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Below is a guestpost by Cory Massimino, left libertarian and friend to The Stag Blog. Since left vs. right, thick vs. thin, humanitarian vs. brutalist debates have been popular within libertarian circles lately, The Stag Blog decided to dive in. Have something to say? Comment below. Want to call Cory a filthy commie in more words than a comment? Email me (LucyStag@gmail.com) and add your voice to the debate! — LS

Recently the topic of left libertarianism has become a popular point of debate on certain social media. Despite there being more left libertarians than at any time in recent memory, a lot of libertarians (and other people) are still using the term incorrectly.

Left libertarianism has historically been used to refer to a wide spectrum of political (or apolitical to be more exact) ideologies. I would like to clarify what the label most accurately means in contemporary discourse and where the people who identify as such are drawing from. I would also like to outline the basic views of modern left libertarians — despite it still being an extremely broad spectrum — and to dispel some of the most common myths.

What Left Libertarianism Is

Left libertarianism is the distinct version of libertarianism that integrates traditionally leftist values with libertarian anti-state values.

Those leftist values include, but are not limited to:

Of course left libertarians are still libertarians, and historically libertarian values are also important. Those include, but aren’t limited to:

In this vein, left libertarians oppose all kinds of state taxation, regulation, subsidies, and embrace competition in all areas of the economy:

In this sense, left-libertarianism continues the tradition started by the 19th century individualist anarchists, such as Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Josiah Warren, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Voltairine de Cleyre, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Hodgskin, and others. This strain of libertarianism is seen today by the likes of the Center for a Stateless Society and in the work of Gary Chartier, Roderick Long, Kevin Carson, Sheldon Richman, James Tuttle, Samuel Edward Konkin, Anthony Gregory*, Chris Mathew Sciabarra, Karl Hess, Charles Johnson, and others.

Left libertarianism is ultimately about rejecting authoritarianism: whether it is via the direct use of coercion like when a politician extorts people every April 15th; or whether it is via economic subjugation like when a boss yells inane orders at his employee who has no other viable option; or whether it is via cultural oppression like when a husband mistreats his wife and gets away with it.

What Left Libertarianism Is Not

There is no shortage of confusion and mischaracterization about what left libertarianism actually is. Here are some of the most popular myths set straight:

1. Left libertarians are not communists. As stated above, left libertarians support robust property rights, whether in the form of Lockean/Rothbardian rights or in the Mutualist sense. Either way, left libertarians are staunch advocates of private property and markets because of their perceived moral foundations and/or their good social consequences.

2. Left libertarians are not corporate apologists. Despite supporting the complete abolition of economic intervention by the state, left libertarians are strongly anti-corporation. In fact, it is because of their anti-statism that they are anti-corporation. Left libertarians identity modern corporate domination as being strictly tied to the state and without government granted privileges, corporations would be much less powerful and possibly go away completely.

3. Left libertarians are not “bleeding heart libertarians.” Though some of the bloggers over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians identify as left libertarians, not all left libertarians are BHLers. Historically, left libertarianism has been associated with the libertarian anarchist tradition. It would be a broad view of left libertarianism that included non-anarchists (there are a few BHL anarchists, however). In short, bleeding heart libertarianism can be a kind of left libertarianism, but they are not synonymous.

4. Left libertarians can be Austrian. There are many left libertarians, such as Roderick Long, that identify as Austrian school. There is nothing contradictory about embracing praxeology, the subjective theory of value, Austrian business cycle theory, etc. in addition to left libertarianism. They are not mutually exclusive.

5. Left libertarians are not statists. While left libertarians oppose certain cultural and social practices, that doesn’t mean they want to combat them with force. Despite aligning with radical feminism, left libertarians don’t want to use the state to combat patriarchy. In fact, they often view state power and patriarchy as reinforcing structures. Left libertarians are still ultimately anti-statist and embrace the non-aggression principle. Supporting something doesn’t mean advocating the state doing it. Left libertarians see lots of room for voluntary social pressure, protests, boycotts, mutual aid, and other forms of direct action in a free society.

I have tried to clarify and briefly explain the core components of the modern left libertarian ideology. I hope readers have found my summation useful and recognize the myths when they see them. For a more comprehensive, and much better written, essay on left libertarianism, see here.

Cory Massimino studies economics at Seminole State University and blogs for Students For Liberty. He spends his time ranting about the government and educating people on basic economics. Follow him on Twitter

* Not if I keep arguing with Gregory, damn it! — LS

  • I also have this sweet new graphic.Taking full advantage of Eric Garris and Justin Raimondo’s genrous “write about whatever the hell you want” spirit, I wrote an anti-death penalty piece for Antiwar.com. It was originally supposed to have a bit stronger of a tie with war stuff, but that got away from me, Nevertheless, I don’t think it turned out so bad. Certainly not as bad as the commenters of Antiwar thought. Whoo boy.
  • Radley Balko wrote an excellent piece about why conservatives should be opposed to the death penalty. It’s like a way better version of my very first Reason piece back in the day.
  • Over at the Daily Caller, Chris Morgan wrote a very biting piece on how America’s death penalty is how you know it’s a great country.
  • And if you have never read it, I highly recommend checking out the New Yorker piece on the tragedy of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for killing his three children by burning down his own house. At this point, we can safely say he didn’t do it. (No matter how chill Rick Perry gets about weed — because it’s now trendy — he’s got Willingham’s blood on his hands, if nothing else.)
  • Also, Balko has a further point:

Quite.

  • I wrote another thing, for Rare, about a handful of the creepy, anti-homeless measures passed in various states and cities across the US, as well as liberals’ commendable dislike of these measures, and their frustrating inability to take that to its proper conclusion.
  • Politico mag surveyed the White House Press Corps, and I am not impressed.
  • Hashtagnerdprom is coming up! That makes it the perfect time to read my tale of attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2012. My one regret is that I let the one Denver Post dude shame me into standing for a hot minute. I did not clap, at least. In fact, I have not clapped for Obama AND Bush. How bipartisan am I?!
  • Mediaite ed-in-chief/friend Andrew Kirell is sassy and mocks some of the morons of Sean Hannity’s weed panel (biggest panel ever, am I right?). I share Kirell’s delight in the fact that several panelists laugh in Todd Starnes’ face when he starts hand-writing about morality and weed overdoses, or something.
  • I recently watched this entire video, because I adore Tavi Gevinson. It’s basically turtles all the way down, because liking Tavi Gevinson is sort of mainstream, but borderline hipster danger territory. But as Ms. Gevinson has mused on often, over-thinking about whether what you like is what you like because you like it gets boring after a while. Gevinson is great, because she is all about the things you love being a kind of totem to hold tight to when the world gets a bit dodgy. And being a cool teen herself, she helped me accept that I am listening to Townes van Zandt right now, I listened to Taylor Swift yesterday, and it’s going to be okay. It will be.

  • Speaking of which:

(No, I am not emotionally prepared to share which Taylor Swift songs I enjoy. Give me time, people. Give me time.)

ob2James Kunstler is a brick-throwing leftie, but he’s had it with Barack Obama, the dissappointer in chief:

“Barack Obama, who I voted for twice, is on his way to becoming the worst US president in my lifetime, at least — and maybe in the whole cavalcade going back to the very start of the republic. I don’t want to get too sidetracked in this brief blog space today, but isn’t it stupendously asinine that Mr. Obama’s Justice Department and his SEC appointees only just last week became interested in the pervasive swindle of high frequency trading on Wall Street after author Michael Lewis went on 60 Minutes. Like, they hadn’t heard about this years-long orgy of front-running until now? Strange to relate, I actually might feel more comfortable if Vladimir Putin was massing troops on the Mexican side of the US border to keep Americans safe from our own bungling and destructive government.”

Thirty years ago Ronald Reagan disappointed me because he gave speeches like a libertarian but governed like a practical politician and didn’t do much of anything to reduce the size and scope of the federales, no matter what his followers say today.

Obama must be a huge disappointment to progressives and true believers like Kunstler (not the moronic masses who blindly voted).

After almost six years Obama has shown he was nothing but an attractive Chicago-style pol with the right skin color who could write nice speeches and read a TelePrompter real good.

Instead of bringing a socialist paradise to America, which is what his followers and haters both thought he would do, he’s just screwing up healthcare stuff and still doing evil military and financial stuff that any Republican could do.

Maybe it’ll be Obama who brings us the WWIII everyone thought RR was going to bring us by doing something stupid in Ukraine (this time, unlike Syria, he won’t have Putin around to save his intervening ass).

He’s proved, for those who are paying attention, that there is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats who go to Washington.  Both parties suck for the same reason — they’re in it to get more power over us, not for freeing us up and leaving us alone.

To boot, and for the benefit of all, and I hope but I’m not counting on it, Obama’s made it impossible for any openly Big Government guy to get elected again.

He did the whole country and future generations a favor by botching health care because now no politician like Hillary who wants to be prez will ever dare to approach the subject of national single-payer healthcare. Half-assed federal healthcare, as we see, is awful enough.

Obama, bless him, has betrayed the “promise” of national healthcare and given it the third rail it didn’t have before.

Elizabeth-KolbertElizabeth’s Kolbert’s latest epistle in the April 14 New Yorker is a textbook example of climate change BS posing as journalism.

Her sermon won’t influence anyone, because the only people who will actually read it have already been converted to the AGW faith.

The scary thing is, the typical New Yorker reader — not to mention most journalists — won’t see a thing wrong with Kolbert’s warning that we all have to act fast because the “looming crisis that is global warming”  is no longer looming but is already here.

Kolbert, in case you haven’t heard, is the official High Priest of Climatology at The New Yorker.

Her latest “Talk of the Town”  item, “Rough Forecasts,” is essentially another of her riffs on behalf of maintaining tax subsidies for renewable energy, ending current fossil fuel subsidies, taxing carbon, toughening up building codes, praying for the recovery of coral reefs and heeding the latest divine revelations, recommendations and warnings of the IPCC.

Kolbert recites the usual silly truths about AGW  that New Yorker editors and readers swallow as a matter of faith — because of humans and their fetish for fossil fuels the reefs are dying, the Arctic ice is disappearing, famines and droughts are coming and Gaia has already gone into her death spiral.

She also points out, with displeasure, that the U.S. government underwrites the use of fossil fuels to the tune of $4 billion a year.

As a libertarian, I’m against all kinds of corporate welfare. I agree with Kolbert that the fossil fuel subsidies should be repealed — along with all those renewable energy subsidies.

But that $4 billion number is either wrong or insignificant. Kolbert’s soul mates at PriceofOil.org put the subsidy number between $14 to $52 billion per year, depending on how it’s figured.

What Ms. Kolbert is referring to, I think, are the $4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies President Obama has proposed cutting from his budget every year he’s been in office  but has never done.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. A lousy $4 billion is chump change in a trillion-dollar U.S. energy sector where hundreds of big and small public and private companies no one has ever heard of pulled in at least $271 billion in profits in 2012.

For a science wiz who yearns to be officially crowned the Rachel Carson of climate change, Kolbert has a history of trouble with hard numbers, big and small.

In 2005 I caught her and her fact-checkers telling her gullible New Yorker readers than one of Greenland’s mightiest glaciers was moving at several miles per hour, not several miles per year.

Her glacial speed trap, as I happily pointed out in a column, was off by a factor of 8,760.  The magazine was forced into running a rare correction confessing its error (arguably my greatest feat in 35 years of newspaper journalism).

Kolbert also goofed up some numbers in 2007 in her profile of Amory Lovins, the famous environmental genius and “natural capitalist” who, unlike Kolbert, prefers practical, pragmatic, market-driven solutions to energy conservation instead of government micro-fiat.

Here’s what I wrote in my Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column:

“After confusingly toting up how many hundreds of billions Americans spend on gas, oil and energy each year, she concluded that ‘In 2007, total energy expenditures in the U.S. will come to more than a quadrillion dollars, or roughly a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product.’

“Quadrillion — Kolbert actually meant ‘a trillion dollars.’ And the annual U.S. GDP is about $13 trillion, not $10 quadrillion, as she implied. This time Kolbert was wrong by only a factor of 1,000.”

Kolbert’s chronic numbers problem isn’t the point. It’s not even really her fault. Copy editors are supposed to save her by catching such embarrassments as speeding ice sheets before they appear in print.

You can’t really blame Kolbert for her apocalyptic climatology or her god-awful politics, both of which make her New Yorker-safe. She is what she is — an G-W alarmist Bible thumper on a mission to save the world.

The people who deserve the blame for Kolbert are the people who run The New Yorker. They’re the ones who feature her relentless proselytizing and moralizing and pass it off as the thoughts of a reasonable journalist.

Since their founding in 2010, San Francisco-based car service Uber has made advances into more than 30 cities around the world. Staying there, however, is often an uphill slog as they battle regulators and buddies of the taxi or limo industries.

Objections to a service that allows consumers to order a car through a Smartphone app that come from trade groups, regulators, or other anti-capitalist capitalists are’t surprising, though their transparency on occasion is darkly amusing. It’s the objection from the common man, blogger, or journalist that is baffling. Uber, unlike taxis and their fixed rates, changes their prices based on weather, demand, and other logical economic factors. They do this to make the trips worth it for their drivers — thereby preventing a shortage of Uber cars when the demand is high. And that doesn’t mean they’re going to subsidize for those of us who can’t accord to pay $47 for a 2 mile cab ride. They have neither reason, not obligation to do so.

Pricing this honest makes some people unhappy. Indeed, hundreds of dollars for short rides during the recent winter stores, or during New Year’s Eve in New York City sound shocking, but these fares are based on high demand.  There some allegations that consumers weren’t warned ahead of time what the increase might be (though a commenter who professes to be an Uber driver disputes that). If so, that’s not going to win them good press. But most accounts of fare-shock don’t include specific allegations that say they weren’t warned about the jump in prices.

In fact, perhaps to sooth some of the recent backlash against them, just yesterday Uber announced they were experimenting with temporarily lower prices in 16 cities. This means that the price of an UberX car — a less fancy type of vehicle than Uber often sends — in some cities will fall below that of taxis. And taxis, for all their ills, do tend to be pretty cheap rides. The problem tends with them tends to be an almost complete lack of them in certain cities (like Pittsburgh), or a shortage of them made artificial by caps the drivers or on starting a new company all together.

We see it in New York City, where the cab medallions that let customers hail you from the street were capped at 11,000 for 70 years, and there are only a few thousand more today. No wonder they cost as much as condo in New York City. We see it in Pittsburgh, where I have waited for three hours for cabs that didn’t come (waited at a liberal arts college in a nice neighborhood, so let’s go out on a limb and assume minorities in worse neighborhoods don’t bother to call Yellow Cab at all). A few years ago, I drove around for a few hours with a jitney driver(/cartoonist/generally fascinating character). He swore there must be 1000 illegal cabs in the city, mostly serving poor, black neighborhoods, as he does.

The law in Pittsburgh puts the onus on a new, upstart cab company to prove that they won’t take business way from Yellow Cab or which ever company got into the turf first. This makes a mockery of competition, and there’s no way I can think of to sell it as a pro-consumer action, though be my guest if you want to give it a try. Now, I’ve heard people complain about DC cabs, and there are plenty of clunky laws and advocates for worse ones, but coming from Pittsburgh, DC was a joy. I could hail a cab and be in one in five minutes.

Though Uber is currently out of the price range of some poorer folks, railing against their existence is still the privilege of someone with lots of transportation options. Bitching about the convenience-dystopia that Uber is ushering in with the touch of a Smartphone is your prerogative. But like all myopic declarations of how the world should be, the Valleywag piece that said as much neglected to consider the implications of their shitty, no-show cabs paradise. (Valleywag seem to have a bizarrely intense vendetta against Uber, judging by past blogs.) How many of those illegal jitney cabdrivers in Pittsburgh might like to advertise their services and perhaps earn more money by starting a legal company?

It’s hard to argue that multiple cab companies is somehow less safe than hundreds of unmarked cars. Complaints about the standards or the behavior of driver from Purple Cow Cabs can be acted upon by authorities. Whereas, that guy in the unmarked car stole my wallet, tried to assault me, or dropped me on a highway overpass instead of home is a bit harder to follow up on. Similarly, drivers would be safer knowing they can go to police and report robberies or other problems. (Police mostly look the other way about Pittsburgh jitneys, as far as I know, but that’s not the same thing as giving them freedom to advertise their services and grow their business.) Like every other banned substance or service, from sex-for-pay, to narcotics, to abortion, to immigration, transportation happens regardless of restrictions. And like those other “vices”, the safety of those involved in these economic transactions could be heightened by giving people the freedom to work without fear of government crackdown.

So why are so people objecting to Uber? Last month, Slate’s main econ guy Matt Yglesias wrote a surprisingly solid piece on the company, his premise being that yes, they should be regulated, but no more so than regular transports. Emissions, safety, licensing, insurance, and other standards that already apply will apply. Basically:

“You need rules about what’s an acceptable vehicle, who’s an acceptable driver, and what’s an acceptable way to pilot the vehicle.

But you don’t need rules that specifically discriminate against rides for hire.”

Relative to much of humanity and their slack-jawed hunger for more revenue and restrictions, that was a Rothbardian cry of freed markets, ho! Any leftist who has a terror of a world without regulations should at least be able to grant that the ones on taxi cabs are too much. The restrictions favor one business over others at the expense of the consumer, and untold potential entrepreneurs, many of whom are poor minorities or immigrants.

That knowledge is spreading a bit, or at least has become more news-worthy thanks to Uber and its ilk. Even folks with a sad story of Uber surge pricing to tell, like The New York Times’ Annie Lowrey, don’t seem entirely opposed to the company. Lowrey also makes the savvy point that Uber’s painfully honest prices feel particularly bizarre because taxi services have had their prices fixed long before the invention of the car.

On the other hand, pieces like George Mason assistant professor Siona Listokin’s are disheartening. So close, but so wrong; Listokin describes (also in Slate) some of the horrible, stifling, unfair taxi laws currently n existence. And then she writes that Yglesias is wrong about Uber:

[T]here are very good reasons to regulate hired vehicles. Giving my friend a ride somewhere in my car has different economic and social implications for a city than picking up a stranger and driving her someplace for a fee, Uber style. That said, Uber should be regulated differently than other taxi services, for a reason that may seem odd at first: The company collects a plethora of data that has never before existed in the cab industry. For the first time, Uber’s data can allow policymakers to directly measure taxi fares, the availability of cars, and the safety records of drivers without having to control every element of the market. If cities are smart, that could mean better oversight with less regulation.

The entire rest of the piece mixes examples of rubbish laws with a creepy hope that Uber’s data can be used for smart regulations of this industry. Listokin could be a lot worse here, but she could be a hell of a lot better. Her faux-pragmatic call for not less, maybe but definitely better laws, with lots and lots of useful data, will sound good to the people who believe it’s the job of private citizens to ask for permission for every endeavor. (Not ask, why shouldn’t I be free to peacefully pursue this? Prove to me why I shouldn’t be able to do this, etc.)

To Listokin, couldn’t it be argued that since cities all over the country have demonstrated that their regulations are not hands-off, not smart, and not fairly applied among different companies, that it’s time for a change? Let’s do it. Let’s go wild west and let people drive one another two and from destinations for a fee. No Michael Badnarik-esque call to rip up our driver’s licenses, no call to abolish auto insurance, for now can’t we all agree to let people drive each other from point A to point B without rubbing our hands together with glee over what else we can get out of it?

Arguably part of that mighty stream of anti-libertarian pieces coming out of Salon, Alternet, and other left-leaning publications these last few months, Tyler Lopez’s “Libertarian  and gay rights: the party failed to take a stand” article (published at Slate) is a bullshit generalization that leads, inadvertently, to larger questions of the definition of rights and oppression. But it falls wildly short of an honest critique of libertarianism.

Reason’s Brian Doherty has already addressed the piece’s simplicity, noting that the official Libertarian Party was anachronistically gay-friendly at its inception, including their nomination of the gay John Hospers as their first presidential candidate.

In the barely-post-Stonewall era, with homosexuality newly not an official mental illness, the Libertarian Party platform started out advocating for a repeal of all laws that restricted consensual, adult sexual activities. A few years later, as I noted in an October PolicyMic piece, and Doherty also notes, Ralph Reico wrote a long essay that said “the Libertarian Party was born believing in gay rights.” He later noted that the stance for libertarians candidates in 1976 was as follows on gay marriage:

  • Repeal of legislation prohibiting unions between members of the same sex, and the extension to such unions of all legal rights and privileges presently enjoyed by partners in heterosexual marriages.

Not too shady for the ’70s, no? Apparently no.

With that bold beginning, why then, according to Lopez, has the Libertarian Party “failed” on what is arguably the biggest civil rights fight of modern times?  His piece trolls all good libertarians by using a photo of 2008 Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, but it doesn’t actually mention him. Which is strange, because the ill-advised selection of would-be President Barr, the author of, if eventual disavow-er of, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), would be a way for Lopez to score points (or, to put it more nicely, to cement his thesis). Lopez, though, begins with the very tenuous critique that the official LP website doesn’t have a whole tab devoted to Gay and Lesbian issues. Never mind that acceptance of gay people is a tenet of the platform, now and forever, the party dropped the ball by not giving the gays a tab.

Lopez goes on to scorn the lack of press releases the party has put out about LGBT, then sarcastically scorns them for trying to portray Democrats as being bad for gays. Well, they’re trying to get voters, just like any party. And is it illegitimate for the LP circa-2010 to have been pragmatically going after Obama for not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or  DOMA? What’s so sinful about them trying to win gay supporters? Isn’t that a good thing?

Having admitted that yes, maybe, a little bit,  the early 70s LP was more pro-gay than was in fashion at the time, Lopez is as plodding as possible in his praise:

Libertarians like to tout the fact that the party supported marriage equality in 1971, when it was founded. Sort of.  In fact, two years after Stonewall, the party’s platform called for the abolishment of “victimless crimes,” which lumped homosexuality with prostitution, polygamy, recreational drugs, abortion, and gambling. While certainly not a ringing endorsement of the LGBTQ community, the mere acknowledgement of gay people’s existence was an important step forward for an American political party. It’s also true that in the 1990s, the Libertarian Party (having no elected representatives) did join a small handful of Democrats in opposing DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, despite overwhelming public support for both measures. This might seem like a case of talk being cheap, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Plenty of Libertarian candidates take strong positions on gay rights.

Note the subtle implication that to include gay issues with “vices” was to equate them with immorality in the libertarian world. Never mind that many libertarians do not see any of those other “moral failings” as objectively wrong either (some do, but would never presume to do anything but bother you about it). And never mind that 42 percent of people thought gay sex should be illegal in 1977 (dipping much lower into the conservative 1980s). Definitely never mind that gays have been a part of the libertarian movement since forever and particularly at the dawn of the official party.

Nope, Lopez cannot damn with enough faint praise, because, you see, the LP “never left the 1990s.” They care only for the the right to be free from state oppression, not the right to be free from individual discrimination. Lopez also notes that libertarians — some libertarians — would prefer that marriage become a private contract, thereby removing the should government endorse this question all together. This is true for some small government folks, but not all. But even conservatives including Tucker Carlson and Glenn Beck have come around on the minarchist compromise that, namely, if someone is receiving the government perks of marriage, there is no legitimate reason to bar homosexuals from that privilege.

Lopez goes on, into questions of employment discrimination, and he ends on a dishonest note:

Rather than boldly argue for equal rights for everyone, Libertarians have merely argued for the dismantling of everyone’s rights—the right to legal marriage, the right against workplace discrimination, and so on. That’s not liberty; it’s giving the green light to entrenched systemic discrimination. Libertarians could have led on this issue. Instead, they’ve fallen unforgivably far behind.

Again, Lopez could have written, “for a party with a long, impressive history of being accepting towards gays, the choice of Bob Barr in 2008, was regressive and bizarrely socially conservative.” He could have admitted that there was nothing wrong with needling Barack Obama’s spending 16 years pretending to be unsure about gay marriage for political reasons. And Lopez certainly could have used a column inch or two to give props to Gov. Gary Johnson, the 2012 LP presidential candidate who came out for gay marriage while still trying to run as a Republican. But Lopez does none of this.

It’s fine that he believes in a world of positive liberties, where employers cannot discriminate, and where rights are more than just equal protection under the law. But the difference between positive liberties (the right to, say, healthcare, education, anything that requires the labor, time, or money of someone else) and negatives ones (freedom from government restriction on speech, trade, etc.) should be clear even to someone who believes in positive rights, as modern liberals do. You may agree that we, as a society, should all get together and pool our money and give everyone medical care, but you must admit that that mandates a great deal more planning than the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law…”

To muddy these warring definitions of rights like is dishonest, because it masks the general definition of a libertarian. Lopez might as well have written “libertarians could have lead the way on gay rights if they became liberals.” He may be disappointed that libertarianism isn’t something else than what it is, but there’s no reason to not give the Party props for solving the first part of his equation — that gays should have the same rights and freedoms as heterosexuals — long before the majority of the political world did. Libertarians didn’t “fall behind” on gay rights, they went down a different path.

roadzThe headline: “Why I fled libertarianism — and became a liberal”.

The subhead: “I was a Ron Paul delegate back in 2008 — now I’m a Democrat. Here’s my personal tale of disgust and self-discovery”.

Edwin Lyngar was a Ron Paul delegate in 2008. Once he got to the GOP convention,  he was baffled by the number of Birthers, Truthers, MoonTruthers and Chemtrailers who apparently made up his fellow Paulbots. (Lyngar also casually equates interest in gold, the Fed, and the JFK assassination with such conspiracy theories. He is not alone in this attitude — the highly-touted conspiracy theory  poll from last spring was similarly sloppy. An enthusiasm for monetary policy is dry, so why not spice it up by implying that to believe in the gold standard is to be sure that the president is from Kenya?)

Lyngar had no libertarian moment of aha!, thanks to a Hayek book, or a Ron Paul speech. He doesn’t really explain why he cared enough to be a delegate for Paul in 2008. He was just vaguely born libertarian, in that he comes from a small town in Nevada where, he writes, “we burned our own garbage and fired guns in the back yard.” He even admits that libertarians are pro-pot, mostly pro-gay, and mostly anti-war, so they have their bright spots still. But also, when he left his small town, his eyes were opened:

I learned that libertarians are made for lots of reasons, like reading the bad fiction of Ayn Rand or perhaps the passable writing of Robert Heinlein. In my experience, most seemed to be poor, white and undereducated. They were contortionists, justifying the excesses of the capitalist elite, despite being victims if libertarian politics succeed.

If you think that selfishness and cruelty are fantastic personal traits, you might be a libertarian. In the movement no one will ever call you an asshole, but rather, say you believe in radical individualism.

Heinlein is only “passable”? Buddy, you read the wrong Heinlein. And if you’re in the libertarian movement, someone will call you an asshole at some point. Or they will call you a statist. Though there are generally agreed upon tenets in libertarianism, there is also tedious in-fighting and minute-to-vital points of disagreement on issues, interpretations, and conclusions. We are not your cheap Dagney Taggart or Randy Weaver jokes, as much as you try to cram us into that convenient mold. We are diverse, and by God, we will shoot ourselves in the foot whenever possible. (Lyngar does acknowledge this incompetence later in the piece, so at least he’s not one of those “dear God, the libertarians have taken over!” folks.)

Lyngar is mostly done with specifics after his live from the GOP Convention ’08 beginning. He changed slowly after his realization that libertarianism indeed attracts weirdos. Soon he was crying for unspecified, but positive reasons when Obama was elected president. And then the financial crisis:

Libertarians were (rightly) furious when our government bailed out the banks, but they fought hardest against help for ordinary Americans. They hated unemployment insurance and reduced school lunches. I used to say similar things, but in such a catastrophic recession isn’t the government supposed to help? Isn’t that the lesson of the Great Depression?

I’m going to give our friend the benefit of the doubt and say, sure, okay, you met three libertarians who were most passionately opposed to school lunches. That was their number one issue, closely followed by the horrors of unemployment insurance. But there are a lot of libertarians who would prefer to tackle the bigger issues first: war, prisons, police, the drug war, financial ruin for the country, occupational licensing, zoning laws, lack of school choice, the death penalty, transportation, whatever you like. And you would know that if you spoke to more than three libertarians — that no, most of them wouldn’t start with cutting the lunches for shoeless Appalachian children program. They’d probably start with trimming the military, the Department of Homeland Security, or that sentimental favorite, the Drug Enforcement Administration.

(And no, that is not the lesson of the Great Depression. That is not even close to being the lesson of the Great Depression. Suggesting that means you paid no attention to economics even while you were a libertarian, dude.)

Lyngar goes on to marry a Canadian liberal, then be disgusted by the racist Birthers in the Tea Party movement. He lurches towards nuance by implying that libertarians who work with the Tea Party are not necessarily the same thing as those religious freaks, etc. But then he notes that at last he has learned to “care about children — even poor ones.” Thereby separating himself from monstrous libertarians, he writes:

I love the National Park system. The best parts of the America I love are our communities. My libertarian friends might call me a fucking commie (they have) or a pussy, but extreme selfishness is just so isolating and cruel. Libertarianism is unnatural, and the size of the federal government is almost irrelevant. The real question is: what does society need and how do we pay for it?

To paraphrase the best French guy ever, Frederic Bastiat, man, liberals really seem to think that if you’re not for government funded, or government-run institutions, you must be against them entirely. Parks are awesome. Some parks also have a long history of hilariously-arrogant mismanagement by government. And it’s cool that you love communities. That means literally nothing in general, and nothing specific to libertarianism. Most of us do not wish to live alone, Unibomber-style. But we’re very keen on anyone’s right to do the best they can at achieving that sort of lifestyle.

The best part of the piece — the part that elevates it to an artful act of trolling — might be the very end. Old Ed says of libertarians: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” That quote, and its accompanying viewpoint, is common in libertarianism. It sounds arrogant, but it’s the evangelizing of a fringe belief that is forever trying to gain converts. How else do you change minds except by convincing someone they are mistaken? And it is no different than liberals who shake their heads at all those folks who “vote against their own interests” — meaning, not for Democrats. To them, libertarians, if they’re not cold, rich, Randian cutouts, they are stupidly opposed to the communitarian pleasures of the left that could benefit them so much.

We’re all snobs when we’re in our own Google Groups, bars, or political rallies. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in “yes, totally! That!” for an evening. But the folks at Salon have the ideological privilege of not ever needing to convert libertarians to their viewpoints. Liberals often treat every conservative victory (one which with libertarians may or may not agree) as an assurance that the barbarians are at the gates. Mentions cuts, and there is nothing between that and Somalia. Liberals refuse to believe that their view of the proper role of government has been a dominant one for decades. They suffer from being The Man denial.

So then, what is the the point of this piece? Optimistically, we could say it could help prove to Salon readers that all libertarians aren’t monsters. Why, there’s always the hope that they will change their evil ways! But it’s more banal than that. This intensely shallow piece is solely an exercise in back-patting. It’s one man’s courageous story of being saved from the darkness of everything Not Liberal, without even the drama of a road to Damascus moment. It’s just that the election of Obama, and the worst of the Tea Party eventually took him on a self-satisfied journey away from conspiratorial meanies to the safe ” bosom of conventional liberalism.” He finally “developed [his] own values.” But a vague sense that libertarianism by nature is cold, cruel, and crazy is not an analysis of an ideology.

Some libertarians choose to interpret the recent cascade of anti-libertarian pieces on Alternet, Salon, and NSFWCorp the last few months as proof that the philosophy is getting somewhere — it can no longer be ignored by the mainstream. But Lyndar’s piece confirms lazy liberal dominance, because why try? Why fight libertarian beliefs, when you can simply revel in having beaten their imaged end-game, as Alternet did recently, — Libertopia apparently outlaws feeding or clothing the homeless! — or simply rejoice in having banished its evil from your own mind, as Lyndar does here.

Photo by Alan Cleaver

Photo by Alan Cleaver

Finally, the song of the day can only be the best Christmas song ever, which can thankfully also be enjoyed every other day of the year:

Merry Christmas, all.