The “L” Word

Ever since the “Tea Parties” hit the scene, “libertarianism” has garnered a lot of attention. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of frankly absurd stereotypes have been dredged up to describe a political philosophy that most people don’t know anything about. In response to a piece in New York Magazine, Reason’s Radley Balko has put up a couple of posts seeking to dispel some of the more idiotic myths that seem resurface any time someone mentions the word “libertarian”:

Not all libertarians cut their teeth on Ayn Rand. I’ve never been much of a fan. She was important in many ways, detrimental in many others. The drug references were a bit too cute, too. Beam’s reference to Somalia was also silly and cliched. Somalia isn’t a libertarian paradise any more than North Korea is a progressive paradise. That is, libertarians don’t advocate the absence of government any more than progressives advocate all-powerful government. We advocate the rule of law. There is no law in Somalia.


People use the utopia canard  to make libertarianism seem creepy and cultish. Look, politics is a dirty, corrupt profession that rewards people who display the characteristics you least want in someone in whom you entrust important decisions about your life. The general premise of libertarianism is that people should be free to make their own decisions about their lives—that as much of our lives as possible should be kept within the sphere of civil, voluntary society, and out of the sphere of political society. There would still be problems in a libertarian society. There would still be crime, income inequality, acne, nu metal, and reality TV. Most libertarians merely believe that in a libertarian society, most people would be better off than they are now—that being free to make more of your own choices is preferable to having politicians make them for you. Most conservatives and liberals also believe that most people would be better off if their own policy preferences were implemented. That isn’t in the same ballpark as promising utopia. People will still make bad decisions. They should be free to do so.

If anything is utopian, it’s the idea that the world would be much better off if only we put more of society in the hands of a few very smart people who somehow know all the answers.

This seems about right. What’s with all the abject fear and loathing of people who want to leave you alone to pursue the sort of life you want to lead?


I’m suddenly reminded of this garbage from back in April:

Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob.

Are you fucking kidding me?


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