Changing the Way We Talk About Libertarianism – – Reason

“Are we a chosen marginalized group that is going to be forever hanging around together? Is this just our social gang?,” asks Jeffrey Tucker, director of content for the Foundation of Economic Education (FEE). “I think that is a problem.”

When FEE was first founded in 1946 by Leonard Read, libertarianism was a little known concept. Thanks to regularly featured works by noted scholars like Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Henry Hazlitt, and George Stigler, the ideas of human liberty and freedom became more accessible and familiar to a larger audience.

The growing distaste for the current two-party system (both major party candidates set historic records for negative ratings in 2016) has increased the appeal of the libertarian perspective and the ideology has grown into a movement with real political momentum. Gallup Poll’s 2015 Politcal Governance survey found that 27 percent of respondents could be ideologically classified as libertarianthe highest number recorded to date.

But Tucker warns that the growing popularity of libertarianism presents new challenges: “Because we have become a movement… it does give rise toI thinkcertain temptations to speak in our own vernacular or our own really high liturgical language with each other. Then normal people can’t understand.”

Tucker states he has looked to the past as inspiration for revitalizing FEE’s current mission.

“There weren’t a lot of what we call libertarians around at the time,” Tucker explains. “They had to speak in a way to everybody or to anyone who would listen. And I think that affected the way they thought and the way they wrote. Every piece had to make sense for anybody who happened to pick it up.”

To reach a larger audience, Tucker has expanded FEE’s editorial scope by including entertainment reviews of popular shows like HBO’s The Young Pope and Netflix’s The Crown in addition to policy and political coverage.

Reason’s Nick Gillespie sat down with Tucker at the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss the history of FEE and how popular culture can be used by libertarians to spread their ideas to a mainstream audience.

Edited by Alexis Garcia. Cameras by Mark McDaniel and Todd Krainin. Music by Podington Bear.

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Changing the Way We Talk About Libertarianism – – Reason

Libertarians Should Go See Moonlight – Reason (blog)

‘Moonlight’I had already prepared myself for the disappointment of La La Land beating out Moonlight for the Academy Award for best movie. I saw both movies and thought Moonlight was superior in all the ways that matter to mestrong characters, powerful storytelling, and emotional impact. But Hollywood loves itself above all things, and I was prepared for another Crash versus Brokeback Mountain train wreck.

When La La Land was initially declared the winner, I simply shrugged and started shutting everything down for the night. It was only by circumstance that I powered down my computer first and still had the television on when the mistake was revealed. It was a happy surprise to me that Moonlight won, and I just wanted to take a moment to recommend anybody who identifies as a libertarian to go so the movie if they haven’t yet.

If I were to describe a movie as being about a young gay black man coming of age in an extremely poor Miami neighborhood surrounded by drug culture, violence, and bullies, it may be a natural inclination to expect something very preachy and full of “Something must be done about this!” messages.

That’s not Moonlight. What makes Moonlight work is that it’s almost the exact opposite. It throws the viewer into the life of young protagonist Chiron and has the confidence to let us come to terms with the combination of awfulness and hopefulness of his experiences. It’s a deeply personal story informed by the real world experiences of the two men behind it.

What does this have to do with libertarianism? Government institutions are shown as failing Chiron, and there’s no effort to present these systems as part of the solution. School does nothing to protect him. And when he finally acts out in frustration when the violent bullying becomes too much, he finds the criminal justice system ready to come crashing down on him.

There is no lecturing about this institutional failure. It’s presented as a lived-in experience. The story of Moonlight trusts the viewer to understand its deeper meaning. It’s not complicated, but it is subtle. That the time jump between teen Chiron and adult Chiron includes a prison stint is handled almost like an aside.

But the movie is far from hopeless, and it’s not a tragedy. This is not Brokeback Mountain recast in an urban setting during the crack epidemic. It’s challenging and at times very difficult to watch play out (particularly if you were, for disclosure’s sake, a gay man who also grew up dirt poor in Florida and had a mother with drug issues), but Chiron does find a path that suggests a way toward personal happiness even as it embeds him further into a life operating through some shadowy options (I’m trying not to spoil too much).

Consider Moonlight to be the film equivalent of the personal stories Reason shares about those who have been granted mercy from harsh mandatory minimum sentences. When we look at the cruelty of the drug war, the use of police in schools, and the failures of prohibition and their disparate impact on minorities, it’s easy to want throw out data and just hope that makes an impression. Moonlight attaches it all to a story and invites the audience to live through the consequences of this harsh dynamic partly created by government officials (at the demand of their constituencies) without judging them and putting them on the defensive. The movie illustrates a fight for self-determination and personal happiness in a harsh environment where authority is stacked against the protagonistsomething every libertarian should be able to identify with.

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Libertarians Should Go See Moonlight – Reason (blog)

Self-Indulgent Libertarian Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds – AlterNet

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue / Flickr

I once had a conversation with a libertarian friend who insisted that freedom was the answer to everything, ironic since he was getting married the following week.

Freedom to have sex with others while married? I asked.

Of course not, he said.

Freedom for your children to do whatever they want?

No, thats different, he said.

Freedom for everyone to have a nuclear bomb?

No, that wouldnt be good.

Freedom for people to steal?

No, that has to be controlled.

You dont really think that freedom is the answer to everything, I said. The real question is what to constrain and what to let go free. The question in social engineering is the question in all engineering. Its a question of tolerances: What to constrain with tight tolerances and what to let run free with loose tolerances. That question is built right into the paradoxical declarations that we should all, be intolerant of all intolerance, or tolerate all intolerance.

Sorry, thats not my question, he said.

But why? I asked.

Because its hard and I dont want to bother with it.

I applauded his honesty. If you want to know why its not obvious to everyone by now that the question is what to tolerate and not tolerate, its simply this. The question is difficult.

Its so much easier to be a hypocrite, to claim that total freedom or total constraint are the only possibilities and that you favor one and oppose the other. Its easier to pretend that youre crusading for absolute freedom against absolute control or vice versa than it is to deal with the messy complexity of trying to sort out what to free and what to constrain.

Hypocrisy is the alternative to praying for the wisdom to know the difference between what to constrain and what to let run free. Just pretend that you already have theperfect wisdom to know the obvious difference. Pretend that theres no question, control is always bad, freedom is always good. Or vice versa.

And with hypocrisy, you can even have it both ways depending on your momentary needs and whims. You can claim that you always favor one as you can switch back and forth.

I dont like that this constrains me. We should all be free always.


Yes, judgment is always bad. People should never be judgmental.

But isnt should a judgment?

No. And why do you always have to disagree with me?

I dont always and anyway, didnt you just say that people should be free always? Doesnt that apply to me too? Shouldnt I be free to disagree with you?

No. People should always do the right thing. People should always be controlled by the moral principles I know and espouse.

Butbutyou just said

Theres a difference between being and feeling consistent. To be consistent you have to tame the tendency to extrapolate to universal principles from whatever youre feeling in the moment. You have to be able to notice your inconsistencies.

Since thats difficult and self-compromising, its easier to just feel consistent. For that you need only hold one idea constant. Just always chant, Im consistent. I have integrity. Im not like all of the other people around me. Other people are inconsistent hypocrisy. Im not.

If you hold that one thought with all your heart then you dont have to pay attention to your flip-flopping. You can have all your cakes and eat them too.

You wont live by your inconsistent standards, but if youre insistent enough, youll be able to convince yourself that you do, and maybe youll be able to convince others too. There are lots of hypocrisy cults you can join, mutual admiration societies that claim some absolute truth, thereby liberating themselves to follow their whims, confident that theyre consistent.

These days, libertarianism is one such cult, growing in popularity, in large part through sponsorship by the Koch brothers network of donors, spending billions through private charities to achieve a cabal of about 400 billionaires ultimate aim, to be unconstrained in everything they do. The cabal was inspired by a self-serving misreading of the Soviet Union. Fred Koch, the Koch brothers father was a key provider to Stalin as he built the Soviet Unions oil industry. When Fred saw the devastation wrought by his client Stalin he wrote that, What I saw in Russia convinced me of the utterly evil nature of communism. What I saw there convinced me that communism was the most evil force the world has ever seen and I must do everything in my power to fight it, whichI have done since that time.

Rather than bite Stalins hand that fed him he conveniently focused on the rationalization that Stalin employed to justify his dictatorship. Fred went on to say in 1938 that “Although nobody agrees with me, I am of the opinion that the only sound countries in the world are Germany, Italy, and Japan, simply because they are all working and working hard.” He loved fascism; he hated communism.

Thus was born the hypocritical Koch campaign, control for freedom; constrain for liberty, dictate anarchy. It was easy to get other wealthy donors enthusiastic about the movement, donors like our new education secretary Betsy Devos, a self-declared libertarian who donated over $200 million to hypocritical campaigns for state-imposed religious education in the name of libertarianism. And its been easy to find politicians who will mouth and defend the hypocrisy for the money.

Thats what happened to what once was the Republican party. The Republicans who embraced American traditions bent to the Kochs will or were chased out by Koch-funded candidates from the Tea Party. If youre wondering whatever happened to our country, what explains the weird jack-knifing lurch toward libertarianism, the Koch brothers are a good place to find answers. The Tea Party wouldnt have lasted any longer than the Occupy movement if it werent orchestrated and funded by the Kochs.

Do I sound like a conspiracy theorist? If the alternative to conspiracy theory is the assumption that there are never any conspiracies, were in real trouble. There are conspiracies. The difference between conspiracy theorists and people who reveal real conspiracies is in whether the eagerness to find oneor the evidence leads one to the conclusion that there is one. If you read the facts on the Koch brothers, I think youll find that the evidence stacks up pretty conclusively.

But no matter how much money you pour into selling something, it wont sell if theres no latent appetite. With libertarianism as a rationalization, theres plenty of appetite, the appetite for some alternative to having to think about whats worth and not worth constraining.

Libertarians have bought themselves the ultimate freedom, paid in full with a commitment to hypocrisy, the freedom to never have to wonder about or learn from anything ever again, the freedom to feel consistent without having to trouble themselves with the hard question that shows up everywhere since sometimes freedom turns out well and sometimes it turns out badly:

In engineering:There are bolts and there are ball bearings. We bolt some things down and we let other things run free.

Computer engineering:Algorithms are constraints that enable you to input a free range of variables and get reliably constrained results.

Social engineering:We want people to have freedom to do what they want so long as it doesnt cause more damage than their freedom is worth. Laws, at their best, are constraints that maximize freedom.

Liberty and justice for all:Justice constrains us, liberty frees us. Justice is security. Government at its best seeks the best mix.

Freedom and responsibility:Youre free on the dance floor, but unless youre special (P.S., youre not) your freedom comes with responsibility for not constraining other peoples freedom. You dont get to crowd everyone into the corner by dancing wildly with your eyes shut shouting I believe in freedom!

Social movements:The best and worst movements in human history have all had the same rallying cry, a proud “We demand more!” That’s the cry of those crowded out but also those who already have more than their fair share. It’s the cry of the women’s and civil rights movement but alsoof the Nazi’s. So what’s the difference between the good and bad versions of that rallying cry? Hypocrisy, demand for more dancefloor when you’re already taking up plenty of it.

Player vs. married:A player is free to date whomever but the freedom comes with a loss of security, no reliable partner to come home to. A married person is more constrained but in the bargain gains some security.

Freelance vs. salaried:Salaried workers are more constrained than freelancers, but in exchange, they get a bit more security.

Evolution:Life is a trial and error process and we are the trials. This makes us ambivalent, rooting for ourselves as trials and rooting for the trial and error process. In our hearts, we cry let the best man win and it damned well better be me!

Sore losers:Sore losers smash the game board if they lose. Libertarians are like that. They think that if they dont win, the game is rigged against them and must be destroyed so that they always win.

Free willvs. determinism:We claim that free will as better than determinism but actually were ambivalent. What wed really like is the freedom to advance and the determinism that locks in the advances weve already made. What we really want is a ratchet, freedom to climb, constraint against falling.

We can have that ratchet if we shut our eyes, dance impulsively and shout freedom is the only answer! while crowding everyone else into the corners by meaning only our personal freedom, the hell with theirs.

Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making. Read his work at Psychology Today.

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Self-Indulgent Libertarian Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds – AlterNet

Reason and Libertarianism in the Trump Era [Reason Podcast] – Reason (blog)

“Free movement of people and goods across borders are incredibly important things. And Trump is not into either of those things”Katherine Mangu-Ward.

At the 10th annual International Students for Liberty Conference, Reason magazine Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, former editor and longtime head of the Institute for Humane Studies Marty Zupan, and I discussed the history and future of Reason and libertarianism in President Donald Trump’s America.

We each talked about the signature issues of the decades we were at the magazine’s helm (the 1980s for Zupan, the ’00s for me, and currently for Mangu-Ward) and whether libertarianism is waxing or waning.

This podcast was recorded live on Friday, February 17. Now finishing up its first decade, SFL reported that about 1,700 guests from all over the world attended this year’s conference.

Produced by Mark McDaniel.

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Reason and Libertarianism in the Trump Era [Reason Podcast] – Reason (blog)

Alt-Right Leader Richard Spencer Crashed a Student Libertarian Conference and Was Shunned – Reason (blog)

Jeff Malet Photography/NewscomOn Saturday, alt-right leader Richard Spencer crashed the 10th annual International Students for Liberty Conference at a hotel in Washington, D.C. After quarreling with conference attendees, he left the premises.

Spencer, a self-declared white nationalist who believes the U.S. is losing its white identity, had no business attending a gathering of libertarian students, and conference organizers had every right to eject him. Indeed, their decision to do so was a valid exercise of libertarian principles in action.

I attended the conference, along with several other Reason staffers. The Reason Foundation is a co-sponsor of ISFLC, and hosted several events during the conference. One of those events, a panel discussion about sex trafficking featuring Reason Associate Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown and Director of Criminal Justice Reform Lauren Krisai, unfolded at roughly the same time as Spencer’s unsolicited visit. I was in the audience at that event, and did not cross paths with Spencer.

But it’s clear from video footage that Spencer set himself up in the bar of the hotelthe Marriott Wardman in Woodley Parkand attempted to host an unscheduled and unwanted conversation about his despicable views. To be absolutely clear: Spencer was not welcome at the hotel and had not been invited to participate in ISFLC.

“We did not invite Mr. Spencer,” said SFL CEO Wolf von Laer in a statement. “We reject his hateful message and we wholeheartedly oppose his obsolete ideology.”

Eventually, Jeffrey Tuckeran influential libertarian thinkerconfronted Spencer and made clear to the alt-right provocateur that he “did not belong” at ISFLC. Some shouting ensued, and hotel staff intervened. Shortly thereafter, Spencer left.

It’s not completely clear whether Spencer departed of his own accord: he seems to think he was forced to leave, while others say he asked security to see him out safely, even though he was in no danger. But it hardly matters: the Marriott Wardman hotel is private property, and should enjoy the absolute right to evict irksome and unwelcome guests from its premises.

Spencer has attempted to wring as much publicity from the incident as possiblehe tweeted about it no fewer than 40 times, by my count. In his mind, libertarians are “lolbertarians” who need to “accept the reality of race” and get serious about “white replacement.” To the extent that his only goal in life is to garner more attention for his fringe worldview, I suppose the stunt was a successhere I am writing about it. Congrats to you, guy who thinks “the United States is a European country.”

In any case, the incident should make abundantly clear that the alt-right’s racism is incompatible with the principles of a free society. Libertarianism is an individualist philosophy that considers all people deserving of equal rights. In contrast, Spencer is a tribalist and collectivist whose personal commitment to identity politics vastly exceeds the left’s.

Spencer is entitled to broadcast his vile opinions, and to make equal use of public resources. He should not be attacked on the street, or anywhere else. But no private actor is required to give him a platformotherwise, property rights would cease to matter.

ISFLC, an organization that works tirelessly to support the cause of liberty all over the worldnot just for white American college studentshandled the matter correctly, in my view.

Disclaimer: I am a friend of Students for Liberty, and won the organization’s 2016 Alumni of the Year Award.

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Alt-Right Leader Richard Spencer Crashed a Student Libertarian Conference and Was Shunned – Reason (blog)

3.7 Libertarianism Flashcards | Quizlet

Weaknesses (of libertarianism)

1. According to the libertarian, we experience our own freedom when we make choices. But in our dreams, we have the feeling that we are making choices even though we know that dreams are the product of the physiological and psychological causes that produce them. Hence, we can feel as though we are free even though causes are producing our behavior. 2. According to some thinkers, the scientific view of the world is based on the conviction that events follow fixed laws and that there is a cause for everything being the way that it is. If this statement is a correct account of science, does libertarianism then fl y in the face of modern science? If so, because nothing can compete with modern science in unveiling the nature of reality, don’t these facts negate libertarianism? 3. According to libertarianism, every free act is based on a volition or an act of the will. But in a given case, why did a particular volition come about at the precise time that it did and why was it directed toward this or that outcome? (Why did you decide to listen to music at this precise time and not three minutes earlier or later? Why did you decide to listen to this particular CD and not the others that were available?) Isn’t the libertarian forced to admit that either our volitions pop into our heads uncaused (in which case, they are unexplained, indeterministic events that happen to us) or they are the result of previous acts of the will? In the latter case, we are caught in an infinite regress. For example, your decision to listen to music was based on your decision to relax, which was based on your decision to take a break from studying, which was based on your decision to do x, and so on. Doesn’t it seem that libertarianism leads to the notion that our free actions are based on an absurd and impossible infinite series of willings? 4. Isn’t it the case that the better you get to know a person, the more his or her actions are predictable? Doesn’t this finding indicate that the more knowledge we have of people’s past, their personality, and the present circumstances that are affecting them, the more we understand the causes that are operating on them to produce their behavior? Aren’t we convinced that a person’s past experiences are a key to understanding why he or she became a saint or a serial killer? If so, doesn’t this argument undermine libertarianism?

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3.7 Libertarianism Flashcards | Quizlet

Identity Politics and Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

In the past decade, America has experienced an increase in identity politics, centered on race, gender, sexual orientation, and class status. This, combined with a two-party system, has resulted in very divided far Left and far Right ideologies. Identity has become a cornerstone of American politics.

This mindset only serves to further drive the wedge between the Left and the Right, observed through the recent riots at UC Berkeley, where a Left-wing fascist group, ironically calling themselves Antifa (short for Anti-Fascists), deemed violence an appropriate method to silence those whose opinions they disagree with. This collectivist mindset has swept across politics recently, and is now commonplace in the Left-wing progressive movement.

These are people who pretend to be protecting the rights of minority groups, like gays and blacks, but who are quick to label anyone from these minority groups as traitors, coons, and Uncle Toms if they fail to fall in line and preach their message. They fail to see how these people are not part of a group mindset, but are actually individuals with their own opinions and ability to think for themselves. This failure has led to Orwellian ideas like wrongthink, the idea that someones thoughts or expressed opinions can somehow be dangerous and must be met with violence to defend oneself from being assaulted. This of course is a ridiculous and draconian mindset to have.

Of course, as one may expect, the rise of identity politics on the Left has begun to seep into the Right as well, though it is not quite mainstream enough to be able to point to any solid examples. One can easily point to the Left and find numerous examples of identity politics run amok, but the Right has far fewer instances where this is plainly seen. Even the Alt-Right, which also often resorts to name calling and ridicule of anyone who disagrees with them, is more inclusive than far-Left groups.

Libertarianism has no place for identity politics; each person, despite his race, class, gender, or sexual orientation is seen to be an individual and is judged as such. This is why it can be difficult to find two libertarians who agree with one another on many issues outside of the ideologys core principles of property rights, individual freedoms, and so on.

The Libertarian Party is quickly becoming the bastion of individualism, a place for all people to come together and express their ideas without fear of reprisal or violence simply because their ideas do not conform to the collectivist mindset of the Left.

The group mindset is failing, and when the disenfranchised have realized that neither major party supports all of their personal ideals, they will begin to search for something new. The Libertarian Party stands to gain much traction from this shift away from collectivist group-think towards individualist ideology.

When identity politics divides the country into small groups who hate one another, individualism suddenly becomes a uniting force. As such, libertarianism outdoes any other political ideology.

So, to the women, minorities, members of the LGBT community, and anyone else who feels that these characteristics are arbitrary and do not actually define who they are and what they should believe, as the far-Left expects they should, the Libertarian Party is here and we welcome you.

Lets try freedom for a change.

* Christopher Lee McKitrick is a 29 year old New Hampshire native, a US Army veteran, and beer enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.

The main account, used for editorials and guest author submissions. The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions. Contact the Editor at

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Identity Politics and Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

In my opinion: Ditch the two major parties register Libertarian … – Maroon

February 10, 2017 Filed under Op/Ed, Opinions

Back in October, I wrote an editorial urging the Loyola community to check out Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. The successful entrepreneur turned two-term governor of New Mexico garnered nearly 10 percent of the vote in his home state and 3.3 percent nationally, the most a third party presidential candidate has received since independent Ross Perot 20 years earlier.

OK, Johnson still didnt win and never had a chancewhats your point, Ricardo?

Im so glad you asked.

In 2008, the Libertarian candidate got 523,715 votes or 0.40 percent of the popular vote. In 2012, Gary Johnsons first run for the presidency saw 1,275,971 votes or one percent of the popular vote. And this past election cycle, 4,488,931 American voters thought a Libertarian was a better choice than the Democrat under F.B.I. investigation and the Republican who was a reality TV star Cheeto.

One of the main reasons Johnson didnt have a fair chance was because he, along with Green Party candidate Jill Stein, was excluded from the nationally televised presidential debates. The official reason is that he and Stein didnt have the polling numbers to be admitted.

But the bar gets raised higher and higher. Third party candidates are virtually always excluded.

The debate commission calls itself non-partisan and yet the way it operates benefits the two major parties to the detriment of the American people who deserve to hear another voiceone that might actually reflect what they think and feel.

Many voters are afraid to vote for a third party candidate because of whats called the spoiler effect. They fear that by voting for a less popular candidate who actually represents a majority of their views, they are taking away votes from a more popular candidate who doesnt represent a lot of what they want but is better than another major party candidate who is the polar opposite.

Ralph Nader, who ran as a Green in 2000, is often criticized as stealing the election from Al Gore and enabling George H.W. Bush to win, despite evidence to the contrary.

The takeaway message: research the philosophy of libertarianism, see if you agree and when youre ready to fight the two-party system and promote policies of freedom, register to vote as a Libertarian.

Our national platform states that Libertarians stand for the political freedom of everyone, including our ideological opponents.

For more information, visit the College Libertarians at Loyola University New Orleans Facebook page.

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In my opinion: Ditch the two major parties register Libertarian … – Maroon

What is Libertarianism? An Examination of it and Some Resources for Further Research – The Libertarian Republic

by Ian Tartt

You may have heard the term libertarianism, but what does it mean? Simply put, libertarianism is the philosophy that says you have the right to do anything you like as long as you dont violate anyone elses rights or cause unjust harm to another person.

This definition comes from the fact thatwe all own ourselves, a concept which cant be logically denied because any attempt to deny self-ownership would involve using the mouth, the body, and the brain; thus, to attempt to argue against self-ownership requires the use of self-ownership, making any arguments against it self-defeating. Because we own ourselves, we have the right to do with ourselves what we like. As such, libertarians oppose laws prohibiting behavior which may hurt the individual engaging in such behavior but does not hurt anybodyelse (i.e. the War on Drugs).

Now, sincewe own ourselves and must make use of the natural world to live, we also have the right to own property. We can come to own property through homesteading (mixing our labor with un-owned resources) or by trading with the legitimate owner of a piece of property. Thus, other essential components of libertarianism include respect for both property rights and the free exchange of property between individuals.

The above are examples of conclusions drawn from deontological, or natural rights, libertarianism. The other main type of libertarianism is utilitarian, or consequentialist, in nature. Rather than focusing on rights, the utilitarian libertarian opposes overreaching laws and supports free exchange because he believes it will lead to the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Because the conclusions reached by both deontological and utilitarian libertarians are generally the same, the two are normally happy to work with each other to advance freedom.

Unlike many other ideologies, libertarianism focuses more in individuals than on groups. One reason for this is the fact that groups are merely two or more individuals coming together. There can be individuals without groups, but there cant be groups without individuals. Also, respecting the rights of every individual would lead to the same type of equality before the law that most people want to achieve but go about by trying to help groups rather than individuals. For these reasons, libertarianism is a philosophy based on individuals.

While libertarians are mostly in agreement about the justifications for liberty (whether deontological or utilitarian), they often disagree about how to get to a free society. Some use political action (voting, fundraising for candidates, running for office, etc) while others oppose it. Many, whether they affirm or reject political action, will write articles or books and create videos in which they express their ideas. There are frequent clashes over the best strategy to attaina free society; these clashes usually result in setting back the liberty movement rather than advancing it, and thus making it that much harder to recover freedom.

Another point of disagreement, common to libertarians, is over the proper amount of government, or whether there should be a government at all. There are many different types of libertarians, each with their own thoughts on the subject. Some libertarians want the government to return to its Constitutional limits; others want to see it provide nothing more than courts, police, and national defense; and still others want to see all of the useful functions of government handled insteadby private enterprise. Regardless of their ultimate views on government, all libertarians want to see much more freedom than currently exists, and thus would benefit from working together instead of fighting over their differences.

This has been a basic introduction to libertarianism. While the philosophy is simple to explain and understand, one article is wholly insufficient to cover all the views, arguments, subjects, and people that have been part of the liberty movement over its hundreds of years in existence. For those interested in learning about some of the different types of libertarians, heres an article and a video that explain the major differences between them. Julie Borowski has a lot of funny YouTube videos that cover economics, foreign policy, current events, and numerous other subjects. A few prominent libertarian institutions include the Mises Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Reason Foundation. An article containing many links to books, TV ads, speeches, and radio shows from the amazing Harry Browne can be found here.For the bookworms, some great reads include the works of Ron Paul, Harry Browne, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. These are a few of the many great resources available for learning more about libertarianism and should be more than sufficient to give anyone interested a better understanding of the philosophy of liberty.

libertarianismLibertynatural rightsphilosophyutilitarianism

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What is Libertarianism? An Examination of it and Some Resources for Further Research – The Libertarian Republic

A Donald Trump Presidency Indicates The Necessity Of Alt-Right Libertarianism – The Liberty Conservative

The Liberty Conservative
A Donald Trump Presidency Indicates The Necessity Of Alt-Right Libertarianism
The Liberty Conservative
The exit of the TPP should be seen as a welcome sign for libertarians who see the danger in entangling alliances and how the TPP would erode national sovereignty. This bizarre alliance of Neoconservatives, Obama supporters, and Beltway libertarians for …

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A Donald Trump Presidency Indicates The Necessity Of Alt-Right Libertarianism – The Liberty Conservative

*Of Course* Libertarians Are Leading the Charge Against Trump’s Authoritarianism – Reason (blog)

GuardianThe Guardian has pulled together five pieces from conservatives and libertarians who are critical of President Donald Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and policies. I’m happy to be represented in the mix (for my commentary about Trump’s awful, inhumane, and idiotic ban on refugees and travelers from seven countries tied to terrorism). It’s a good mix of people, including some conservative critics (The New York Time’s Ross Douthat, National Review’s David French, Commentary’s Noah Rothman) and Steve Horwitz of Bleeding Heart Libertarians along with yours truly. Here’s a snippet from my piece:

That’s certainly the case with Trump and his orders on sanctuary cities and on immigration and refugee policy. The laws were not just poorly phrased and timed, they clearly will not work to address the basic issues they ostensibly are meant to ameliorate. As Anthony Fisher noted here earlier today, the US embassy in Iraq has said that Trump’s action is a recruitment tool for jihadists, as pro-American Middle Easterners realize they’re being hung out to dry. As for keeping America safe from terrorists entering the country as refugees, the fact is the country has an incredibly safe record.

Read the whole collection of pieces here.

Because no good deed or kind word can go unpunished, I’d like to add a bit of nuance to the way the writer, Jason Wilson, encapsulates his piece. Here’s the headline and subhed:

Burst your bubble: five conservative articles to read as Trump riles libertarians

Some libertarians are reacting with alarm to Donald Trump’s discriminatory executive orders, his authoritarian tendencies and international sabre-rattling

I think it’s accurate to call Douthat, French, and Rothman conservatives, but it’s clear that neither Horwitz or I have nothing to do with conservatism.

Yet the confusion is right there in headline: The “conservative articles” are the product of Trump “ril[ing] libertarians”? Wuh?

I just don’t get the slowness with which people are fully grokking that libertarianism is as distinct from conservativism as it is from progressivism or leftism. I’m not trying to be pedantic or coy here, but there’s a reason why libertarians (certainly those at Reason) were intensely critical of George W. Bush’s executive branch overreach and Barack Obama’s too, while conservatives and liberals generally stayed silent when their guy was doing the power grabbing. And so it makes total sense that libertarians are leading the attacks on Trump’s attempts to be a one-man (or at least one-branch) government. Libertarianism is nothing if not the antithesis of authoritarianism. Always has been, always will be. Be sure to check out Reason’s attitude toward whoever eventually replaces Trump. The minute he (or she) starts down an authoritarian road, we’ll be on the case.

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*Of Course* Libertarians Are Leading the Charge Against Trump’s Authoritarianism – Reason (blog)

Key Concepts of Libertarianism | Cato Institute

The key concepts of libertarianism have developed over many centuries. The first inklings of them can be found in ancient China, Greece, and Israel; they began to be developed into something resembling modern libertarian philosophy in the work of such seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers as John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine.

Individualism. Libertarians see the individual as the basic unit of social analysis. Only individuals make choices and are responsible for their actions. Libertarian thought emphasizes the dignity of each individual, which entails both rights and responsibility. The progressive extension of dignity to more people to women, to people of different religions and different races is one of the great libertarian triumphs of the Western world.

Individual Rights. Because individuals are moral agents, they have a right to be secure in their life, liberty, and property. These rights are not granted by government or by society; they are inherent in the nature of human beings. It is intuitively right that individuals enjoy the security of such rights; the burden of explanation should lie with those who would take rights away.

Spontaneous Order. A great degree of order in society is necessary for individuals to survive and flourish. Its easy to assume that order must be imposed by a central authority, the way we impose order on a stamp collection or a football team. The great insight of libertarian social analysis is that order in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes. Over human history, we have gradually opted for more freedom and yet managed to develop a complex society with intricate organization. The most important institutions in human society language, law, money, and markets all developed spontaneously, without central direction. Civil society the complex network of associations and connections among people is another example of spontaneous order; the associations within civil society are formed for a purpose, but civil society itself is not an organization and does not have a purpose of its own.

The Rule of Law. Libertarianism is not libertinism or hedonism. It is not a claim that people can do anything they want to, and nobody else can say anything. Rather, libertarianism proposes a society of liberty under law, in which individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. The rule of law means that individuals are governed by generally applicable and spontaneously developed legal rules, not by arbitrary commands; and that those rules should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways, not aim at any particular result or outcome.

Limited Government. To protect rights, individuals form governments. But government is a dangerous institution. Libertarians have a great antipathy to concentrated power, for as Lord Acton said, Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thus they want to divide and limit power, and that means especially to limit government, generally through a written constitution enumerating and limiting the powers that the people delegate to government. Limited government is the basic political implication of libertarianism, and libertarians point to the historical fact that it was the dispersion of power in Europe more than other parts of the world that led to individual liberty and sustained economic growth.

Free Markets. To survive and to flourish, individuals need to engage in economic activity. The right to property entails the right to exchange property by mutual agreement. Free markets are the economic system of free individuals, and they are necessary to create wealth. Libertarians believe that people will be both freer and more prosperous if government intervention in peoples economic choices is minimized.

The Virtue of Production. Much of the impetus for libertarianism in the seventeenth century was a reaction against monarchs and aristocrats who lived off the productive labor of other people. Libertarians defended the right of people to keep the fruits of their labor. This effort developed into a respect for the dignity of work and production and especially for the growing middle class, who were looked down upon by aristocrats. Libertarians developed a pre-Marxist class analysis that divided society into two basic classes: those who produced wealth and those who took it by force from others. Thomas Paine, for instance, wrote, There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes. Similarly, Jefferson wrote in 1824, We have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to nonproducers.

Natural Harmony of Interests. Libertarians believe that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. One persons individual plans which may involve getting a job, starting a business, buying a house, and so on may conflict with the plans of others, so the market makes many of us change our plans. But we all prosper from the operation of the free market, and there are no necessary conflicts between farmers and merchants, manufacturers and importers. Only when government begins to hand out rewards on the basis of political pressure do we find ourselves involved in group conflict, pushed to organize and contend with other groups for a piece of political power.

Peace. Libertarians have always battled the age-old scourge of war. They understood that war brought death and destruction on a grand scale, disrupted family and economic life, and put more power in the hands of the ruling class which might explain why the rulers did not always share the popular sentiment for peace. Free men and women, of course, have often had to defend their own societies against foreign threats; but throughout history, war has usually been the common enemy of peaceful, productive people on all sides of the conflict.

It may be appropriate to acknowledge at this point the readers likely suspicion that libertarianism seems to be just the standard framework of modern thought individualism, private property, capitalism, equality under the law. Indeed, after centuries of intellectual, political, and sometimes violent struggle, these core libertarian principles have become the basic structure of modern political thought and of modern government, at least in the West and increasingly in other parts of the world.

However, three additional points need to be made: first, libertarianism is not just these broad liberal principles. Libertarianism applies these principles fully and consistently, far more so than most modern thinkers and certainly more so than any modern government. Second, while our society remains generally based on equal rights and capitalism, every day new exceptions to those principles are carved out in Washington and in Albany, Sacramento, and Austin (not to mention London, Bonn, Tokyo, and elsewhere). Each new government directive takes a little bit of our freedom, and we should think carefully before giving up any liberty. Third, liberal society is resilient; it can withstand many burdens and continue to flourish; but it is not infinitely resilient. Those who claim to believe in liberal principles but advocate more and more confiscation of the wealth created by productive people, more and more restrictions on voluntary interaction, more and more exceptions to property rights and the rule of law, more and more transfer of power from society to state, are unwittingly engaged in the ultimately deadly undermining of civilization.

From Chapter 1, The Coming Libertarian Age, Libertarianism: A Primer, by David Boaz (New York: The Free Press, 1998). See also

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Key Concepts of Libertarianism | Cato Institute

Why Libertarianism is wrong – Ozean Media

I am feeling energetic today, and I thought I would tackle an issue that I have been thinking about for weeks now. As with many deep discussions, it started with a beer between friends.

The topic of discussions were the merits of Libertarians and the philosophy.

Maybe it is the contrarianin me, but Ive come to the conclusion that I think the Libertarians philosophy is wrong.

Before we begin, there are some ideas from Libertarians that I find attractive I like the idea of a smaller government, and I like the idea of allowing markets to operate more freely; however, when you take a Libertarians at their word, I think the entire philosophy starts to break down.

First lets define Libertarian as I see it:

Again, we are going to take Libertarians at their word, and we are going to set aside the contradictory notion that people who think everyone should live their lives as they want, attempt to make the world operate under their philosophy.

I also do understand there are different strands of Libertarianism ranging from Chomsky to Paul but for this blog post, we are going to work with the definition above.

Lets start with the light lifting:

1) At its heart Libertarianism is incredibly selfish. Libertarians wont call it that, but at its core, Libertarianism is indulgent, narcissistic, and just plain selfish.

2) The current Libertarianism coalition will split among social issues. Libertarians are cool kids at the moment.

When I attend Libertarian meetings, I see friends. Some of these friends I KNOW for a fact are conservative Christians. At the moment, economic issues are more salient to them; therefore, they are willing to caucus with the Libertarians to work on those issues.

However, as a country, we dont have the luxury of working only on fiscal issues. Social issues will come up and they will matter when that happens the current libertarian coalition will splinter.

That is a problem with breaking away from the GOP when you are forced to put on paper what it actually means to be a Libertarian, it fractures the current Libertarian club.

3) Libertarianism is cruel. Markets fail and markets are unfeeling and damn right cruel. Here is a thought exercise: If someone is in the process of making a terrible decision that will result in their immediate death, do we watch them die or intervene?

4) There are some societal functions that do not respond to markets. Example: Pollution. If totally unregulated, corporations will pollute. Okay, if you assume eventually the market will correct it, eventually may take 20 years and in the meantime an entire generation of children have jelly for brains.

5) If markets are completely unregulated, then all market segments will naturally move towards monopolies. There will be collusion to maximize profits. Humans cheat, that is what we do. So in the end, if you take Libertarians at their word, we all end up slaves to large monopolies and are at their whim. Ironically, the effort to decentralize has the result of centralizing power and economic wealth.

6) When disputes arise, who decides? If you are on your property blaring Lawrence Welk music at 2 am in the morning declaring your Liberty, am I not harmed? Yes, you have the right to your property and I have the right to sanity? Who wins? Who decides? Is it just the strongest person able to force their will? Is it Lord of the Flies? You just cant say we have a court someone wins who is it? Who decides the restrictions on rights?

Ok, but here is some heavy lifting:

7) In my opinion, humans are not wired for Libertarianism, and the philosophy does not make sense with my understanding of the human condition.

If you read anything about human decision making, it is highly irrational.

When given unlimited choices, humans suffer from the paradox of choice. In the face of unlimited choice humans freeze, become anxious, and indecisive. We just dont know what in the hell to do with ourselves.

8) Finally, in my biggest criticism, from all of my reading of modern psychology, absolute freedom is not good for humans.

Again, if we take Libertarians at their word everyone decides what is good for themselves and retreats to their plot of land. If that happens, there is no community, no common bonds.

PLEASE do not mistake me for some collective liberal, Im not.

But in its purest form, there is nothing binding people together. There is no core.

This is in conflict with our natural tendencies to form groups.

What we are talking about is achievinganomie,the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community.

When we sever these human connections, we see scientific evidence in the rise of suicide and all kinds of ills.

Humans are just not wired for Libertarianism.

For example, if everyone retreats to their acre and we have nothing in common, we no longer have a country. Even our founding fathers (who were Libertarian leaning) realized there must be something that binds us together.

In summation, there must be something MORE that binds us together other than roads, military, and courts.


9) No Libertarian can make a coherent argument of HOW to get to a Libertarian vision.

Some have proposed moving en mass toNew Hampshire others want a floating boat in international water(not kidding).

However, even over beer, no one has been able to express to me the HOW. They can tell me what is currently wrong, they can tell me their vision for the future, but they cant tell me HOW.

Most just selfishly say BLOW IT UP. The irresponsibility to humanity that comes with BLOW IT UP is mind blowing.

Every time I end up taking a path down Libertarianism, I end up in treacherous landscape.

Choice? Yeah, well if the South wants slaves, then so be it. (Rand Paul, later retracted)

Taxes? Revolution!

Nothing but roads, military, and courts? What about currency? Multiple currencies and bit coins for all and when something goes wrong? Markets baby!

Education? Private schools for all? But difficult students who require more attention, time and effort? There will be little profit in that! Do we not educate them and turn them lose in society with no skills? Do they not then commit crimes? OK, home school everyone? What if the parent can barely read? Do they get to homeschool? If not, who regulates?

Again, it is interesting, but for me, it just breaks down the more you think. The more you move away from bumper stickers, Libertarianism collapses when it meets with the human condition.

There is always tension between freedom, rights, protection, security, and fairness. There should be.

In my opinion, most Libertarians I have discussed this with seem to have an overly simplistic worldview and simplistic understanding of the human condition.

As you may know, I rejectabsolutismto any philosophy. For me, these philosophies (Libertarianism, capitalism, etc) are a little like simplified economic models. They have little basis in reality, but are helpful for learning concepts and testing.

When we place the philosophies next to each other, for me the truth lies some where in-between the pure forms. The right answer lies in the tension between the choices.

The entire key is to keep things in equilibrium. My equilibrium is leaningtowards Libertarianism, but with nuance and conditions.

The problem is there is not an ideologue in the world that would agree with me on that and have a discussion on the location of the line.

PS. As a final thought Isolationism is plain wrong.



Why Libertarianism is wrong – Ozean Media

Introduction to Libertarianism | A Guide

Libertarianism is the philosophy of freedom.

Its not easy to define freedom. The author Leonard Read said, Freedom is the absence of man-concocted restraints against the release of creative energy. The Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek referred to a state in which each can use his knowledge for his purpose and also to the possibility of a persons acting according to his own decisions and plans, in contrast to the position of one who was irrevocably subject to the will of another, who by arbitrary decision could coerce him to act or not to act in specific ways. Perhaps its best to understand freedom as the absence of physical force or the threat of physical force. John Locke offered this definition of freedom under the rule of law:

[T]he end of Law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge Freedom: For in all the states of created beings capable of Laws, where there is no Law, there is no Freedom. For Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others which cannot be, where there is no Law: But Freedom is not, as we are told, A Liberty for every Man to do what he lists: (For who could be free, when every other Mans Humour might domineer over him?) But a Liberty to dispose, and order, as he lists, his Persons, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the Allowance of those Laws under which he is; and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary Will of another, but freely follow his own.

That is, a free person is not subject to the arbitrary will of another and is free to do as he chooses with his own person and property. But you can only have those freedoms when the law protects your freedom and everyone elses.

However we define freedom, we can certainly recognize aspects of it. Freedom means respecting the moral autonomy of each person, seeing each person as the owner of his or her own life, and each free to make the important decisions about his life.

Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others. Libertarians defend each persons right to life, liberty, and propertyrights that people possess naturally, before governments are instituted. In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used forceactions such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.

Libertarians believe in the presumption of liberty. That is, libertarians believe people ought to be free to live as they choose unless advocates of coercion can make a compelling case. Its the exercise of power, not the exercise of freedom, that requires justification. The burden of proof ought to be on those who want to limit our freedom.

The presumption of liberty should be as strong as the presumption of innocence in a criminal trial, for the same reason. Just as you cant prove your innocence of all possible charges against you, you cannot justify all of the ways in which you should be allowed to act. James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, said in response to a proposal that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution: Enumerate all the rights of man! I am sure, sirs, that no gentleman in the late Convention would have attempted such a thing.

Why do libertarians value freedom? There are many reasons.

Freedom allows each of us to define the meaning of life, to define whats important to us. Each of us should be free to think, to speak, to write, to paint, to create, to marry, to eat and drink and smoke, to start and run a business, to associate with others as we choose. When we are free, we can construct our lives as we see fit. Freedom is part of whats needed to lead a full human life.

Freedom leads to social harmony. We have less conflict when we have fewer specific commands and prohibitions about how we should livein terms of class or caste, religion, dress, lifestyle, or schools.

Economic freedom means that people are free to produce and to exchange with others. Freely negotiated and agreed-upon prices carry information throughout the economy about what people want and what can be done more efficiently. For an economic order to function, prices must be free to tell the truth. A free economy gives people incentives to invent, innovate, and produce more goods and services for the whole society. That means more satisfaction of more wants, more economic growth, and a higher standard of living for everyone.

A political system of liberty gives us the opportunity to use our talents and to cooperate with others to create and produce, with the help of a few simple institutions that protect our rights. And those simple institutionsproperty rights, the rule of law, a prohibition on the initiation of forcemake possible invention, innovation, and progress in commerce, technology, and styles of living.

In barely 250 years of having widespread economic freedom, weve escaped from the back-breaking labor and short life expectancy that were the natural lot of mankind since time immemorial to the abundance we see around us today in more and more parts of the worldthough not yet enough of the world.

What does valuing freedom mean for the libertarian view of government?

For libertarians, the basic political issue is the relationship of the individual to the state. What rights do individuals have (if any)? What form of government (if any) will best protect those rights? What powers should government have? What demands may individuals make on one another through the mechanism of government?

We try to discover the rules that govern the world, and rules that will enable us all to live together and realize those wonderful rights in the Declaration of Independencelife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The worst governments are tyrannical predators; the best embody attempts at providing the framework of rules we need to live together.

We know who and what government is. It isnt some Platonic ideal. Government is people, specifically people using force against other people. We need some method to constrain and punish the violent, the thieves and fraudsters, and other dangers to our freedom, our rights, and our security. But that shouldnt eliminate our skepticism about empowering some people to use force against others. The power that government holds is wielded by real people, not ideal people, and real people are imperfect. Some are corrupt, some are even evil. Some of the worst are actually attracted to state power. But even the well-intentioned, the honest, and the wise are still just people exercising power over other people.

Thats why Americans have always feared the concentration of power. Its why I often say that Smokey the Bears rules for fire safety apply to government: Keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep an eye on it.

Libertarians, as the name implies, believe that the most important political value is liberty, not democracy. Many modern readers may wonder, whats the difference? Arent liberty and democracy the same thing?

Theyre not. Much of the confusion stems from two different senses of the word liberty, a distinction notably explored by the nineteenth-century French libertarian Benjamin Constant in an essay titled The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns. Constant noted that to the ancient Greek writers the idea of liberty meant the right to participate in public life, in making decisions for the entire community. Thus Athens was a free polity because all the citizensthat is, all the free, adult, Athenian mencould go to the public square and participate in the decision-making process. Socrates, indeed, was free because he could participate in the collective decision to execute him for his heretical opinions. The modern concept of liberty, however, emphasizes the right of individuals to live as they choose, to speak and worship freely, to own property, to engage in commerce, to be free from arbitrary arrest or detentionin Constants words, to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives and undertakings. A government based on the participation of the governed is a valuable safeguard for individual rights, but liberty itself is the right to make choices and to pursue projects of ones own choosing.

I have attempted to sketch here what it means to be a libertarian. There are many kinds of libertarians, of course. Some are people who might describe themselves as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or say they want the government out of my pocketbook and out of my bedroom. Some believe in the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and want the government to remain within the limits of the Constitution. Some just have an instinctive belief in freedom or an instinctive aversion to being told what to do. Some are admirers of Dr. Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, and their campaigns against war, government spending, the surveillance state, and the Federal Reserve. Some like the writings of Thomas Jefferson or John Stuart Mill. Some have studied economics. Some have learned from history that governments always seek to expand their size, scope, and power, and must be constrained to preserve freedom. Some have noticed that war, prohibition, cronyism, racial and religious discrimination, protectionism, central planning, welfare, taxes, and government spending have deleterious effects. Some are so radical they think all goods and services could be provided without a state. In this Guide, I welcome all those people to the libertarian cause. When I talk about libertarian ideas, I mean to include the ideas of thinkers from John Locke and Adam Smith to F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick, and Richard Epstein.

The old ideologies have been tried and found wanting. All around usfrom the postcommunist world to the military dictatorships of Africa to the insolvent welfare states of Europe and the Americaswe see the failed legacy of coercion and statism. At the same time we see moves toward libertarian solutions constitutional government in Eastern Europe and South Africa, privatization in Britain and Latin America, democracy and the rule of law in South Korea and Taiwan, the spread of womens rights and gay rights, and economic liberalization in China, India, and even some countries in Africa. Challenges to freedom remain, of course, including the continuing lack of Enlightenment values in much of the world, the unsustainable welfare states in the rich countries and the interests that fight reform, the recurring desire for centralized and top-down political institutions such as the Eurozone, Islamist theocracy, and the spread of populist, antilibertarian responses to social change and economic crisis. Libertarianism offers an alternative to coercive government that should appeal to peaceful, productive people everywhere.

No, a libertarian world wont be a perfect one. There will still be inequality, poverty, crime, corruption, mans inhumanity to man. But unlike the theocratic visionaries, the pie-in-the-sky socialist utopians, or the starry-eyed Mr. Fixits of the New Deal and Great Society, libertarians dont promise you a rose garden. Karl Popper once said that attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell. Libertarianism holds out the goal not of a perfect society but of a better and freer one. It promises a world in which more of the decisions will be made in the right way by the right person: you. The result will be not an end to crime and poverty and inequality but lessoften much lessof most of those things most of the time.

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Introduction to Libertarianism | A Guide

Negative and Positive Liberty |

Jason Brennan opens the second chapter of Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know with the question: How do libertarians define liberty? He answers his question by distinguishing between two major kinds of liberty: negative liberty and positive liberty. Negative liberty, Brennan explains, signifies an absence of obstacles, impediments, or constraints. Positive liberty, in contrast,

is the power or capacity to do as one chooses. For instance, when we talk about being free as a bird, we mean that the bird has the power or ability to fly. We do not mean that people rarely interfere with birds.

Negative liberty is the absence of obstacles; positive liberty is the presence of powers or abilities.

Brennans bird does not serve his purpose; it is a poor example. When we speak of being free as a bird, we dont usually mean what Brennan claims we mean. To be free as a bird suggests more than the power or ability to fly. It also suggests that the exercise of that ability is not hindered by external constraints. The fantasy of being free as a bird is linked to the desire to be free from external constraintsor, as Brennan puts it in his account of negative liberty, to act in the absence of obstacles.

The connection between the ability to fly and negative freedom is expressed in these famous lyrics from The Prisoners Song:

Now, if I had the wings of an angel, Over these prison walls I would fly.

When we speak of a bird as being free to fly, we assume that the bird in question has not been confined in a cage. We would not normally speak, for example, of a caged canary as being free to fly. This way of speaking suggests that a bird can exercise its ability to fly without external constraints, such as by being locked in a cage. The notion of negative freedom is, at the very least, an implicit presupposition of all such examples.

Of course, a caged bird may be free to fly around inside his cage to some extent, just as a human prisoner in solitary confinement may be free to walk within the confines of his tiny cell. Such cases illustrate the fact that negative freedom, or liberty (the terms are normally used interchangeably), may exist in varying degrees. But to say that a prisoner possesses the positive freedom to walk merely because he possesses the power or ability to walk (as Brennans bird is said to be free to fly in virtue of its ability to fly) is to use the word freedom in a peculiar way.

According to the positive conception of freedom (as summarized by Brennan), the fact of imprisonment would not even diminish a prisoners freedom to walk, so long as he remains able to walk. Even a prisoner bound tightly in chains would still be free to walk in the positive sense, provided he retained the ability to walk. When we say that a chained prisoner is not free to walk, we mean that he is constrained and therefore lacks the negative freedom to walk as he chooses, not that he lacks the power or ability to walk per se.

I may seem to be nitpicking here, and so I might be if not for Brennans attempt to incorporate positive liberty into libertarian theory. As he puts it (p. 27):

Until recently, most libertarians tended to argue that the only real kind of liberty is negative liberty. The believed the concept of positive liberty was confused. For a long time, the status quo was that libertarians and classical liberals advocated a negative conception of liberty, while left-liberals, socialists, and Marxists advocated a positive conception of liberty.

Brennan assures us that the status quo has begun to change: Recently, though, many libertarians have begun to accept both negative and positive liberty.

When contemporary libertarians say they want a free society, they mean that they want both (1) a society in which people do not interfere with each other and (2) a society in which most people have the means and ability to achieve their goals.

I confess to being unclear about the identity of the many libertarians who embrace positive liberty; but judging by Brennans subsequent mention of a book he co-authored with David Schmidtz, he appears to mean neoclassical liberals. In his recommended readings at the end of his book, Brennan lists four authors (including himself) under the heading Neoclassical Liberalism.

Now, there are probably a few more neoclassical liberals roaming the halls of academe, and I wont quibble over how many libertarians it takes to qualify as many libertarians. But when Brennan moves from many libertarians to his much broader statement about what contemporary libertarians supposedly believe about positive liberty, I must question his sense of proportion.

Consider Brennans next statement: Until recently, most libertarians rejected the concept of positive liberty. Until recently? Admittedly, I am not as active in the libertarian movement as I once was, but I doubt if I missed a sea change in regard to what most libertarians (including conventional classical liberals) think about the notion of positive liberty.

Brennan is again exaggerating the influence of his band of neoclassical liberals. A handful of academic philosophers does not a movement make.

Lets proceed to the more substantive problems in Brennans account. Why was the notion of positive liberty traditionally rejected by libertarians? According to Brennan, libertarians thought that if positive libertyunderstood as the power to achieve ones endscounted as a form of liberty, this would automatically license socialism and a heavy welfare state. Since they opposed socialism and a heavy welfare state, they rejected the concept of positive liberty.

This explanation is neither accurate nor fair; traditional libertarian objections to positive liberty were far more sophisticated than Brennan would have us believe. I will cover some of those objections in my next essay. For now, we should try to understand what the point of all this is. Why, for instance, do we find Brennan (p. 28) asking this loaded question: Why do many libertarians now accept positive liberty? Brennan explains:

Contemporary libertarians tend to embrace positive liberty. They agree that the power to achieve ones goals really is a form of liberty. They agree with Marxists and socialists that this form of liberty is valuable, and that negative liberty without positive liberty is often of little value.

Permit me to be blunt: contemporary libertarians, on the whole, tend to embrace no such thing. They do not agree with Marxists and socialists on this matter. On the contrary, they tend to argue that positive liberty is not a form of liberty at all, if by form we mean to suggest that positive and negative liberty are two species of the same genus. Rather, as Murray Rothbard wrote in Power and Market (p. 221), freedom pertains to interference by other persons. The word, in a social context, refers to absence of molestation by other persons; it is purely an interpersonal problem.

I see no evidence to indicate that the mainstream of libertarian thinking has changed substantially from this description of liberty given in 1773 by the American clergyman Simeon Howard:

Though this word [liberty] is used in various senses, I mean by it here, only that liberty which is opposed to external force and constraint and to such force and constraint only, as we may suffer from men. Under the term liberty, taken in this sense, may naturally be comprehended all those advantages which are liable to be destroyed by the art or power of men; everything that is opposed to temporal slavery.

According to this approach, negative liberty (the absence of coercive interference by others) is itself the fundamental means by which individuals are enabled to pursue their own values as they see fit. Brennan doesnt disagree with this assertion, as we see in his remark (p. 29) that protecting negative liberties is the most important and effective way of promoting positive liberty.

Thus, a commitment to positive liberty does not license socialism; it forbids it. Marxists say that positive liberty is the only real liberty. This real liberty is found in market societies, and almost nowhere else.

Brennan obviously wishes to turn the notion of positive liberty against socialists and other advocates of expansive governmental powers; whether his efforts are successful is a problem I shall take up at a later time. For now I wish only to point out that everything Brennan wants to say could easily be said without dragging in the notion of positive liberty at all. What we have here, in my judgment, is a type of political correctness run amok.

Will socialists, seduced by Brennans endorsement of positive liberty, see the light and agree that free markets are the best means to attain their cherished goal of positive liberty for everyone? As the old saying goes, there are two chances of this happening: fat and slim. By needlessly incorporating positive liberty into libertarian theory and, even worse, by claiming that negative liberty without positive liberty often has no value, Brennan has opened the barn door so wide as to admit all manner of anti-libertarian proposals.

Brennan appeals to historical fact to support his claim that free markets are the best way to achieve positive liberty. He would have gotten no objection from me if he had simply said, as Murray Rothbard put it in Power and Market (pp. 221-22), that it is precisely voluntary exchange and free capitalism that have led to an enormous improvement in living standards. Capitalist production is the only method by which poverty can be wiped out. But this straightforward claim wasnt good enough for Brennan, who succumbed to the desire to put old wine in a new libertarian bottle labeled positive liberty.

In short, Brennans attempt to incorporate positive liberty into libertarian theory accomplishes nothing more than to transform a strong argument for free markets into an argument that is perilously weak.

Anyone concerned with historical fact needs to understand why the notion of positive liberty proved so destructive to the negative liberty defended by classical liberals and libertarians. This will be the subject of my next essay.

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Negative and Positive Liberty |

Libertarianism (metaphysics) – Wikipedia

Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics.[1] In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position,[2][3] argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.[4] Although compatibilism, the view that determinism and free will are in fact compatible, is the most popular position on free will amongst professional philosophers,[5] metaphysical libertarianism is discussed, though not necessarily endorsed, by several philosophers, such as Peter van Inwagen, Robert Kane, Robert Nozick,[6]Carl Ginet, Harry Frankfurt, E.J. Lowe, Alfred Mele, Roderick Chisholm, Daniel Dennett,[7] and Galen Strawson.[8]

The first recorded use of the term “libertarianism” was in 1789 by William Belsham in a discussion of free will and in opposition to “necessitarian” (or determinist) views.[9][10]

Metaphysical libertarianism is one philosophical view point under that of incompatibilism. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.

Accounts of libertarianism subdivide into non-physical theories and physical or naturalistic theories. Non-physical theories hold that the events in the brain that lead to the performance of actions do not have an entirely physical explanation, and consequently the world is not closed under physics. Such interactionist dualists believe that some non-physical mind, will, or soul overrides physical causality.

Explanations of libertarianism that do not involve dispensing with physicalism require physical indeterminism, such as probabilistic subatomic particle behavior a theory unknown to many of the early writers on free will. Physical determinism, under the assumption of physicalism, implies there is only one possible future and is therefore not compatible with libertarian free will. Some libertarian explanations involve invoking panpsychism, the theory that a quality of mind is associated with all particles, and pervades the entire universe, in both animate and inanimate entities. Other approaches do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe; ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the “elbow room” believed to be necessary by libertarians.

Free volition is regarded as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of indeterminism. An example of this kind of approach has been developed by Robert Kane,[11] where he hypothesises that,

In each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposesa hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which has to be overcome by effort.

At the time C. S. Lewis wrote Miracles,[12]quantum mechanics (and physical indeterminism) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, but still Lewis stated the logical possibility that, if the physical world was proved to be indeterministic, this would provide an entry (interaction) point into the traditionally viewed closed system, where a scientifically described physically probable/improbable event could be philosophically described as an action of a non-physical entity on physical reality. He states, however, that none of the arguments in his book will rely on this.[citation needed]

Nozick puts forward an indeterministic theory of free will in Philosophical Explanations.[6]

When human beings become agents through reflexive self-awareness, they express their agency by having reasons for acting, to which they assign weights. Choosing the dimensions of one’s identity is a special case, in which the assigning of weight to a dimension is partly self-constitutive. But all acting for reasons is constitutive of the self in a broader sense, namely, by its shaping one’s character and personality in a manner analogous to the shaping that law undergoes through the precedent set by earlier court decisions. Just as a judge does not merely apply the law but to some degree makes it through judicial discretion, so too a person does not merely discover weights but assigns them; one not only weighs reasons but also weights them. Set in train is a process of building a framework for future decisions that we are tentatively committed to.

The lifelong process of self-definition in this broader sense is construed indeterministically by Nozick. The weighting is “up to us” in the sense that it is undetermined by antecedent causal factors, even though subsequent action is fully caused by the reasons one has accepted. He compares assigning weights in this deterministic sense to “the currently orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics”, following von Neumann in understanding a quantum mechanical system as in a superposition or probability mixture of states, which changes continuously in accordance with quantum mechanical equations of motion and discontinuously via measurement or observation that “collapses the wave packet” from a superposition to a particular state. Analogously, a person before decision has reasons without fixed weights: he is in a superposition of weights. The process of decision reduces the superposition to a particular state that causes action.

Kane is one of the leading contemporary philosophers on free will.[13][14][verification needed] Advocating what is termed within philosophical circles “libertarian freedom”, Kane argues that “(1) the existence of alternative possibilities (or the agent’s power to do otherwise) is a necessary condition for acting freely, and that (2) determinism is not compatible with alternative possibilities (it precludes the power to do otherwise)”.[15] It is important to note that the crux of Kane’s position is grounded not in a defense of alternative possibilities (AP) but in the notion of what Kane refers to as ultimate responsibility (UR). Thus, AP is a necessary but insufficient criterion for free will.[citation needed] It is necessary that there be (metaphysically) real alternatives for our actions, but that is not enough; our actions could be random without being in our control. The control is found in “ultimate responsibility”.

Ultimate responsibility entails that agents must be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends and purposes. There must be more than one way for a person’s life to turn out (AP). More importantly, whichever way it turns out must be based in the person’s willing actions. As Kane defines it,

UR: An agent is ultimately responsible for some (event or state) E’s occurring only if (R) the agent is personally responsible for E’s occurring in a sense which entails that something the agent voluntarily (or willingly) did or omitted either was, or causally contributed to, E’s occurrence and made a difference to whether or not E occurred; and (U) for every X and Y (where X and Y represent occurrences of events and/or states) if the agent is personally responsible for X and if Y is an arche (sufficient condition, cause or motive) for X, then the agent must also be personally responsible for Y.

In short, “an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason (condition, cause or motive) for the action’s occurring.”[16]

What allows for ultimacy of creation in Kane’s picture are what he refers to as “self-forming actions” or SFAs those moments of indecision during which people experience conflicting wills. These SFAs are the undetermined, regress-stopping voluntary actions or refraining in the life histories of agents that are required for UR. UR does not require that every act done of our own free will be undetermined and thus that, for every act or choice, we could have done otherwise; it requires only that certain of our choices and actions be undetermined (and thus that we could have done otherwise), namely SFAs. These form our character or nature; they inform our future choices, reasons and motivations in action. If a person has had the opportunity to make a character-forming decision (SFA), they are responsible for the actions that are a result of their character.

Randolph Clarke objects that Kane’s depiction of free will is not truly libertarian but rather a form of compatibilism.[citation needed] The objection asserts that although the outcome of an SFA is not determined, one’s history up to the event is; so the fact that an SFA will occur is also determined. The outcome of the SFA is based on chance,[citation needed] and from that point on one’s life is determined. This kind of freedom, says Clarke, is no different than the kind of freedom argued for by compatibilists, who assert that even though our actions are determined, they are free because they are in accordance with our own wills, much like the outcome of an SFA.[citation needed]

Kane responds that the difference between causal indeterminism and compatibilism is “ultimate control the originative control exercised by agents when it is ‘up to them’ which of a set of possible choices or actions will now occur, and up to no one and nothing else over which the agents themselves do not also have control”.[17] UR assures that the sufficient conditions for one’s actions do not lie before one’s own birth.

Galen Strawson holds that there is a fundamental sense in which free will is impossible, whether determinism is true or not. He argues for this position with what he calls his “basic argument”, which aims to show that no-one is ever ultimately morally responsible for their actions, and hence that no one has free will in the sense that usually concerns us.

In his book defending compatibilism, Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennett spends a chapter criticising Kane’s theory.[7] Kane believes freedom is based on certain rare and exceptional events, which he calls self-forming actions or SFA’s. Dennett notes that there is no guarantee such an event will occur in an individual’s life. If it does not, the individual does not in fact have free will at all, according to Kane. Yet they will seem the same as anyone else. Dennett finds an essentially indetectable notion of free will to be incredible.

Frankfurt counterexamples[18] (also known as Frankfurt cases or Frankfurt-style cases) were presented by philosopher Harry Frankfurt in 1969 as counterexamples to the “principle of alternative possibilities” or PAP, which holds that an agent is morally responsible for an action only if they have the option of free will (i.e. they could have done otherwise).

The principle of alternate possibilities forms part of an influential argument for the incompatibility of responsibility and causal determinism, as detailed below:

Traditionally, compatibilists (defenders of the compatibility of moral responsibility and determinism, like Alfred Ayer and Walter Terence Stace) try to reject premise two, arguing that, properly understood, free will is not incompatible with determinism. According to the traditional analysis of free will, an agent is free to do otherwise when they would have done otherwise had they wanted to do otherwise.[19] Agents may possess free will, according to the conditional analysis, even if determinism is true.

From the PAP definition “a person is morally responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise”,[20] Frankfurt infers that a person is not morally responsible for what they have done if they could not have done otherwise a point with which he takes issue: our theoretical ability to do otherwise, he says, does not necessarily make it possible for us to do otherwise.

Frankfurt’s examples are significant because they suggest an alternative way to defend compatibilism, in particular by rejecting the first premise of the argument. According to this view, responsibility is compatible with determinism because responsibility does not require the freedom to do otherwise.

Frankfurt’s examples involve agents who are intuitively responsible for their behavior even though they lack the freedom to act otherwise. Here is a typical case:

Donald is a Democrat and is likely to vote for the Democrats; in fact, only in one particular circumstance will he not: that is, if he thinks about the prospects of immediate American defeat in Iraq just prior to voting. Ms. White, a representative of the Democratic Party, wants to ensure that Donald votes Democratic, so she secretly plants a device in Donald’s head that, if activated, will force him to vote Democratic. Not wishing to reveal her presence unnecessarily, Ms White plans to activate the device only if Donald thinks about the Iraq War prior to voting. As things happen, Donald does not think about the Democrats’ promise to ensure defeat in Iraq prior to voting, so Ms White thus sees no reason to activate the device, and Donald votes Democratic of his own accord. Apparently, Donald is responsible for voting Democratic in spite of the fact that, owing to Ms. White’s device, he lacks freedom to do otherwise.

If Frankfurt is correct in suggesting both that Donald is morally responsible for voting Democratic and that he is not free to do otherwise, moral responsibility, in general, does not require that an agent have the freedom to do otherwise (that is, the principle of alternate possibilities is false). Thus, even if causal determinism is true, and even if determinism removes the freedom to do otherwise, there is no reason to doubt that people can still be morally responsible for their behavior.

Having rebutted the principle of alternate possibilities, Frankfurt suggests that it be revised to take into account the fallacy of the notion that coercion precludes an agent from moral responsibility. It must be only because of coercion that the agent acts as they do. The best definition, by his reckoning, is this: “[A] person is not morally responsible for what they have done if they did it only because they could not have done otherwise.”[21]

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Libertarianism (metaphysics) – Wikipedia | Exploring the theory and history of …

Justice, prosperity, responsibility, tolerance, cooperation, and peace.

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by Yves Guyot in 1910

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What do libertarians think about issues in public policy? Jeffrey Miron applies economic thinking to a variety of policy questions, building a picture of what a libertarian world might look like.

Jeffrey A. Miron is a Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Harvards Economics Department.

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Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of US foreign and domestic policy. He has since established himself as a prominent and prolific political philosopher and commentator; he is a self-declared anarcho-syndicalist as an adherent of libertarian socialism, which he regards as “the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society.”

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