Libertarians in politics

July 18, 2016

I ran across a couple of opinion pieces in the last couple of days about Libertarians in national politics. This first one’s by Kevin Williamson. I usually enjoy his pieces even when I don’t agree with them – but I have no big argument with this one. (My emphasis below.)

How’s that ‘libertarian moment’ working out?

Las Vegas — Yeah, I told you so.

As the presidential campaign season kicked off, many of my friends and colleagues insisted that the United States was having a “libertarian moment.” I thought otherwise, and argued (in Politico) that the admirable Senator Rand Paul, the closest thing to an out-and-out libertarian with any currency in mainstream political circles, would have a hard time seeking the Republican nomination not in spite of his libertarianism but because of it. The idea that Americans are closet libertarians who desire a regime of economic liberalism and a hands-off approach to social questions is not supported by the evidence. […]

I am writing from FreedomFest, the annual Las Vegas gathering of libertarians ranging from those we’d recognize as ordinary conservatives to the Libertarian-party types, goldbugs, marijuana obsessives, and the rest of the merry liberty-movement pranksters. The discussions have ranged from libertarianism in the Islamic world to Black Lives Matters to New Hampshire secession, a subject that may be of some interest to my fellow Texans.

The conversations here are familiar: The proponents of free people and free markets have a “branding problem,” and, if we could only figure out the right words to say in the right order, then people would flock to our banner. At the Planet Hollywood hotel and casino, a famous libertarian activist sweeps his hand over the adult video games, the burlesque dancers at the Heart Bar, the people wandering around with foot-high daiquiri glasses and says: “Hopefully, the whole world will soon look like this.”

And we libertarians wonder why we’re losing. […]

The complexity of the real world exceeds what can be adequately addressed by our ideologies, and the variety of real human beings — and real human experience — means that there are real differences in basic, fundamental values. Most people do not want their values to be tolerated — they want their values to prevail. The terrorists in Nice and Orlando are not fighting for toleration. Neither are the neo-socialists now migrating from the Sanders camp to the Clinton camp or the Trumpkins who are sure that their frustrations and disappointments are being artificially and maliciously inflicted on them by a nefarious elite. And that’s why we are not having a libertarian moment, but a nationalist-socialist moment.

I told you so.

Yep. The "let live" part seems to be a lot harder for many than the "live" part.

This second one’s by Kristin Tate, who has a different take on the cause of Libertarians’ problems.

Libertarians’ Big Problem (and How to Fix It)

As purveyor of The Libertarian Chick, I have discovered that it is impossible to please all of my fans. Over the years I have gotten cranky emails from readers who call me “The Tea Party Chick,” “The Republican Chick,” “Democrat Chick,” “hippie chick,” among others (some are too mean to include here — my mommy reads this blog!)

It is no different on my Facebook page. When I post an article about government welfare I am a “heartless neocon”; when I express support for Ted Cruz, I am “bought out by the Republican Party”; when I post about legalizing hemp I am a “left-wing nut job.”

All this capricious griping has become the norm among the libertarian community. The mindset seems to be that if you don’t agree with every aspect of the Party platform, then you are not really a libertarian.

This stubborn purism became especially real to me after I was blocked from the official Libertarian Party Facebook page. (Yes, they blocked the Libertarian Chick! Isn’t that ironic?) After expressing an opposing opinion *GASP* to one of their vocal Admins, he kicked me off the page. Just like that.

The Libertarian Party has a big problem on its hands. The exclusive nature of the group — requiring litmus tests on such topics as immigration, tax policy, government spending and social issues — is largely why we have been unable to affect major change.

We libertarians are principled people. We have strong convictions, which is what led us to break out of the the two-party system in the first place. But clinging to these convictions without allowing any dissent is what often hinders us from actually getting anything done. […]


  1. Interesting. Kristin must realize that “capricious griping” is not the domain of Libertarians only. I find it everywhere I look in the political environment.

    As a conservative independent voter who usually votes Republican, I can assure you that it’s all the rage in conservative circles this year.

  2. robstroud – I can just imagine how much internecine “war” is going on in conservative circles this year. And how many ideological purity debates must be raging.

    My tinfoil-hat theory (and that of some others, e.g. Mona Charon) is that Trump is a Clinton plant to sow discord in Republican ranks. In that regard, things couldn’t be going better for Hillary if she’d had planned it.

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