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Customer Discussions > Libertarian forum

I'm a Young American Conservative who wants to understand Libertarian ideas

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Initial post: Aug 15, 2010 1:39:49 AM PDT
Anyone who thinks this part is too long is more than welcome to skip to the questions below the first part.

I ran across Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement at a second hand store and couldn't help but grab it. It'll be interesting to see what the book written by a libertarian will encompass. The only other book I've read by someone considered by my father to be a libertarian was FA Hayek's Road to Serfdom. I come from a fiscally conservative and socially moderate family, and as a twenty-year old, the views I hold are similar to that of my father (I have a great deal of respect for him and can't really find much sense in Leftist philosophy and ideology.) That said, after reading Hayek I became obsessed with getting my hands on other books the economist has written. I could not help but marvel at the similarities between conservative and libertarian thought in fiscal matters.

What's more, Hayek's incredible analysis of the Free Market and his complex yet insightful critique of socialism has me to conclude he was one of the brilliant men of the twentieth century. His contrast of Collectivism and it's limitations with Individualism and it's elastic nature and numerous market possibilities has driven me to try to understand socialism, American conservatism, and American libertarianism. He also stands on great stage occupied by other men whom I deeply respect, such as Thomas Sowell. As a young, conservative student who admittedly knows little economics or politics, I see some key differences between the conservative and libertarian movements, and I hope that we can to deal with our differences once we have collaberated and formed an alliance to overcome the Left.

When I was a teenager my dad would tell me about politics, and give me his opinions. He encouraged me to read nothing but conservative literature, and to avoid both Leftist and libertarian books "for now." Libertarianism was always the elephant in the room. He quieted my questions about libertarians by telling me that you were anarchists, who, unlike us conservatives, wanted as little government as possible as opposed to our vision of a limited, yet central government. He said that you want to "decrease the size government for the sake of decreasing government" whereas the conservative wants to" decrease the size of government in some areas in order to uphold checks and balances which safeguard a Republic." He said that the conservative believes that government should a great deal of influence in our lives in some areas, a moderate amount in some areas, very little influence in some areas, and no influence in a select few areas. As opposed to the libertarian, who wants little government influence, period. I think that he didn't want to confuse me at the time because I couldn't really understand the fine differences between our ideologies. I knew that the Left was well-meaning but dangerous, and that they were our opponents and yours, and that you libertarians were our allies. But I could not understand and appreciate the subtle differences and similarities. Now, I hope to do exactly this by reading this book and others like it.

A few months ago, I emailed my dad about my renewed interest in libertarianism and he told me he thought me mature enough to start investigating libertarian beliefs, and even told me that what he had previously said about you wanting had been an oversimplification which had been stated as such so as not to confuse me at that young age. When I expressed a little irritation at this, he explained that he had never tried to deceive me, but only to guide my development and build a firm foundation for my own political convictions. I understand his methods now, and have no resentment toward him.


But now I'm beginning my own quest to understand libertarianism. If I may...I'd like to ask a series of questions.

1. Who between the Left and the Conservatives, are libertarians most likely to oppose? My understanding has always been that you prefer us to the Left, but I don't want to just assume this anymore. I know some of our aims are similiar in fiscal policies, but that's all I know.

2. Is there any hope for a Conservative/Libertarian alliance, even if it's only temporary?

3. Do libertarians favor enforcing border security or not?

4. Do libertarians want legalize all drugs, even those that are very harmful to people, such as meth? I'm not opposed to legalizing some drugs and introducing them into the Free Market, but I'm opposed to the legalization of all drugs.

5. Do libertarians tend to vote Democrat, Republican, Independent, or do you have your own unofficial party affiliations?

6. Do libertarians believe that there should be any environmental regulations?

Just a note, I think there ought to be a minimal level of regulation to avoid such things as the burning lakes in the Mid West. But that said, I'm vehemently opposed to the US Government, state, and local governments using tax-payer money to do research about "man-made global warming." Such research should be the work of private individuals and groups, not governments. And association in these groups should be voluntary.

7. Do libertarians support or oppose capital punishment?

I support it in instances in which there are serial rapists and serial murders who have been convicted of said crimes.

Anyway, that's all I can think of for now. I'd really appreciate any feedback.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2010 1:22:39 PM PDT
P. Vaihansky says:
I can't speak for libertarians, only for myself, so let me try to answer these to the best of my knowledge:

1. I believe they tend to oppose the left more - in the current US political context.
2. Yes - see Tea Party
3. My personal position is: abolish all forms of welfare and let anyone come in. Those who want to mooch off others will self-select themselves out of the country. Those who want to work will stay, which will make everyone richer.
4. In short, yes, the government has no business deciding what people do with their bodies. Even - especially - for our own good.
5. Depends. This election cycle the Republican party may benefit from the libertarian mood, but if they screw it up and betray that trust (very possible), we have a problem. I personally don't believe in the viability of the third party, so we may be screwed either way.
6. Only enforcement of private property rights. No environmental regulations would be necessary if the state (especially the Federal Gov't) didn't own natural resources. Privatize everything, sell all federal lands at an auction, and then enforce private property rights. That's all environmental regs we need.
7. No idea what the "party line" is.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2010 11:25:32 AM PDT
G. McGee says:
I mostly agree with Mr. Vaihansky.

As Ronald Reagan once said, Conservativism is really Libertarianism at its core. That being said, a Conservative/Libertarian alliance cannot happen if Conservatives aren't willing to adopt a more libertarian philosophy, namely losing the idea that perpetual war is good for America and that we need laws to enforce a favorable 'morality' on people. The real Libertarian 'Tea Party' emerged from Ron Paul's 2008 campaign when he spoke out against the Bush administration, arguing for a return to a Constitutionally bound Federal government and traditional Conservative (Libertarian) policy. The more recent dissatisfaction of Republican voters at the current state of affairs is what inspired politicians like Sarah Palin to attach themselves to the Tea Party name.

There really are 2 parts to the Tea Party movement- a true libertarian force, fighting for smaller government, and a dissatisfied neo-Conservative force, who are just angry at the current administration, but still support big-government policies like an interventionist military and drug prohibition. Anyone who advocates big government is an enemy to Libertarians, be them Republican or Democrat. Republicans are just clamoring for big government slightly less than the Democrats as of late.

Oh, and this Libertarian would oppose capital punishment, simply because the government has a bad track record of convicting innocent people, and I can think of nothing more horrifying than the execution of an innocent person.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2010 2:25:11 PM PDT
Your experience with your family seems similar to my own in some ways. My entire family is fairly conservative, church going Lutherans. I think my first exposure to libertarian ideas was 5-10 years ago when I heard Walter Williams guest host on the Rush Limbaugh show. I started looking into it more and more, and found I actually agreed with the libertarians a lot more than conservatives. My grandparents were horrified to learn I was a libertarian, but it turns out there were a few closet libertarians in the family that encouraged me with birthday presents of libertarian literature and such.

It seems like your questions are single-issue oriented and I don't think that is the way to look at this (but I'll answer them anyway in a second). Libertarians are concerned with personal liberty at all levels, and at all times will fight for the side of an issue where they perceive the most liberty is present. Sometimes this splits the libertarian camp. An example would be abortion. Those libertarians who do not believe a fetus is a person fight for the woman's liberty to choose. Those who do, fight for the baby's liberty to live.

1. Libertarians will oppose both sides when they are against liberty. We ally with the right to oppose the left (usually on fiscal issues) and we ally with the left to oppose the right on other issues (like gay marriage, war, drug wars). In short, we always seem to be opposing someone. We opposed practically everything Bush did except cut taxes, and we oppose practically everything Obama is doing. Many libertarians would eagerly vote for a law repealing every law passed since 1900, since the vast and overwhelming majority of them have been anti-liberty.

2. If the left is in power, a conservative/libertarian alliance will probably exist. If the right gets power and actually starts cutting government, libertarians will be on their side. But the minute they start back with this warfare/patriot-act/torture/incarcerate-everything-that-moves/culture-war/"compassionate"-conservatism nonsense, we will again move to the other side.

3. Both Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand (two of the most libertarian thinkers I know of) argued that a welfare state combined with open borders is tantamount to national suicide. But on the other hand they realize that immigrants who come to work, and not suck up government aid, help everyone. Immigrants don't steal jobs, they create them. Libertarians want to make it easy to come here and work and hard to come here and feed off the government tit.

4. Yes, libertarians want to legalize all drugs. They also realize that many drugs can destroy lives and families, but what is the alternative? The biggest market for many drugs is inside of prisons. If we can't even keep the drugs out of prisons, how can we keep them out of the hands of free citizens? We've spend literally hundreds of billions of dollars trying to fight the drug war, incarcerated millions of people, and drugs have gotten more popular than ever. Every time we stifle one source, the price increases and 10 more pop up to satisfy the demand. On top of that, we're feeding vicious warlords who fight to protect their profits since governments will not protect their illicit property.

5. I have voted Libertarian for president since I've been old enough to vote (two elections), but would be open to voting for a more reasonable Reagan-type Republican in the future (if they even exist anymore). On the state level, I've voted for the most libertarian Republican in the primary, and then for whoever won in the general. I know a lot of libertarians that are too fed up with politics to vote at all.

6. Ditto to what P. Vaihansky said. Libertarians mostly believe that the antidote for environmental disasters is private property rights. Some libertarians, like John Stossel, would argue that there needs to be some regulation on things like air-quality, river dumping, and a few isolated cases like that where "property" is pretty arbitrary (how can you own a slice of the air?).

7. A lot of libertarians are not friendly to the judicial system, since they have been incarcerating literally millions of individuals each year for some very stupid reasons. That being said, I'm sure you could find a lot of libertarians who would not have a problem with capital punishment if administered rarely and in extreme cases with overwhelming evidence.

I suggest you listen to Stossl's show (most of them are up on hulu), or read Reason magazine (online for free at for more information on libertarian ideas. The cover story of the current issue of Reason actually is about asking the question "Where do libertarians belong?" and the last issue's cover story explained the difference between libertarian and conservative jurisprudence.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2010 2:41:32 PM PDT
One other thing, you said you greatly respect Thomas Sowell (as do I, I've read a lot of his books) but he is a Friedmanite, not an Austrian economist like Hayek. The differences may be subtle, but they are there. As Hayek himself said, he agreed with Milton Friedman on a lot of issues but he was fundamentally a Keynesian who had miraculously come to many correct conclusions.

I think the best way to understand the difference is to read Thomas Sowell's "The Housing Boom and Bust" and then read Austrian economist Thomas Woods' "Meltdown" and compare the two. They both examine the 2008 financial crises, and they both find the same culprits, but they assign the blame differently. Sowell claims the main cause of the collapse was the bad regulations Barny Frank et al made to pump up the housing bubble, and the Fed just made things bigger by providing quick easy cash before investors could figure out the problems. Woods claims that the Fed was the principle culprit and that the bubble and crash would have happened in some sector of the economy regardless of what other regulations were in place, the Barney Frank stuff only pushed a lot of the problems into one sector and made it worse. That's an oversimplification of both positions, but I think an accurate one.

Posted on Aug 17, 2010 3:30:18 PM PDT
Jim Cox says:
You might benefit from the Ask Dr. Ruwart questions at the free biweekly email newsletter Liberator On Line:

Posted on Aug 17, 2010 4:47:40 PM PDT
Matthew Hall says:
I'm going to take this from an anarchist stance, because that's what libertarianism is at its core. The distinction comes from what Colin Ward in his "Anarchism: a very short introduction" calls right-anarchism and left-anarchism. Right-anarchists tend to be more individualist, left-anarchists tend to be more collectivist. Because the modern conservative leadership tends to pay lip-service to "small government" ideology, the American libertarian movement has tended towards the right in recent times. My base recommendation would be to look into anarchist literature along with the American libertarian works. Some of this will no doubt be disagreeable to you, but I hope you'll at least give it a chance. Now, on to the questions...

1) As I noted above, American libertarianism has always erred to the right, but anarchism (libertarianism is often used interchangeably with anarchism) is a decidedly leftist political philosophy. It's roots come from classical liberalism (the same ideology that America is rooted in) and mutualism, individualism, egoism, and anarcho-capitalism is still very close to classical liberalism. However, when socialism came on the scene in the early 19th century, it led to the creation of the collectivist wing of anarchist thought, which includes collectivism, anarcho or libertarian communism, anarcho-syndicalism, and green anarchism. These are, of course, the left wing of anarchism (libertarianism). Given the decidedly anti-authoritarian nature of the ideology, it would be hard to say that even the fiscal policy of the two ideologies are similar.

2) In the US, there is definite hope of a conservative-libertarian alliance. However, the left-libertarians won't be part of it.

3) I don't think that any libertarian who is really a libertarian is going to favor enforcing the border. It would be better to eliminate those that mooch off the system, but allow those who actually work and contribute to the medicare/medicaid and Social Security funds stay. Any formal militarization or policing is counter to anarchist doctrine especially, given the bad blood between anarchists and police/military.

4) Since elemination of the state is part of anarchist doctrine, then yes, all drugs would be legalized. However, hard drugs would likely be eleminated as people realized the damage they do and they lost the glamor they get from their illegality.

5) Anarchists don't vote. We believe in direct, local democracy, based on consensus and persuasion, rather than coercion. Anarchists believe that the rules of the community should be established by agreement between the communities members, rather than legal dictate.

6) Since we don't want a state, then no, the environment wouldn't be regulated. However, given that the environment needs to be protected to ensure human survival, steps should be taken by each community to ensure that their local environment is taken care of and that their actions aren't adversely affecting the conditions of other nearby communities.

7) No. Emphatically no. Execution by the state is considered by anarchists as a form of state terrorism. As to anarchist ideology in relation to criminal justice, I would recommend looking into the literature on the subject, such as the activities and material related to the anarchist Black Cross. This is an area that I don't understand very well.

Again, my reasons for answering this post is American libertarianism's relation to the broader anarchist/libertarian movement. I hope you don't mind a leftist response to these questions. If you're interested in literature on anarchism, I can make recommendations. In the mean time, check out "Anarchism: Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides (Oneworld))." It will give you the broad scope of the anarchist movement, right and left. But be warned: you're going to see more left than right. Libertarianism/anarchism is a progressive ideology.

Peace, Love, and Anarchy

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2010 5:48:07 PM PDT
I have to say, libertarianism is not the same as anarchy. Libertarians believe, as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, that government exists for the purpose of securing individual liberty. In anarchy, might makes right. If you can take something from someone, it's OK to do it (barring personal objection). Libertarians believe in private property rights, and believe that a government must exist for the purpose of protecting them against foreign governments and criminals.

I suppose you could argue that they both come from the same root (classical liberalism), but to say they are interchangeable is just wrong. If you disagree with me, I would suggest you read Charles Murray's popular libertarian primer "What it Means to be a Libertarian" and find out for yourself.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2010 6:08:23 PM PDT
Matthew Hall says:
I'll check out the book, but I have to dispute the assertion that anarchism is the doctrine of "might makes right." To take something from someone because you have the physical capability to is the antithesis of anarchism. Use of force to impose ones will is to use authority as a tool of coercion or oppression, rather than education. Authority can only be applied when someone else submits to it willingly, such as the authority of a professor over a college student. A college student has voluntarily attended college and taken the professor's class, therefore submitting himself to "an" authority. If he comes into conflict with the professor, he can drop the class, therefore removing himself from that position. It's an imperfect example, based on Bakunin's argument in "God and the State." If I steal from someone, that doesn't make me an anarchist, that makes me a thief. It would also be wrong to paint libertarianism with such a broad brush. I acknowledged the differences of American libertarianism and the broader anarchist/libertarian movement, but these differences don't change the fact that they're part of the same broad political-economic ideology. What you're referring to is not libertarianism so much is true classical liberalism. In fact, it may be that American libertarianism really is classical liberalism. Either way, using the term libertarian implies a link to anarchism.

Posted on Aug 18, 2010 12:24:41 AM PDT
Gentlemen, I appreciate your responses thus far. It's nice to have articulate posters on this thread who undestand the subtleties of libertarianism and where it departs from conservatism. My God, I have to say, I never considered that just as there is a battle between the conservatives and neoconservatives as to what conservatism is trying to accomplish, (I side with the conservatives,) so to libertarians seem to have internal disagreements. Well, maybe we're not on the same page on most social issues (I'm obviously very opposed to illegal immigration and the legalization of all drugs,) but so far I see that we both agree on most fiscal issues. Here's one area we probably won't agree with, either. I'm very opposed to the idea of not having a state. I realize that in Jefferson's earlier years he was prone to this sort of talk. And while I have great respect for the mind of that brilliant president, I disagree with a few of his ideas, and I tend to lean toward a form Federalist vision for the country. However, I'm not as extreme as Hamilton. I don't want a national bank, public universities, etc. Instead, my inspiration is James Madison, who worked very hard to bring the states together under a federal government, and whose vision is falling apart thanks to hundreds of years of improper federal government growth. His vision for the country is mine: a central yet small federal government with limited powers subject to the US Constitution; and, state governments with slightly more power yet still subject to the Constitution. In short, I believe in the legitimacy of the state (as that term is used to reflect governmental power,) but within a very limited sense. I believe that the state does have responsibilities to enforce the Rule of Law, arrest and try criminals, raise very low taxes, and repel invasions. But I don't believe government has any legitimate role in administering health care, providing transportation, engaging in "Affirmative" Action (aka reverse discrimination,) and provide public education.

Now that you have a little more background on my views of government, I'll tell you what I'm not: I'm not a religious person who wants to ban gays, oppose abortion, want prayer taught in schools, or other such things. I'm conservative because I believe in the Rule of Law, or more specifically, the rule of the US Constitution. Therefore, I'm very suspicious of local, state, and federal judges who try to expand their powers. I'm not really big with the social issues, it's far more those fiscal things.

In any case, I now see that some libertarians don't regard 'anarchists,' the word of father used, as a straw man. I'm shocked to learn that that's exactly what some would call themselves. It's also a little disconcerting to know that the there's a 'left libertarian' wing. Yikes. In any case, one of you made a comment that you're opposed to Bush or something to that effect. I too am opposed to Bush and the Iraq War and what's more, I'll tell you that I don't think of the man as a conservative, but as a terrible neo-conservative. One of the main problems with the Republican Party right now is that neoconservatives mak up about half of the party interests, leaving the conservatives to face a significant internal battle. I bring this up to say that you might find yourselves opposed to neoconservatives, but you may not be opposed to conservatives like myself.

Anyway, thanks for responding once again. I really appreciate. And please feel free to continue posting here if you wish. I'm already learning a great deal and I'll look into the books you guys have suggested when I have time.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2010 10:18:36 AM PDT
One other thing you might be interested in, former Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik gives classes on the constitution (heavily laced with libertarian philosophy). He recorded one a while ago and put it online. You might want to check it out. It's 8 hours long though:

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2010 11:31:43 AM PDT
Sledgehamner says:

Two websites will get you almost everything you really need to know about libertarianism: & Check them out regularly.

Libertarianism in one easy lesson, by David Bergland is also a good book to start with (or use to start off your liberty-minded friends).

Meanwhile, here's my shot at your 7 questions.

1. Libertarians oppose both parties where they try to do more/other than what the Constitution directs/allows them to do. As you investigate you will see that big-government conservatism is just as bad as big-government liberalism. That's because any law that goes beyond defending the people's rights to life, liberty and property is bad law and eventually leads to some form of tyranny/force/cohersion as well as many other unintended consequences.
2. There might be some hope, but I generally think not. Did you see how the conservatives treated Ron Paul during the presidential election? Even now that even the most casual observer can see that he was right, very few have come to his side, and certainly no one has apologized.
3. Several aspects to this question. Border security is not really about immigration; it's a national defense issue, and many libertarians are OK with securing the borders -- with our Defense Dept (as opposed to continual war to support our ever-expanding empire). Immigration has become a hot button with border states because they are forced to support America's welfare state policies. Back in the days of Ellis Island, we let everyone in. And it worked OK, because there was not a welfare state to encourage laziness and suck the tax base dry.
4. Generally, yes. But what they want to "legalize" is freedom. Remember, the purpose of govt is to protect our rights, not direct our lives. And one has just as much right to make a bad decision as a good one. One's bad choices shouldn't be criminal until they harm another person or interfere with his/her life, liberty & property. You say you would still restrict "some" drugs, but which ones? And why? And who decides after you? It becomes a mess very quick. Much better to punish the real crimes of personal injury/property damage regardless of what "influences" them.
5. I'm glad you said "tend" because it's really hard to generalize this one. I know many libs who have sworn off both of the primary parties, and wouldn't be caught dead voting for them. Others are glad to support any true liberty-minded candidate wherever they find them; much like the enthusiastic support for Ron & Rand Paul even though they stayed in the Republican party.
6. Libertarians think most environmental regulations are just unneccessary. Most genuine abuses can be resolved by honoring and protecting private property rights. Furthermore, the FDA is another one of those agencies that the states never authorized the Federal Government to create, so pretty much anything it does is invalid.
7. Many libertarians have no problem shooting you in self-defense, so there is no inherent anti-capital punishment sentiment as exists amongts the libs or the Catholic Church. The problem is that our current police state is not designed to protect citizens and bring about true justice; it's designed to preserve and defend the state. So it has proven to be a poor discerner of who is really guilty of gross crimes and deserving of death.

Hope that helps,
Former conservative

Posted on Aug 26, 2010 11:06:49 AM PDT
Do understand libertarianism can be broken down into two main camps.

Left or Right libertarianism. The main dividing point is how the person views private property. Right libertarians tend to take a strong approach that their property is part of their freedom. Any tax or program (ie social security, medicare, health care, education, etc) in which their property ($$) is used is an infringement on their freedom. A right libertarian wants it to be his choice on how to educate himself, on how to provide health care, on how to plan for retirement, etc.

Left libertarians are much more focused on equality among fellow men than private property. I being on the left take a fully different view on many of the above issues, in todays society the rights of each individual should be extended to ALL individuals regardless of race, creed, class, gender, etc. Each individual should have equal access to health care, education, transit, etc. and us as a collective group need to make sure no one is left out. While coming together with Right libertarians on Gay marriage, gun ownership, drugs, etc the left do very quite a bit on what services the government is needed for.

I hope you enjoy your exploration into libertarianism, it is a wonderful world that goes well beyond and well before the likes of Ayn Rand and the Cato Institute.

Posted on Aug 26, 2010 11:16:22 AM PDT
To answer your questions:

1. Social conservatives are the biggest opposition to libertarians in my opinion.

2. Libertarians are fractured into different camps. Being it neither a left nor right political spectrum group it has been hard for a broad coalition of libertarians to be formed. The libertarian party of the US has done very poorly as it preaches only right libertarian values.

3. Open borders.

4. The government has no business telling a person what to do with their body.

5. I personal tend to democrat each individual most choose what values they would support most.

6. The people that live downstream from me has as much right to clean water as I do.

7. Oppose, the state has no business in killing of man.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 11:21:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2010 11:22:23 AM PDT
P. Vaihansky says:
The "left libertarian" position described in this post, in my view, should be correctly called "egalitarian".

The reason the "right libertarians" focus on property rights is because they are consistently derived from the approach called Natural Law.

The egalitarian position, on the other hand, is pretty arbitrary in what it calls a right or a liberty. In doing so, it is very close to some flavor of socialism in my opinion. The libertarian position is not arbitrary, but consistent. Your LIFE is your right, in that no one should have the legitimate right to take it; however, your SURVIVAL, i.e. the work of providing for yourself, is nobody's responsibility but your own. This includes food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.

The egalitarian view just treats all these things as a given, with no respect to how those goods and services are produced, and consequently, to the freedoms of the producers to price and market those goods and services (or not).

Not to start a discussion right here, but I feel strongly that conflating egalitarianism with libertarianism is confusing and misleading. Saying that we "as a collective group need to make sure no one is left out" is in direct contradiction to the libertarian idea that individual liberty is the highest value. The key word in the phrase I quoted in the previous sentence is "need": if this is meant as advocacy for charity, fine; however, if this is supposed to be the basis of some kind of policy, again, it is in direct contradiction to the core libertarian tenet of individuals deciding what to do with their lives without coercion from any sort of "collective".

Just my 2 cents.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 11:26:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2010 11:49:08 AM PDT
You do know Libertarianism as an political ideal was first theorized by a communist.

It is very aligned with a socialism movement and historically has been so. Noam Chomsky is currently the best living writer consistent with a historical libertarian socialist.

I would recommend this book (actual speech transcribed into a book):

Government in the Future (Open Media Series)

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 11:31:18 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2010 11:31:51 AM PDT
P. Vaihansky says:
None of what you say refutes any of the points I made in my previous response. Libertarians are usually very good with consistency and intellectual honesty.

As for who is the best libertarian writer, oh well, tastes differ. Chomsky may be very good on some things, but he is notoriously bad (uninformed and inconsistent) on others.

In any event, egalitarianism as a governing doctrine for organization of society is utterly incompatible with the libertarian thinking. Call yourself whatever you want, but you are no libertarian.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 11:45:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2010 11:53:06 AM PDT
So you have never heard of Joseph Déjacque?

To be correct etymology wise, you would be the incorrect for attaching the libertarian label to yourself. I understand that a century back there was a split from the original anarchist socialist libertarian movement. I am perfectly fine knowing there is a right movement that dominates american thinking but the left exists and is the stronger movement in Europe.

Egalitarianism is simply to broad of a term. I do subscribe to many egalitarian positions but not as an overall platform. I am very behind each individual being left to live there life with little to no interference from our government. What I push for collectively is having the government to work effectively in providing individual rights to all of us. That goes beyond free speech, freedom of religion, to freedom to live a healthy life, freedom to an education, etc..

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 12:01:01 PM PDT
Extremely well thought out informative post.

Thanks Matthew.

Posted on Aug 26, 2010 12:02:11 PM PDT
P. Vaihansky says:
Any term can be stretched to include extra meanings, but in doing so, we are gradually rendering that term useless: if the word means everything, it means nothing. I'm sure you would agree that in order to have the term "libertarianism" have any meaning at all, we must define the core value(s) or axiom(s) with which every libertarian must agree (the common denominator). It is also easy to see that any other position we claim is libertarian, must be consistent with these core values/axioms.

So my question to you is: What, in your view, is the core, the fundamental libertarian idea or ideas that any and all libertarian positions should be consistent with?

After you answer this question, please also address the following. You say, " am very behind each individual being left to live there life with little to no interference from our government. What I push for collectively is having the government to work effectively in providing individual rights to all of us. That goes beyond free speech, freedom of religion, to freedom to live a healthy life, freedom to an education, etc.."

1. How much government interference is too much, and (most importantly) what objective criteria do we use to determine that?
2. How exactly do you propose to "push" for those things "collectively"?
3. Do you actually believe that rights come from governments?

If you could answer these questions, I believe this could shed valuable light on the subject of this thread, i.e. the actual content of the libertarian school of thought.

Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 12:14:04 PM PDT
actual content of the libertarian school of thought.


See Matthew Hall's post. I missed it on my first read through and he has covered many of my same points better than I have.

A little more rounded out understanding of Libertarianism and its history would serve us all well.

I will be back to answer your specific questions at a latter time.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 2:00:34 PM PDT
Matthew Hall says:
I have to say, for a libertarian, you're arguing for a very authoritarian position. One of the wonderful things about libertarianism is that it is malleable enough to adapt to nearly any set of conditions. If LSPF doesn't mind I think I'll answer your questions, then explain some of the branches on the libertarian tree.

1. Government interference is always bad, from welfare to the military. It causes a devaluing of humanity into a mass, rather than an individual. However, gov't. interference is also a spectrum. While welfare is a coercive force that makes people reliant on the state for their livelihood, there is no point in getting rid of what is essentially a good, but inept and ineffective, system before getting rid of the more violent and oppressive police and military forces. Perhaps the thing that Chomsky has shown best is that highly developed states, such as ours, tend towards coercive, but nonviolent, force domestically, but use violent, oppressive force internationally, as a means of maintaining state "security." Therefore, it would be best to have no state, but that is living in the future. So for now, I'd say dismantle the oppressive forces, which can be done through the mechanisms of the state, then work collectively to make the internally coercive forces unnecessary.

2. Pushing would mean organizing communities to use the mechanisms of state power to dismantle oppressive forces, while simultaneously organizing them to be self-sufficient from the centralized power structure, i.e. the state. Collectively doing this would be doing it as an organized community. Not in terms of forcing individuals to adhere to the ideology of the group, but in collectivizing those that feel disenfranchized to put pressure on the state to meet their demands. Basically, pushing collectively would be voting to end US military occupation in Afghanistan while getting people to plant a community garden. That's a little oversimplified, but it's the basic idea. Look into some of the books I suggested earlier for a more clear idea of what I'm talking about.

3. No. Some rights are inherent, basically those that affect what you want as an individual, such as free speech, and freedom of worship. But other rights are agreed upon by the community. This means that you have the right to do whatever you want, so long as you aren't violating the rights of another individual. This means that you can go so far as to say that you don't wish to participate in the community, but would rather live as a solitary individual.

Again, I would like to stress that there is no "libertarian school of thought" per say. There are a multitude of schools that meet the needs of a variety of situations. Lets take what your talking about for example, what I'd call right-libertarianism. It's really the ideology of the frontiersman. I find it totally inoperable in the modern, interconnected world in which we live. The inapplicability of individualist libertarianism (that which emphasizes the liberty over equality, or the individual over the collective) to modern industrial society has always been my reasoning for erring more towards collectivism. Rather than submitting the individual to the will of the collective (essentially the idea behind state socialism), this ideology places the liberty of the individual on level with the integrity of the collective. The individual must submit to some level of constraint to benefit from the community, but is not required to. The best example of this would be anarcho-communism. Please, try not to say that this is the same as Bolshevik state-communism. Anarcho-communist believe that small, self-sufficient collectives of willing members can lead a fulfilling and free life, absent of the domination of the state. This is still a very agrarian idea, but it finds its compliment for industrial society in anarcho-syndicalism. Basically, you want the common denominators of libertarianism. So, from the broader scope of the movement, these are liberty (from liberalism) and equality (from socialism). Rather than two opposing forces, as they're often portrayed in the "libertarian" literature to which you refer, the broader libertarian movement sees these as two ideals, in which one cannot really exist in a society without the other. Again, I recommend these two books as guides on the broader movement, which is the original "act locally, think globally" movement.

Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction

Posted on Aug 26, 2010 2:05:04 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2010 2:15:58 PM PDT
@P. Vaihansky.

Well, this discusison certainly is interesting. Based on the following exchange between yourself and Libertarian! Socialist! Patriot! Fryfan!, I think that the so-called Left Libertarians are to be found chiefly in Europe and not here in the US. As I said earlier, my father always said that libertarians were in a loose alliance with conservatives for in the battle against the Left. So this too leads me to believe that the majority of libertarians he had met here in the US were indeed against the Left, thus making his statement accurate in an overall nationwide sense.

In particular, in a recent email he told me this:

"David, as I've told you before, while it is doubtful that libertarians will ever agree us on social concerning immigration policy and other controversial things, it is imperative that we alll unite against the socialist tendencies of the Left. An alliance, however temporary, against current direction of our government is at least a stand for private property and individual liberties. We have all of us got to decide who will prevail on social things. But for now it is enough that we are united in the tradtions of our past, in our love of the Constitution, and our belief in the Rule of Law. I would rather fight a libertarian on the issue of how much power a government ought to have than face a socialist who wishes to disproportionately increase the scope of government and steal away invidivual liberty in favor of Collectivist model. In order to have an opportunity to debate the libertarians on the national scene, we must first undertake the more important and arduous task of defeating the Collectivist agenda. This will require all our efforts and dedication, nor is there any definite hope that our actions will result in success. The trends of today are toward a welfare state, and unfortunately, we are seeing more and more a complacency on the part of people to fight these trends.

It is true that Tea Party movement offers some hope, but "where there is no vision, the people perish," and if the movement does not grow, it will die. Right now the danger of Tea Party is the same danger which has always faced the libertarians. Both want less government interference, yet both only speak of less of government, while offering no solutions for a better government. The cry of "lesser government for lesser government's sake" may be a rallying cry for Tea Party and libertarian advocates, but in truth the scope of government must be strong enough to preserve the proper authority of the state, yet not strong enough to trample on the rights of its citizens. In order to make this ideal government, there must be clear limits and definitions as to what government can do and can't do, as well as a system of checks and balances, which our Constitution provides."

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 2:06:11 PM PDT
P. Vaihansky says:
Although I wasn't asking these questions to you, thank you for your contribution anyway.

If I am not mistaken, your answer to my central question is this:

"Basically, you want the common denominators of libertarianism. So, from the broader scope of the movement, these are liberty (from liberalism) and equality (from socialism)."

In order to make sure I understand your position, I am going to have to ask you to (a) define "equality" and "liberty", respectively (this is necessary because unless we can agree on the meaning of terms, discussion becomes futile), and (b) demonstrate how they are consistent with one another.

Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2010 2:13:09 PM PDT
P. Vaihansky says:

What's important is that we understand exactly what is meant by the very important terms such as "liberty", "equality", etc. If we stretch the meanings of these words continuously, they lose all meaning. So I would urge you to think about these things deeply, and think through your positions on issues, making sure they are consistent with your core values. People tend to want to have their cake and eat it too, all the time. I find that unfortunate.

As far as your father's analysis, especially the part where he says "the scope of government must be strong enough to preserve the proper authority of the state, yet not strong enough to trample on the rights of its citizens" - well, that's an extremely important focal point. In order to even begin to construct one's position on this, I think one needs a foundation of core principles, axiomatic truths that can't be compromised. Based on that we can move step by step and determine what we find acceptable and unacceptable in the realm of politics. I hope I am not being confusing here; my hope is that you will see the value of being consistent and intellectually honest as you move forward on your journey, relying not on emotions, but on reason. :)

All the best,
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