19 thoughts on “Reclaiming The Liberal Tradition Of Libertarianism

  1. Pro Libertate

    Paul has some accountability for allowing the newsletters to be published with that sort of crap, but he’s no racist. It’s not like he hasn’t been in the public spotlight to some extent for many years, so any real racism would’ve become evident at some point during that time. Why would he knowingly allow those sorts of racist tidbits while avoiding them in every other context?

    I have some issues with Paul, but he’s the only viable candidate (Johnson being the other, currently nonviable, option) who might restore some of the shackles we’re supposed to have on Leviathan. While I can understand displeasure with his positions on foreign policy, the fact is that we need him or someone like him in the White House to avoid going the direction of Greece, Japan, etc. If our economy does collapse, we’ll be increasingly unable to play cop abroad, anyway.

  2. Ken

    The problem is that the “liberal” wing of libertarianism allowed the “paleo” wing to thrive, because of that “liberal” wing’s flirtation with gun control. Gun owners are not particularly racist or anti-Semite–although Lew Rockwell clearly thought they were–and are a natural constituency for libertarians. With “liberal” libertarians embracing people like Tom Campbell, gun owners defaulted to the paleo position.

  3. MfK

    After 36 years of searching, I still can’t identify a thing which I could call “libertarianism.” These articles make it easy to see why that is…

    1. Thomas Matula

      Ayn Rand had the Libertarian movement pegged from the start.

      http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_campus_libertarians

      [[[ All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they’re anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet they want to combine capitalism and anarchism. That is worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. The anarchist is the scum of the intellectual world of the left, which has given them up. So the right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the Libertarian movement. ]]]

      And the only change in the situation is that after 40 years the label Libertarian is far too tarnished to salvage.

  4. Arizona CJ

    I’ve self identified as a small-L libertarian for most of my adult life.

    I have never found (and likely never will) a political philosophy that encompass all my views, but libertarianism comes the closest (with some exceptions). I’m all for the small government and fiscal responsibility positions, and I do like the idea, a lot, of ending things like forign aid. (caveat: I favor foreign aid if, and only if, it is in the clear strategic interests of the United States. Most of it, including what we pay to the UN, is waste IMHO).

    I, generally speaking, endorse the libertarian stance on social issues. I like their stance on gay marriage: that the government has no business being in the marriage business anyway, so end that role. That way, there is no official endorsement of gay marriage nor any other kind. Officially, marriage becomes a legal partnership, and whether or not sex occurs is irrelevant. (and none of the government’s darn business anyway). Basically, by keeping the government out of the equation, you solve a lot of problems. (strange how that dictum applies to so very many issues…)

    And, Ron Paul to the contrary, the libertarian position on abortion is to keep the government out of it, because it comes down to individual choice.
    I personally detest abortion, but I don’t see how I have any business imposing my views on others, so I reluctantly support the right to choose.
    The main reason is that I have yet to see anything that indicates that a fetus early in the term is a human being. Potential, sure, but by that regard so is every egg. If I ever do find a convincing argument to the contrary, I reserve the right to change my mind.

    I very much approve of the “audit the fed!” stance, and going back to constitutional limits on federal power.

    My break with many libertarians is at the border. I do not share the beleifs of many libertarians regarding open borders or isolationist foreign policy. Oh, I’d love isolationist foreign policy if I thought we could get away with it, but I don’t see how we can, any more than we could in the 1930’s. (actually far less today, IMHO). To me, isolationism is a short road to national suicide.

    As a libertarian, how do I feel about Ron Paul? I feel he’s the worst thing to happen to the concept of libertarianism in fifty years. I am sick, sick, sick of people assuming that because I’m a libertarian I’m a supporter of that nut, and I think he’s setting libertarian thought back a long, long way.

    All the crank stances; 9-11 trutherisim, other conspiracy theories, isolationism, his newsletter, they all hurt libertarians.

    On the issue of his newsletter, I’m torn. One one hand, I think it’s very plausible that he farmed the thing out and is such a rotten manager that he had no clue what was going out under his name. If so, he’s innocent of racism and also far too inept and incompetent to be anywhere near the oval office. On the flip side, he was aware and responsible for the content, in which case he should be kept well away from the oval office.

    Then we have the downright insane; claiming that Hamas was created by the Israelis. Or, that the US should not have fought Germany in WWII. On the latter, just for starters, does Ron Paul even have a clue as to who declared war on whom? Germany declared war on the US, not the other way around (until we reciprocated a day later).

    There are plenty in the R field that I don’t like, but Ron Paul is the only one capable of making me say that, if he’s the R nominee, I might actually vote for Obama (Whom I utterly detest).

    So, I certainly agree that this is not a good thing for libertarianism.

    1. rickl

      If Ron Paul is the Republican nominee, you could always vote for the Libertarian Party candidate. I’d cut my own hands off before I’d vote for Obama.

    2. Leland

      CJ, if you put your name in the ring, I could support the planks you laid down. Well, except the part Rickl notes.

    3. Thomas Matula

      [[[Oh, I’d love isolationist foreign policy if I thought we could get away with it, but I don’t see how we can, any more than we could in the 1930′s. ]]]

      Actually isolationist is not really a good descriptive of U.S. foreign policy in the 1930’s, merely the mood of the American public, especially towards Japan. Its also a bit of a Red Herring being used against Ron Paul.

      In terms of U.S. foreign policy in Europe, after an unsuccessful attempt at intervention in Russia following the Revolution, we had a clear basis towards England and France, but the public sentiment was against getting involved once the war started.

      I will also just mention the numerators interventions in Latin America during this period. (i.e. an early for of “nation building”).

      In terms of Japan, we had increasingly favored China in our policy through embargoes and saber rattling. Indeed it was the U.S. embargoing oil shipments to Japan that started the clock running on the Pearl Harbor attack. I t was only when the U.S refused Japan’s request to lift it one last time that the final go ahead, the famous “Climb Mount Niitaka” message was sent to the attack fleet approving them to go ahead with the plan.

      Now I am not criticizing this policy, indeed, the U.S. should probably have had a more aggressive policy against Japan when it first invaded China in 1932 when the U.S. and Britain didn’t have the distraction of Germany and when the Japanese navy was still weak. But it wasn’t really as isolationist as many folks claim. That was only a term advocates for the post war policy of being the world’s police applied to it after the war.

  5. Jardinero1

    Has Rand or any commenter actually read the newsletters? I read chunks of them in The New Republic four years ago. I am not sure some commenters on this blog would take issue with them as I have heard many of the same sentiments expressed here.

  6. Gregg

    Arizona CJ wrote:

    “My break with many libertarians is at the border. I do not share the beleifs of many libertarians regarding open borders or isolationist foreign policy. Oh, I’d love isolationist foreign policy if I thought we could get away with it, but I don’t see how we can, any more than we could in the 1930′s. (actually far less today, IMHO). To me, isolationism is a short road to national suicide. ”

    You are correct: we cannot get away with it. We couldn’t get away with it even just after the Revolution when communications and actions were much slower.

    1. Thomas Matula

      Gregg,

      We didn’t get away with it after the Revolution because the Congress disbanded the Army and Navy, believing volunteer state militias would be sufficient for national defense. The error of the belief was quickly corrected and the U.S. was basically left alone from the end of the war on 1812 to World War II.

      1. Gregg

        Tom:

        It wasn’t just military strength. The point is that isolationism isn’t possible if you wish to have almost any contact with other nations. You will get sucked in and be made to choose whether you want to or not. And you have been given one example of that, which you seemed to have taken to heart since you moved your timeline past Washington’s speech and to the end of the War of 1812. Bravo!

        So then you say: we’ve been left alone after 1812 and WWII?

        I suppose you ignore the fact that Wilson tried to stay neutral, (there it is again!) but changed his mind when (among other things) 7 US-flagged merchant vessels were sunk and the Germans announced unrestricted warfare on ANY vessel heading into France or Great Britain. Wilson said to Congress:

        “The new policy [German] has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents.”

        After all, all Wilson wanted to do was – oh my god! – stay neutral and engage in trade! (There it is again!):

        “…..I thought that it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable. ”

        “…armed neutrality…is impracticable. ”

        So it’s not just presence or absence of military strength.

        Isolationism isn’t possible if you don’t have everything you need and if you want to expand your economy. Also if you (like Wilson) want to have a say in world decision-making (another reason Wilson took us in). The latter, Ron Paul might be happy to give up (not I), but if he thinks he can vote absent from the world he’s sorely mistaken and history gives us many examples of why.

        1. Thomas Matula

          Gregg,

          You seem to forget the key role the Zimmerman Telegram, which Mexico rejected, had as a trigger for U.S. involvement in WWI :-)

          But again, as I posted above, Isolationism is the red herring that those advocating Pax Americana use to attack their opponents. And as I showed above its a false description of what was going on prior to World War II. But tell me. How less secure will America be if after 65 years we bring the troops home from Germany, Japan, South Korea and the UK? Will the Russians instantly attack those nations? If not, who will?

          1. Gregg

            No I didn’t forget the Zimmerman telegram – nice try though. I chose to supply *direct effect* examples to you: sinking of ships and declaration of open warfare, to demonstrate that you are wrong when you stated that we were left alone between 1812 and WWII.

            The Z telegram was a prediction (that the US would enter the war once unrestricted sub warfare was declared) and a suggestion (Hey Mexico why not join in on the fun?).

            In general:

            One thing to consider when you consider bringing home troops:

            having troops in an area DOES give you political influence in that area. You have skin in the game. It also builds a pretty strong tie between you and the host nation. Are you prepared to give that up?

            Maybe.

            Europe has been given a pretty massive economic advantage in not having to defend themselves. But you have to roll the dice: if we weren’t there WOULD they spend the money to defend themselves? Could they defend themselves? If the answer to either is no, would they have been invaded?

            You have to predict…better not be wrong. Much easier (I’m not saying necessarily better) to have trigger troops in there. Same for South Korea. And as we have seen since 1991, it’s been handy to have bases and hospitals in Europe when playing in the Middle East.

            So Paul’s statement that he would just back out unilaterally is simply crazy. At the least you have to work out a timetable and a plan with the allies in question. Even then, life has a way of screwing up your Grand Plan. Paul’s statement is a “feel good” statement….sounds nice, sounds simple….but is anything but simple.

          2. Thomas Matula

            Gregg,

            [[[It also builds a pretty strong tie between you and the host nation. Are you prepared to give that up? ]]]

            Yep, billions and billions of U.S. dollars being added to the national debt just to be spent overseas in the host nation. Often the money is borrowed from the same country (You do know that EU nations own almost a couple trillion dollars of the national debt? And Japan/South Korea are up there as well in terms of owning the U.S. national debt) BTW I thought reducing government spending was a conservative goal. I guess that only applies when its spent in the United States, not overseas.

            [[[But you have to roll the dice: if we weren’t there WOULD they spend the money to defend themselves?]]]

            Isn’t that their choice to make? If they wish to have a weak military why should we care? The collective GDP of the EU nations is larger then the U.S. yet they spend less then a 1/3 of the U.S. on their military in terms of GDP. Why do you think they have so much money to borrow the U.S.? Paying for the defense of Europe is like a poor working man borrowing money from his rich uncle to work free for him as a security guard. And you think that’s a good idea?

            [[[And as we have seen since 1991, it’s been handy to have bases and hospitals in Europe when playing in the Middle East.]]]

            Yes, mostly protecting Asia and Europe’s oil supply while dealing with the post-colonial mess Europe made in the Middle East. You do know we get more oil from Russia (246k barrels a day) then we do from Kuwait (146k barrels), even though we have spent massive amounts of money to first liberate Kuwait and then to eliminate Iraq as a threat to Kuwait. Yes, Kuwait is so grateful for us protecting them :-)

            Saudi Arabia, our great friend, only exports 13% of its production to the U.S., less then goes to Japan and China each respectively. India buys much of its oil from them, as does South Korea. Where are their forces preventing their supply lines or helping the U.S. keep peace in the area?

            If we are going to be the world’s police force then the world should at least be willing to pay us to do the job. England as least received the benefits of its colonial empire during Pax Britannia. If I was Ron Paul I would ask those nations to forgive the portion of the U.S. national debt they owe as a condition to continuing to protect them, a thank you if you will for the trillions of dollars and thousands of American military lives it has cost us since World War II. How many do you think would agree?

            [[[So Paul’s statement that he would just back out unilaterally is simply crazy. At the least you have to work out a timetable and a plan with the allies in question. ]]]

            Yes, the Russians will be in Paris in a month if the U.S. pulls out of Europe. I hear their tanks warming up now. And North Korea will attack South Korea as fast. As if China will let them harm their largest trading partner (you do know that South Korea/China trade is 3 times South Korea/US trade). Let’s face it, if North Korea wanted to roll over U.S. forces in South Korea it would be 1950 all over again given the relative troop strengths. but North Korea won’t attack because they know China will instantly stomp them flat and give them to their good trading buddy, South Korea, gift wrapped.

            Ron Paul’s foreign policy is not isolationism, its a rational one for a nation that has gone broke thanks to Pax Americana. Why do you want to drive us deeper into debt continuing it?

  7. Gregg

    As to what a libertarian is, one possibility is a book recommended to me (but which I have not yet read):

    “What it means to be a Libertarian” by Charles Murray.

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