Skip to comments.Elusive Libertarians: Do “libertarian leanings” constitute a significant political movement?
Posted on 02/18/2010 6:06:02 PM PST by Delacon
A number of commentators have recently taken up the notion that libertarianism has become a significant force in contemporary American politics. This conviction is partly based on the assumption that, by being different from both liberals and conservatives, libertarians can enter coalitions with both, thus boosting their political power beyond their numbers. For example, David Kirby and David Boaz of the Cato Institute that, although unaware of the appropriate label for their beliefs, a significant number of Americans have “libertarian leanings” and that they are not only swing but bellwether voters; their support for Republicans, for example, ominously dropped 13 points during George W. Bush’s years in the White House. Several libertarians have argued that , and have advocated a fusion between the two, dubbed liberaltarianism.
On the face of it, this is not an unreasonable argument. However, our polling data at Zogby International indicate that libertarianism does not play as significant a role as the media hype would suggest. Very few people claim adherence to libertarian philosophy. Among those who do, a majority identifies with the political Right because of the large role economic freedom plays in libertarian ideology. For the most part, libertarians are a fraction within the conservative coalition — not a stand-alone movement.
Here are some of our data that show this. As a rule, we at Zogby ask two questions about ideology: a qualitative one, where people can choose a political label — progressive, liberal, moderate, conservative, very conservative, or libertarian — and a quantitative one, in which we ask them to position themselves on a 1–9 ideological scale, where 1 is extremely liberal and 9 is extremely conservative.
In all our surveys, almost all our respondents answer both questions. Our December 2009 survey results are typical. First, we found 2 percent of likely voters describing their ideology as “libertarian.” Second, over 90 percent of these self-described libertarians were willing to position themselves on a continuum between Left and Right — although they were free to say they were “something else” or “not sure.” Of those who answered the question, 89 percent chose 5 or higher, with most choosing 6, 7, or 8. Here are the average scores for various ideological groups on our 1–9 scale in our December survey:
|Average ideological score on a 1-9 scale|
To be sure, libertarians and conservatives have quite different views on a number of issues. For example, when we ask questions about foreign policy, we find that voters who describe themselves as libertarians often hold views that are a combination of those held by progressive and very conservative voters. Here is just one example:
However, different as conservative and libertarian positions can be on some issues, this appears not to matter very much. The reason is that economic issues are central to the libertarian worldview, and on these issues, libertarians have far more in common with the Right than with the Left. According to our July 2009 survey, 69 percent of conservative and 68 percent of very conservative adults share the view of 64 percent of libertarians that “Economic freedom is the foundation for all other freedoms.” In that survey, we asked: Which of the following issue categories is most important to your current ideology: social/cultural issues (abortion, gay rights, gun control); economic issues (free markets, free trade, union rights); foreign-policy issues (intervention in other countries, national defense); or environmental/energy issues (government subsidies, global warming)?
|Which of the following issue categories is most important to your current ideology:|
In the past, we at Zogby were often pestered by libertarians. “We are unfairly forced in your surveys,” they complained, “to choose between two crude views neither of which captures our philosophy.” It was in reaction to their insistence that they are fundamentally different from both liberals and conservatives that we added the “libertarian” category on our ideology question.
In this, we were not alone. Theories have been developed to accommodate ideological patterns that do not fit the somewhat limited Left–Right continuum. For example, The Political Compass has attempted to map attitudes toward economic and social freedom more accurately by creating four possible ideological types (authoritarian Left, authoritarian Right, libertarian Left, and libertarian Right). More elaborately, Brian Mitchell’s Eight Ways to Run the Country uses attitudes toward hierarchy and use of force to establish eight political types, two of which serve merely to disentangle the Hayek from the von Mises variety of libertarianism.
Let us for a moment follow these writers’ assumption that a person’s ideology is solely determined by his policy views. And let us also assume that social and economic liberties can largely be disentangled and that libertarians are as close to liberals on social issues as they are to conservatives on economic ones — a view implicit in the argument for liberaltarianism. Still, our data show that different aspects of ideology are not equally important for a person’s ideological identity, and, somewhat ironically, that this is especially true of libertarians. For all their insistence that liberty has multiple facets, libertarians appear to cherish one of them much more than others. This means that liberaltarians should not hold their breath waiting for self-described libertarians to join them.
Of course, as Kirby and Boaz point out, few people use the libertarian label to describe themselves. Part of the elusive promise of libertarianism as a political force is the assumption that there are plenty of unconscious libertarians, who have a broad, vague preference for both economic and social liberties. However, one has to wonder how much these people care about either of them. If they have not bothered to learn the name of their presumed philosophy, the chances that they are applying it with vigor and consistency to multiple domains must be rather slim. Libertarians proper might indeed derive their issue positions from general principles. But a vast majority of voters do not. Realistically speaking, libertarian philosophy is too abstract for a significant number of voters to have bothered to study it, let alone embrace it.
Political philosophy is cognitively complex and, in principle, allows for endless distinctions to be drawn and combinations of beliefs and convictions to be made. Yet when we look at people — as opposed to ideas — we see that a vast majority of voters have no problem with a binary choice. The Political Compass’s ratings of American politicians typically leave two and sometimes three of their four quadrants empty. Mitchell admitted that, of his eight ideological types, only three play a significant role in American politics.
One reason for this is that ideology is not only a theoretical but also a social category, and someone’s ideological identification depends not only on what he believes about policy but also on what sort of person he wants to be seen as being. Among libertarians, some see themselves as liberal intellectuals made better by their knowledge of economics and hence eager tutors to the partly benighted liberal elite. Others resent liberal intellectuals and feel a psychological kinship with modest men relying on common sense.
As a result, political coalitions depend not merely on compatibility of ideas among various factions but also on psychological affinities that particular people have for one another. points to secularism as a possible bridge between libertarians and liberal intellectuals. But he also points out the unacceptable eagerness — from the liberal point of view — with which libertarians have embraced the tea partiers. Our own data suggest that most libertarians find the company of conservatives to be more congenial than that of liberals. As Kirby and Boaz point out, libertarians sometimes part company with Republicans. Yet it is less clear how often, psychologically speaking, they part company with conservatives.
Politics is a social endeavor where practice trumps theory and results trump reasons and justifications. A robust political force should not need so much theoretical refinement and so much data collection for its power to be recognized. The libertarian movement is decades old, has its own party and tens of thousands of pages written on its behalf, and still struggles to be recognized and appreciated. Yet the political significance of the tea-party movement was recognized within months of its coming into existence, without anyone having predicted its arrival and with many still struggling to understand what the tea-partiers stand for. In the end, we find it unlikely that a significant group of voters committed to their philosophy — whatever that philosophy might be — would fail, decade after decade, to put into high office anyone seriously supportive of it.
— John Zogby is president and CEO of Zogby International, a global polling and market-research company. He is the author of The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream (Random House, 2008). Zeljka Buturovic is a research associate at Zogby International and co-author of the forthcoming book Trišno Rešenje (Market Solution).
Hey! No fair! You threw that at me while I was busy answering you!
parsy, who clothes now smell like monkey poo....
Hey! No fair! You threw that at me while I was busy answering you!
parsy, who clothes now smell like monkey poo....
a) How much, or to what extent, do you believe govt should look after, be responsible for, the econ well being of the populace?
b) Social Security; income tax; myriad of other govt edicts are relatively 'new' in regard to our nation's age. Suppose none of these ever came to be, how would you imagine the econ state of this country? Would the people have, or not, been better off?
jla, a 'Jefferson-Reagan conservative' who understands that mankind, left to its own devices, incapable of creating a perfect world, but can come a helluva lot closer than the govt
PS - Read a few times here that your health isn't up to par, hope that situation changes soon for you
Parsifal did you read my first post? Yes unadulterated libertarianism doesnt work. Keep this in mind, pure libertarians find common cause with Buchananite paleocons on foreign policy yet also find common cause with La Raza(who the libs are fine with) on immigration. We dont want to welcome the dyed in the wool libertarian any more than we want to welcome the paleocons on their terms. I’ve only said that there are good things that libertarians can lend to the movement through debate like less government intervention in the market place, tax reform, entitlement reform, etc that need to be heard. If you hate a moderately libertarian’s position on gay rights and abortion, convince them your position is right. But their positions on small, federal government are historically right and should be included in the debate as well. They are a spunky bunch who, I think can fight the big government rinos like Bushites, McCainites and Huckabeeites better than most republicans I know including most of the lead speakers at CPAC today.
I have always liked that quote. If you look down, I think you will agree that my Mencken quote is very simular. Big C.S Lewis fan btw.
I figure I will be out for a year and a half to two years. Thx!
How much gov’t is a hard question to answer. Certainly need regulatory functions. Clean food. Secure financial institutions. Labor laws and safety laws. Safety net for poor and sick and old. For the poor, it should be temporary and lead to not needing it. Education, of course, but something that works.
Beyond that, it is beginning to look like we need some trade protectionism. Something to keep the jobs here.
National Platform of the Libertarian Party
Adopted in Convention, May 2008, Denver, Colorado
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.
Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
In the following pages we have set forth our basic principles and enumerated various policy stands derived from those principles.
These specific policies are not our goal, however. Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.
Statement of Principles
We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.
We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.
Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.
We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely, (1) the right to life — accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action — accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property — accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.
Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.
1.0 Personal Liberty
Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual’s right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.
1.1 Expression and Communication
We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology. We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.
1.2 Personal Privacy
We support the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.
1.3 Personal Relationships
Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the rights of individuals by government, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
1.5 Crime and Justice
Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves. We support restitution of the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer. We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused. The rights of due process, a speedy trial, legal counsel, trial by jury, and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must not be denied. We assert the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law.
The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights life, liberty, and justly acquired property against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the right to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. We oppose all laws at any level of government requiring registration of, or restricting, the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.
2.0 Economic Liberty
A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.
2.1 Property and Contract
Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights. The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. We oppose all controls on wages, prices, rents, profits, production, and interest rates. We advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade. The right to trade includes the right not to trade for any reasons whatsoever. Where property, including land, has been taken from its rightful owners by the government or private action in violation of individual rights, we favor restitution to the rightful owners.
We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet’s climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.
2.3 Energy and Resources
While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.
2.4 Government Finance and Spending
All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a “Balanced Budget Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.
2.5 Money and Financial Markets
We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies, the repeal of legal tender laws and compulsory governmental units of account.
2.6 Monopolies and Corporations
We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association. We seek to divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals. We oppose government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. Industries should be governed by free markets.
2.7 Labor Markets
We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.
Education, like any other service, is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Schools should be managed locally to achieve greater accountability and parental involvement. Recognizing that the education of children is inextricably linked to moral values, we would return authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. In particular, parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.
2.9 Health Care
We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want, the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions.
2.10 Retirement and Income Security
Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. We favor replacing the current government-sponsored Social Security system with a private voluntary system. The proper source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.
3.0 Securing Liberty
The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government. Government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself. The principle of non-initiation of force should guide the relationships between governments.
3.1 National Defense
We support the maintenance of a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression. The United States should both abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world and avoid entangling alliances. We oppose any form of compulsory national service.
3.2 Internal Security and Individual Rights
The defense of the country requires that we have adequate intelligence to detect and to counter threats to domestic security. This requirement must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens. The Bill of Rights provides no exceptions for a time of war. Intelligence agencies that legitimately seek to preserve the security of the nation must be subject to oversight and transparency. We oppose the government’s use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have, especially that which shows that the government has violated the law.
3.3 International Affairs
American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and its defense against attack from abroad. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.
3.4 Free Trade and Migration
We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a threat to security, health or property.
3.5 Rights and Discrimination
We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should not deny or abridge any individual’s rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs.
3.6 Representative Government
We support electoral systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. As private voluntary groups, political parties should be allowed to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions. We call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives.
Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty.
Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.
You must be speaking of the .3% of the GOP that are actually Libertarians.
There a lot of (l)ibertarians in the GOP...they can be spotted by their aversion to social issues. They don't want to fight the rest of the GOP on them...but they'll hold their nose for the greater good.
There's probably millions of those.
You need to get your small l’s and big L’s straight.
Where have I said that I am associated with or a member of the Libertarian party?
See on immigration and national security I can’t be a libertarian. But most of this I am in agreement with. Some of it may bother me but I wouldnt vote for someone else because of it.
Yes, I agree. But it seems like the unadulterated version is whats working its way thru the GOP. Take minwages, which I have been pontificating on for years. GOP position is that it is some kind of exercise of horrible gov’t tyranny. All it is, is a floor on wages so you don’t have a bunch of economic dependents running around broke for the rest of us to take care of. Libertarians have epileptic fits over it. (And social security)
Conservatives, I submit have a more sensible approach. Not too high so you deter hiring people but not so low you leave people dependent on gov’t. It really isn’t that big a thing and is minimally intrusive. And if done right, it works. Lots of good benefits to society to people making enough money to survive.
But do a test. Ask a Republican “conservative” and I bet you get a “Libertarian” answer. (And some blatantly irrational suggestions.)Ask a Democrat “conservative” and I bet you get a lot more of the sensible answers.
That’s because the democrat conservatives haven’t been kidnapped, drugged, and brainwashed by the Libertarians.
parsy, who is typing during commercials
So Parsy, how'd that McCain thing work out for ya?
The main problems with the GOP are that it is terminally stupid as an organisation, slow learning, and has a tendency to p!ss off it's base supporters to the point where they stay home.
Aside from that, it's adherents are inconsistent. They deride Libertarians as "one percenters", and yet b!tch to high heaven about how the Libertarians stabbed them in the back when their weak-assed, fake conservative candidates lose.
Maybe the “official” libertarians are 3%. Unofficially, the average GOP conservative is pretty much a libertarian on economic stuff. If you doubt me, uh, mention worker’s comp on a thread or social security. See what happens. Mention something conservative like raising taxes to help pay the deficit. Sit back and wait. . .
parsy, who says it ain’t gonna be “conservative”
Fascinating show called “Animal Face Off” I just started watching re-runs of.
They had one with a hippo vs. an elephant.