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One more post before I get on the plane. This post over at Hit'n'Run, in which Jesse Walker hits Instapundit, looks more like a Kos post in the comments section than what I used to expect from a magazine called "Reason" (to which we continue to subscribe).

Much has been made of how the war has split the Dems, and the war has split the Republicans, but it's really splintered the libertarians. I used to consider myself one (and in most ways that I consider important, still do). I suspect that Glenn does as well. But as Ronald Reagan once said about the Democrats, "I didn't leave the party--the party left me."

[Update, from LA]

Well, that set off a lively debate, though not as much as yesterday's post.

[Update on Thursday morning]

In response to it looking Kossian, Jesse Walker emails:

That's because it got linked by Atrios and a bunch of his readers came over. The comment thread is basically a bunch of visitors from InstaPundit arguing with a bunch of visitors from Eschaton -- and complaining that the commenters at Hit & Run are nuts.

Hey, some of the Hit & Run regulars are nuts. But they aren't that crazy. Most of them sat out that particular debate.

Fair enough. But many of the comments here are about deeper concerns with the direction of the magazine, to which it might behoove both Mssrs. Walker and Gillespie give at least some consideration. The post seems to have struck a chord, both in comments, and in some emails that I've gotten.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 19, 2006 06:08 AM
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Tracked: April 20, 2006 08:48 AM

Same here. I was an activist in the LP for a long time but pretty much left the part for good after their response to 9/11.... I've been dabling with the Republican Party here but so far no real success at finding a new place to land.

Posted by Michael Mealling at April 19, 2006 07:22 AM

Jim Webb is taking the Democrats in a very good direction, at least in my opinion.

Posted by Bill White at April 19, 2006 07:31 AM

I pretty much have to wear a gas mask when pulling the level for the Republicans these days, but it would take an armored hazmat suit for me to vote for most Democrat or third-party candidates these days.

Posted by John Irving at April 19, 2006 07:32 AM

Joe Sestak is another.

And for all the Kos bashing that goes on, Marcus Moulitsas Zuniga probably dislikes Hillary and Nancy Pelosi more than most GOP-ers.

Posted by Bill White at April 19, 2006 07:35 AM

reason is valuable because they seem to be (at least from my experience) non-partisan. im not willing to read republican talking points.

Posted by ujedujik at April 19, 2006 08:06 AM

Sometimes a Hit and Run comment thread is an interesting read.

Sometimes it's more like the Libertarian Underground.

Posted by Stephen Macklin at April 19, 2006 08:24 AM

It can be a real bitch when idealogues quote views one expressed several years back to make it seem one has changed them.

In any case, while I like the libertarian view on economics and a few other issues, I always thought the movement had more than its share of crazies.

Posted by Mark R. Whittington at April 19, 2006 08:45 AM

I have read time and time again about bloggers who considered themselves Libertarians and have since become somewhat disconnected with the Libertarian party of today. Sometimes called small L libertarians.

So why not start a new party. New Libertarians, Bull Moose, Liberal (as in classic liberal) or something. Main 4 party planks:

1) Strong National Defense
2) Fiscal responsibility/Small Government
3) Border control
4) Free Trade

The rest can be sorted out later and there is even some room to wiggle within the 4 points but they seem to be the main reasons where the existing parties seem to have failed the bulk of the people.

Posted by rjschwarz at April 19, 2006 08:51 AM


Since I was on Perot's national staff in 1992 (in a very, very minor role), I'll be glad to comment. It is nearly impossible in the US for ordinary people to start a political party with any chance of winning, for the following reasons:

1. People are reluctant to give either money or votes to candidates that do not appear capable of winning elections. It takes significant amounts of money to get votes.

2. On the national level in particular, and on the state level frequently, the ballot access rules are rigged against people who are not chosen by the two major parties. For example, if your party did not get 15% or more of the vote in the prior election, you do not get Federal matching funds, and do not get on the ballot without petition drives. The rules for the petition drives are often nearly impossible to meet, for example giving a limited amount of time, requiring any signatories not to have voted in the primaries, and requiring all signature gatherers to live in the district in which they are gathering signatures.

3. Informal rules are also rigged against third-party candidates, such as who gets invited to candidate debates, or whom the news media covers at all.

4. Because of point 1, combined with funding rules that prevent a few people from giving vast amounts of funding to a candidate, only very, very wealthy people can afford to spend the money required to win office. (For President, to be a serious contender, you'd need at least $100 million, and probably more like $400 million to compete well enough to have a shot at winning. Senate campaigns can be in the $30 million neighborhood without much effort, and House campaigns cost a couple of million dollars.)

5. Political parties require a large number of people who are motivated to run for office (which is a punishing task), capable of leading large numbers of people and complex operations while not losing sight of big policy questions, charismatic, telegenic and who also have some other special characteristic that endears them to people (reasoning skills, wit or humor, expertise on a critical issue, notoriety or some other "hook"). Note that these people are few and far between, and tend to carry with them large egos and a hunger for power and control. Such people are not likely to flock to a third-party banner either because they're already running as a major-party candidate, plan to run as a major-party candidate, or are intrinsically uninterested in power and control (the last category would match often for people identifying with the principles you suggest).

The only way that a real, viable third party will form in this country is if major politicians from the leading parties (say Lieberman and McCain) were to break from their parties and form a new one, as Kadima was formed in Israel. Even then, this would only stand a real chance if one of the parties were falling over and dying because it was too far out of touch with voters. In the long run, either the new party or the one that was most hurt by defectors upon the new party's formation would collapse, and the surviving party would become a coalition party, like the one it replaced, and would eventually come to resemble the Democrats and Republicans, who really do represent the desires of Americans at the level where enough people would vote for the party to make election possible.

If a rich, well-known non-politician (like Perot, but not Perot now, of course) were to run, he might win the election, but there would not be a party to coalesce around him, so the change would be short-lived.

Alternately, a Constitutional amendment to change the voting scheme from "first past the post" to something like Condorcet or some other multi-vote system would be required, because such a change would make it easier to win elections while not a member of the two major parties. (And the common, and misinformed, argument against this is that we would then have a government like Italy's. This is misinformed, because Italy is parliamentary and we are not. The dynamic is different.)

Posted by Jeff Medcalf at April 19, 2006 09:22 AM

We are presented with voting for the lesser of two evils. Three if you count the Libertarians.

If we, the conservative Republican and Libertarian voters, allow ourselves to become split on our overall numbers the Democrats win. Jeff Medcalf and a great number of us supported the Perot ticket.

What we got was Clinton. Who only got elected because of the votes that went to Perot from Bush.

I disagree with many of the policies coming out of D.C. today. But I can only trust my intellect to see the good in the overall picture.

I posted on another topic here that I support the present administratiion because my wife would look terrible in a burka. Kerry would have surrendered to the terrorists, not in reality, but in spirit.

The Democrats are the party of victims. What better victim is there than POTUS, a prisoner of a war. Johnson and Viet Nam, Carter and the Iran hostage crisis, John Kerry and the post 9/11 world in general. If POTUS is a prisoner, so are we!

At least Mr. Bush is taking the war to them. If we lose the war on terror, economics, taxes, gas prices, immigration will all be null subjects.

Posted by Steve at April 19, 2006 09:57 AM

I let my Reason sub drop specifically because of the thoughtless snark invading the entire magazine, and the cheap political shots.

I don't mind columns making a good, solid case against a President or his policies (even one I voted for, like Bush, or first-term Clinton [I changed, not him, which is why he didn't get my vote twice], or policies I happen to agree with), but Reason columns weren't providing that so much as cheap shots and choir-preaching.

If I wanted the latter in the 2000-2008 period, I'd subscribe to The Nation (which might also provide the former, but I haven't read enough of it to be sure).

I hear things were better when Virginia Postrel was editor (I certainly imagine so, from reading her blog). Maybe they should bring her back - if she'll take the job.

I'm sick of the stupid uselessness of the Libertarian Party, too. Where are the Hayek-style Whigs? The classical Liberals? The non-doctrinaire Libertarians who aren't acting out high-school anti-Republicanism?

I guess there probably aren't enough to make a useful party, which resigns me to either sitting back and watching Democrats run things, or voting Republican. And while I have and will pick the latter over the former, I won't like it.

Posted by Sigivald at April 19, 2006 10:34 AM

what they should do is allow you to have first and second choices on the ballot, so people arent afraid to vote for a third party.

i dont understand why people say things like "I support the present administratiion because my wife would look terrible in a burka. Kerry would have surrendered to the terrorists, not in reality, but in spirit." kerry supported virtually the same policies as bush. during the campaign and watching the debates and all kerry seemed to be saying "i will hold the same policies as bush, i just wont screw up as much". he (like most democrats) is simply a moderate republican. they really should let third party candidates at least be in the debates, as neither of those two had anything substantive to say.

Posted by ujedujik at April 19, 2006 11:36 AM

in my opinion Kerry is a military weakling. I know several people who hid their 3rd combat related injury to stay with their friends in country. Kerry virtually wallows in his own cowardice, by running when he got his. It's not a perfect case of desertion, but it's as close as you can get from a stand point of leaving your brothers in arms to fight when you are able bodied.

I wouldn't want him for a CinC, nor would I hurl him at the present troops. Which by the way included BOTH my sons during the last election cycle. My sons took an oath, as did I, to protect this country. That oath is the same one Kerry took. I don't remember a clause about leaving the field for a few scratches. I've never been able to find any proof of any significant injuries that he recieved.

Those of us who served in the late 70s and early 80s had to bear Jimmy Carter. Kerry strikes me as that same kind of wishy washy Democrat, indecisive at best, dangerous to the military at worst. Kerry is an ex-Naval Officer, show me any footage of his outrage over the U.S.S. Cole bombing? Or any outrage over Clinton's inactivity after the bombing?

"I voted for the $86 million, before I voted against it", doesn't exactly promote a feeling of safety in me.

Posted by Steve at April 19, 2006 01:58 PM

The reason politics corrupts is to be elected they must say what the polls tell them is a winning strategy regardless of party. For better or worse we have a two party system. As noted, 3rd parties generally take from the 1st which elects the 2nd. It seems to me the only correct strategy is from the bottom up, electing hybrid party members (that hold your views mixed with those of the party) until a tipping point is reached in which you can find an electable candidate for the top position. In my view, integrity matters most. So voters need to be wise to liars, to put it bluntly. What to do about people that think Bushes 16 words were a lie, or any future derangement of the same sort, remains a problem.

Posted by ken anthony at April 19, 2006 02:20 PM

I'll bite Ken, what 16 words?

Posted by Steve at April 19, 2006 03:03 PM

Steve, a little googling reveals: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Accurate enough for any set of words from any politician.

Posted by Grizzled_Wrenchbender at April 19, 2006 04:11 PM

Ideologies are invariably based upon what the ideologue thinks people should be like. There is either no consideration given to the question of human nature, or it is rejected out of hand. Politics is about gaining control over people for their own good, with no thought to what they want. For people are considered evil incarnate, descended from from sinners and thus sharing in that sin.

If anyone deserves to be burning in the circle of false counselors it is that ass, Augustine.

Posted by Alan Kellogg at April 19, 2006 09:13 PM

I subscribed to Reason for over a decade, but it jumped the shark after Virginia Postrel left the Editor-in-Chief position. It quickly became clear to me that Nick Gillespie intended to turn the magazine into a clone of Wired. I let my subscription expire, and the stuff I see at only reinforces my belief that I did the right thing.

I didn't leave Reason; it left me.

Posted by Pat at April 19, 2006 09:17 PM

The thing about Democrats, even when they say they're in favor of military action, it is all a shuck-and-jive.

For one, the candidate himself may be lying, and I suspect Kerry of this. He wanted to talk tough. But he couldn't go two minutes without saying something like "global test".

Or the candidate may be sincere, like Joe Lieberman, but if he got elected he would have to bring a lot of the Left in with him, and they would make sure he never actually did anything.

I'm sure Al Gore would have gone into Afghanistan. I'm also sure it would have taken longer, and involved a lot more useless coalition-building and UN-wanking. And I wouldn't trust a single Democrat to do what it might be necessary to do to Iran.

Posted by Gabriel Hanna at April 19, 2006 09:33 PM

I'd suggest that the small, but growing, "neolibertarian" movement the guys over at Q and O have had going for a little while now is a very good place to start.

Posted by Jimmie at April 19, 2006 09:44 PM

rjs, I agree with your party simply because it matches my own idea; the name I suggested was the American Rational Party.

Sadly, it would take a like-minded, well-known billionare to start such a party. Getting one that is dedicated, rational, and well-liked enough would be tough.

Posted by Mike O at April 19, 2006 09:45 PM

The simplest solution would be for libertarians to become a caucus of one or the other major party. Looks as if Repubs offend their values *somewhat* less than Demos, so Repubs it would be. As such, they'd have the power to win some primaries and hence some elections. Not all, not a majority, but a lot more than they do now (since anything is larger than nothing). And develop the potential to do still more.

Posted by Dave Hardy at April 19, 2006 10:01 PM

It quickly became clear to me that Nick Gillespie intended to turn the magazine into a clone of Wired.

That's an excellent summary of the decline in Reason's quality. The magazine today is more interested in being edgy than it is in being thoughtful or insightful.

Posted by Dan at April 19, 2006 10:04 PM

Of course the Libs are going to be the anti-Republican Party. They are a splinter of that party.

They broke off in '72.

Posted by M. Simon at April 19, 2006 10:07 PM

"I've been dabling with the Republican Party here but so far no real success at finding a new place to land."

I agree with you. In debates I've had with my democrat friends, I invaribly end up arguing the GOP side, but I always had a hard time convincing them I really wasn't a republican. I considered myself more a libertarian, but I really don't have a home politically. Neal Boortz comes closest to espousing my views, then even he isn't not 90% on mark for me.

Posted by Dwayne at April 19, 2006 10:15 PM

I can't deal with the war threads at H&R. It goes down hill too damn fast. Within five or six posts somebody drops a "chickenhawk!" which is followed by a "you hate America/love terrorists!" and it only gets worst. The anti-war crowd has gone off their damn rocker. Of course, I think Walker's post was pretty hilarious, frankly. Reynolds took it WAY too seriously.

Posted by Timothy at April 19, 2006 10:23 PM

Reason isn't even that edgy.

I've come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as addiction. I have medical evidence to back it up. I show drug company complicity in this scam. The prison industrial complex etc.

I'm in contact through e-mails with J. Sullum and the rest of the crew.

Zero interest. Nada.

You can read some of it here. More on the side bar.*** rugs.html***

Sorry about the bl*gspot bit. It is all I can afford.

it also doesnt like d rugs

Posted by M. Simon at April 19, 2006 10:24 PM

In American politics coalitions are made before elections.

In Parliamentry systems they are made after the election.

I like our system better because the compromises are known in advance (as well as can be expected given the usual honesty of politicians).

Posted by M. Simon at April 19, 2006 10:30 PM

M. Simon at 10:30: Good point.

Posted by The Apologist at April 19, 2006 11:01 PM

Big-L Libertarians didn't "splinter" on this; they chose a dovish direction that duplicates the Dem position, and promptly lost a ton of membership, including a lot of success-oriented people.

Having administered hundreds of World's Smallest Political Quizzes at LP-oriented "Operation Politically Homeless" booths in the 90's, I've spent a lot of time post-9/11 thinking about the ways in which the party failed me. The Nolan Chart/WSPQ ( with personal and economic freedom axes was a great innovation; it still works way better than the pitiful left/right spectrum for most political analysis purposes, and I still believe in striving to max out both dimensions. But we've now got the third axis that can't be ignored: call it hawk vs. dove. Where are the Libertarian Hawks? I fear that the answer is spelled "Objectivists".

Posted by Eve M. at April 19, 2006 11:08 PM

Hang in there. I predict that as the Democrats decline because of their moonbat left wing, more and more intelligent liberals will turn to libertarianism. While I doubt that will help the pathetic Liberatarian Party, I think it will make politics quite interesting as alliances shift and the Democrat Party becomes irrelevant.

Posted by AST at April 19, 2006 11:12 PM

New ideological movements do not gain power in the US by forming a third party but rather by taking over one of the existing parties like Goldwater-Reagan in the Republicans or McGovern in the Democratic party.

Posted by Kevin at April 20, 2006 12:14 AM

I agree with many commenters on this thread that Reason mag, which still contains some good stuff (such as on Kelo, Ron. Bailey's articles and some decent book reviews), has lost some of its intellectual rigour.

I am not renewing my subscription.

Posted by Tom at April 20, 2006 12:51 AM

ast- the democratic party deserves to become irrelevant, and is undeserving of support as long as they do not support individual rights (i dunno why individual rights wouldnt be plank #1 of rjschwarz's new party up there). right now, however, they are much better on that than republicans (i noticed a while back reason posted about the senate voting to reauthorize the patriot act- only 15 or so democrats voted against it, none of whom were republicans, they also noted that kennedy, kerry, feinstein, i think durbin, among others all voted to reauthorize). i wouldnt have voted for kerry, but i hope feingold runs in 08.

Posted by ujedujik at April 20, 2006 01:03 AM

I've had some contact with the Reason magazine people over the last year or two. The problem seems to be that the magazine has become taken over by people who are somewhat cliquish. The Free State Project ( is arguably the most important libertarian movement in the past 40 years, yet Reason ignored it for a considerable time. Then when they finally deigned to run an article, the FSP was portrayed as just another fatuous, blue-sky "new country" project; the article actually compared it to some of the nutty ideas about populating islands in the middle of oceans. One foolish article does not doom and damn the entire magazine, but it does give a hint of the "not-invented-here" cliquishness of the current Reason leadership.

Posted by Tim Condon at April 20, 2006 02:31 AM

Hang in there. I predict that as the Democrats decline because of their moonbat left wing, more and more intelligent liberals will turn to libertarianism.

Um, Ast, Democrats love the government, esp. big government. It's their one unifying thread. Expecting them to jump to the Libertarian Party is silly.

Posted by Greg D at April 20, 2006 02:37 AM

Another subscriber to Reason who will not be renewing.

I think Nick Gillespie has gone the political route and tried to achieve a balance between Republican and Democrat - a trap many politicians fall into when aiming for the "centre". The integrity of the magazine has suffered as a result.

Posted by Brett_McS at April 20, 2006 02:51 AM

The 16 words are the ones I presumed you meant. I still believe that at the time most of the intel services believed it to be true.

If he, and all the intel services, lied, then why did we go into Iraq? Becauuse Saddam threatened his daddy?

I keep hearing that Bush lied but I've never heard a valid reason why we are in Iraq. Usually people lie to cover up the real reason that they did something, OK what is it?

Posted by Steve at April 20, 2006 03:54 AM

there are many theories of why we really went into iraq. one is for financial gain, either through oil, or the massive corruption in post-war iraq (billions of dollars unaccounted for, no-bid over-priced halliburton contracts, etc). another is that they wanted to promote democracy in the middle east, but they knew it wasnt a convincing enough reason to get the country behind a war. perhaps bush just likes being a war president. perhaps permanent military bases in the middle east (and strategically close to iran) were that important. pnac (of which the bush administration has many members, including cheney and rumsfeld) has wanted a war with iraq for a while. i personally am not sure what to believe, but i am suspicious of bush because if he really believed iraq had wmds wouldnt invading cause saddam to panic, and therefore use them, or else transfer them to someone else?

Posted by ujedujik at April 20, 2006 04:09 AM

I left the LP in disgust shortly after september 11 when the party published a press release that blamed the attacks on the US. I was disgusted and the LP has become a party of pacifists in the face of one of the most morally justified wars we've had in our nation's history.

The LP cannot lead. They are losers. And they no longer have principles based on reason and morality.

Posted by Mike Rentner at April 20, 2006 04:51 AM

And I agree with Pat. Reason magazine became a non-reasonable rag after Virginia Postrel left. I couldn't stomach it anymore and canceled my subscription years ago.

Posted by Mike Rentner at April 20, 2006 04:56 AM

I suspect we invaded Iraq because 9/11 proved the Islamic world needs an enema and Iraq, by reason of its location and indefensible government, was the best place to put the hose.

But of course Bush couldn't say anything that crude and the lumpen intelligentsia would have been loud in their incomprehension of war for strategic reasons rather than as tit-for-tat.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock at April 20, 2006 05:07 AM

WHERE is John Galt?

Posted by at April 20, 2006 05:10 AM

ujedujik , I'm not a Bush cheerleader, but I must interject that before the war Bush did specifically lay out several non-WMD reasons for invading, including the democracy angle. Quite a few people forget this, and the media likes to pretend it didn't happen despite the big deal they made about it at the time.

As for " if he really believed iraq had wmds wouldnt invading cause saddam to panic, and therefore use them, or else transfer them to someone else?", Saddam knew full well what would happen if he used chem or bio weapons on us. Post war evidence indicates, though, that even right up until the invasion that he was certain that we would not actually do it. There are still quite a few people claiming he moved some weapons, but it doesn't seem like Bush is following up on that. Seems to me like he has simply let the war stall out for whatever reason.

I have a friend who was, unknown to me, a Libertarian. When I finally found out, we had a discussion about big-L and small-L Libertarianism; she had never heard of the distinction. I suspect there are quite a few others out there like her.

Posted by Tim in PA at April 20, 2006 05:21 AM

Jesse Walker = Dogmatic Rothbardian = Anarcho-Idiot

Posted by Reason = Unreason at April 20, 2006 05:38 AM

Regarding Reason, I agree with Sigivald, Pat et al. Having been a reader since the early 80's, I was there when Virginia Postrel was the editor. She broadened the scope of the magazine while remaining true to its Free Minds, Free Markets motto. Nick Gillespie has really damaged Reason. The execrable Matt Welch is gone, but Cathy Young is still there. I used to devour each issue when it came in the mail, but now I struggle to read half of the articles. My subscription is not up until July 2007, but I will let it lapse unless I see a big change in its direction.

Posted by Rich Berger at April 20, 2006 05:45 AM

"...but i hope feingold runs in 08."

Russ Feingold of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Perpetual Job Security For Incumbents Act of 2002?

Now that's an amusing position to take on a libertarian-friendly website.

Posted by Moe Lane at April 20, 2006 06:16 AM

I talked about my issues with Reason on a couple of other sites, but since this seems to be the thread for ex-subscribers to Reason to come out of the woodwork, I'll add my name.

As I said over at protein wisdom (in the thread where Jesse Walker made a fool of himself), Virginia Postrel gave Reason class and depth. Nick Gillespie seems more interested in hipness.

If I want snark, there are an unlimited number of places on the Internet to get it. In a magazine, I want depth and thoughfulness. I have not seen either in Reason in far too long. The subscription renewals are now in the process of hitting the trash can as soon as they come in the door.

Posted by Billy Hollis at April 20, 2006 06:19 AM

I just now found this thread, and read the postings with greater and greater interest. I'd feared descending into another flamer hell, and am incredibly heartened to find this didnt happen. While I cannot add much to the discussion - don't like REASON as much as before, but maintain my subscription (in part) to provide some funding to some of what the REASON foundation supports - I want to sincerely thank every poster for the rationale and substantive discussion here. If every thread were as informative and thoughtful I'd get no work done at all!

Posted by DReed at April 20, 2006 06:49 AM

Reason occasionally has some brilliant stories, like the per-student funding one a while back. I've engaged in some debates on Hit'n'Run, and it's true there are some Kossish posters there, and some like gaius marius who are simply insane, but overall its not too bad.

There does seem to be a growing trend toward classical liberalism, with Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Goldstein, Dean Esmay's site (where I blog), and classicist Democrat historian Victor Davis Hanson all getting more attention.

Personally, I've found classical liberalism to be the only model consistent with empiricism. I evolved to that position from movement conservative.

Posted by TallDave at April 20, 2006 06:53 AM

moe, no doubt the people at reason would agree with you. i do not consider myself a libertarian, though i am sympathetic to their ideas. i believe since the passage of mccain-feingold, feingold has endorsed public funding of campaigns (though i think that mightve just been in an interview rather than actual legislation or anything formal). anyways, some sort of reform is needed, and i believe feingold's actions have been sincere, if unsuccessful. this issue isnt among the most important to me besides.

Posted by ujedujik at April 20, 2006 07:16 AM

I’m a military officer currently registered as a Libertarian, but will re-register as a Republican.

The invasion of Iraq was obviously to prevent another 9/11 from occurring, specifically the threat of Saddam or one of his contemporaries in the region from supplying a nuclear weapon to terrorists who could then sneak it into the country.

For the Libertarians or Democrats to be honest opponents of the war in Iraq, they have to be able to answer “What would you do to prevent another 9/11?” I’ve heard a lot of attacks, complaints, and outright lies from war opponents, but never an alternative answer.

Posted by usnjay at April 20, 2006 08:20 AM

More than "splintered" the Libertarian Party, the response to 9/11 has utterly demolished it.

As an LP state chair of many years, and a candidate for national LP chairman when 9/11 took place, I witnessed the debacle first-hand.

The LP is a party with almost complete focus on a particular domestic agenda. So much so that all foreign problems are recast as domestic ones. To the LP, every question of public policy boils down to whether it's acceptable to make citizens pay the costs in taxes. Unsurprisingly, the LP's answer is virtually always 'no'.

Many of us, myself included, realized after 9/11 that this is an inadequate frame for world events. I don't enjoy paying taxes any more than anyone else, but one has to realize after a time that there are worse things to fear.

Unfortunately, the LP as a whole was and is run by people who came from a more rigid anti-war stance. They have a peculiar myopia that causes nearby miscreants to loom much larger in their vision than foreign monsters.

Most of the people with money and influence have left the party, or been bodily tossed out. A graph of donations to the LP tells the tale-- the peak reached in 2001 just before the attacks stands like a mountain over the comparatively barren valley that followed.

I have not changed in my view that in the years ahead, the new primary dynamic in public policy will be between "libertarian" and "traditionalist" axes instead of "liberal" and "conservative."

But the LP has failed to take on the mantle of one of those wings by siding with what the people want -- a robust defense of Liberty in the face of a complex world-- so now it falls to others to try to fashion it. Perhaps the GOP will split into those two camps if the Democrats weaken much, much further.

In the meantime, I am without a party, like many others.

Posted by Elias Israel at April 20, 2006 08:29 AM

"And for all the Kos bashing that goes on, Marcus Moulitsas Zuniga probably dislikes Hillary and Nancy Pelosi more than most GOP-ers."

That's not much of a recommendation; I'd vote Hillary/Pelosi before I'd vote for any ticket with John Kerry or Howard Dean on it.

Of course, the GOP would have to run Hitler/Osama before I'd vote Dem anyway.

Posted by Tatterdemalian at April 20, 2006 08:30 AM

Good summary of the LP's post-9/11 woes, Elias. I was also an activist in the LP, and found the party's reaction to 9/11 baffling. I held on for a couple of more years, but their reaction to the invasion of Iraq cemented my decision to leave the party.

This "stop them at the shores if they invade" mentality that passes for foreign policy in the LP space might have worked fine for the Founding Fathers. But sticking one's head in the sand and pretending that it still works in a nuclear age is childish.

Posted by Billy Hollis at April 20, 2006 08:41 AM

What do you call a libertarian in favor of foreign invasion of a country that was not involved in attacks on the country the libertarian lives in? What if that country happened to decouple its oil from the US dollar a couple years before said invasion, yet this libertarian buys the WMD or grave threat argument pushed by the administration?

No longer a libertarian, but still perhaps a Libertarian.

What do you call a conservative politician who votes for massive government? No longer a conservative, but still a Republican.

Posted by Definitional Disagreement at April 20, 2006 08:56 AM

What do you call a libertarian in favor of foreign invasion of a country that was not involved in attacks on the country the libertarian lives in?

I'd call him or her a libertarian who would have let the Nazis and Soviets carve up Europe, since they had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.

What if that country happened to decouple its oil from the US dollar a couple years before said invasion, yet this libertarian buys the WMD or grave threat argument pushed by the administration?

I'd call that particular libertarian an irrational conspiracy-mongering nutcase.

Do you know anyone like that?

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 20, 2006 09:12 AM

When Libertarians became indistinguishable from strident Leftists on the war and flat out anarchists here at home, i tuned out. Cant there be a Pragmatic Libertarian party? I like my fire department, and dont wont to have to hope my Visa card didnt burn up if I need them.

Posted by Mark Buehner at April 20, 2006 09:15 AM

I *was* a long-time Libertarian supporter/donor (and minor local activist); but finally the bizzarre pacifist planks of the LP drove me out - that, and the numerous fruit cases on display in the state (CA) party, as well as the pointless running of no-hoper candidates for office.

Now a Republican (hey, Ron Paul did it) and looking to move them closer to the axis of freedoms ...

Posted by Don Pettengill at April 20, 2006 09:38 AM

I have subscribed to Reason magazine for a very long time, and as others have said the quality declined when Virginia Postrel left. I just re-subscribed because they have a couple of regular writers I like, but I came very close to letting my subscription lapse.

I really began to wonder about the magazine when in the issue where they asked several libertarian types who they would vote for in 2004 and why, and about three quarters of them gave reasons I thought were either trivial or bordering on conspiratorial thinking. Were these folks supposed to be leading libertarian thinkers? I think they could have found more serious folks to talk to.

Posted by Ray_g at April 20, 2006 09:43 AM

There are perhaps valid reasons for supporting a foreign invasion of a country that has not attacked the US, causing thousands of lives to be lost and billions of dollars to be spent. And perhaps it is permissible to ignore historical US intervention in the region as one of the possible causes of current issues (and so not seeing further intervention as leading to more issues). And a lack of curiosity as to why a particular country was chosen for invasion, while others (who share many if not all the essential traits of the invaded country) are considered allies, isn't necessarily a character flaw.
But a person to which the above applies should then not claim to have been abandoned by a party that at least desires to think about some of these things.

Ron Paul is a Republican by name, but not by actions. Just as someone can be a libertarian by name, but not by some of the things they defend.

Posted by Definitional Disagreement at April 20, 2006 10:10 AM

Jeff Metcaff, I agree that creating a viable third party is not likely but I think creating a New Libertarian caucus within the existing party structure is doable.

What I was refering to was less a real third party than a virtual third party. Imagine if all of the exLibertarian bloggers started calling themselves New Libertarians. Someone cooked up a logo and a website and they all linked to it to ensure it got a decent number of hits.

At some point the number of hits would be worth bragging about and others might start calling themselves New Libertarians.

Then the virtual party could have a bit of pull on issues with the major parties. Particularly the Republicans in this case. By withholding donations, by speaking with a single voice, by voting for Libertarian candidates on polls.

Posted by rjschwarz at April 20, 2006 10:22 AM

Most my comments have been made by Jeff and others. I'll just share my Reason story. I subscribed through the 90's and still have those issues. They even come out for re-reading sometimes. Post-9/11 I got frustrated because the most important issue of the day was being avoided in their line-up. I let it run out and the website hasn't shown me any reasons to change my mind.

Posted by Karl Gallagher at April 20, 2006 11:22 AM

rjschwarz say: "What I was refering to was less a real third party than a virtual third party. Imagine if all of the exLibertarian bloggers started calling themselves New Libertarians."

I doubt anyone would remember, but, the "New Libertarians" was a key phrase from my campaign for national chairman.

As should be obvious, it was not a winning idea there, I'm sorry to say.

Posted by Elias Israel at April 20, 2006 12:20 PM

"Imagine if all of the
exLibertarian bloggers started calling themselves New Libertarians. Someone cooked up a logo and a website" like this one?

Posted by d at April 20, 2006 04:00 PM

Libertarians are ideologues (I know; I was once one of them). While it's pleasant to drink deeply from theory, being under the influence of philosophy usually leads to practical fecklessness. The antidote: read lots of history. Modern freedom emerged not because of philosophy but because of the historical experience of certain peoples in northwestern Europe, especially the Netherlands and then the British Isles. Bob Marley said "if you know your history then you would know where you're coming from". Libertarians would do well to heed that advice and gain an understanding of actual rather than theoretical freedom. That means studying the nature of the Anglosphere (common law, jury trials, the power of voluntary associations, and all the rest). I pontificate on the matter here:

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at April 20, 2006 08:49 PM

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