’t have to accept their choices or their values. But as long as they tolerate mine, as long as they don’t try to hurt me or take my stuff, or try to petition the government to do it for them, why should I care?”

“DO YOU EVER FEEL like politicians want just one thing from you? That maybe, just maybe, they don’t really care about you, your dignity, or your freedoms at all?” Is there a conservative or libertarian who doesn’t feel this way? It is a fight for the heart of our country our liberty to live as we please, where we please and with who we please. It’s time to make some real changes to the political class, tar and feathers may be considered extreme but not excessive.

Take the time to read Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff. Think for yourself about libertarian solutions rather than listen to the rhetoric of the progressives and RINO’s who are only intent on keeping power in the self-righteous little claws. The book is available from Amazon kindle for $11.89.

 

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77 Responses to Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Many posters on these pages have attacked libertarians as closet progressives that all we want is drugs, sex and rock and roll. Of course, those faux “libertarians” have little or no knowledge of libertarian principles and sadly many critics of libertarians have even less knowledge.

    Yes, that was me. And it comes from experience with actual libertarians who tend to be as nutty as a fruitcake on many issues, handing out slogans in place of reasoning.

    But I guess you can just say call all of them faux libertarians.

    And “Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff” is in no way a libertarian idea. “Thou shall not steal” is a rather old principle.” What conservatives say is that it takes more than a few bumper-sticker-length principles to make a good society work.

    “But is it really any of my business to mind the business of the millions of other people working out their own dreams? I don’t think so. I don’t have to accept their choices or their values. But as long as they tolerate mine, as long as they don’t try to hurt me or take my stuff, or try to petition the government to do it for them, why should I care?”

    Steve, there’s much to be said for “live and let live.” But the above quote is just more libertarian over-simplification. If some tribe in India wants to practice Sati, as long as they tolerate my proclivities, what’s the problem?

    This kind of moral relativism is no doubt one reason Mr. Kung calls libertarians the Bolsheviks of the Left.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I know of a fannish triad with at least one member who used to call himself libertarian and even voted in a libertarian primary or equivalent (he was very unhappy when Ron Paul beat Russell Means for LP presidential nominee in 1988). But he undoubtedly fit Steve’s description, and eventually admitted that he was no libertarian at all, but a fierce leftist (and militantly anti-conservative).

    • Faba Calculo says:

      “And “Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff” is in no way a libertarian idea. ‘Thou shall not steal’ is a rather old principle.”

      Does that passage about stealing come before or after the part about stoning the gays?

      That’s what libertarianism brings: consistency. I’ve real doubts about full on libertarianism being able to maintain a good society, but they’re nothing if not consistent.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Here’s a question that I understand is being asked in some homo-hostile foreign countries: Is it better to ban homosexual behavior, or to ban dissent against any aspect of the homosexual agenda? I prefer the former to the latter, and unfortunately I no longer think there’s any alternative here in America (though perhaps there could have been).

        • Faba Calculo says:

          The middle path of legal acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage while still protecting free speech from government interference is still wide open.

          The fight against sexual orientation being added to the list of things one can’t discriminate in hiring, housing, etc. is likely lost. That’s a pity, as the list itself is wrong, at least for small businesses and personal homes.

          As for the rest, what you’re going to see is pretty much a continuation of the norm, along with a sprinkling of anecdotes of people getting fired for contributing to the wrong cause, having the wrong bumper sticker on their car, etc. In other words, free association.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            You have a peculiar notion of freedom. But as long as your side is the one doing most of the firing for the crime of dissent, that evidently is acceptable to you.

  2. steve lancaster says:

    Brad,
    Sati violates the first principle of libertarian philosophy, which in broader terms is also don’t allow others to be hurt by lack of action. Remember the Boy Scout motto, be prepared, and Clausewitz if you want peace prepare for war.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Steve, what you just said isn’t libertarian…at least by the standards of Kibbe who said: But as long as they tolerate mine, as long as they don’t try to hurt me or take my stuff, or try to petition the government to do it for them, why should I care?

      Why should a libertarian care if a Hindu practices Sati as long as they don’t hurt you or take your stuff?

      • Faba Calculo says:

        Gotta go with Brad on this one. If the decision to practice Sati is rationally arrived at (which I doubt), there’s very little in libertarianism to act as grounds to stop it.

  3. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    Many posters on these pages have attacked libertarians as closet progressives that all we want is drugs, sex and rock and roll. Of course, those faux “libertarians” have little or no knowledge of libertarian principles and sadly many critics of libertarians have even less knowledge.

    Yes that was Brad, and Mr. Kung Fu Zu who I think originated the “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll” criticism, and it was certainly me also (Libertarianism Minus Conservatism = Zero) . To condense one of the charges I made there, Libertarianism offers no new ideas but just pilfers them (without attribution) from classical liberalism via Conservatism or from Randian Objectivism. Case in point: your favorable review here of “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” A Libertarian Manifesto” (emphasis added). Notice that both “Don’t hurt people” and “Don’t take their stuff” are very old ideas; indeed, they may be found in the Bible. They are also part of classical liberalism. What they are not is Libertarian in the sense of being part of a new body of ideas.

    So since Conservatives were advocating these things long before Libertarianism existed, the obvious question at this point is, “Who needs Libertarianism?” I’ve often felt, Steve, that you’re basically a Conservative who isn’t comfortable with the handle and prefers “Libertarian” (or “libertarian” – I forget the alleged distinction between the upper and lower-case terms). In fact, that’s probably true of all the better Libertarians (i.e. the ones still open to reason) – their program is almost entirely Conservative, yet they don’t like the moniker and style themselves “Libertarian”.

    Maybe you can explain to us why that is. I suspect it’s the Libertarian misunderstanding of what Conservatism is – it’s not like Brad and I long to wear powdered wigs and knee-breeches while we enforce a rigid religious orthodoxy on the rest of you, for God’s sake. Or it could be something worse, something that is definitely true of many Libertarians: fear and dislike of moral judgments, which the Libertarian refuses to see are necessary for the individual and the political movement alike. You tell us.
    — Nik

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ditto. And I really do think part of the problem is that libertarians have swallowed down the same misinformation regarding conservatism as has most of the rest of the population has.

      And along with that, and for the same reasons, I think most libertarians don’t realize that many of their policies simply mirror many of the same founding principles of the Left. Calling a horse a buffalo doesn’t change the horse.

      I’m fine with the notion of not stealing people’s stuff or unduly harming them — whether via government or personally. But neither of these are novel notions, as you pointed out. And neither of these notions alone can account for all the distinctions that must be made in a society regarding a whole lot of things.

      Again, slogans may give the illusion of a sort of political omniscience, but it’s an illusion all the same.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    it’s alright to take illicit narcotics as long as you don’t hurt anyone of take their stuff….? Since when are sin, vice and chemical slavery worthy emanations of liberty? Suicide on the installment plan is irrational. But if a society has a neutral public square, the immoral imagination can fill it with any manner of horrors and not blink.

    There are a dozen malignancies that libertarianism would give assent to under this rubric. Is society a conglomeration of atoms? I mean, seriously…..these two items are framed in the negative. If the abstraction of freedom is the summum bonum, what are the prudent frontiers of that freedom—–this is and has always been the glass jaw of the libertarian edifice

    does this apply to abortion?

    seems pretty thin gruel to hold together the warp and weft of a good society…..

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      But if a society has a neutral public square, the immoral imagination can fill it with any manner of horrors and not blink.

      There are a dozen malignancies that libertarianism would give assent to under this rubric.

      I think that’s particularly well said.

    • Faba Calculo says:

      “There are a dozen malignancies that libertarianism would give assent to under this rubric.”

      I think just about any political philosophy is going to give birth to certain problems. It comes down to choosing your malignancies.

    • Faba Calculo says:

      “Since when are sin, vice and chemical slavery worthy emanations of liberty?”

      Since when is the taking of illicit drugs necessarily the same thing as chemical slavery? Maybe for some of the really hard stuff (e.g., meth and heroin) they are, but pot? C’mon.

      As for sin, if the Bible is to be believed, not worshipping God is just about the ultimate sin. Yet the right to worship (or not worship) how one pleases is sine qua non to liberty.

  5. Timothy Lane says:

    To me, the key to whether or not libertarianism is worthwhile is simple: how many libertarians realize there is something wrong in principle (something that must be actively opposed) in the Lavender Thought Police and other bigotries by the fag-boys from GLAAD, and how many say such behavior is legitimate as long as the government plays no role?

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      I think the answer is “none” and though I didn’t mention your test in my lengthy response to Steve, your test of Libertarianism is certainly a valid one. Once again, Libertarianism comes up short.

    • Faba Calculo says:

      Opposed, or opposed using government force?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        In other words, as long as people are merely intimidated into silence by private organizations of fanatics, libertarians don’t object to it because it involves sexual amorality (which they favor) and they can persuade themselves that the victims aren’t really victims because, after all, they have no right to their jobs, or whatever — or at the free speech they have to sacrifice to keep them.

        Fat lot of good that does. Personally, I’d rather go back to stoning homosexuals (which can be done privately) if the alternative is the reign (with libertarian approval) of the Lavender Thought Police.

        • Faba Calculo says:

          Your preference for murder over free association is noted.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            What happened to Brendan Eich indicates a lack of truly free choice. It’s that lack (which you choose not to object to) that leads to my response. The ideal is to treat homosexual behavior as legally tolerated but disapproved — but your side (including SCOTUS) will never allow that option.

            • Faba Calculo says:

              On the contrary, it shows that both Eich and the company had choices. And they made them.

              And, no, we’re not going to sit back and accept gays being shut out of civil marriage. Go ahead and disapprove as you like. And we can disapprove of your disapproval. And you can disapprove of our disapproval of your disapproval. And so on.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                And you carefully ignore that fag-boy activists (terminology, by the way, that I don’t use to apply to those homosexuals — probably the bulk of them — who don’t engage in these disgusting antics) were the catalysts of this activity. But as long as your side is the aggressor, you don’t care. Meanwhile, outside of the morally corrupt West, any notion of legalizing homosexuality will run afoul of those aware of your side’s actions and determined to prevent them from happening — by keeping it illegal there.

              • Faba Calculo says:

                Yeah, it must be fear of florists being forced to service gay marriages that’s driving the push for laws to punish gays with long jail sentences and/or the death penalty.

  6. steve lancaster says:

    I find it amusing and thought-provoking that people who seemingly feel aggrieved with the progressives in government, the arts, education and their intolerance for conservative ideas are equally intolerant of libertarian ideas. What I read here is mostly a continuing diatribe on the evils of the other. How does that make you different than Alinskyite Obama? Is your world so threatened that you have no room for competing ideas?

    You have attacked a book you have not, and in my opinion never will read. I purposely kept the review short to generate comments. Not one of you has responded in a thoughtful manner. No one has said, I need to read Matt’s book to make intelligent comment on his view of libertarian principles.

    As allegedly thoughtful conservatives you are dismissing a political idea with which you disagree because of a label; is that not what you constantly accuse the progressives of doing?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Perhaps, but I notice that your condemnation of everyone’s comments is rather genuine. Can you cite some specifics for each of us?

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Steve – I can see you were hoping to win us over to your side and you’re disappointed with us for some reason because we’re not budging. I fear you still do not understand our position, so I will try once again.

      Without attacking your review, which was perfectly good simply as a review, the fact is you haven’t given us any reason to read the book when the title gives the entire game away. You accuse us of being “intolerant of libertarian ideas” when the truth is that “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” are not Libertarian ideas. Got that? I’m going to say it again so that it sinks in: “Don’t Hurt People” and “Don’t Take Their Stuff” are NOT Libertarian ideas, they are ideas stolen from moral, religious, and political sources going back centuries and re-packaged as if the world lay in darkness until the Libertarian Lamplighter brought them down to us from on high. I’m sorry, but you and your fellow Libertarians are just a little late here, as Moses introduced the Eighth Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” several years before Murray Rothbard decided that hating the very idea of government could qualify as a political philosophy.

      Next, you accuse us of “dismissing a political idea with which you disagree because of a label” which is twice wrong: we don’t disagree with the ideas “Don’t Hurt People” and “Don’t Take Their Stuff,” in fact we agree with them because they are part of our Conservative philosophy. What we object to, precisely, is the Libertarian attempt to appropriate them both from us and from their primary sources (alluded to above), and to separate them from any value judgments whatsoever. We don’t object to the ideas because of the label “Libertarian,” we object to the label “Libertarian” being slapped onto these ideas (which we espouse), which Libertarianism, being averse to values, could never have originated. O.K.?

      That brings us to the subject of morality once again. Glenn went into it in a few words more deeply than Brad or I did in our earlier remarks: “Since when are sin, vice and chemical slavery worthy emanations of liberty?” To this question the Libertarian has no answer; he wishes, indeed, to assert that there is no need to answer, just “leave me alone to live my life as I see fit, and be sure not to judge me“. We Conservatives are willing to do the first. We are not willing to do the second.

      Conservatism is concerned with more than politics; its intention is to conserve those ideas, values, and institutions (including but not limited to free government) which have proven themselves beneficial over centuries of experience. Libertarianism is an attempt to conduct politics in a vacuum, without reference to the values that tell us what our politics should be. It claims to value something called “liberty” while denying the validity of moral judgments that could make “liberty” a good thing. This is its central, and fatal, weakness, and nothing in Matt’s book is going to change that. Possibly deep within its bowels is the familiar but wrong-headed complaint that we Conservatives want to “legislate morality” as if it were possible to draft legislation with no moral compass or as if we were going to make church attendance compulsory or something. Sorry, but I don’t need to read that one again.

      I want you to know, Steve, that I personally feel rather sorry for you at this moment. You innocently brought your pea-shooter into battle here, only to find yourself outnumbered and frankly outgunned by Brad, KFZ, Tim, Glenn, and myself, and I’m a little embarrassed to say we did not immediately lay our howitzers down and sue for peace (probably Glenn came closest) as befits the stronger side. I don’t see you as an enemy; I see you as someone who may be uncomfortable with his innate Conservatism.

      Once again, I urge you to explain to us why you don’t want to be called a Conservative, or exactly where you think we’re going wrong. But trying to “educate” us by introducing us to the priceless library of Libertarian thought is not going to work, as you can see.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Being a bit slow, unlike the Left and Libertarians, I generally like to see a little bit of empirical data on political and cultural assertions made by the wizards of worldly knowledge.

        So I will ask Steve again, please give me examples of when and where your Libertarian philosophy was used to govern any group and did so successfully?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Holy smokes, Nik. You got all of that one. You ought to write for National Review…that is if they still allow reality, which I do’t think they do, especially now that Mark Steyn has apparently officially parted with them.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You have attacked a book you have not, and in my opinion never will read. I purposely kept the review short to generate comments.

      No, I gotta call bullshit on that, Steve. Feel free to write a 10,000 word review. I think you libertarians have made a habit and a living out of trying to stay under the radar of actually expressing what you believe. That’s no doubt why Mr. Kung has referred to you as the Bolsheviks of the Right.

      I smell a little deception if not self-deception. I think if you were to state what you really believed, you would be rightly and roundly criticized. So you try to stay above the fray, somewhat acting like Leftists who call their Communism nice-sounding things.

      If you dislike conservatives because you think they’re all a bunch of Christian zealots, then say so. I think Nik has gotten to the heart of this. Answer some of his questions. What is it you really think about conservatism?

      But knock off this lame martyr shit. We’re not intolerant Alinskyites because we don’t agree with libertarian ideas. It’s just that we don’t agree with libertarian ideas. And yet here I am, a conservative, more than willing to let you share your ideas on this site. So why throw this kind of lame martyr bull at me?

      Remember MarkW one of the “Founders” of this place? He couldn’t take a little criticism of his libertarianism and he ran off in a huff. What’s up with that? And god knows I’ve taken my shots at the religious here, but neither Glenn nor Deana ran away screaming how Brad is an awful Alinskyite. I think they simply understand that there is no one-size-fits-all belief system in this life and that there must be room for people to explore ideas.

      I neither want a cult of “Progressives” driving this society to utopia nor do I want a libertarian cult full of half-baked ideas running things. I think both of these sides have little appreciation for the depth of human problems and the human condition. They all seem to want easy solutions which they try to make fit inside their bumper-sticker-length slogans. Well, that just won’t work.

      I’ll be the first to admit that many who self-describe as conservative make some of the mistakes that libertarians hold over their heads as proof that conservatism itself is that caricature that they say it is. But this is not an honest way to view people and their ideas. Even “Progressives,” as goofy as some of their stuff is, can’t all be defined by their worst leaders. Many are just low-information, slightly narcissistic, citizens who know no better.

      And that’s the true contradiction of libertarians. Generally speaking, libertarians are a cult of people who think they they, and they alone, have all the answers. It’s as if you were some narrow Christian denomination (and those do exist) who think that they, and only they, are doing it right. Well, life is a little more complicated than that.

  7. Rosalys says:

    I have found myself wavering between Libertarianism and Conservatism (though I prefer the term Classic Liberalism), but in the end I believe that we do need some guidelines other than “as long as you are not harming ME”.

    Speaking of terminology. It bugs me to even have to qualify Liberalism as Classic Liberalism. The word liberal comes from the word liberty, does it not? Today’s liberals are anti-liberty and have no right to use the title. It is my understanding that they stole the title Liberal when they damaged the title Progressive to the point where it was detrimental to the cause. My God! These people destroy EVERYTHING! Even our very language!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      It is my understanding that they stole the title Liberal when they damaged the title Progressive to the point where it was detrimental to the cause.

      That’s true. And according to David Horowitz, this was a self-conscious move amongst that Communist/Leftist intelligentsia (as intelligent as anyone can truly be to believe that junk). They knew they needed to fool the people. That is, their cause was never above-board and righteous. It was always a goofy and destructive cult run by The New Master Race wanna-bes. The trinkets they have thrown out to the “masses” over the years have been various Communist platform ideas put to a different tune. Gay Marriage can be understood in this way. It’s simply a way to knock the family (always a hated things amongst the Red Diaper Doper Babies) off its pedestal so that the government can be the single and soul organizing force of society. And with a population that has been asleep at the wheel in regards to safeguarding society’s basic structure, they’ve gotten away with it.

      And they’ve gotten away with it because of the new definition of “liberty” which means, for all practical purposes, freedom from the necessities of nature and from the consequences of one’s actions. I believe this largely describes many libertarians as well. Both view man as basically good. One envisions utopia with a big government run by wise and enlightened “Progressives” where every detail of life is managed for the better. The other envisions a utopia with no government, everything (and not just products and services) being run through a free market principle where non-coercion is the only legitimate form of organization…thus, in practice, there can be no organization, just lofty rhetoric that never intersects with reality.

      Conservatives have a much tougher job to do. Utopia is not an option, so simple one-size-fits-all solutions are out. We understand that we must creatively balance many things, often things that are in opposition. We like the dynamism of an open and free society, but also realize that we need a few guardrails. How and where we define those limits is based on several core principles, including the idea that you can’t give anyone too much power. And it includes the idea that a free society is not ultimately constructed from politics but from a moral people who limit their own naturally destructive appetites. We don’t make excuses for crummy behavior as the Left and Libertarians do. The conservative mind is not to be a rationalization mind. It is to be rooted in something deeper than the human propensity to self-deceive.

  8. steve lancaster says:

    Gentlemen, you prove my point. None of you have made any comments on Kibbe’s book and my assertion that you will not read it remains valid.

    I have no desire to persuade you to become libertarians that in itself would violate my libertarian principles. I do believe that as long as conservatives insist on creating circular firing squads with libertarians in the middle success politically is less likely. We can differ on many levels but the role of government should not be in question, and that is what Kibbe’s book is about.

    I have been asked to cite one successful example of libertarian government that has been successful, that is easy; the United States Constitution. My hope is that someone in DC will actually read it.

    I have added quotes from authors you may recognize the last sums up nicely.

    “[T] he conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules. Since he is essentially opportunist and lacks principles, his main hope must be that the wise and the good will rule— not merely by example, as we all must wish, but by authority given to them and enforced by them. Like the socialist, he is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.”
    F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960).

    “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end,” wrote Lord Acton. “It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for the security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life.”
    Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Lecture, February 26, 1877.

    Government is, by definition, a monopoly on force. Governments often hurt people and take their stuff. That’s why the political philosophy of liberty is focused on the rule of law. Government is dangerous, left unchecked. Consider the way too many examples from modern history to see the murderous results of too much unchecked government power: communists, fascists, Nazis, radical Islamist theocracies, and a broad array of Third World dictators who hide behind ideology or religion to justify the oppression and murder of their countrymen as a means to retain power.
    Kibbe, Matt (2014-04-01). Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto (p. 11). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

    In 1975, Manny Klausner of Reason magazine Interviewed Ronald Reagan about his political philosophy. The former governor of California replied: If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals— if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
    Manuel Klausner, “Inside Ronald Reagan,” Reason, July 1975, http:// reason.com/ archives/ 1975/ 07/ 01/ inside-Ronald-Reagan

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I do believe that as long as conservatives insist on creating circular firing squads with libertarians in the middle success politically is less likely.

      Steve, I agree with Nik. It’s libertarians who have to acquiesce to conservatives, and not the other way around, if you want to be relevant.

      But I don’t believe as I once did that libertarians are a first cousin to conservatives. I believe they are in active opposition to conservatives. I believe they are just another brand of liberal in disguise…or some new thing that borrows a little from here, a little from there, and declares it has all the answers.

      You, and other Libertarians, seem to be hawking an identity more than a reality or a consistent political philosophy. This is made plain when you say that the U.S. Constitution is a libertarian document. It is not. It is an amalgamation of many things. But it is not a libertarian document.

      I more and more am coming to the conclusion that libertarianism is like a cult. It’s your identity that counts more than anything. And that identity is wrapped up in a very flattering self-image.

      “[T] he conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules. Since he is essentially opportunist and lacks principles, his main hope must be that the wise and the good will rule— not merely by example, as we all must wish, but by authority given to them and enforced by them. Like the socialist, he is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.”
      
F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960).

      There. Thank you. At least for once you’ve been honest. This is how you regard conservatism. And it confirms in my mind that libertarians are not friends of conservatism, the Constitution, or the entire concept behind limited government. I’ll even grant you that, human nature being what it is (to grasp all the money and power that one can), that there are conservatives who act the way that Hayek described. But it is not a part of the conservative philosophy to be a robber baron any more than it is to be a dope head.

      Steve, clearly you don’t know the first thing about conservatism. Like the rest of the culture, I think you’ve bought into the anti-conservatism caricature supplied by the Left. Jesus, how pathetic is that? Love us or hate us, but do so for who we are, not for what our sworn enemies say about us.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, I’m not sure if anyone here said they would never read Kibbe’s book. I receive e-mails from FreedomWorks, so when it comes out in an affordable edition I would consider it. But, you know, there are a LOT of books out there on political topics, and I can’t buy or read them all. And as the owner of many books on libertarianism (starting with John Hospers’s Libertarianism) and the libertarian movement, as well as a considerable amount of fiction by libertarian-oriented writers (you might try Melinda Snodgrass or Michael Z. Williamson sometime), I would be the last to reject Kibbe simply because of his views. But the question I raised remains true: How many libertarians (and this includes Kibbe) realize how wrong the actions of the militant homosexuals are even when they’re purely “private”? And how many actually oppose such government actions as those that ensnare anti-abortion activists at local Tophets, or small businesses like Elane Photography?

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Taking on your three examples, Steve, I see nothing to disagree with in Lord Acton’s statement, and I doubt other Conservatives would either. But nothing there serves to validate Libertarianism, and Acton was no Libertarian.

      I didn’t have the time to research the context of the Hayek quote. However, writing in 1960 I think it’s fair to say that Hayek was probably not too familiar with specifically American Conservatism, which might then have been called neo-Conservatism. Hayek may have been referring to German Conservatism, or perhaps Burkean Conservatism, but his statement that “The conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes” is a charge clearly inapplicable to American Conservatism, and equally inapplicable to anyone here.

      Finally, while Ronald Reagan was a man of much greater intellectual capabilities than the venomous Left would ever admit, and while his political views were the result of extended development over a period of years, I do not believe he was that familiar with Libertarianism. In any case, since (American) Conservatism preceded Libertarianism, if one of them embodies the ideas of the other, it is still Conservatism that has primacy. Or to put it another way, “Libertarianism Minus Conservatism = Zero”! And Reagan considered himself a Conservative, not a Libertarian.

      And no, America was not founded on “Libertarian” ideas, which could not have existed two hundred years before Libertarianism’s founding – I’ve pointed out many times, Steve, that Libertarianism keeps stealing from classical liberalism (which is what America was actually founded on) without acknowledging its debt, and I’m afraid you’re guilty of that here. We Conservatives are the ones – and the only ones – trying to conserve the ideas of classical liberalism.

      And no, we’re not going to waste out time reading Kibbe’s book! There is a time to look over the evidence and listen to the arguments, but that time is past. Eventually, the jury considers these things and then reaches a verdict, and the jury is in on the question of Libertarianism. We’re not sending it back for further deliberations.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        For what it’s worth, Lord Acton supported the Confederacy during the War of the Rebellion. (I have a large collection of his writing, which I bought from Laissez Faire Books.)

        • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

          That is very interesting. Lord Acton was one of the great apostles of freedom, so I’m not sure why he would have supported the Confederacy. There is a line of thought that the North was somehow wrong to subdue the South and thereby prevent the spread of slavery throughout the western territories, perhaps based on the notion that a Northern victory would completely consolidate the nation and destroy the States as independent bodies politic. I personally place the blame for the decline of Federalism elsewhere, but I’ll have to read Acton some time to see what his reasoning was.

  9. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “I have been asked to cite one successful example of libertarian government that has been successful, that is easy; the United States Constitution.”

    Simply because you say something does not make it so. You can call yourself Superman, but that doesn’t make you Clark Kent.

    First, the Constitution is simply a document. It is not a government. Words are important, but their implementation is more important.

    Second, if you wish to maintain your point about the Constitution, note the most glaring point in the Constitution which proves it was not intended to be a Libertarian document is in article 1 section 2 which deals with taxes apportioned among the States, and included the term”three fifths of all other Persons.” There are other references to the “three fifths Persons”, which reinforce this point.

    Third, at no time has the United States of American functioned in a Libertarian manner. You seem to forget that not only was there the federal government (which was never Libertarian) , but there were town, county and state governments also in power. All imposed various limits on people in ways that today’s Libertarians would , no doubt, condemn.

    I suspected that you would reply the way you did, which proves you either don’t understand your US history, your own purported “philosophy” or are playing fast and lose with the truth. Liberty does not equal Libertarianism. And Libertarianism does not equal Liberty, especially in times such as ours, where accepting Libertarian dogma which would grant “Liberty” to a few e.g. homosexual marriage, but would decrease Liberty to many, i.e. those who do not wish to have anything to do with homosexual marriage, for whatever reasons. Libertarianism, in today’s context ,is for all intents and purposes Leftism.

    And I will agree that during the not so distant past, America was more free than it is today, but it was NEVER Libertarian.

    As Nahalkides said, you Libertarians co-opt age old ideas and beliefs and try to spin them in a way as to convince others that you have come up with something new and that only Libertarians believe in Liberty. You then accuse conservatives who believe in such ideas, but not the nuttiness of Libertarians, of being no different from the Alinskyite Obama. It seems to me that you are the one acting like an Alinskyite by trying to dishonestly conflate conservatives with Obama and Alinsky.

    Finally, you state,

    “I have no desire to persuade you to become libertarians that in itself would violate my libertarian principles.”

    This is intellectually inconsistent. If your Libertarian principles do not allow you to persuade others then why are you and others spending the time and effort to push your agenda? Why is there a Libertarian movement at all if it is against “libertarian principles” to persuade others to become Libertarians or agree with Libertarianism? Seems like Libertarians would keep quiet and go about their business without pushing any agenda.

    Governance is an ongoing experiment in human nature. While conservatives believe in some basics such as the nature of man and reliance on traditions, we do not believe the possibility of an earthly Elysium, which the Left and Libertarians seem to yearn for. In the rule of people, history, culture, tradition, time, place and current conditions must be taken into consideration.

    Especially in the USA of today, to accept as a basis for governance, the simplistic recipes put forth by Libertarians would be a sure road to disaster.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One must also remember that the purpose of the Constitution was to limit the federal government to its defined powers, but to leave the states free to do anything they weren’t explicitly forbidden to do. That very definitely is not at all libertarian. And after all, not only did every state (initially) have legalized slavery (and 16 did as late as the War of the Rebellion, if you include a few aged slaves still legally held in New Jersey), but several hate established state churches. There were property requirements for voting, and as those disappeared (the last perhaps being in Rhode Island after the “Dorr War) explicit bans on voting by women and blacks were imposed where they didn’t exist already. I doubt libertarians would approve of state infrastructure spending (canals, roads, and later railroads), or at least its extent.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Thanks for providing some detail about the States.

        Libertarians seem to operate under the delusion that if everyone would just agree to leave everyone else alone everything would be ok. Unfortunately, or not, the world doesn’t work like that and others do get a say in what people do and don’t do. Sometimes the “say” is larger, sometimes it is smaller. But in “society” others do have a say. Just because a Libertarian might wish to stand on the top of his townhouse and masturbate at noon, is simply not ok. The clock tower will do quite nicely, thank you.

        Libertarians should read what Socrates had to say about the individual in society before he drink the hemlock.

        I can’t help but think that when all is said and done, many perhaps most, Libertarians just don’t give a damn about anyone other than themselves. Everything seems to be purely about me, me, me everyone else and any social compromise be damned.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One must also remember that the purpose of the Constitution was to limit the federal government to its defined powers, but to leave the states free to do anything they weren’t explicitly forbidden to do. That very definitely is not at all libertarian.

        That’s a great point, Timothy. And I don’t state that libertarians impress me as being kooky on several points just because I like saying that. I’ve had conversations with people in my office about how terrible Abraham Lincoln supposedly was. Official libertarian dogma is that Lincoln is a bad guy who eroded liberty by going to war with the South. He impinged on their “liberty.” He was “coercive.” But nary a word is said about the South.

        As Lincoln rightly noted, it’s an odd thing indeed to, under the name of liberty, say that you have the right to enslave another man.

        I have a friend whose analysis of libertarians is that they think they are all victims. And I think there is this aspect.

        What everyone seems to be competing for today is moral superiority. The Left has infused our society with it — while at the same time convincing everyone that it is those dogmatic Christians who need to be locked up in a box. Thomas Sowell has noted what he calls the rampant “moral exhibitionism” of the Left. And libertarians seem to have this same disease.

        As a conservative, I understand that there is no one doctrine that is suitable for governing all people in all situations. But there can be general guidelines. Conservative principles do not state what the speed limit should be on the interstates. But they are a set of rough guidelines that take into account many things: health and safety, costs, law (is it legal?), morality (is it moral?), and, of course, liberty. Libertarians run with the last one in a bid for a quick and cheap moral superiority. But you can’t built a house with just a hammer, no matter how useful that one tool might be.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I’ve read some of the Lincoln revisionism, and they aren’t entirely wrong. His civil liberties record was poor, though far better than Woodrow Wilson’s or FDR’s despite facing a more existential threat. But slavery had to be gotten rid of sooner or later, and absent a war there’s no telling if that would have happened (or how long it would have taken)l.

          Incidentally, the British Tory Samuel Johnson once wondered, “Why do the loudest yelps for liberty come from the drivers of slaves?” I understand he had an adopted black child, and is a good reminder that conservative does not equal racist.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            His civil liberties record was poor, though far better than Woodrow Wilson’s or FDR’s despite facing a more existential threat.

            No, I don’t think it was poor. In Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution it says: The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

            Wilson was a thug who jailed people just because they disagreed with him. But Lincoln faced an entirely different situation. There were rebel spies throughout the capital and there was a real danger of the Union being undermined from within — a Union that had already been fired upon by rebels who were actively organizing against the nation.

            One of the most thoughtful and eloquent letters ever written by a president was the open letter that Lincoln wrote to Erastus Corning which was meant for general publication. It’s worth a read. It is, in my opinion, a complete myth that Lincoln had a poor record on civil liberties.

            Through reading several biographies of Lincoln, I became at least marginally educated about the Civil War. And this war was about saving the Union. The South was rebelling. The South is not a victim. The South had broken its previous agreements and got a head full of steam and wanted to spread slavery to all parts of America. That was their end goal. And there was just no way for America to stay America if this happened.

            Even so, no one was forcing the South to do anything. Lincoln was simply against the spread of slavery and hoped, as most of the Founding Fathers did at one time, that it would die out in time. But here you had the South evangelized into spreading it to the entire Union.

            Even then, it wasn’t Lincoln or the Union who shot first. It was the South.

            As circumstances developed, this did become a war about eradicating slavery. But it started as a war to quash a rebellion. But after so much blood had been shed, and after so many slaves had been freed via taking Southern territory, it was impossible to go back to the way things were. This war did indeed become about eradicating slavery.

            That doesn’t mean Lincoln didn’t make mistakes. But I think libertarians show their true cuckooness when pontificating on their deranged theories of Lincoln and the Civil War. You can talk for hours with them and the subject of the evil of slavery will not come up. It’s always about the South being a victim.

            That’s a good quote by Samuel Johnson.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              There were a lot of abuses outside the combat areas. Look up the actions of Burnside in Ohio in 1863 (including the jailing of Clement Vallandigham for making a stump speech he opposed), which Lincoln didn’t overrule. But this pales in comparison to Wilson setting up the strictest censorship of the Great War (or so claimed Niall Ferguson in The Pity of War), or the internment not only of Japanese immigrants but of the Nisei, who were American citizens. (And remember, Earl Warren pushed that — and J. Edgar Hoover opposed it. How to make a liberal’s head explode . . .)

      • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

        Very true. Indeed, one of the problems we face today is that the State Constitutions are nowhere near restrictive enough, allowing for the almost completely unrestrained growth of State power. For our Conservative movement to succeed, one of the things we are going to have to accomplish is the rewriting of many of the State Constitutions (we have one of the worst of those here in Illinois I’ve ever seen – the whole thing needs to be scrapped).

        Interestingly, Madison saw the danger early on and wanted more restrictions on the States, but in the end it was all he could do to shepherd what we now know as the Bill of Rights through Congress.

  10. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    ““[T] he conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules. Since he is essentially opportunist and lacks principles, his main hope must be that the wise and the good will rule— not merely by example, as we all must wish, but by authority given to them and enforced by them. Like the socialist, he is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.”
    
F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960).”

    As much as I admire Hayek, this quote has little or nothing to do with the American experience. One must not forget that Hayek like von Mises, was from Central Europe where “conservative” had a completely different meaning from that in America. Both were born in the 19th century where royalty still sat on thrones and had real power. Thus to be a conservative in these countries meant to be for the preservation of aristocracy. Of course, this was never the case in the USA.

    Even with the rise of political parties in Europe, other than the Socialists, the main parties were religiously based. There were numerous permutations of Catholic and Protestant parties. Still today in Germany, the main conservative party is the CDU (Christian Democratic Union). Thus religious policy had a lot to do with politics. Even Bismark had his famous Kulturkampf with the Catholic Church.

    The fact that Von Mises was Jewish and Hayek half Jewish no doubt had much to do with the development of their thought on concentration of power. The Jews in Central and particularly East Europe had a very difficult time with “conservative” governments and it is completely understandable that they should try to develop a system of thought which would lessen the power of such authoritarian regimes in the future. A number of Eastern European Jews took another path and became Bolsheviks. From a psychological point of view, I guess both are understandable.

    Having personally dealt with such issues, both men no doubt, held negative views of “conservatives” in Europe. If Hayek was referring to conservatives in America, he was very far off base.

    And just for clarity’s sake, when I say I am a conservative, I mean that I am a constitutional conservative in the tradition of the founders who believed power should be limited, dispersed and non-hereditary. But that gives a lot of leeway as to how to govern.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      As a former FOSFAX contributor once pointed out, conservatives are cautious about change, and tend to favor the “old ways”. In Europe, that meant the aristocratic monarchy; in the US, that meant the Founding Fathers and their system. British conservatism was a milder version of the European variety.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        As a former FOSFAX contributor once pointed out, conservatives are cautious about change, and tend to favor the “old ways”. In Europe, that meant the aristocratic monarchy; in the US, that meant the Founding Fathers and their system.

        There’s is a brand of “conservatism” that is about doing little else than conserving the status quo. This can be an honorable Burkean sort of disposition in the face of completely crazy things such as the French Revolution. Edmund Burke was right. Thomas Paine was wrong. It’s a simple as that, and it wasn’t because Burke was “afraid of change” or “on the wrong side of history.” It’s simply because he hadn’t lost his mind and good sense in the rush toward a naive earthly utopia. This is a central aspect of any kind of conservatism, thoughtfully practiced. As Mr. Kung had quoted from some sage, before knocking down a fence, be sure you know what it was there for in the first place.

        That kind of conservatism needn’t be the knee-jerk protect-the-status-quo-at-all-costs kind of conservatism. But for some people, that’s sometimes what it means, which means that, for all practical purposes, Paul Ryan is the American suit-and-tie equivalent of Che Guevara because he wants nothing more than to conserve yesterday’s socialist program (Medicare). These are the kinds of ass-wipes (if you’ll pardon my Revolutionary French) who give conservatism a bad name.

        A more proper definition of conservatism is to note the American brand of conservatism which is dynamic, forward-looking, patriotic, and bold. But conservatives such as Reagan believed that 99% of this dynamism should take place in the private sector which is the real lifeblood of this freedom-based nation. The job of a conservative then is to facilitate that private sector — sometimes perhaps even with big projects such as a Federal highway system — and to block attempts of the socialist spastics to try to make a giant collectivist dependent cult out of the nation.

        I seriously doubt that most libertarians understand this, having probably gotten their information from the same sources as the Left gets theirs — from the inside of a box of Cracker Jacks, for all I know.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I was going to do a whole article on this, but I think it will be more timely to do this here. This is off the top of my head and is being done in between a couple of other tasks, so hopefully this will be coherent. One can agree or disagree, but I will state generally-held American conservative principles as best I know them:

    What is American conservatism?

    1) Reverence for the wisdom of the Founders, for the thought that went into the making of the Constitution, and for Western Civilization itself
    2) A belief in limited government as the best guarantor of liberty
    3) A belief that there are objective principles in regards to politics, society, human nature, and man’s relationship to the Eternal
    4) Utopia is not an option
    5) All harm cannot be ameliorated, nor should it be — it is inherent to living a life worth living that man must struggle and often fail
    6) All governance should be done at the most local level possible
    7) Belief in a pluralistic society that is organized under some general philosophies of life and a generally shared identity (aka “E Pluribus Unum”)
    8) The private sector is the lifeblood of any good society — we are a people who have a government, and not the other way around
    9) Only a moral people can hold onto freedom
    10) Freedom, not equality, is what we are about
    11) The law of unintended consequences must be respected
    12) All things have costs — everything is a matter of making trade-offs

    I’m sure the wise and informed conservatives here can think of more points. But those are, to me, the main points of American conservatism. There is nothing hidden. There’s no attempt to prevaricate or to hide real intentions. The application of these principles to real life situations can get fuzzy, but the principles themselves are not.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One can quibble over details, but that seems a pretty good summation of the basics of modern American conservatism.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      These are something of a variation on the theme;

      1. Everyone makes mistakes thus nobody is perfect.
      2. The perfection of humanity is impossible, see point above.
      3. Changes in society and the law should not be made without great forethought, and caution is to be exercised before deciding on such changes.
      4. Laws should be clear and easy to comply with.
      5.Judges should not make law.
      6. Bureaucracies should not make law.
      7. Laws should apply equally to all citizens, i.e. elected officials can not pass laws governing their actions which give them special privileges.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I like those. Another one I should have added was:

        #14: Private property is the basis of a good, fair, and productive society.

        And…

        #15: We are to be ruled by laws, not the arbitrary dictates of men.

        And…

        #16: The man-woman family should be the basic building-block of society.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Brad – I think this is a good short summary. For the masochistic out there, my very long explication What is Conservatism? is available in the ST archives.

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Okay, let me reiterate the main points, incorporating a few things that other people have said:

    What is American conservatism?

    1) Reverence for the wisdom of the Founders, for the thoughts that went into the making of the Constitution, and for Western Civilization itself
    2) A belief in limited government as the best guarantor of liberty
    3) A belief that there are objective principles in regards to politics, society, human nature, and man’s relationship to the Eternal
    4) Utopia is not an option
    5) All harm cannot be ameliorated, nor should it be — it is inherent to living a life worth living that man must struggle and often fail
    6) All governance should be done at the most local level possible
    7) Belief in a pluralistic society that is organized under some general philosophies of life and a generally shared identity (aka “E Pluribus Unum”)
    8) The private sector is the lifeblood of any good society — we are a people who have a government, and not the other way around
    9) Only a moral people can hold onto freedom
    10) Freedom, not equality, is what we are about
    11) The law of unintended consequences must be respected
    12) All things have costs — everything is a matter of making trade-offs
    14) Private property is the basis of a good, fair, and productive society
    15) We are to be ruled by laws, not the arbitrary dictates of men or unelected bureaucracies, and such laws should be clear and made without undue haste or zealousness
    16) What Nik Said
    17) In order to avoid tyranny, there should be a diffusion of power, including a diffusion into an executive, legislative, and judicial branches where each branch will not usurp the purview of the other
    18) Man is more than just another animal and owes a duty to a Good above himself that is neither egotistical nor fascist in nature

    Where would libertarianism disagree? Note that most of the above are general principles of governance (restrictions on governance and/or general guides for governance, not grand purposes for governance). It is therefore assumed by conservatives that most people are fit to run their own lives, and should. Government is not viewed as the lifeblood of society. Government is necessary but should be carefully leashed. Man is a corrupt being and his corruption is easily amplified via the powers of government. This is a conservative truth.

    Also, I did not delineate the basic moral codes of Western Civilization, include articulating the Ten Commandments (such as “thou shall not steal”). But we can no longer take this basic moral code for granted and it should be articulated. Libertarians seem to think they have found an amazing new principle when they reiterate “thou shall not steal.” And it’s nice that they agree with that point, but what of all the others?

    The Left is completely contrary to every one of the points above. And very often this is simply their desire to be contrary, to crash existing mores and institutions in order to increment their own power. This is the Lucifer element: There are many who would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.

    But there is also an entirely different worldview that lies at the base of these two views. And it really is a simple as the difference between seeing humanity as a mainly optimistic moral agent who must generally make his own way in the world in order to express his humanity and the gift of life — vs. the pessimistic view which is that man can’t possibly make it on his own and needs to subsume himself inside an authoritarian collectivism, substituting his moral and intellectual independence for that of the state which will presumably protect him.

    Libertarians, at least on paper, do reject collectivism. But instead of seeing their lives in some larger context, this rejection seems to have more to do with unalloyed egotism than anything else….getting back to one of the fundamental points above: Is man nothing more than just another animal? Is his primary purpose in life little more than to scratch every itch as it comes up? If this is so, then libertarianism, as I suspect it is, is an atomizing force in society and therefore cannot ever be the grounding for a stable and good society.

    So perhaps we conservatives are a bit like the Left in that we believe in a purpose other than just getting stoned. As I’ve said about the Left before, they are evil but at least they believe in something. It’s the wrong thing, but man must have noble ambitions or he rots.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      You might want to post this under a separate page somewhere so that we can refer others to it and print it out more easily.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Good idea. I’ll make a blog post out of it for now. If it is then refined any further by us (and ready to be set in stone), maybe I’ll throw it under the “About” menu item up top or something like that.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There would be no need to add it as a principle, but much of this is summarized in Madison’s famous line (which Jim Buckley recycled as a book title), “If men were angels, no government would be angels. And if angels were to govern men, no external or internal controls on government would be necessary.” He then pointed out that when men govern men, “We must first empower government to control the people and then oblige it to control itself.” One might say that most libertarians believe that men are indeed angels whereas most liberals believe that (as long as they’re in charge) angels are governing men.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        That’s a great quote from Madison, Timothy. It gets to the heart of the situation: There is no one easy answer; you can’t sum-up the philosophy of government with only one slogan of bumper-sticker length; there are inherently fuzzy and difficult opposing dynamics that must be dealt with. That presupposes a mode and method of thinking beyond caricatures.

        Yes, it’s really satisfying to declare “Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.” And who wouldn’t agree with that (except thieves and those who are looking to get “free stuff” from the government, as well as the Lords and Ladies who run this entire distribution-for-votes operation)? But it’s as open-ended (and thus as useless) as those who promote “Care for the environment” as their guiding light. Even “liberty” can be turned into a slogan if detached from other considerations and from the things that enable liberty in the first place (something that I don’t think most libertarians appreciate, or they wouldn’t be libertarians).

        Madison is not a libertarian because he doesn’t end by talking about the external controls needed on government, vital as those are. He also mentions the uncomfortable fact (uncomfortable to the simplistic “non-coercion” dogma of libertarians) that people, to some extent, must be controlled as well.

        Now, that doesn’t sound nice, but there is obvious truth in it. Where a conservative jumps in is to say that most of this control ought to be self-control as inculcated by a good Christian upbringing. We can’t and shouldn’t expect government to be our nanny. Nor should we tolerate a government or any party’s policies that incentivize dependence upon government, and thus control by government.

        But the fact of the matter is, in order to have a society worth living in, let alone a free one, there has to be a certain amount of coercive rules and laws. It seems that libertarians deny this fact. But the real issue is where, and how much, and for what reason that we draw these boundaries. For instance, are we trying to foster freedom and free enterprise or to create utopia?

        • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

          “But the fact of the matter is, in order to have a society worth living in, let alone a free one, there has to be a certain amount of coercive rules and laws.”

          Yes – and Libertarians have an undeniable anarchist streak in them. Deep down, they seem to hate the State so much they prefer to annihilate it, whereas we conservatives view the State as a necessary evil. Take out the word “necessary” and you perhaps have the Libertarian view condensed to the extreme.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yes – and Libertarians have an undeniable anarchist streak in them. Deep down, they seem to hate the State so much they prefer to annihilate it, whereas we conservatives view the State as a necessary evil.

            Yes, I think so. Many of the libertarians I know are good chaps. But when it comes to their politics, it’s like talking to Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld. I’m not sure what the draw is for this simplistic, if not fundamentalistic, politics that are half-thought-out, at best. I think Steve’s a good fellow and I exempt him from my speculations. But I wonder sometimes what this is all about. Is it a sort of independent-minded backlash towards suffocating feminism with guys once more asserting themselves in a way that stays under the radar? I believe I’ve noticed bits and pieces of that. Surely there are large parts of libertarianism that overlap with the Left.

            But it’s hard to tell what is behind this “libertarianism” because I don’t think libertarians will often come right out and tell you what they are about. Maybe they don’t know. But for some it is clearly about legalizing drugs and the feint to “liberty” is just that. For others it is clearly another form of yute-oriented liberalism — a new and different generation of Red Diaper Doper Babies, for all practical purposes.

            And I’ll heartily agree there are some John Stossel characters who self-identify as “libertarian” but who, generally speaking, lack the kooky element of most libertarians. Stossel is on our side, even if you don’t agree with him on every single issue. He’s not a kook.

            But I think the vast majority of libertarians are a little kooky. And I’m still not sure what drives this. I wish there were more articulate and honest libertarians out there who could say so.

            As a conservative, I’ll tell you exactly what I want: I don’t want any more kool-aid, thank you. And we get far too much of that from both the Left and libertarians. And that about sums it up. I don’t want any pie-in-the-sky solutions. I don’t want “fundamental transformation,” nor do I want the kind of kooky world view (with nascent anti-Americanism) that is part and parcel of the Ron Paul view.

            As they say, the facts of life are conservative, as well as stubborn things. And most startling to me is that we are entering this illiberal era where stating simple truth is verboten. For libertarians to get on board with conservatives and be a force for pushing back the Left, they’re going to have to openly deal with their own bullshit first.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        “If men were angels, no government would be angels.”

        I think you meant to write, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary”.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Quite so. I’m still a bit groggy after Conglomeration, which hasn’t been helped by poor sleep Saturday and mediocre sleep other nights due to health problems that aren’t very bad, but bad enough to be minor concerns. Hopefully this didn’t affect my review, which was simply copied from the relevant issue. {I’m also uncertain how precisely the rest of my quote is; I got at least the gist of it and I think it’s at least very close to the original, but didn’t feel like hunting around for the actual quote in my copy of The Federalist Papers.)

  13. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I think one of the issues libertarianism has is that it is simplistic, cult-like, and dogmatic. One of the points that Seth Finkelstein makes in an essay I found on the web titled Libertarianism Makes You Stupid is that libertarians set up nice-sounding things such as the “non-coercion” principle that attempt to end thinking before it starts. After all, who is going to be for coercing people — or — “hurting people and taking their stuff”?

    But as Seth points out:

    Libertarians are for “individual rights”, and against “force” and “fraud” – just as THEY define it. Their use of these words, however, when examined in detail, is not likely to accord with the common meanings of these terms. What person would proclaim themselves in favor of “force and fraud”? One of the little tricks Libertarians use in debate is to confuse the ordinary sense of these words with the meaning as “terms of art” in Libertarian axioms. They try to set up a situation where if you say you’re against “force and fraud”, then obviously you must agree with Libertarian ideology, since those are the definitions. If you are in favor of “force and fraud”, well, isn’t that highly immoral? So you’re either one of them, or some sort of degenerate (note the cultish aspect again), one who doesn’t think “force and fraud must be banished from human relationships”.

    Seth explains this linguistic trickery in another way:

    The idea that Libertarians don’t believe in the initiation of force is pure propaganda. They believe in using force as much as anyone else, if they think the application is morally correct. “initiation of force” is Libertarian term of art, meaning essentially “do something improper according to Libertarian ideology”. It isn’t even connected much to the actions we normally think of as “force”. The question being asked above was really agree or disagree, that it is always wrong for one person to do something improper according to Libertarian ideology. It was just phrased in their preaching way.

    That’s the linguistic trickery. And if you call them on some specific bit of illogic, as Seth notes:

    This is why, as a pure matter of tactics, it’s dangerous to get into preaching contests with Libertarians. Sometimes it’s better to say “1=2 is utter nonsense, and if you believe that from the Libertarian Mathematics, you’ve had your mind rotted”. Now, this does leave an opening for a reply “Nyah, nyah, you didn’t go over every line of that proof and find the error, you have to do that, or you’re close-minded”. But someone could do more good at times by pointing out that there are people walking around spouting the political equivalent of “1=2” than getting into an involved discussion about part x of step y. This is where Libertarianism Makes You Stupid, the grip of subtly flawed logic can overwhelm everything else.

    In part why Libertarian is a disease of techno-geeks is that you have to be fairly intelligent to find that sort of long axiomatic proof at all convincing. Of course, the task is easier when they are “proving” that you don’t have to pay taxes, but it gets harder when they try to prove anti-discriminations laws are bad, as we’ll see below.

    Note this is not an attack on Mathematics, Algebra, Logical Reasoning, and all that, which would be another rhetorical tactic they could use as an accusation. This is the basic reasoning problem of Libertarianism. There’s a lot of platitudes (against big government), but every once in a while they slip in some kickers (virtually absolute contract). Whenever anyone points out the kickers, they can revert to the platitudes, saying that’s *really* what the philosophy’s about. And try to smuggle in the kickers via some other route.

    Arguing with a libertarian is like a cat chasing its tale. The subject is always being changed. If a flaw is found, you’re taken back to some supposedly perfect higher axiom. Rinse and repeat.

    As I’ve gladly said to my libertarians friends, conservatism is not a fixed formula. It’s a set of guiding principles. But you can’t reason from these basic principles to exact solutions to every single problem. To think that you can brings on a fundamentalist mentality. Even the idea of free association, which conservatives (and our Constitution) staunchly back, doesn’t solve the thorny question as to whether or not the liberty of free association is to include denying service to homosexuals or whether this is akin to a “whites only” lunch counter. If there is a conservative who believes a simple and simplistic formula can be supplied, he or she is not thinking or reasoning.

    As conservatives, we openly and honestly apply our principles (or should) with the understanding that even the smartest conservative amongst us is not ever going to be able to provide an exact formula for why, say, alcohol should be legal and pot shouldn’t. We note the many areas that are open to human judgment, flawed that it is. We weigh precedent, best practices, and other things and try to come to a reasonable, sane, and productive judgment. But nowhere is a conservative driven by simpleton-ness. As responsible and thoughtful human beings, we must delve into making those kinds of judgments, hopefully free from blinding zealotry or dogmatism, including adherence to an unbending formula. Any formula or ideology that tries to be all things to all people in all situations is ultimately a totalitarian formula, as Russell Kirk noted.

    I laid out a fairly concise list of conservative principles here. But if I was honest, I would admit that this list is not all-inclusive and that any one of these stated principles is worthy of a book-length treatment.

    Yes, folks, life is complicated and it’s our task to “complicate” ourselves (aka, gain wisdom) instead of trying to simplify everything to fit inside a one-size-fits-all libertarian formula where nice-sounding words (as the Left is wont to do) deceive us, and even tempt us to lay aside our need to make fine and wise distinctions.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The advantage of rigid ideologies such as libertarianism is that they’re logically consistent (at least in theory). But they have serious pragmatic problems. In theory, Copernicus with his heliocentric theory got rid of all the epicycles of Ptolemaic geocentrism, too — but further observations revealed that they were still needed, until Kepler modified the theory further. Politics is even more complex than solar cosmology.

      As for homosexuals, I think discrimination has to be permitted (as it still is, ironically, in most of Arizona despite the veto of the proposed law smeared by George Tacky and others as “anti-gay”) because otherwise you’re allowing an inherent right to be immoral. It may make sense not to ban such behaviors, but there should never be such a right, because that leads (perhaps inevitably in our society) to the loss of the right to make moral judgments and act on them.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        As for homosexuals, I think discrimination has to be permitted (as it still is, ironically, in most of Arizona despite the veto of the proposed law smeared by George Tacky and others as “anti-gay”) because otherwise you’re allowing an inherent right to be immoral.

        In discussing any problem or policy, we must — if we wish to be honest and fair — make note of all facets of it. And one thing we must acknowledge when dealing with this subject is that “tolerance” means pro-homosexual, all the time, or else. Those who simply wave the word “tolerance” around are being useful idiots, at best, or deceitful, at worst.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        “The advantage of rigid ideologies such as libertarianism is that they’re logically consistent (at least in theory)”

        This is exactly the problem. Simply because someone can formulate a beautifully worded logically consistent argument about an abstract idea, they think they have solved the human condition. While it may take a relatively intelligent person, who is good with words, to articulate such an idea, the same person is too often detached from the workings of the world outside his mind.

        Never underestimate the vanity involved here. It is very pleasing to formulate a beautiful logical argument, like it is beautiful to develop a new mathematical theorem. It is also much more enjoyable to contemplate something ordered and beautiful than to be forced to deal with the messiness of humanity.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          This is exactly the problem. Simply because someone can formulate a beautifully worded logically consistent argument about an abstract idea, they think they have solved the human condition. While it may take a relatively intelligent person, who is good with words, to articulate such an idea, the same person is too often detached from the workings of the world outside his mind.

          That’s brilliantly said, Dr. Sowell. You and Timothy are both talking about intellectualism. And it is as you described it. I’s about ideas that sound nice but that are detached from the workings of the world. The Left makes a habit of this as well.

          And such ideas can very easily become a cult where affinity for the ideas, and the like-minded camaraderie and identity gained from them, are the point. Thus it’s not a mystery why so many conversations with libertarians are fruitless. They may talk about “reason” and say the word “Constitutional” a lot but I have the feeling the real agenda or element is about something else.

          And those are interesting thoughts about vanity that you had, Mr. Kung. I think libertarians feed off the self-important thought that they, and they alone, have the answers. And throughout man’s history there have always been cults of such people. And I was just talking to my brother about this, about why some people have such an affinity for conspiracy theories, which one could say is the heart of libertarianism.

          And I told him that conspiracy theories are the poor man’s college degree. It’s instant “insider” (and superior) knowledge.

          One can learn about any subject under the sun, and that takes time. The world is complex. Who can know even a large piece of it? So we all feel small and stupid (which we are, relatively speaking). And it’s thus understandable that people in this complex age reach for that instant college degree where you can bypass the hard work of actually knowing things such as economics. With a conspiracy theory or a trunk full of bumper-sticker slogans woven, by mere language, into a seemingly workable and airtight formula, one can then leap past the unwashed masses, let alone those who (such as Thomas Sowell) have spent a lifetime trying to understand economics.

          Here at StubbornThings we are like a 12-step program where on day one you get up in front of the group and say, “Hi, my name is Brad, and I’m not omniscient.”

          [Brad then receives vigorous affirmations from his 12-step mates.]

          Or you can do the reverse and become a libertarian.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            One might note that the basis of Gnosticism is hidden knowledge not available to everyone. It’s the perfect elitist religion (which is no doubt why liberals are so inclined toward it). I wonder how many libertarians favor it.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I haven’t done a lot of reading on Gnosticism, so I don’t know much about what that is. But it would seem there were Paulbots long, long ago. 😀 (ChristBots?)

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                It’s a relative of numerology.

                The motto of which is “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, I know something you don’t know.”

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I think it was Noemie Emery who pointed out several years ago that this sort of thing was popular in academia (hence the notion of the ivory tower). It’s easy to come up with beautiful-sounding theories when you don’t have to confront what actually happens if they’re put into practice.

  14. Timothy Lane says:

    Kibbe was interviewed by the Idaho Reporter, and they have an account available on their website (idahoreporter.com), which I read from a link from the daily update from FreedomWorks. Some readers may be interested, even though it isn’t a lengthy article (or maybe because of that).

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