Libertarianism Minus Conservatism = Zero (Part II)

Libertarian2by N. A. Halkides  11/5/13
Part 2, The Politics  •  In Part 1, I expressed my opinion that Libertarianism had nothing to offer: no new ideas and no coherent political program. Nonetheless, the movement has attracted some followers – we veterans of National Review Online often encountered them in the comments section, where they would regale us with something like “If only you would give up trying to impose your social views, I might be able to support your economic ideas.” Their offers of support were typically and noticeably lukewarm, leaving one with the impression that even if we did everything they asked, they still might decide to go with a third party or simply stay home on Election Day. Not all of them considered themselves Libertarian – some imagined themselves as true, ideal Conservatives. Sometimes I would try to explain to these fellows, puffed up with their oh-so-superior alleged Libertarian principles, that apart from the merits of the Conservative position, as a practical matter they needed us more than we needed them, and when crunch time came around, we found we couldn’t depend on the “fiscal conservative, social liberal” for much support even on purely fiscal issues. Let us now try to quantify the extent of the support in this country for the Libertarian program.

To begin with, there is a Libertarian Party. According to its website it was founded on Dec. 11, 1971. The Party’s history is expressed in glowing terms that imply Libertarianism is gathering steam. But here are their own vote totals for the Libertarian Presidential ticket from 1976 to 2008:

VoteTotals

It takes no advanced statistical analysis to see that the Libertarian Party is going nowhere – after a flash in the pan in 1980 (one that fortunately did not prevent Ronald Reagan from defeating Jimmy Carter), its Presidential vote totals have held fairly steady – and in a period of growing population. No doubt there are young Libertarians being added, but only enough to replace the old Libertarians dying off. Yet Libertarian “leaders” (almost an oxymoron given their anarchistic tendencies) always see victory as just around the corner. In this they are as optimistic as and far more delusional than the Republican Establishment, for if Libertarianism were going to take the world by storm it would surely have done so by now – try to think of a successful national political movement, good or bad, that took more than 43 years to get off the ground! The Republican Party was formed in 1853 and by 1858 had taken both houses of the Illinois State Legislature and was a formidable power throughout the northern states; in 1903 the Bolsheviks may have been merely a splinter group of the old Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (which really needed its name shortened), but fourteen years later in 1917 they were running the entire country.

I could not check the makeup of all 50 state legislatures, but I think it’s accurate to say that each house of every legislature is controlled by either Republicans or Democrats, so that Libertarians are not even the junior partner in any coalition. This is not to say that the Libertarian Party has had no political effect at all, or that it could not affect the outcome of a future Presidential election – a point to which I’ll return later – but it is obvious that as a political movement it has been a complete failure. We must now inquire as to why it has failed so badly.

Individual voters are motivated by a variety of factors, self-interest being one and an emotional attachment to a particular candidate being another. But for a political party to motivate millions of people to passionately support it, it has to have both a comprehensive political program and be able to convince people that this program is right as well as practical – in other words, morality matters. This is true especially on the Left, where the self-righteousness of Democratic supporters has become insufferable, because without an emotional conviction LibActiviststhat they were somehow doing right no one other than the direct recipients of income-transfer payments could support its bankrupt statist ideology, but it is true for Republicans also, whose noticeable lack of any moral arguments contributes to the tepid support Republican voters often give the party. In the last election, for instance, Democratic voters loved Obama and Obamacare, many stupidly believing that socialized medicine would usher in a new, utopian era; Republican voters cold-bloodedly calculated that Romney was the better man but never for moment thought that a President Romney would do more than get the economy somewhat back on track and perhaps regain some of the country’s international respect forfeited by Obama. The lack of pro-Romney passion may not have been the deciding factor, but it certainly worked against Republicans, especially with middle-class voters who didn’t follow politics particularly closely and who couldn’t be persuaded of the importance of turning out for Romney.

The Libertarian Party has a small contingent of fanatical true-believers, but a value-neutral party is simply unable to inspire a mass movement on its behalf. Its program is comprehensive but incoherent as stated in Part 1; therefore most of its supporters hold equally incoherent political views and simply dislike both the Republican and Democratic Parties. More seriously, they dislike Conservatism, sharing the same misconceptions about it the Left has. Some of them want a liberalization of drug laws (favored by many Conservatives also, it should be noted); others want less involvement in foreign wars (ditto, although Libertarians tend to be naïve at best about the degree to which it is possible for a nation to withdraw inside its own borders in the modern world); some are looking for a non-judgmental atmosphere in which they can “come out” with almost any manner of sexual fetish; many are simply emotion-driven like a petulant teenager crying out “Leave me alone!” to his parents through his bedroom door.

The Libertarian Party’s search for supporters is much like a 19th-century ship’s captain scrounging through seedy waterfront bars for deckhands. Having picked up a perpetual student here, a sexual deviant there, a pothead there, an isolationist there, and an I-refuse-to-grow-up-now-leave-me-alone case of arrested development over there, it presents this motley crew as the vanguard of a national, nay, an international political movement! But it’s not: it’s a group of misguided people who think they believe in liberty together with a collection of misfits, kooks, and cranks. It is to the former group that I would like to make a final plea as a Conservative.

To Mr. and Ms. Libertarian: if you truly value your freedom or any part of it, I must ask you to do two things: (1) honestly calculate how much you can realistically achieve as Libertarians, and (2) take another look at the Conservative movement, which you seriously misunderstand.

How much can the Libertarian Party actually do to advance the cause of liberty? Not much. While I’m aware there have been Libertarians elected to some city council or other, your party holds very few offices, and for the reasons I’ve outlined, that isn’t about to change in 2016 or even in 2066. The only effect you can possibly have is to cause the election of more Democrats, as indeed you already have, for example in the 2000 race for Senate in Washington State between Slade Gorton (R) and Maria Cantwell (D). The final vote totals there? Gorton 1,197,208; Cantwell 1,199,437; Jared (the Libertarian) 64,734. In other words, Gorton lost to Cantwell by 2229 votes, and had even 4% of those who voted Libertarian in a childish fit of pique cast their ballots instead for Gorton, he would have won the race. It is theoretically possible that a Libertarian Presidential candidate, who could not win even one electoral vote let alone the Presidency, might nonetheless pull enough votes from a Republican to elect a Democrat. (Gary Johnson’s 1% in 2012 would not have been enough to put Romney, at 47%, over Obama’s 51%, but such a scenario is by no means inconceivable).

If your response is a smug “Good – the sooner Republicans are gone, the sooner the Libertarian Party can rise!” you’re quite simply dreaming. To replace the GOP, a third party would first have to annihilate it and then reconstruct most of the same Republican coalition around a new banner – there simply aren’t enough non-Republicans to form a viable third party by themselves. We Conservatives, who are a majority with the GOP, could conceivably do that with an enormous effort (and some Conservatives think we should try), but you Libertarians could not. All you could do is help the Democrats – and remember, every Democrat believes in robbing you of your property rights, your gun rights, even your freedom of speech. Is that what you wish to enable? An America in which you somehow manage to cripple the GOP would resemble California, where Democrats are firmly in control and are proceeding to destroy the state while Republicans are helpless to stop them, and with Libertarians standing on the sidelines as a debating society but not a political force.

This brings us to the question of raw strength: your Party has something like 235,500 registered voters out of 153 million in the U.S (0.15%). Conservatives alone are 40% of the country (based on Gallup polling) or over 26 times your strength of numbers, while the GOP has approximately 42% or 28 times your strength, plus a far greater appeal to independent voters. These numbers are a little difficult to reconcile since Conservatives are probably 70% of the GOP but not 95% of it; however, they are close enough for our present purposes. We are far larger, stronger, better organized and better financed than you are; do you seriously expect us to dissolve the Republican Party, or even the Tea Party, and join the Libertarian Party? Without us, you have no chance of stopping the Democratic Leviathan; with us, you just might. And make no mistake – if you really do value your freedom, it is the Democratic Party which is your primary enemy.

Now it is true that Establishment Republicans are only marginally better than Democrats, but you’re forgetting about the Conservative movement, which you greatly misunderstand. Here is John Jay Myers in an essay, Why Libertarian? discussing the reasons he thinks the Republican Party cannot be changed:

“But my question is, where do you think all the hardcore neo-con nanny staters are going to go? They simply are not leaving the GOP. Those people believe we need to outlaw masturbation and have constant wars with half the world regardless of the cost or the lack of sense that it makes. Those people believe being fiscally conservative is not good enough – they have to tell people how to live their lives, and in some cases die.”

This passage reads as though it had been written by a hardcore Left-winger; it constructs the same fictional theocratic bogeyman urban progressives probably use to scare their children at bedtime. Note the same careless use of the undefined and misused term “neo-con” and the same extravagant claims about Conservatives. Except for John McCain, I can’t think of any Republicans, much less Conservatives, who want to have “constant wars with half the world”, nor do I recall Victor Davis Hanson or Andrew McCarthy (or even Rick Santorum) calling for a masturbation ban. And if you don’t recognize the names “Hanson” and “McCarthy”, you simply don’t know enough about modern American Conservatism to have an opinion.

The fact is that if Conservatives were in control of the Republican Party, it would be vastly improved. Most of the free-market ideas you attempt to claim as “Libertarian” are in fact part of classic liberalism, and therefore Conservatism. We Conservatives have traveled the same free-market road as you, but we were there first, something it would benefit you to acknowledge. Since I covered all this (at what I fear may have been tedious length) in Part 1, I’m going to bottom-line it for you: the Democratic Party is now wholly totalitarian in its ideology; Conservatism, the closest thing to an ideology the Republican Party has, is fundamentally anti-totalitarian, and it is this fact you need to come to grips with. Your choices are exactly two: join with Conservatives in taking over the GOP and moving it in the direction of freedom (I will not say “Libertarianism”), or continue on as you have since 1971, serving as at best an irrelevant factor and at worst a helpmate to the Left.

You say you just can’t stomach our views on drugs (where many of us are on your side), same-sex “marriage”, or abortion? Then you’d better grow up a bit and ask yourselves this: is it so important to legalize marijuana, tear down an institution that pre-dates history, or kill babies that you’re willing to sacrifice every other right to causes like those? Join us in stopping the Progressive Left, or enjoy your “triumph” as they legalize these things (in the case of abortion, expand it to even more obvious forms of infanticide) and strip you of your property, your guns, and even your freedom to advocate Libertarian ideas, because that’s where they’re headed. You can bet your life on it – and you are. • (5025 views)

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31 Responses to Libertarianism Minus Conservatism = Zero (Part II)

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Judging from at least one libertarian former contributor to FOSFAX, there are indeed some for whom sexual license is the highest priority. Note that there were several races last year (perhaps a dozen) where the Democrat won with a plurality and the difference was the Libertarian candidate (including the Senate races in Indiana, Montana, and I think also North Dakota). I doubt the GOP would have won all those races otherwise, but it might have won a few. On the other hand, much of that vote may have been a protest against particularly bad candidates.

    Incidentally, 235,500 is about 0.15% of 153 million, not 1.5%, so their position is only about a tenth as strong as you indicated. Nor did the Republicans win control of the Illinois state legislature at any time in the 1850s (which is why Douglas was elected in 1858 rather than Lincoln), though they did begin to win statewide races in what had been a reliably Democratic state. (The southern part of the state was, and remained, reliably Democratic. The northern part of the state was Democratic, but switched to the Republicans over the slavery issue. The middle portion favored the Whigs — this included Lincoln’s political base in Springfield — and thus became the swing area in the mid-1850s; Douglas Democrats largely carried the area in 1858. Allen C. Guelzo covers this very well in his book on the 1858 campaign.)

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Tim – thanks for double-checking the math! It’s extremely embarrassing to me to have misplaced the decimal like that – I’ll have to correct my manuscript and perhaps Brad will fix the published copy – but at least it only strengthens my case against the viability of the Libertarian Party.

      As to the election of 1858, as an unhappy Illinois resident (that is, I’m unhappy at being stuck here) I remembered of course that Douglas defeated Lincoln that year, but I thought it was because the new Legislature had not been seated yet. I remembered the brief account given in Andrew C. McLaughlin’s A Constitutional History of the United States, which has this to say:

      “But in electing the lower house of the legislature, some 16,000 more votes were cast by the supporters of Lincoln than were cast by the Douglas supporters. The vote for the state Senate disclosed a similar condition, and the Republican candidates for the state offices were elected. Douglas might well have exclaimed with Pyrrhus, ‘Another such victory and we are lost!'”

      A quick internet search did not settle the question, so I’ll have to do some further research. Still, the fact remains that the Republican Party became viable in only five years (although it could not have defeated a united Democratic Party at the national level), whereas the Libertarian Party, after 42 years, is worse than useless, since as you helpfully pointed out, they probably cost the GOP some races last year.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Ahhh….it breaks my heart to have to fix that number…downward. 😀

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Guelzo makes a similar point. The GOP statewide candidates won narrowly with less than a majority (a pro-Buchanan slate won a small number of votes). One thing that should be noted is that a number of counties in the state legislature had multiple senators or representatives in a district. Naturally, these were in the more heavily populated counties, which tended to be in the north and center rather than the south. I suspect that the difference between the tiny plurality the Republicans won in the statewide races and the theoretically larger margins overall in state legislative races resulted. Think of a 2-seat district voting for Lincoln with 60% and 2 1-seat districts voting for Douglas with 60%, with each pair of districts casting 20,000 votes. The actual votes would be the same for each party (20,000 each), but because of the double-sized seat (with each candidate reporting the full 20,000 votes), the Republicans would be reported as receiving 32,000 votes to 28,000 for the Democrats. I noticed this in reading Guelzo, who actually discusses many specific district results.

        Still, it was a big gain in a state that had been reliably Democratic — made even more significant because the population was growing more in Republican than in Democratic areas. As early as 1854, the Republicans and Know-Nothings combined for enough votes in the state legislature to deprive the incumbent (Douglas’s friend and supporter James Shields, later briefly a Minnesota Senator and then a Civil War general credited with defeating Jackson at Kernstown) of his seat, though neither Lincoln nor the Know-Nothing could win either (Lyman Trumbull, a freesoil Democrat, ended up winning).

        The point of the campaign in each year was to elect enough state senators and representatives to select the new US Senator, so it was the new legislature, not the old one, that made the choice. In other states it may have been done differently.

  2. Kung Fu Zu says:

    Again, the Libertarian platform is “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” i.e. the priorities of the slightly post adolescent in America.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    With all but 7 precincts reporting in Virginia, McAuliffe led Cuccinellli by 2% with just over 6% for the Libertarian (heavily funded by Democrats). Since some of the latter’s supporters would have voted for McAuliffe, it isn’t clear whether Cuccinelli would have won without him. One prediction I saw was that he took about the same from both candidates up to 5 or 6% of the vote, but mostly from Cuccinelli after that, in which case the race would otherwise have been even closer but probably still a defeat. The Republican AG candidate (Mark Obenshain) led by several thousand votes, but there will undoubtedly be a recount.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Has Virginia gone completely libtard or what?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Hot Air also had a link to the official Virginia election site. As I said, the AG candidate was narrowly ahead. In the House of Delegates (I went through the list), the GOP seemed to have a large enough margin (at least 2 points, or 3 if there was a precinct not yet counted) to win 65 districts and was ahead in 5 more out of a total of 100. (The State Senate wasn’t up.)

      • faba calculo says:

        Northern Virginia in the DC area certainly seems to have. I move from Seattle to southern Maryland (obviously also DC area) 15 years ago, and though I’ve never lived in Virginia, it’s really starting to remind me of Washington State in how it votes: all of the state except for a few population centers vote Republican, but there are so many people in those population centers and they vote so Democrat that they drag the rest of the state that direction.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    But for a political party to motivate millions of people to passionately support it, it has to have both a comprehensive political program and be able to convince people that this program is right as well as practical – in other words, morality matters. This is true especially on the Left, where the self-righteousness of Democratic supporters has become insufferable, because without an emotional conviction that they were somehow doing right no one other than the direct recipients of income-transfer payments could support its bankrupt statist ideology, but it is true for Republicans also, whose noticeable lack of any moral arguments contributes to the tepid support Republican voters often give the party.

    This is superb, Nik.

    The Libertarian Party has a small contingent of fanatical true-believers, but a value-neutral party is simply unable to inspire a mass movement on its behalf. Its program is comprehensive but incoherent as stated in Part 1; therefore most of its supporters hold equally incoherent political views and simply dislike both the Republican and Democratic Parties. More seriously, they dislike Conservatism, sharing the same misconceptions about it the Left has.

    Ditto. One Facebook friend of mine, back before the 2008 election, did a poll (non-scientific though it was). But it had a pretty decent sampling. He asked a dozen or so questions. And one of the questions was to ask if one was libertarian, and Ron Paul wasn’t the Republican nominee, what would you do? Over 90% said they would sit out the election.

    Libertarians are not our friends. And if you can’t at least vote against a Marxist, you can’t pretend that you’re a friend of liberty. I sort of now understand what the Catholic Church had to deal with over the centuries. There were always somewhat flakey unorthodox and goofy movements trying to steer off in some perfect direction. One could say that Libertarianism is a heresy of old-style American independence and freedom.

    some are looking for a non-judgmental atmosphere in which they can “come out” with almost any manner of sexual fetish; many are simply emotion-driven like a petulant teenager crying out “Leave me alone!” to his parents through his bedroom door.

    Ditto.

    The Libertarian Party’s search for supporters is much like a 19th-century ship’s captain scrounging through seedy waterfront bars for deckhands. Having picked up a perpetual student here, a sexual deviant there, a pothead there, an isolationist there, and an I-refuse-to-grow-up-now-leave-me-alone case of arrested development over there, it presents this motley crew as the vanguard of a national, nay, an international political movement!

    Brilliantly written and conceived.

    The good news/bad news on Slade Gorton not getting elected because of the pique of libertarians is that Slade Gorton is no better than John McCain. Slade is part of the Washington State RINO mafia that hates conservatives and hates “social issues” unless they are liberal social issues. Given that, it’s ironic that the libertarians didn’t vote for him since he shared more values with them than arguably Cantwell does.

    And I don’t find many libertarians to be all that liberal. In fact, in regards to Abraham Lincoln, for example, they’re quite dogmatic and authoritarian in that, to them, there is only ONE aspect that matters: Lincoln used force. The actual history of the Civil War is far more complex and quite other than that one simplistic mantra of libertarian “non-coercion.”

    And that’s what most of libertarianism comes down to. It’s a bunch of half-baked, patched-together sound bytes, taken out of context, and against all reason. Like the Left, they over-simplify. They both seem to pine for their own brand of Utopia.

    What I’ve come to conclude about libertarians/Paulbots is this:

    + They are a bastard offshoot of the Left in many regards
    + They are more libertine than pro-liberty
    + They are pro-anarchy
    + They hate conservatives
    + They deny the importance of morality (aka “social issues”) even while trying to ram their morality of an open-drug culture down our throats.
    + They know little about American history other than that Lincoln was the Bad Father who supposedly gave birth to Leviathan (which, in a Freudian way, seems to represent parental authority and discipline).
    + They have anti-American foreign policy views hidden inside of “non-intervention” rhetoric. But their foreign policy views are little different from Obama. They apologize for Iran and are critical of Israel, for example.
    + Are amoral, at best, naively believing that free trade alone is the only organizing principle a society needs. (That didn’t work very well for the slaves, did it?)

    But we shouldn’t be too hard on them, for our society right now is fractured ideologically and morally from top to bottom. The Left is a wasteland. But many conservatives are as confused as anyone about things….many simply corrupted by entitlements and/or because they have a job that derives from government (directly or indirectly).

    And I’ve never shied from pointing out that most Jews, and a large percentage of Christians, are now Leftist in practice, having forsaken either God or Jesus and substituted Che Guevara in the guise of “social justice.” These people who supposedly are the height of morality continue to vote in people who are conmen and who are raiding and pillaging our nation.

    One could view libertarians as just the detritus left over from a culture that has lost it moorings. They are as much a symptom as a disease.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Note that both Ron and Rand Paul campaigned for Ken Cuccinelli last weekend. The big problem was the Beltway Bandits; I read of one who felt that it would be better for McAuliffe to win because Cuccinelli is a Tea Partier. I suspect that his support for future establishment Republicans would become toxic; I would be reluctant to bother to vote for any candidate he liked. But as for Slade Gorton, one must remember that the alternative was not you or me, but Maria Cantwell.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Good for Ron and Rand. I don’t know much about Cuccinelli other than Rush said he was a good-guy conservative.

        As for Slade Gorton, I think it’s becoming clear now that Establishment Republicanism is a real thing, despite the many denials of people as astute as even Mona Charen. There is an Establishment mindset. There is a new ethic Overton Windowing its way into our culture that says “To not fund is just not polite.” And as most Establishment types know, one mustn’t offend what They (thank you, Deana) say or else one be labeled as one of those Troglodyte “social conservatives” who are engaging in an ongoing war on women and such.

        In that regard, I am with my libertarian brothers and sisters in opposing this mindset (and most of National Review is not). I’m with Ayn Rand, as is Sowell, and as was Reagan regarding most central things in regards to Ayn’s economic philosophy.

        But Libertarians tends to go off on these weird tangents. And you can’t be conversant in America if your view of Lincoln is as a tyrant or that “non-intervention” is some kind of cohesive foreign policy in a dangerous and complicated world.

        Libertarianism has some big problems as actually espoused by those who call themselves that.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Thank you very kindly, Brad. Perhaps as you suggest Libertarians really are a symptom of a larger disease – they did originate during that chamber of horrors known as the 1960’s (at least Rothbard started publishing his ideas then).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Good point.

        Dennis Prager has a saying, “Everything the Left touches they make worse.”

        And I have a saying, “Nothing good came out of the 60’s.”

        Oh, I suppose you could find something such as Velcro or whatever that is a good thing. But not much politically or socially (self-conceits and exalted self-images of various hippie types notwithstanding). And what good was done (such as the Civil Rights movement) has been undone for the most part by Cultural Marxism, Big Government, and naive white people.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    We Conservatives, who are a majority with the GOP, could conceivably do that with an enormous effort (and some Conservatives think we should try), but you Libertarians could not. All you could do is help the Democrats – and remember, every Democrat believes in robbing you of your property rights, your gun rights, even your freedom of speech. Is that what you wish to enable? An America in which you somehow manage to cripple the GOP would resemble California, where Democrats are firmly in control and are proceeding to destroy the state while Republicans are helpless to stop them, and with Libertarians standing on the sidelines as a debating society but not a political force.

    Brilliant.

    This passage reads as though it had been written by a hardcore Left-winger; it constructs the same fictional theocratic bogeyman urban progressives probably use to scare their children at bedtime. Note the same careless use of the undefined and misused term “neo-con” and the same extravagant claims about Conservatives.

    Another great point which shows the congruence between the utopian/childish vision of the Left and libertarians. They prop up their utopian vision with various hobgoblin constructs about “the right.”

    And a great concluding paragraph to finish off another thoughtful and relevant article.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I don’t know this guy’s political beliefs, but he (inadvertently, perhaps) get’s to the weak spot of libertarianism, the idea that markets, and markets alone, are all we need: Why I am not a libertarian.

    Conservatives see a role for government, even in the case of charity. But as Andy McCarthy has brilliantly pointed out in his last couple of articles at National Review, the Federal government is neither Constitutionally tasked with such a thing nor can it be a healthy and sane provider. Because the Feral government can print money and borrow excessively, it is all too easy for any “charity” to become a “votes for ‘free stuff'” scheme (which is what we have now).

    The states, on the other hand, can do better if only because there are more restrictions on how far afield they can roam. None of them can print money and most have to have a balanced budget, for example. And a state, being closer to the needs of its own people, can both tailor its charity better and be held more closely responsible — in theory….the libtards in the State of Washington and California pretty much show how easily even this wall is breached (and this goes to show the weakness of the Goldbergian “Federalism” mantra as the fix for all things which, much like libertarianism, conveniently bypasses moral issues).

    Libertarianism, in practice, tends to be a creed that takes only one of the ingredients from the conservative stew (freedom and free markets, and a good ingredient it is) and tries to make an entire meal from it. Granted, I understand that many of these issues are complex. But should then our first choice be to grab for simplistic, even childish, impulses?

    This YouTube viewer has exposed the rotten core of libertarianism. In many ways it is like the Left. But in many odd ways it is the opposite. If the Left is too socialist and authoritarian, the libertarian side goes too far toward the other extreme. It’s always been my thought that although these issues are complex, we are (or should be) intelligent enough and moral enough to figure them out without resorting to soundbyte-ism. And we don’t have to fly alone. The Founders figured most of this stuff out a long time ago.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My thought has been that the ideological liberal thinks government is ALWAYS the answer to any problem, and the libertarian thinks government is NEVER the answer. Both are absolutist ideologies. Conservatism, by contrast, is basically a pragmatic ideology. We’re skeptical of government because we’ve observed how poorly it works.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think there’s some truth to that. But even that doesn’t explain why so many Libertarians are of the opinion that Iran is not a threat and that it is American “interventionism,” not Iran’s nuclear program or crazy rulers, who are the real problem. I’ve had real-life face-to-face conversations with Libertarians who believe this stuff. And they think Israel is a problem as well. Many tend to imbibe Ron Paul’s functional anti-Semitism.

  7. MarkW says:

    I thought this site was supposed to be one where we could discuss ideas without bashing one another.
    Rather than deal with our differences, you prefer to bash based on your misunderstandings, biases, and misconceptions.
    Sad.
    This site had potential.
    Goodby.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      Please take a couple of days off and then come back with a reasoned response to the various points made by N.A. Halkides. Such a response would be helpful all round.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Mark, I thought what Nahalkides said was right on. I have said that this site is about conservative/old-style-libertarian (such as that exists) views.

      But we shouldn’t be blinded to the large faction of those who self-identify as Libertarians who are either kooky Paulbots who have read one book and/or for whom “Libertarianism” is simply taking one principle (such as non-coercion) and trying to make an entire political philosophy out of it.

      I think Nik has done a tremendous job at puncturing many of the conceits of libertarians. And my own conversation with them in real life has been consistent with what he’s said. I find no use for the philosophy other than acknowledging that liberty/self-responsibility is a crucial pillar of Americanism itself. But this idea is either taken to an extreme by libertarians (as practiced) or bent in some weird Leftist positions. And much of it (as with the Left) is based upon constructed hobgoblins on what the supposedly big, bad right is. And this takes away the moral element (conveniently). And there is no America if it is not based at least upon some central and good moral ideas.

      Oh, this site has lots of potential. But we are small and I expect we will stay small for quite a while. But you can choose to either refute Nik (Nahalkides) or not. But there is a bad seed inside Libertarianism that must be dealt with if you want to go around with that label.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Mark – perhaps I should add no more, especially since Brad and KFZ have already said everything I could reasonably need to say to you. But I’m going to try, for the same reason I spent all those hours writing the piece (I write slowly) in the first place – these are desperate times, and we need every soldier we can get in the battle for our common freedom. That is why I spent so much time in Part 2 actually pleading with those Libertarians who are still open to reason to do two things: (1) honestly calculate how much you can realistically achieve as Libertarians, and (2) take another look at the Conservative movement.

      Was that somehow unreasonable? I was hard on Libertarianism – you bet I was – and pretty hard on Libertarians also, but you’ll notice I did not engage in actual ad hominem fallacies. I attacked the movement’s philosophical defects, pointed out its complete failure in the realm of practical politics, and yes, attacked its members for their very real shortcomings.

      Putting aside the “misfits, kooks, and cranks” to concentrate on those Libertarians who can still be reached, I can understand how someone – especially an 18-year-old first-time voter – might vote Libertarian when faced with, say, the choice of Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole back in 1996. But a large part of maturity is recognizing that this world will deal with us on its terms, not ours, and we won’t get more than a fraction of what we want in life, and only that much if we fight for every bit and have some luck on our side as well. That does not mean discarding our principles for philosophical pragmatism, but it does mean setting goals that are actually attainable during our lifetimes, and a Libertarian world certainly isn’t one of them.

      That is why I say to Libertarians, “It’s time to grow up and face the fact that you can’t win. Politically, you have only three choices: (1) Join the Left, and lose everything you say you value when they take over; (2) Sit on the sidelines crying in your beer (by either not voting or by voting for a Libertarian candidate) about how you refuse to accept ‘the lesser of two evils’ and again lose everything you say you value when the Left takes over; (3) Join with us Conservatives in fighting the Left, where if we win, you get 95% of what you say you want.” No, we’re never going to go along with you on abortion, same-sex “marriage”, or even public nudity (the least harmful of the three by far), but again, your choice is 95% or 0% – which do you think is better?

      Maybe I hurt your feelings with my essay. If so, I’m not going to apologize, because the truth is, I don’t really have the time to care about your feelings – the hour is too late for that. There’s no time for feelings when the blasphemy trials have already begun in a Europe where the people are almost completely disarmed, when the American economy is so devastated future historians will classify these days either as the second Great Depression or the beginning of the Great Collapse depending on what happens next, and when the largest political party in the U.S. is wholly devoted to rule by brute force. And so I plead with you once again: grow up and help us fight, or prepare to be ruled by the Democratic Left. The choice is yours.

  8. Timothy Lane says:

    Derek Hunter has an article on TownHall that deals with why he no longer considers himself a libertarian. For one thing, he finds that all too often, libertarianism devolves into nothing more than support for legalized hedonism; Bill Maher calls himself a libertarian despite his enthusiastic advocacy for Barry’s Behemoth in most situations, and many take him seriously. He also noticed that they seem to have a dislike of Republicans that fails to take into account which party actually lives to reduce freedom, and points to the example of Sarvis in Virginia drawing 7% even though in most respects his stated positions aren’t very libertarian (except, again, for the hedonistic issues).

  9. Timothy Lane says:

    I have a few additional thoughts on this subject. First of all, I recall Milton Friedman saying in one of his books that he wished the anarchists luck, since that was the direction we ought to be heading (though he would certainly have stopped well short of their destination). Second, John Hayward of Human Events points out that the Obama bundler who funded so much of Sarvis’s campaign in Virginia has a history of funding such Libertarian efforts. Finally, Ann Coulter once offered to run against a RINO in Connecticut on the Libertarian Party ticket, figuring (much like Friedman) that they agreed on which direction to go if not on how far. They rejected her offer because of her support for anti-drug laws.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Interesting, Tim – I wonder if it’s now part of accepted Democratic Party strategy to help the Libertarian candidates. Since the Communist Party directs its members to vote Democratic, I’m not sure how we can retaliate, although supporting the Green Party (which cost Al Gore dearly in 2000) might be a necessary (if unpleasant) possibility.

    • myth buster says:

      Never attempt to co-opt a true believer, because they will turn on you when you don’t give them what they want. Only join forces with true believers when they agree to your terms, and never reneg on any promises you make them.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I don’t think the Demagogues are co-opting libertarians. But they do sometimes provide support in order to divide voters on the right — just as, in previous years, they supported fake “tea party” candidates (as I believe slimy Harry Wormwood Reid did in Nevada in 2010). In a very close race, such shenanigans can change who wins.

  10. Kurt NY says:

    The thing that mystifies me is the stereotype of a conservative as some misanthrope just itching to get governmental control over the lives of the citizenry, a stereotype which I submit is highly responsible for the reluctance of many to be seen to support anything that even whiffs of conservatism. From what I can see, the only folk who really wish to suppress anybody are on the political left, from their insane speech codes or Stalinist actions to suppress dissenting political thought on college campuses, etc.

    Periodic rumblings calling for overhaul and limiting of First Amendment rights arise from the left. No conservative is calling for yanking of licenses for MSNBC or licensing journalists to restrict freedom of the press, yet many on the left call for such actions against conservative outlets. Yet, the popular image carefully fostered on the left and heavily pushed by Hollywood is that conservatives, especially religious conservatives, are all crypto-fascists just aching to impose conformance on the masses through abuse of governmental power.

    The libertarian impulse is far more widespread among Americans than the paltry voting records of a formal Libertarian Party would indicate. And conservative policy prescriptions don’t even receive consideration from large swathes of the population, due in large part to that undeserved stereotype. Should we wish the reinvigorate the Republican brand, that stereotype is the greatest obstacle to electoral success.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      With liberals, probably every single political accusation they make turns out to be a projection of their own iniquity (and probably more often than not, false as far as their target goes). As for why people believe this false accusation, all you have to do is remember the Big Lie technique. It’s very easy to pull off when the synoptic media act as your echo chamber most of the time (the exceptions being when doing so would expose them too openly as partisan shills).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The thing that mystifies me is the stereotype of a conservative as some misanthrope just itching to get governmental control over the lives of the citizenry, a stereotype which I submit is highly responsible for the reluctance of many to be seen to support anything that even whiffs of conservatism.

      This is it. Right there. Your Nobel Prize is on the way if you can explain that and change that, Kurt. 😀

      Dennis Prager sums it up as “danger on the right.” That is what he, as a Jew, was indoctrinated into. Most Jews (foolishly) vote liberal because of this “danger on the right” programming they’ve had. It becomes reflexive, emotional.

      I believe it’s true that people tend to vote against rather than for. It’s surely true that many have loopy Utopia aspirations. But I think the only reason that most on the Left overlook the egregious lies and wreckage caused by the Left is because of the “danger on the right” phenomenon.

      And there’s a “hip” or “youth culture” aspect to this as well, perhaps best seen in the Paulbot types. As Mr. Kung has stated, it’s all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Throughout most of history the elders in a culture were generally looked up to. We are perhaps the first large-scale civilization to turn this on its head. Dumb, shallow, and uninformed is in. Conservatism, on the other hand, inherently depends not on an inward-focused narcissim but an outward-focused glance at the wisdom of the ages.

      “Liberty” thus now means a whole lot of stupid things to people who think the world started when they were born. (We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, etc.) The conceits on the Left run so high that it’s inconceivable to a large number of people that conservatives are for liberty. I’ve heard this over and over again. Even though the conservative philosophy is about limited government, unalienable rights, free markets, and private property, you can’t swing a dead cat in this culture without running up against some propagandized fool who is cock-sure that conservatives are, in fact, the biggest threat to liberty.

      So you have this willful moral inversion of “not that.” These unthoughtful low-information voters don’t have to think much about what they are for. All they need know is “not that.” This illogic has quite literally scrambled their ability to think and reason. Even though the Left is obviously all about running people’s lives to the nth degree, they still see “the right” as the greatest threat to liberty.

      And this idea is reinforced by the government schools, the Leftist media, and the entertainment culture at large. It is indeed that “undeserved stereotype” that is the issue. But it’s not the entire issue. It’s not just that people have been fooled about what conservatism is. They want to be fooled. Believing as they do gives them (in their own minds, at least) carte blanche to engage in any kind of crummy or reckless behavior that they want.

      As Rush said the other day. The easiest thing in the world is to be a liberal because all you have to do is say that you “care.” And as I’ve been saying as well, liberalism (at least amongst the low-information voters) is the equivalent of an Indulgence. You declare your allegiance to The Enlightened, Nice, and Smart People and this buys you cover to be any kind of dirt bag that you want to be (and with covering rhetoric such as “social justice,” “a woman’s right to choose,” or “equality”). As long as you can share this same delusion with others, you’re covered.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Note the similarity between your analysis of the motivation of so many liberals, and my concept of virulent liberalism. The Inner Party incites hate because they know that the Outer Party will believe whatever they say, and thus Hate the enemy and pay no attention to their arguments.

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