The inevitability of libertarianism

George Will reviews The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch.  They argue that, what with our new technology and all, libertarianism will inevitably become  the dominant political and economic ideology:

“Confirmation bias” is the propensity to believe news that confirms our beliefs. Gillespie and Welch say that “existence bias” disposes us to believe that things that exist always will. The authors say that the most ossified, sclerotic sectors of American life — politics and government — are about to be blown up by new capabilities, especially the Internet, and the public’s wholesome impatience that is encouraged by them.

“Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. What jumps to mind? Waiting in multiple lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Observing the bureaucratic sloth and lowest-common-denominator performance of public schools, especially in big cities. Getting ritually humiliated going through airport security. Trying desperately to understand your doctor bills. Navigating the permitting process at your local city hall. Wasting a day at home while the gas man fails to show up. Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly (as in the providers of K-12 education) or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player (as in health care).” . . .

A generation that has grown up with the Internet “has essentially been raised libertarian,” swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives.

And the left weeps. Preaching what has been called nostalgianomics, liberals mourn the passing of the days when there was one phone company, three car companies, three television networks, and an airline cartel, and big labor and big business were cozy with big government.

via Declaration of independents – The Washington Post.

I tend to be suspicious of claims that the triumph of a certain ideology is inevitable.  The communists tried that.  But it does seem like libertarianism will have a shot, once it disentangles itself from the other parties.  Democrats tend to be libertarian when it comes to moral issues, but traditionalist big government advocates when it comes to economics.  Republicans tend to be libertarian when it comes to economics but traditionalists when it comes to moral issues.   A winning ticket in this culture would probably be libertarian when it comes to government, economics AND morality.  Not that I’m for that.  I’m waiting for a political movement to be traditional in government (that is, one with strength and authority but that knows its limits, like the traditional conservatives were always working for), economics (some attention to national interests)  AND morality.   But I wouldn’t count on that being ascendant any time soon.

I know some of you are libertarians, but Christian libertarians.  Does your Christianity keep you from believing in the progress towards a utopia that this book seems to herald?

If the book is right, what would a libertarian society and political order look like?   And what problems would it introduce?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Eric Brown

    I don’t know if it is a “utopia” as though it is the ideal society — that’s sort of not the point of Libertarianism. The point is that we stop trying to create a wonderful “society” but rather establish a place where people are free to do as they themselves will. Society as a whole would be quite varied – but you could find the niche where you want to be, and you could be there without interference. My friend who digs raw food could get her raw food without the government telling its bad. There also is the thought that there would be more efficiency, that the paperwork would be simplified and understandable with less regulation.

    As such, there’s nothing that fundamentally stops me from wanting this. I’ll let Christianity and Lutheranism stand on its own – Wisdom can stand and call out to all… and if they seek to avoid, I don’t need or want government laws trying to make them repent (that’s a trade I’ll gladly make to cut off the government passing laws that silence wisdom!).

    As for the problems – the biggest problem would probably be reestablishing a personal accountability for taking care of the poor and needy. The nasty side of having the government handle so much social work is that we have a hard time conceiving of private funding and personal responsibility (both in funding and in striving to get off of need) — this would be the hardest thing to transition with.

  • Eric Brown

    I don’t know if it is a “utopia” as though it is the ideal society — that’s sort of not the point of Libertarianism. The point is that we stop trying to create a wonderful “society” but rather establish a place where people are free to do as they themselves will. Society as a whole would be quite varied – but you could find the niche where you want to be, and you could be there without interference. My friend who digs raw food could get her raw food without the government telling its bad. There also is the thought that there would be more efficiency, that the paperwork would be simplified and understandable with less regulation.

    As such, there’s nothing that fundamentally stops me from wanting this. I’ll let Christianity and Lutheranism stand on its own – Wisdom can stand and call out to all… and if they seek to avoid, I don’t need or want government laws trying to make them repent (that’s a trade I’ll gladly make to cut off the government passing laws that silence wisdom!).

    As for the problems – the biggest problem would probably be reestablishing a personal accountability for taking care of the poor and needy. The nasty side of having the government handle so much social work is that we have a hard time conceiving of private funding and personal responsibility (both in funding and in striving to get off of need) — this would be the hardest thing to transition with.

  • SKPeterson

    Dr. Veith,

    I probably am on the more libertarian end of things, but I sympathize with your concerns to some extent. My Christianity does keep me from expecting a new utopia – people will still be made of sinful stuff. However, I find that such sinful stuff married to a government to generally be the source of most devastation and untimely death in man’s history. And, as governments have gotten bigger and more “civilized” in order to “address the needs of a complex, modern society”, they have become more lethal and are just as willing to engage in those things that governments do best – killing and destroying – and then spilling over into other spheres that it should not enter into. Therefore, as a Christian and as a libertarian, I desire to see smaller government, or even better, governments, up to and including the dissolution of most nation-states as they exist today. I prefer that the only “sacred” lines drawn on maps be more akin to cadastres than to borders. As an aside, why exactly it is in the national interest of the U.S. to defend the territorial integrity of nations who are the product of British and French bureaucrats arbitrarily drawing lines on a map of the world? The usual response is usually of the caliber of “Because it is. Where else do scary monsters come from?”

    I like tradition in government and many libertarian theorists do as well, Hans Hoppe for example. However, I think many governments do know</i. their limits, but routinely ignore them. Therefore, I prefer the tradition of smaller, dispersed governing units. To harken back to a previous thread, I prefer the political ideal of Tolkien's Shire – a small, self-governing entity, with almost no political organization, yet one that is highly ordered and prosperous (and even better, part of an empire that no longer exists, but still "loyal to the king. – which is why I'm loyal to the Vasa's.")

    I disagree with the notion of a national economy that is of interest to the government. As soon as you have national economic interests, you have national economic lobbyists, and national economic programs, and national economic regulation, and national economic protectionism, both domestic and foreign, and national economic interests that need to have the national government engage “diplomatically” with the rest of the world.

    The only attention of government that might, might, be warranted in the economy: defining weights and measures, but that’s a stretch.

    I recognize that here, many will object and say “But what about workplace safety, consumer protection, or child-labor laws?” Well, what about them? Child labor ended more because child laborers were no longer needed than because of government laws (but ask any kid growing up in the family business, like farming, how many hours they worked for no pay and what impact labor or safety law had on them). Safety came about because entities, especially railroads, didn’t like things exploding and killing employees, passengers and bystanders, as well as destroying equipment. But what about mining? It’s always been dangerous, and it has been modern technology that has improved mine safety, not government. Government almost always lags technology in improving safety. Where it doesn’t, where it gets out ahead of technology so to speak, it generally has moved beyond the cost-benefit equilibrium (case in point – EPA regs which mandate ever more expensive cleaning technology, for which the extra benefit is extremely marginal).

    As to morality, well, I happen to believe that human life is pretty special, since God says so. Who kills more people every year: evil corporations like Wal-Mart or the government? Simple moral calculus, but I would have to say that a government unhinged from any restraints, that views the rights of the people as emanating from itself and not inherent in the people, and one willing to assert control of vast economic resources to sustain itself, is not one to respect the lives and property of others.

    Historically, the greatest threat to life is government. If I bias myself towards life, I’m willing to put up with some moral lapses being outside the purview of government, since we are still made of the same sinful stuff as always. Sin is part of who we are, and institutionalizing it in government , is a way to maximize such sin.

  • SKPeterson

    Dr. Veith,

    I probably am on the more libertarian end of things, but I sympathize with your concerns to some extent. My Christianity does keep me from expecting a new utopia – people will still be made of sinful stuff. However, I find that such sinful stuff married to a government to generally be the source of most devastation and untimely death in man’s history. And, as governments have gotten bigger and more “civilized” in order to “address the needs of a complex, modern society”, they have become more lethal and are just as willing to engage in those things that governments do best – killing and destroying – and then spilling over into other spheres that it should not enter into. Therefore, as a Christian and as a libertarian, I desire to see smaller government, or even better, governments, up to and including the dissolution of most nation-states as they exist today. I prefer that the only “sacred” lines drawn on maps be more akin to cadastres than to borders. As an aside, why exactly it is in the national interest of the U.S. to defend the territorial integrity of nations who are the product of British and French bureaucrats arbitrarily drawing lines on a map of the world? The usual response is usually of the caliber of “Because it is. Where else do scary monsters come from?”

    I like tradition in government and many libertarian theorists do as well, Hans Hoppe for example. However, I think many governments do know</i. their limits, but routinely ignore them. Therefore, I prefer the tradition of smaller, dispersed governing units. To harken back to a previous thread, I prefer the political ideal of Tolkien's Shire – a small, self-governing entity, with almost no political organization, yet one that is highly ordered and prosperous (and even better, part of an empire that no longer exists, but still "loyal to the king. – which is why I'm loyal to the Vasa's.")

    I disagree with the notion of a national economy that is of interest to the government. As soon as you have national economic interests, you have national economic lobbyists, and national economic programs, and national economic regulation, and national economic protectionism, both domestic and foreign, and national economic interests that need to have the national government engage “diplomatically” with the rest of the world.

    The only attention of government that might, might, be warranted in the economy: defining weights and measures, but that’s a stretch.

    I recognize that here, many will object and say “But what about workplace safety, consumer protection, or child-labor laws?” Well, what about them? Child labor ended more because child laborers were no longer needed than because of government laws (but ask any kid growing up in the family business, like farming, how many hours they worked for no pay and what impact labor or safety law had on them). Safety came about because entities, especially railroads, didn’t like things exploding and killing employees, passengers and bystanders, as well as destroying equipment. But what about mining? It’s always been dangerous, and it has been modern technology that has improved mine safety, not government. Government almost always lags technology in improving safety. Where it doesn’t, where it gets out ahead of technology so to speak, it generally has moved beyond the cost-benefit equilibrium (case in point – EPA regs which mandate ever more expensive cleaning technology, for which the extra benefit is extremely marginal).

    As to morality, well, I happen to believe that human life is pretty special, since God says so. Who kills more people every year: evil corporations like Wal-Mart or the government? Simple moral calculus, but I would have to say that a government unhinged from any restraints, that views the rights of the people as emanating from itself and not inherent in the people, and one willing to assert control of vast economic resources to sustain itself, is not one to respect the lives and property of others.

    Historically, the greatest threat to life is government. If I bias myself towards life, I’m willing to put up with some moral lapses being outside the purview of government, since we are still made of the same sinful stuff as always. Sin is part of who we are, and institutionalizing it in government , is a way to maximize such sin.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Sinners we will remain (on this earth). Nothing close to utopia will ever happen here.

    “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

    (that doesn’t mean that we stop working at it)

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Sinners we will remain (on this earth). Nothing close to utopia will ever happen here.

    “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

    (that doesn’t mean that we stop working at it)

  • Booklover

    Weird. I went to press “like” on Steve Martin’s comment and realized I couldn’t.

  • Booklover

    Weird. I went to press “like” on Steve Martin’s comment and realized I couldn’t.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Who kills more people every year: evil corporations like Wal-Mart or the government?”

    The thing is every bad action is taken by an individual or group of individuals, even if they do it at the direction of a government or corporate policy. So, while we look at bad policies and lament their effects, we have to realize that a real person actually came up with it, shared it, promoted it and used influence to implement it. There are no nameless faceless actions.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Who kills more people every year: evil corporations like Wal-Mart or the government?”

    The thing is every bad action is taken by an individual or group of individuals, even if they do it at the direction of a government or corporate policy. So, while we look at bad policies and lament their effects, we have to realize that a real person actually came up with it, shared it, promoted it and used influence to implement it. There are no nameless faceless actions.

  • Michael Z.

    Booklover, in a perfect world we could “upvote” comments on this blog but this isn’t a perfect world. :-P

    I definitely think that fiscal Libertarianism has a chance to gain pre-eminence in America. I also am a little worried about the Liberatarian Ethic that comes with that. We’ll see.

  • Michael Z.

    Booklover, in a perfect world we could “upvote” comments on this blog but this isn’t a perfect world. :-P

    I definitely think that fiscal Libertarianism has a chance to gain pre-eminence in America. I also am a little worried about the Liberatarian Ethic that comes with that. We’ll see.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    I tend to a bit of libertarianism–mostly paleoconservatism but not anarcho-capitalism–and suffice it to say that I bring the same skepticism to libertarian utopianism as I do to Republican and Democratic utopianism. Which is one reason I am not anarcho-capitalist, along with the reality that implicit in Genesis 9:6 and explicit in Romans 13 is an authority capable of executing a death sentence.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    I tend to a bit of libertarianism–mostly paleoconservatism but not anarcho-capitalism–and suffice it to say that I bring the same skepticism to libertarian utopianism as I do to Republican and Democratic utopianism. Which is one reason I am not anarcho-capitalist, along with the reality that implicit in Genesis 9:6 and explicit in Romans 13 is an authority capable of executing a death sentence.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    My Christian worldview prevents me from whole heartedly embracing the Libertarian ideal. We are fallen people in a fallen world. We cannot be left to ourselves to completely self govern. So no, I do not think a Libertarian government would be a utopia anymore than a liberal or conservative government would be a utopia. The Libertarian might be a little closer because at least they would leave me alone and largely stay out of my pocket book.

    On the other hand, a Libertarian government depending on its setup might be Hell on earth. If the laws were not structured right there would be little legal recourse preventing unenlightened individuals/groups from taking advantage of others.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    My Christian worldview prevents me from whole heartedly embracing the Libertarian ideal. We are fallen people in a fallen world. We cannot be left to ourselves to completely self govern. So no, I do not think a Libertarian government would be a utopia anymore than a liberal or conservative government would be a utopia. The Libertarian might be a little closer because at least they would leave me alone and largely stay out of my pocket book.

    On the other hand, a Libertarian government depending on its setup might be Hell on earth. If the laws were not structured right there would be little legal recourse preventing unenlightened individuals/groups from taking advantage of others.

  • Another Kerner

    Theology strongly influences one’s political views, no?

    Perhaps post-millennialists and/or theonomist Christians might hold a utopian view of “reconstruction”, at least in part, however, typically,
    they are certainly not Libertarian.

    Lutherans are amillennialists….asserting the doctrine of the two kingdoms.

    Some Christian’s political views may over-lap with the idea of building a utopia “here and now”, instead of looking to the “then and there” at Christ’s return…. which is inevitable.

    I count myself strongly leaning toward the libertarian view of freedom.

  • Another Kerner

    Theology strongly influences one’s political views, no?

    Perhaps post-millennialists and/or theonomist Christians might hold a utopian view of “reconstruction”, at least in part, however, typically,
    they are certainly not Libertarian.

    Lutherans are amillennialists….asserting the doctrine of the two kingdoms.

    Some Christian’s political views may over-lap with the idea of building a utopia “here and now”, instead of looking to the “then and there” at Christ’s return…. which is inevitable.

    I count myself strongly leaning toward the libertarian view of freedom.

  • kenneth

    Libertarianism might be evil or good depending on which sector of society gets the upper hand. That is likely to be what looks like an amoral culture. The mafia maybe?

    As to which party to vote with one must excercise adiaphora for maximum freedom in the church. I love the lcms stance on homosexuality, it’s soo.. natural. Perhaps the divisions in possible enclaves of varied groups, say religious and secular basically would be the outcome of a political sea change. I strongly doubt it though as secular propensities would favor a godless communism or fascism.

    However the future goes I will be waiting for the upvote. though one couldn’t get up without grace by faithe alone, for Christ alone, to the glory of God the father alone.

    Kenneth

  • kenneth

    Libertarianism might be evil or good depending on which sector of society gets the upper hand. That is likely to be what looks like an amoral culture. The mafia maybe?

    As to which party to vote with one must excercise adiaphora for maximum freedom in the church. I love the lcms stance on homosexuality, it’s soo.. natural. Perhaps the divisions in possible enclaves of varied groups, say religious and secular basically would be the outcome of a political sea change. I strongly doubt it though as secular propensities would favor a godless communism or fascism.

    However the future goes I will be waiting for the upvote. though one couldn’t get up without grace by faithe alone, for Christ alone, to the glory of God the father alone.

    Kenneth

  • Arfies

    SKPeterson @2 raises some interesting thoughts, much of which makes sense to me. But since we are sinners, and since sin has such a pervasive and corrosive power over humanity, problems arise which cannot be dealt with solely on a local basis–Mafia, for example, or Internet crime–but require a larger, more comprehensive authority. The same would be true not only of weights and measures standardization, but also of the administration of justice. The systems we already have are not perfect, but they do have purpose and usefulness. I like the idea of libertarianism in many ways, but ass with all else, much thought is required and there’s always much that can go wrong if we’re not careful.

  • Arfies

    SKPeterson @2 raises some interesting thoughts, much of which makes sense to me. But since we are sinners, and since sin has such a pervasive and corrosive power over humanity, problems arise which cannot be dealt with solely on a local basis–Mafia, for example, or Internet crime–but require a larger, more comprehensive authority. The same would be true not only of weights and measures standardization, but also of the administration of justice. The systems we already have are not perfect, but they do have purpose and usefulness. I like the idea of libertarianism in many ways, but ass with all else, much thought is required and there’s always much that can go wrong if we’re not careful.

  • SKPeterson

    Would robbery, theft, fraud and violence still exist in a libertarian society? Yes, but it would probably be less, since the government would no longer be doing it with your tax dollars. ;)

  • SKPeterson

    Would robbery, theft, fraud and violence still exist in a libertarian society? Yes, but it would probably be less, since the government would no longer be doing it with your tax dollars. ;)

  • Joe

    This review is timely as I am reading that book right now.

  • Joe

    This review is timely as I am reading that book right now.

  • JH

    “Does your Christianity keep you from believing in the progress towards a utopia that this book seems to herald?”

    That’s funny, my Christianity COMPELS me to believe in the progress toward utopia.

    ” 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 COR 15)

  • JH

    “Does your Christianity keep you from believing in the progress towards a utopia that this book seems to herald?”

    That’s funny, my Christianity COMPELS me to believe in the progress toward utopia.

    ” 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 COR 15)

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    I am wary (and weary) of full-blown libertarianism, whether it be the moral libertarianism of the left or the economic/environmental libertarianism of the right, as manifested in the Tea Party. The laissez-faire morality of leftist libertarianism is destructive because it ignores the damage done to society by sins such as pornography, abortion, and the assault on marriage and the family. The laissez-faire positions of rightist libertarianism also have the potential to do great damage to society, ignoring the dangers of environmental degradation and corporate greed.

    An alternative (and far better, in my opinion) form of conservatism can be found in Rod Dreher’s book Crunchy Cons. The first three points of his “Crunchy Con Manifesto” read

    1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
    2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
    3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

    http://geochristian.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/a-crunchy-con-manifesto/

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    I am wary (and weary) of full-blown libertarianism, whether it be the moral libertarianism of the left or the economic/environmental libertarianism of the right, as manifested in the Tea Party. The laissez-faire morality of leftist libertarianism is destructive because it ignores the damage done to society by sins such as pornography, abortion, and the assault on marriage and the family. The laissez-faire positions of rightist libertarianism also have the potential to do great damage to society, ignoring the dangers of environmental degradation and corporate greed.

    An alternative (and far better, in my opinion) form of conservatism can be found in Rod Dreher’s book Crunchy Cons. The first three points of his “Crunchy Con Manifesto” read

    1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
    2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
    3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

    http://geochristian.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/a-crunchy-con-manifesto/

  • Joe

    Kevin – none of those there points would find disagreement in libertarianism. The main point of the discussion of deregulation is focused on the need to end regulatory capture – when the industry captures the regulators and uses them to make themselves bigger. The free market is generally not that kind to large corporations. That is why the large corporations are generally some of the first to look to the gov’t to sustain them.

    As for morality, libertarianism does not equate to the sanctioning of immoral behavior. It simply says that it is not the gov’ts job to regulate it – that is what the church is for.

  • Joe

    Kevin – none of those there points would find disagreement in libertarianism. The main point of the discussion of deregulation is focused on the need to end regulatory capture – when the industry captures the regulators and uses them to make themselves bigger. The free market is generally not that kind to large corporations. That is why the large corporations are generally some of the first to look to the gov’t to sustain them.

    As for morality, libertarianism does not equate to the sanctioning of immoral behavior. It simply says that it is not the gov’ts job to regulate it – that is what the church is for.

  • Patrick Kyle

    Joe,

    An excellent example of ‘regulatory capture’ is the recent mandate to have all toys tested for lead content. Using the scare concerning toys manufactured in China containing lead paint, the toy industry and some legislators got laws passed that mandate every toy must be tested for lead. The process involves sending several copies of each toy to a testing facility and being charged $25,000 apiece to have each toy tested. Of course Matel and the big toy makers in an effort to show they ‘care’ about their customers championed this measure. It has in effect wiped out the smaller toy companies. The guy turning out wooden rocking horses and choo-choo trains in a small shop in an industrial park now has to pony up $25K to test each model he produces.
    Another fine example is the recent financial service overhaul/oversight bill.

  • Patrick Kyle

    Joe,

    An excellent example of ‘regulatory capture’ is the recent mandate to have all toys tested for lead content. Using the scare concerning toys manufactured in China containing lead paint, the toy industry and some legislators got laws passed that mandate every toy must be tested for lead. The process involves sending several copies of each toy to a testing facility and being charged $25,000 apiece to have each toy tested. Of course Matel and the big toy makers in an effort to show they ‘care’ about their customers championed this measure. It has in effect wiped out the smaller toy companies. The guy turning out wooden rocking horses and choo-choo trains in a small shop in an industrial park now has to pony up $25K to test each model he produces.
    Another fine example is the recent financial service overhaul/oversight bill.

  • DonS

    Where to begin? Well, maybe I’ll start by unpacking Dr. Veith’s statement:

    But it does seem like libertarianism will have a shot, once it disentangles itself from the other parties. Democrats tend to be libertarian when it comes to moral issues, but traditionalist big government advocates when it comes to economics. Republicans tend to be libertarian when it comes to economics but traditionalists when it comes to moral issues.

    For the foreseeable future, disentanglement from the two major parties is not an option. There is no viable third party and all political power is concentrated in the two major parties. To withdraw from those two parties is to cede power to the statists. Your only option, if you truly want the world of politics to move toward a more libertarian approach is to pick the party with the most promising philosophy of government and work within it for change. As a sidenote, the third party bearing the “libertarian” tag is more libertine than it is libertarian. That has become evident during the gay marriage debate. More on that in a moment.

    “Democrats tend to be libertarian when it comes to moral issues, but traditionalist big government advocates when it comes to economics.” — NO, NO, NO! The Democratic party is libertarian in NOTHING. It is big government statist through and through. It is libertine in moral issues — there is a huge difference. The Democratic party works actively to promote the right of those who wish to violate traditional social moral standards to do so. OK, I’ll grant that that in itself is libertarian. BUT, it is also working actively to make the rest of society endorse and support libertine values. That is most decidedly NOT libertarian. If you rent a room to the public, you cannot exclude unmarried or homosexual couples, even though renting to them is a violation of your social conscience. Under recently passed Obamacare regulations, health insurance companies are REQUIRED to fully pay for all birth control prescriptions, including the morning after pill! In the California public schools, it is now the law that your child will learn about the positive contributions of gays, lesbians, and transgenders to American culture. That’s a weird one. How are they going to know which historical figures were sexually deviant? Are they going to “out” historical figures? Should be interesting, but definitely not libertarian. In contrast, Christians are continually being told what they CANNOT do in the public arena. Also not libertarian.

    “Republicans tend to be libertarian when it comes to economics but traditionalists when it comes to moral issues.” — well, not historically. Republicans have been historically just Democrat-lite when it comes to economics. Let’s trim a little here and there, but we’re not going to rock the boat. Recall Nixon’s wage and price controls, and Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” campaign. Nothing libertarian about those measures. Not until Reagan came along in the ’80′s did one ever even catch a whiff of libertarian philosophy in the Republican party. However, there is now a core of true believers in that party, while there are virtually none in the Democratic party. So there is hope, but a long way to go.

    One big change in the Republican party is a growing understanding of the mistake in endorsing and supporting “law and order” politics. That is, at its base, statism in another form, and we have seen how big government statists have begun using law and order agencies in government against political, rather than traditional crimes. Be wary of ceding too much power to these agencies, because no matter where it is found, power always corrupts. And when power resides in government, there are far too few checks and balances on those wielding it.

    Libertarianism is no utopia, because we live in a fallen world, and people choose to do bad things. As a result, government is an important civil institution to preserve social order. But, in a world, and particularly a country, where there is no longer a commonality in social moral standards, as we had in our earlier history as a primarily Judeo-Christian culture, a libertarian approach is probably the best one for ensuring that we all have the right to live and act in accordance with our consciences.

  • DonS

    Where to begin? Well, maybe I’ll start by unpacking Dr. Veith’s statement:

    But it does seem like libertarianism will have a shot, once it disentangles itself from the other parties. Democrats tend to be libertarian when it comes to moral issues, but traditionalist big government advocates when it comes to economics. Republicans tend to be libertarian when it comes to economics but traditionalists when it comes to moral issues.

    For the foreseeable future, disentanglement from the two major parties is not an option. There is no viable third party and all political power is concentrated in the two major parties. To withdraw from those two parties is to cede power to the statists. Your only option, if you truly want the world of politics to move toward a more libertarian approach is to pick the party with the most promising philosophy of government and work within it for change. As a sidenote, the third party bearing the “libertarian” tag is more libertine than it is libertarian. That has become evident during the gay marriage debate. More on that in a moment.

    “Democrats tend to be libertarian when it comes to moral issues, but traditionalist big government advocates when it comes to economics.” — NO, NO, NO! The Democratic party is libertarian in NOTHING. It is big government statist through and through. It is libertine in moral issues — there is a huge difference. The Democratic party works actively to promote the right of those who wish to violate traditional social moral standards to do so. OK, I’ll grant that that in itself is libertarian. BUT, it is also working actively to make the rest of society endorse and support libertine values. That is most decidedly NOT libertarian. If you rent a room to the public, you cannot exclude unmarried or homosexual couples, even though renting to them is a violation of your social conscience. Under recently passed Obamacare regulations, health insurance companies are REQUIRED to fully pay for all birth control prescriptions, including the morning after pill! In the California public schools, it is now the law that your child will learn about the positive contributions of gays, lesbians, and transgenders to American culture. That’s a weird one. How are they going to know which historical figures were sexually deviant? Are they going to “out” historical figures? Should be interesting, but definitely not libertarian. In contrast, Christians are continually being told what they CANNOT do in the public arena. Also not libertarian.

    “Republicans tend to be libertarian when it comes to economics but traditionalists when it comes to moral issues.” — well, not historically. Republicans have been historically just Democrat-lite when it comes to economics. Let’s trim a little here and there, but we’re not going to rock the boat. Recall Nixon’s wage and price controls, and Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” campaign. Nothing libertarian about those measures. Not until Reagan came along in the ’80′s did one ever even catch a whiff of libertarian philosophy in the Republican party. However, there is now a core of true believers in that party, while there are virtually none in the Democratic party. So there is hope, but a long way to go.

    One big change in the Republican party is a growing understanding of the mistake in endorsing and supporting “law and order” politics. That is, at its base, statism in another form, and we have seen how big government statists have begun using law and order agencies in government against political, rather than traditional crimes. Be wary of ceding too much power to these agencies, because no matter where it is found, power always corrupts. And when power resides in government, there are far too few checks and balances on those wielding it.

    Libertarianism is no utopia, because we live in a fallen world, and people choose to do bad things. As a result, government is an important civil institution to preserve social order. But, in a world, and particularly a country, where there is no longer a commonality in social moral standards, as we had in our earlier history as a primarily Judeo-Christian culture, a libertarian approach is probably the best one for ensuring that we all have the right to live and act in accordance with our consciences.

  • http://enterthevein.blogspot.com J. Dean

    Strong libertarian here.

    One of the great things about libertarians is that (for the most part) libertarians realize that we are not utopianists. Libertarianism doesn’t claim to solve all problems; what it claims is that government, in its solutions, often brings about more and greater problems.

    To quote Thomas Sowell, “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”

  • http://enterthevein.blogspot.com J. Dean

    Strong libertarian here.

    One of the great things about libertarians is that (for the most part) libertarians realize that we are not utopianists. Libertarianism doesn’t claim to solve all problems; what it claims is that government, in its solutions, often brings about more and greater problems.

    To quote Thomas Sowell, “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”

  • JH

    ….also. I’m definitely in the libertarian camp. Looking forward to the privatization of ALL property.

  • JH

    ….also. I’m definitely in the libertarian camp. Looking forward to the privatization of ALL property.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    The toy/lead paint story obviously an example of regulation run amok.

    The opposite extreme of no regulation is also to be avoided. I am thankful that there are regulations (imperfect though they may be) such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. I’m not sure that the conservative libertarian/tea party movement would have enacted either of these.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    The toy/lead paint story obviously an example of regulation run amok.

    The opposite extreme of no regulation is also to be avoided. I am thankful that there are regulations (imperfect though they may be) such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. I’m not sure that the conservative libertarian/tea party movement would have enacted either of these.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Yes, too many regulations everywhere.
    The libertarian alternative would allow people the freedom to do what they will, and if it hurts someone or their property, then there is recourse in Law to recover damages in most cases. There’s no need to punish everyone with onerous regulations because some might be irresponsible with their freedom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Yes, too many regulations everywhere.
    The libertarian alternative would allow people the freedom to do what they will, and if it hurts someone or their property, then there is recourse in Law to recover damages in most cases. There’s no need to punish everyone with onerous regulations because some might be irresponsible with their freedom.

  • steve

    SKPeterson, #2:

    “a small, self-governing entity, with almost no political organization…”

    I am partial to this in theory but I don’t see it as viable in the larger world. There’s no guarantee that the next shire, or shires, over will adhere to the same policy. Small, self-governing entities have no defense against larger, politically and militarily organized entities.

  • steve

    SKPeterson, #2:

    “a small, self-governing entity, with almost no political organization…”

    I am partial to this in theory but I don’t see it as viable in the larger world. There’s no guarantee that the next shire, or shires, over will adhere to the same policy. Small, self-governing entities have no defense against larger, politically and militarily organized entities.

  • Jonathan

    @22 The “recourse in Law to recover damages” you speak of is a recourse based on the “onerous regulations” you decry. Ay, carumba, man.

  • Jonathan

    @22 The “recourse in Law to recover damages” you speak of is a recourse based on the “onerous regulations” you decry. Ay, carumba, man.

  • Joe

    Jonathan – not its not. It is a civil claim in a court or other dispute forum wherein you make your case the others actions have damaged your person or your property. You do not need regulations for this. You need no regulations or statutes to prosecute a negligence claim against another person.

  • Joe

    Jonathan – not its not. It is a civil claim in a court or other dispute forum wherein you make your case the others actions have damaged your person or your property. You do not need regulations for this. You need no regulations or statutes to prosecute a negligence claim against another person.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 24: No, there is always recovery for nuisance damaged in common law. See, this is one of the great fallacies — that vast regulatory schemes are absolutely essential, or else everyone is completely unprotected. But that’s not the case. The western system of justice was rooted in the common law, and polluting, for example, is actionable under nuisance law. The advantage is that this allows the people to police themselves, with the government, through the judiciary system, acting as an impartial arbiter, rather than using the heavy hand of government, through a huge, cumbersome bureaucracy to actively control the citizens.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 24: No, there is always recovery for nuisance damaged in common law. See, this is one of the great fallacies — that vast regulatory schemes are absolutely essential, or else everyone is completely unprotected. But that’s not the case. The western system of justice was rooted in the common law, and polluting, for example, is actionable under nuisance law. The advantage is that this allows the people to police themselves, with the government, through the judiciary system, acting as an impartial arbiter, rather than using the heavy hand of government, through a huge, cumbersome bureaucracy to actively control the citizens.

  • helen

    Joe @ 25
    You need no regulations or statutes to prosecute a negligence claim against another person.

    (Once upon time, in a village, you might depend on a judge and jury composed of your neighbors… unless you were suing the biggest landowner…)

  • helen

    Joe @ 25
    You need no regulations or statutes to prosecute a negligence claim against another person.

    (Once upon time, in a village, you might depend on a judge and jury composed of your neighbors… unless you were suing the biggest landowner…)

  • Jonathan

    DonS @26 Anyone considering libertarianism might want to think hard about your comment.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @26 Anyone considering libertarianism might want to think hard about your comment.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Please explain, Jonathan. What is it about the comment by DonS that needs hard thinking?

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Please explain, Jonathan. What is it about the comment by DonS that needs hard thinking?

  • Jonathan

    @29 Don’t you think he aptly summed up the (popular) libertarian response to the problem of corporate environmental pollution? If so, then someone considering whether to adopt libertarianism should think hard about that response.

    Why is the English common law the de facto legal expression of libertarianism?

  • Jonathan

    @29 Don’t you think he aptly summed up the (popular) libertarian response to the problem of corporate environmental pollution? If so, then someone considering whether to adopt libertarianism should think hard about that response.

    Why is the English common law the de facto legal expression of libertarianism?

  • Joe

    Jonathan – English common law is the forerunner of American common law, which is here and developed. English common law is not the basis for American libertarianism. The basic underpinnings of the common law system is property rights and privacy rights and its guiding principle is that you are free to do what you want up to the point where you infringe on another’s rights. The oft quoted example is you are free to swing your fist only up to the point where it hits my face. It does not stifle your creativity to within your sphere but it prevents you from damaging another.

    So the common law (including public nuisance theory) provides a disincentive to acting in a manner that harms another.

  • Joe

    Jonathan – English common law is the forerunner of American common law, which is here and developed. English common law is not the basis for American libertarianism. The basic underpinnings of the common law system is property rights and privacy rights and its guiding principle is that you are free to do what you want up to the point where you infringe on another’s rights. The oft quoted example is you are free to swing your fist only up to the point where it hits my face. It does not stifle your creativity to within your sphere but it prevents you from damaging another.

    So the common law (including public nuisance theory) provides a disincentive to acting in a manner that harms another.

  • Jonathan

    “American” common law is a misnomer, no more so that in the criminal law, where the results of your fist swinging might best be dealt with. Crime and punishment are statutory matters in the US. If libertarianism’s appeal is to invoke the English common law to make the redress of every crime a private cause of action, I can see why it’s fallen flat. That and its failure to recognize the rights of women.

  • Jonathan

    “American” common law is a misnomer, no more so that in the criminal law, where the results of your fist swinging might best be dealt with. Crime and punishment are statutory matters in the US. If libertarianism’s appeal is to invoke the English common law to make the redress of every crime a private cause of action, I can see why it’s fallen flat. That and its failure to recognize the rights of women.

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @ 32 – Please explain this “rights of women” thing. I’ve never heard of such a preposterous idea. Why, you’d have women actually out in the workforce? Are you mad? We all know that the end goal of libertarianism is the the complete subjugation of the female sex for their own good. Women cannot possibly own property, or vote, or have any cultural influence beyond the care and instruction of the young. Is this not so? How then can you suggest such tripe? Egads! What next if we follow your course of action? We’ve already freed the slaves! Do you want the Irish to land upon our shores in their dirty, uneducated droves? Outrageous! to be followed by what? Hordes of Chinamen swarming upon our cities offering up cheap laundry services and chop suey? Heaven forfend! You, sir, are clanging the death gong of our society, undermining the bedrock of our prosperity, and selling out our posterity for a mess of pottage. Women’s rights indeed. Better to give the vote to my horse.

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @ 32 – Please explain this “rights of women” thing. I’ve never heard of such a preposterous idea. Why, you’d have women actually out in the workforce? Are you mad? We all know that the end goal of libertarianism is the the complete subjugation of the female sex for their own good. Women cannot possibly own property, or vote, or have any cultural influence beyond the care and instruction of the young. Is this not so? How then can you suggest such tripe? Egads! What next if we follow your course of action? We’ve already freed the slaves! Do you want the Irish to land upon our shores in their dirty, uneducated droves? Outrageous! to be followed by what? Hordes of Chinamen swarming upon our cities offering up cheap laundry services and chop suey? Heaven forfend! You, sir, are clanging the death gong of our society, undermining the bedrock of our prosperity, and selling out our posterity for a mess of pottage. Women’s rights indeed. Better to give the vote to my horse.

  • Jonathan

    @33 Peterson, sure.
    Libertarianism is a political philosophy largely of white men who are ignorant of how much the US government has done for them.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once pointed this out:

    “In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something
    like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, “Now you are free,” but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. You don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet
    again in life.”

    [But as for free white men], “not only did it give them the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

  • Jonathan

    @33 Peterson, sure.
    Libertarianism is a political philosophy largely of white men who are ignorant of how much the US government has done for them.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once pointed this out:

    “In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something
    like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, “Now you are free,” but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. You don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet
    again in life.”

    [But as for free white men], “not only did it give them the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 28 and following: I’m not sure where you got the idea that I was advocating common law as a substitute for criminal law. Those activities that typically fall within the definition of crime, both violent and property crimes, must be statutory, in order to provide adequate Constitutional notice to the offender of the nature of the crime, its elements, and its prescribed punishments.

    What I was talking about was the tendency of modern society to criminalize traditionally civil wrongs, and thus to transfer the power to prosecute, as well as the power to refrain from prosecution, from the citizens to the government.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 28 and following: I’m not sure where you got the idea that I was advocating common law as a substitute for criminal law. Those activities that typically fall within the definition of crime, both violent and property crimes, must be statutory, in order to provide adequate Constitutional notice to the offender of the nature of the crime, its elements, and its prescribed punishments.

    What I was talking about was the tendency of modern society to criminalize traditionally civil wrongs, and thus to transfer the power to prosecute, as well as the power to refrain from prosecution, from the citizens to the government.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’ll sidestep (for now) the debate about “Libertarianism: Awesome or Super-Awesome?”, because I have to take issue with the content of Veith’s quote. Quoting Veith quoting Will quoting Gillespie and Welch:

    Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. … Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly … or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player …

    Myself, the first thought I had that came to mind was my experience with AT&T, my cellular provider. They had wrongly billed me for extra data. And their normally functional network was giving my phone connection issues in recent days. Getting those issues resolved (in the first case) was no walk in the park (and, in the latter case, I gave up after I realized the customer rep was insisting on walking through her script). I suppose that cellular providers are, at some level, regulated by the government, but I don’t see that AT&T really fits the proferred role here. There’s quite a lot of competition in the world of cellular providers. The problem is, all the competition comes from very large, typically slow-moving, companies with massive infrastructure issues to consider.

    Again, Will says (partially quoting Gillespie and Welch) that:

    A generation that has grown up with the Internet “has essentially been raised libertarian,” swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives.

    Which is funny to me, because that generation almost certainly gets its Internet access through one of maybe, what, three options, at best? At my house, I can choose from Comcast (cable), Qwest (now CenturyLink, I guess, but phone-line-based DSL), or Clear (over-the-air/4G WiMax service). Ah, the freedom and abundance of the markets! Oh, and Qwest’s service is slow and terrible, and they tell me they have no plans to fix that in my neighborhood. Talk about “ossified, sclerotic sectors”!

    My point being that big business is certainly no better than big government. In fact, it’s frequently worse. Big government makes me call their office only during union-approved hours. Conversely, big business takes my call 24-7 … and refuses to let me talk to anyone on this continent who knows what they’re talking about. All this in the age of the Internet!

    But I really don’t see a way around this. It takes vast amounts of money to create the infrastructure needed to connect someone to the Internet or to a cellular network. Any entity that can do that is likely to be “ossified” and “sclerotic” at some level, be they corporate or government-based.

    On the other hand, I love my county’s library system. They seem somewhat emphatic about embracing technology, allowing me free access to the OED via any Web browser (not just one at the library), as well as the ability to download free MP3s. To name a few examples.

    The MP3 thing is funny, because it means my local government has actually added a fourth alternative to the three I was previously aware of for legally acquiring MP3s: (1) Apple’s iTunes, (2) Amazon MP3, and (3) attempting to scrape free publicity MP3s off of various Web sites. Oh, “swimming in markets”, are we?

    I’m sure there are holes in my anecdotes, but then, I think Will’s article is similarly hampered, is my point.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’ll sidestep (for now) the debate about “Libertarianism: Awesome or Super-Awesome?”, because I have to take issue with the content of Veith’s quote. Quoting Veith quoting Will quoting Gillespie and Welch:

    Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. … Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly … or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player …

    Myself, the first thought I had that came to mind was my experience with AT&T, my cellular provider. They had wrongly billed me for extra data. And their normally functional network was giving my phone connection issues in recent days. Getting those issues resolved (in the first case) was no walk in the park (and, in the latter case, I gave up after I realized the customer rep was insisting on walking through her script). I suppose that cellular providers are, at some level, regulated by the government, but I don’t see that AT&T really fits the proferred role here. There’s quite a lot of competition in the world of cellular providers. The problem is, all the competition comes from very large, typically slow-moving, companies with massive infrastructure issues to consider.

    Again, Will says (partially quoting Gillespie and Welch) that:

    A generation that has grown up with the Internet “has essentially been raised libertarian,” swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives.

    Which is funny to me, because that generation almost certainly gets its Internet access through one of maybe, what, three options, at best? At my house, I can choose from Comcast (cable), Qwest (now CenturyLink, I guess, but phone-line-based DSL), or Clear (over-the-air/4G WiMax service). Ah, the freedom and abundance of the markets! Oh, and Qwest’s service is slow and terrible, and they tell me they have no plans to fix that in my neighborhood. Talk about “ossified, sclerotic sectors”!

    My point being that big business is certainly no better than big government. In fact, it’s frequently worse. Big government makes me call their office only during union-approved hours. Conversely, big business takes my call 24-7 … and refuses to let me talk to anyone on this continent who knows what they’re talking about. All this in the age of the Internet!

    But I really don’t see a way around this. It takes vast amounts of money to create the infrastructure needed to connect someone to the Internet or to a cellular network. Any entity that can do that is likely to be “ossified” and “sclerotic” at some level, be they corporate or government-based.

    On the other hand, I love my county’s library system. They seem somewhat emphatic about embracing technology, allowing me free access to the OED via any Web browser (not just one at the library), as well as the ability to download free MP3s. To name a few examples.

    The MP3 thing is funny, because it means my local government has actually added a fourth alternative to the three I was previously aware of for legally acquiring MP3s: (1) Apple’s iTunes, (2) Amazon MP3, and (3) attempting to scrape free publicity MP3s off of various Web sites. Oh, “swimming in markets”, are we?

    I’m sure there are holes in my anecdotes, but then, I think Will’s article is similarly hampered, is my point.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    DonS (#35)

    The purpose of regulation is similar to what you describe. An environmental or workplace regulation lets business (and individuals) know what they can and cannot do (for the common good), and the consequences of violations. For example, the EPA has set a standard of 10 ppb for arsenic in drinking water, a measurable quantity. Without some sort of standard in place (some would argue that 10 ppb is excessively low, but I’m not sure that is the case), how would an individual citizen be able to bring a case to court when their water is being contaminated by the mining operation upstream?

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    DonS (#35)

    The purpose of regulation is similar to what you describe. An environmental or workplace regulation lets business (and individuals) know what they can and cannot do (for the common good), and the consequences of violations. For example, the EPA has set a standard of 10 ppb for arsenic in drinking water, a measurable quantity. Without some sort of standard in place (some would argue that 10 ppb is excessively low, but I’m not sure that is the case), how would an individual citizen be able to bring a case to court when their water is being contaminated by the mining operation upstream?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Libertarianism is a political philosophy largely of white men who are ignorant of how much the US government has done for them.”

    Ignorant? They did it on purpose.

    The US government was designed and built by white men on a libertarian model specifically for the benefit of US citizens. There are mountains of documents attesting to this fact. My favorite is also the most succinct:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    See that part near the end?

    “to ourselves and our posterity”

    They fought and died for their own freedom and prosperity, not for the freedom and prosperity of others. Of course others are welcome to fight and die doing the same in their respective countries. The founders of the US set a fine example.

    The real reason that libertarian philosophy can’t work now is that there is not sufficient belief in the common good. Our social capital has dwindled to dysfunctional level.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Libertarianism is a political philosophy largely of white men who are ignorant of how much the US government has done for them.”

    Ignorant? They did it on purpose.

    The US government was designed and built by white men on a libertarian model specifically for the benefit of US citizens. There are mountains of documents attesting to this fact. My favorite is also the most succinct:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    See that part near the end?

    “to ourselves and our posterity”

    They fought and died for their own freedom and prosperity, not for the freedom and prosperity of others. Of course others are welcome to fight and die doing the same in their respective countries. The founders of the US set a fine example.

    The real reason that libertarian philosophy can’t work now is that there is not sufficient belief in the common good. Our social capital has dwindled to dysfunctional level.

  • Joe

    Jonathan – I gave a simple example that first came to mind. Unfortunately, it was a bit misplaced. Libertarianism does not necessarily require the ending of a criminal justice system.

    And the American common law is not a joke. As civil lawyer, I can tell you it is real, it matters and the business community heeds it. In fact, one of the primary reasons you end of with some many civil statutes and regulations replacing the common law is because large corporations would rather have a statute that they get to draft governing them than the common law.

  • Joe

    Jonathan – I gave a simple example that first came to mind. Unfortunately, it was a bit misplaced. Libertarianism does not necessarily require the ending of a criminal justice system.

    And the American common law is not a joke. As civil lawyer, I can tell you it is real, it matters and the business community heeds it. In fact, one of the primary reasons you end of with some many civil statutes and regulations replacing the common law is because large corporations would rather have a statute that they get to draft governing them than the common law.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kevin asked (@37):

    how would an individual citizen be able to bring a case to court when their water is being contaminated by the mining operation upstream?

    Oh, it’s quite simple. They wait several decades until their cumulative intake of whatever pollutant results in cancer or death, at which point they (or their survivors) files a lawsuit and, after that winds its way to court, attempt to prove that it was that particular company’s actions that were at fault and, if they are successful, they win damages against that company. Assuming that the company is still in existence at that point. If enough of these lawsuits succeed over a long enough period of time, the company (again, assuming it still exists) may be forced to reconsider its methods. Justice!

    Still, surely we must all agree that it’s better to always react to such things, allowing people’s deaths to alert us to problems several decades after the fact, rather than have some awful, awful bête noire taking money from us at gunpoint and funding proactive studies and enforcing their results on us at gunpoint, as well.

    Like the saying goes, better free and dead of arsenic poisoning than to live a slave with clean drinking water. And, make no mistakes, drinking water regulation is exactly equal to slavery.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kevin asked (@37):

    how would an individual citizen be able to bring a case to court when their water is being contaminated by the mining operation upstream?

    Oh, it’s quite simple. They wait several decades until their cumulative intake of whatever pollutant results in cancer or death, at which point they (or their survivors) files a lawsuit and, after that winds its way to court, attempt to prove that it was that particular company’s actions that were at fault and, if they are successful, they win damages against that company. Assuming that the company is still in existence at that point. If enough of these lawsuits succeed over a long enough period of time, the company (again, assuming it still exists) may be forced to reconsider its methods. Justice!

    Still, surely we must all agree that it’s better to always react to such things, allowing people’s deaths to alert us to problems several decades after the fact, rather than have some awful, awful bête noire taking money from us at gunpoint and funding proactive studies and enforcing their results on us at gunpoint, as well.

    Like the saying goes, better free and dead of arsenic poisoning than to live a slave with clean drinking water. And, make no mistakes, drinking water regulation is exactly equal to slavery.

  • Steve Billingsley

    It’s funny to me how Big Business and Big Government are often set in opposition to each other, when in reality they work quite well together. One just scratches the others back. They occasionally get into territorial squabbles but at the end of the day they end up getting along. Big Business uses Big Government to squash smaller competitors and Big Government uses Big Business as a steady supply of campaign cash. (Both parties do this – each of the last two administrations Treasury departments read like a who’s who from Goldman Sachs)

    Libertarianism may indeed get its moment in the sun (most political philosophies do at one point or another) but it’s not road to utopia. I don’t think that most libertarians are really all that thoroughgoing in their libertarianism. I think that much of it is just visceral reaction to the growth of government in our lifetimes. The road to utopia isn’t blocked by incorrect political philosophies, it’s blocked by human sin.

  • Steve Billingsley

    It’s funny to me how Big Business and Big Government are often set in opposition to each other, when in reality they work quite well together. One just scratches the others back. They occasionally get into territorial squabbles but at the end of the day they end up getting along. Big Business uses Big Government to squash smaller competitors and Big Government uses Big Business as a steady supply of campaign cash. (Both parties do this – each of the last two administrations Treasury departments read like a who’s who from Goldman Sachs)

    Libertarianism may indeed get its moment in the sun (most political philosophies do at one point or another) but it’s not road to utopia. I don’t think that most libertarians are really all that thoroughgoing in their libertarianism. I think that much of it is just visceral reaction to the growth of government in our lifetimes. The road to utopia isn’t blocked by incorrect political philosophies, it’s blocked by human sin.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 37

    How about a regulatory scheme that imposed higher fines and and prohibited the revolving door of folks who work for a while in industry, then regulation, and then back all the while building up a good ol’ boy/girl system of mutual back scratching. Our current regulatory regime is so corrupt that the worst offenders have the closest ties to the regulators. It is so corrupt (and expensive) that in some cases it is worse than nothing. It seems better accounability would be possible and desirable if the industries were locally regulated rather by the federal agencies which are far less accountable to the people and more easily manipulated by the biggest and richest enterprises.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 37

    How about a regulatory scheme that imposed higher fines and and prohibited the revolving door of folks who work for a while in industry, then regulation, and then back all the while building up a good ol’ boy/girl system of mutual back scratching. Our current regulatory regime is so corrupt that the worst offenders have the closest ties to the regulators. It is so corrupt (and expensive) that in some cases it is worse than nothing. It seems better accounability would be possible and desirable if the industries were locally regulated rather by the federal agencies which are far less accountable to the people and more easily manipulated by the biggest and richest enterprises.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Libertarianism may indeed get its moment in the sun (most political philosophies do at one point or another) but it’s not road to utopia.”

    It already has. The first few hundred years here in what is now the USA. It just wasn’t as scalable as hoped. It works better with a better sense of community. In the age of anonymity, the pressures are different.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Libertarianism may indeed get its moment in the sun (most political philosophies do at one point or another) but it’s not road to utopia.”

    It already has. The first few hundred years here in what is now the USA. It just wasn’t as scalable as hoped. It works better with a better sense of community. In the age of anonymity, the pressures are different.

  • DonS

    There are straw men running around in here like crazy :-)

    I don’t think anyone here is advocating the wholesale dismantling of all regulation. It’s just that we have become a nation that runs to the government to fix every perceived problem, rather than first using the tools already in existence to see whether government regulation is necessary or helpful in addressing the particular perceived problem. Let’s remember that the government can also use the common law as an enforcement tool, so for example, if drinking water is being polluted, a district attorney can immediately go to court under exigency provisions in equitable law and get the nuisance stopped. So it’s not just left to the ordinary citizen to fend for themselves. And if people are really getting cancer from their water — if the problem has been going on that long, as tODD proposes, their remedy is going to be a common law tort remedy anyway. The damage has been done.

    The big advantage, of course, is in avoiding putting a lot of unnecessary regulations on the books that are later hard to get rid of when it is determined they were unnecessary. We are now seeing that in the global warming fiasco, for example, where politicians went off half-cocked based on incomplete and often wrong data to enact complicated and very expensive energy scarcity schemes to address a problem that at least appears to be greatly exaggerated and may not be real at all. And now, barring incredible political will against an entrenched interest lobby and bureaucracy, it will be almost impossible to reverse the economic damage done.

    Joe hit on a great point @ 39, and tODD did, as well, @ 36. Big business can be worse than government, and it often acts hand-in-hand with government to enact regulations, receiving favorable treatment in return, and ensuring that the regulatory morass keeps out the small business competition. I have seen, on countless occasions, clients come to me with plans to have specifications for their products written into state or federal law for this very reason — to lock out competitors. If we want to minimize this problem, we need to de-regulate our economy so that these big businesses face as much nimble, small competition as possible.

  • DonS

    There are straw men running around in here like crazy :-)

    I don’t think anyone here is advocating the wholesale dismantling of all regulation. It’s just that we have become a nation that runs to the government to fix every perceived problem, rather than first using the tools already in existence to see whether government regulation is necessary or helpful in addressing the particular perceived problem. Let’s remember that the government can also use the common law as an enforcement tool, so for example, if drinking water is being polluted, a district attorney can immediately go to court under exigency provisions in equitable law and get the nuisance stopped. So it’s not just left to the ordinary citizen to fend for themselves. And if people are really getting cancer from their water — if the problem has been going on that long, as tODD proposes, their remedy is going to be a common law tort remedy anyway. The damage has been done.

    The big advantage, of course, is in avoiding putting a lot of unnecessary regulations on the books that are later hard to get rid of when it is determined they were unnecessary. We are now seeing that in the global warming fiasco, for example, where politicians went off half-cocked based on incomplete and often wrong data to enact complicated and very expensive energy scarcity schemes to address a problem that at least appears to be greatly exaggerated and may not be real at all. And now, barring incredible political will against an entrenched interest lobby and bureaucracy, it will be almost impossible to reverse the economic damage done.

    Joe hit on a great point @ 39, and tODD did, as well, @ 36. Big business can be worse than government, and it often acts hand-in-hand with government to enact regulations, receiving favorable treatment in return, and ensuring that the regulatory morass keeps out the small business competition. I have seen, on countless occasions, clients come to me with plans to have specifications for their products written into state or federal law for this very reason — to lock out competitors. If we want to minimize this problem, we need to de-regulate our economy so that these big businesses face as much nimble, small competition as possible.

  • Joe

    tODD @ 36 “My point being that big business is certainly no better than big government.”

    This is a premise that is clearly made in the book. Knowing what I know about you from this blog, I would suggest you read the book. You won’t agree with everything in it (I don’t either). And, it is not a great work of political philosophy. It is written for mass consumption. But the point they are making is that the highly regulated companies often become ossified because of barriers put up by the gov’t. Cell phone providers are a great example of this. They have to get permission from the state public service commission before they can provide service in an area. They have to file their rates with the PSC and then if they charge anything other than the filed rate (even if it is a lower rate) they have violated a regulation and can be subject to a fine. If they are an existing carrier, they can be forced to allow other carriers to collocate in their facilities and charge rates set by the PSC – not the market. New entries need PSC approval to build their own facilities. This last requirement keeps many new companies out of the market.

    Another good example is AT&T’s Uverse product (TV via your phone line instead of a coax cable). AT&T was sued in many areas when they introduced this product. Many of the plaintiffs were municipalities who are allowed by law to set up cable companies as monopolies in exchange for the company buying a permit. AT&T had to prove that its product was not cable – in reality they entered into service contracts with municipalities which were not necessary.

    The cell phone and cable examples are not in the book – these are issues I deal with in my practice.

  • Joe

    tODD @ 36 “My point being that big business is certainly no better than big government.”

    This is a premise that is clearly made in the book. Knowing what I know about you from this blog, I would suggest you read the book. You won’t agree with everything in it (I don’t either). And, it is not a great work of political philosophy. It is written for mass consumption. But the point they are making is that the highly regulated companies often become ossified because of barriers put up by the gov’t. Cell phone providers are a great example of this. They have to get permission from the state public service commission before they can provide service in an area. They have to file their rates with the PSC and then if they charge anything other than the filed rate (even if it is a lower rate) they have violated a regulation and can be subject to a fine. If they are an existing carrier, they can be forced to allow other carriers to collocate in their facilities and charge rates set by the PSC – not the market. New entries need PSC approval to build their own facilities. This last requirement keeps many new companies out of the market.

    Another good example is AT&T’s Uverse product (TV via your phone line instead of a coax cable). AT&T was sued in many areas when they introduced this product. Many of the plaintiffs were municipalities who are allowed by law to set up cable companies as monopolies in exchange for the company buying a permit. AT&T had to prove that its product was not cable – in reality they entered into service contracts with municipalities which were not necessary.

    The cell phone and cable examples are not in the book – these are issues I deal with in my practice.

  • Joe

    tODD – I don’t think you fully understand the remedies available under the common law. It does not have to be solely reactionary.

  • Joe

    tODD – I don’t think you fully understand the remedies available under the common law. It does not have to be solely reactionary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    If the regulations were simply setting a standard of $X parts-per-billion of toxin $Y released into the common environment, that would be reasonable (assuming the standard itself is reasonable). But no, we have to have regulations that go far beyond that simplicity. The regulations also require you to use expensive processes $A, $B and $C, require you to submit to compliance tests $I, $J and $K, and for you to hire experts in reading the appropriate legalese to fill out reams of paperwork related to all of the above and submit it to the proper authorities $Q, $M and $O.

    What’s ridiculous is that our local volunteer pre-school (for example) can’t have a bake sale or sell ither food items any more at fund-raising functions because of these kinds of onerous regulations from on high.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    If the regulations were simply setting a standard of $X parts-per-billion of toxin $Y released into the common environment, that would be reasonable (assuming the standard itself is reasonable). But no, we have to have regulations that go far beyond that simplicity. The regulations also require you to use expensive processes $A, $B and $C, require you to submit to compliance tests $I, $J and $K, and for you to hire experts in reading the appropriate legalese to fill out reams of paperwork related to all of the above and submit it to the proper authorities $Q, $M and $O.

    What’s ridiculous is that our local volunteer pre-school (for example) can’t have a bake sale or sell ither food items any more at fund-raising functions because of these kinds of onerous regulations from on high.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @47 But Mike, if we don’t have all these regulations, the bureaucrats won’t have jobs!!! And neither will their private sector counter parts who submit all the forms, yada yada!!!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @47 But Mike, if we don’t have all these regulations, the bureaucrats won’t have jobs!!! And neither will their private sector counter parts who submit all the forms, yada yada!!!


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