Thursday, October 30, 2014

Good News for Libertarians

I have long argued that the real function of libertarian involvement in politics, including the Libertarian Party, is not to get libertarians elected. It is to get libertarian policies to the point where the major parties will find it in their interest to adopt them—the strategy followed with striking success by the U.S. Socialist party over the first half of the 20th century.

Which is why I was delighted to see a recent piece on Reason's blog in which a Democratic politician argued that libertarians ought to vote for Democrats because they were more nearly in favor of libertarian policies than Republicans. Another piece on the Reason blog, two days earlier, reported Rand Paul  arguing that libertarians should vote for Republicans because they are more ...  . 

A competition I can appreciate.


At 6:43 PM, October 30, 2014, Blogger amor fati said...

This is true, but in the case of the socialist party the masses were already "infected" with socialist and even communist idea. At best the libertarians are a counter culture nowadays.

At 7:02 PM, October 30, 2014, Anonymous Power Child said...


A counterculture to what? It ain't 1953 anymore.

On the left you now have NPR listeners and the Fringe Coalition demanding gay marriage, abortion, legal drugs and pacifism. On the right you have Neocons and Conservatism Inc. demanding open borders and looser economic regulations. Even anarchocapitalists can express their distinct ideas openly without being fired or publicly shamed for it.

How can libertarians possibly see themselves as a counterculture?

At 7:24 PM, October 30, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another name for what these politicians is doing is "pandering".

At 8:35 PM, October 30, 2014, Blogger jdgalt said...

The "mainstream party" reaction I liked the best was from Ann Coulter, who calls libertarian voters "idiots" and blames them for the misfortunes of the GOP.

Which is half right. Enough old, social-conservative Republicans have died off and not been replaced that the GOP now needs our votes if they want to elect another president.

What burns people like Coulter is that we now hold the upper hand. The GOP will have to nominate someone who has actually cut the payroll, budget, and/or power of government while governor or mayor (I can think of three candidates who qualify, and many who don't). A "mainstream" Republican would be worse than a Democrat because he would spend just as much, take away just as much of our freedom -- and we would get the blame. I would not see that as even a partial win.

So we will not come to Ann Coulter. The question is whether she wants success badly enough to come to us.

At 10:31 AM, October 31, 2014, Blogger Gordon said...

JDG - What Ann Coulter wants most is to continue to sell books and get paid for appearances; a losing Republican Party is actually an advantage to her in that regard.

PowerChild: what Neocons want open borders?

At 11:11 AM, October 31, 2014, Anonymous Power Child said...


George Will wrote a piece right after Cantor lost to Brat earlier this year in which he named a few other key Neocon GOP figures who, like Cantor, favor more relaxed immigration policies. These included Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan. (Others unmentioned in Will's article include Mitt Romney and John McCain, and even more are frequently profiled at

I was using hyperbole by calling their position "open borders" of course, but in this case the philosophical distance between 0.5 and 1 is a lot smaller than between 0 and 0.5.

The nuance of "libertarianism in one country" has been passed over in the mainstreaming of libertarianism into the Republican platform.

At 2:08 PM, October 31, 2014, Blogger amor fati said...

@Power Child:

I would concede to you that at least in America, libertarianism is not a counter culture anymore, but it has not reach the stage of a counter elite, it cannot compete with the established ideas of republicans and democrats. Yes there might be some common ground but this is just a coincidence of circumstances and interests.
I live in Romania and here if you are a libertarian you are like an alien.

At 2:38 PM, October 31, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

I would say that socialism has the advantage of being somewhat more attractive to politicians, as it gives them more power, unlike liberalism (libertarianism). That said, I do believe that David is largely correct in his belief that this is still the best strategy for libertarians, perhaps after Seasteading and Free State project...or moving to Switzerland :D But the best political strategy anyway.

Slightly related:

It surprised me recently, that in a quite socialist Norway, the so called "Progress party" which seems to be libertarian-ish (although far from perfect, but what is really?...especially in the world of politics) came third in the 2013 elections (with conservatives second and now they have a minority coalition government with the Progress party).

I guess that in the US the "being radical" strategy has even more merits because of the majority system.

At 5:55 PM, October 31, 2014, Blogger Gordon said...

PowerChild - I don't think of any of the politicians you mention as hard-core Neocons (and neither does Wikipedia), but I do think that identifying "demanding open borders" with "some support for lessening immigration restrictions" is a good example of hyperbole. ;-)

At 7:28 PM, October 31, 2014, Blogger Power Child said...


With the exception of Paul Ryan, who is more of a "Conservatism Inc." Republican (see my earlier comment), all the politicians I mentioned are Neocons in the sense that they tend to support American interventionism--which of them, given the opportunity, would surely have fought to keep us from getting involved in Libya, Syria, or for that matter the Ukraine?--while favoring an increase in immigration and being apathetic pushovers on social issues like gay marriage and abortion.

I already justified my open borders hyperbole with a mathematical analogy, but let me make my position more explicit: supporting an increase in legal immigration while cracking down on illegal immigration and "securing the border" is much closer to just supporting open borders than it is to support for a closed one. This is because it is plainly obvious that despite what they say, these politicians have no intention of securing the border or cracking down on illegal immigration. They are bought and paid for by powerful elites who depend upon both skilled and unskilled cheap immigrant labor. Even the David Brats cannot scare them off the Elite Teat.

By the way, Tibor Mach:

This is what you miss in saying that libertarianism doesn't give politicians power. Politicians don't live secluded in monasteries. They mingle and schmooze constantly in their free time, if not as a required part of their job, with high-powered lobbyists, lawyers, businessmen, media moguls, and others of that sort. A lot of the time, these people and the politicians they prop up are one in the same. Both because of this arrangement and because policy is so complicated, it makes very little difference how "libertarian" that policy is.

If you think about how American society has changed in the last 40 years or so (I know you don't live here, but try to envision it based on what you know) you'll see it has gotten much more libertarian--but how much more free? How looms the gap between elites and middle class? Between the Republicans and the Democrats, what earnest representative of his interests does the average working American Joe really have to vote for?

That is the exact same dynamic behind what you see in Norway. It doesn't have so much to do with tax rates or social freedoms, but with the out-of-touchness between the elites and the common people. Why does the average Norwegian want to keep supporting the leaders who are, for example, importing Muslim welfare leeches by the boatload? It's easy to paint this notion as "radical" but it's actually the most basic common sense. It's only "radical" because it's impolite to say it out loud. (And whose side are the journalists on, again?)

At 4:15 AM, November 01, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...


I've read both those articles you linked to now and I think it you might be too optimistic. The democratic candidate simply argues that Democrats are a better choice, he does not show any desire to adopt libertarian policies that Democrats don't at least partially support already. The Republican candidate is a bit better in this, he says that the party has to change and become more libertarian.

Power Child:

If the politician has nothing to offer the lobbyists because he is prevented from doing so by libertarian policies, what power does he have?

I gather that you are saying that libertarian votes are substantially protest votes. I think you may be right in a way the anti-euro (not anti-EU) and sort-of-maybe-libertarianish (although also a bit conservative on some issues) German party Alternative für Deutschland gained about 10% in several German state parliaments in the last elections and a lot of this is simply because they are different. But communists are also there has to be more to it than just not being the mainstream.

At 12:48 PM, November 01, 2014, Blogger Roger said...

The Democrat article mainly argues that Democrats have taken the lead in opposing Obama administration policies (marijuana, NSA surveillance, corp. taxes, SOPA). Not very convincing. Pres. Obama is their leader, and he is the most anti-libertarian president in many years.

At 1:33 PM, November 01, 2014, Anonymous Power Child said...

@Tibor Mach:

Like I said, laws and their contexts are complicated. A law can be libertarian in some abstract way while still affording politicians plenty of power, even an increase. Take for example the loosening of immigration restrictions: if crossing the border become easier, politicians may have less to gain in terms of shaking down people coming across the border, but they get it back from the almost guaranteed votes of those immigrants and their kids. Or from the big corporate lobbyists whose clients, eager for cheaper labor, want to ensure that these lax policies go unquestioned.

Presently, any party that stands up for the traditional nation will garner protest votes, regardless whether they are libertarian or socialist. If you read the platforms of many of the parties being deemed "radically right wing", you'll see they're actually fairly left-of-center; it's just that they want to be left-of-center within one country only, which is indeed a radical notion to most Western elites.

At 2:51 PM, November 01, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

Power Child:

Ok, those are good examples and you made a good point. The neat thing about this is that while this can bring more power in the short term, this is basically "killing the goose that lays golden eggs" in the long term. But in the long term someone else is likely to be in the office, so you might as well kill the goose for a few more golden eggs.

At 4:22 PM, November 04, 2014, Anonymous Dain said...

The biggest problem facing libertarians isn't politics, it's culture. I don't see anything particularly free-wheeling and tolerant about alarmism over white privilege (contra color-blind libertarianism) and cat-calling (the left contemplates its own form of broken windows policing in a new NYT debate).

Tolerance defines libertarianism. But that's passé. Proactive acceptance is what it's all about now.

At 1:43 PM, November 11, 2014, Anonymous BenG said...

On November 4th I managed to collect almost 40% of the vote on a pro-legalization, gold standard platform in a working class, mostly Democratic state house district in western Pennsylvania. David is right; these ideas are being mainstreamed. Some day - just maybe - anti-interventionist candidates will jostle one another for our votes.

At 5:17 AM, November 21, 2014, Blogger ErisGuy said...

Democrats are indeed more in favor of several libertarian policies, and by voting Democrat libertarians will use the state to enforce those policies, thereby demonstrating the libertarian maxim: your right to live by your morality ends when the state enforces my morality.


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