Skip to comments.What It Feels Like To Be A Libertarian
Posted on 02/10/2009 4:45:13 AM PST by Netizen
What It Feels Like To Be A Libertarian
(posted January 2009)
Political analysts frequently consider what it means to be a libertarian. In fact, in 1997, Charles Murray published a short book entitled "What It Means to Be a Libertarian" that does an excellent job of presenting the core principles of libertarian political philosophy. But almost no one ever discusses what it feels like to be a libertarian. How does it actually feel to be someone who holds the principles described in Murrays book?
Ill tell you. It feels bad. Being a libertarian means living with an almost unendurable level of frustration. It means being subject to unending scorn and derision despite being inevitably proven correct by events. How does it feel to be a libertarian? Imagine what the internal life of Cassandra must have been and you will have a pretty good idea.
Imagine spending two decades warning that government policy is leading to a major economic collapse, and then, when the collapse comes, watching the world conclude that markets do not work.
Imagine continually explaining that markets function because they have a built in corrective mechanism; that periodic contractions are necessary to weed out unproductive ventures; that continually loosening credit to avoid such corrections just puts off the day of reckoning and inevitably leads to a larger recession; that this is precisely what the government did during the 1920's that led to the great depression; and then, when the recession hits, seeing it offered as proof of the failure of laissez-faire capitalism.
Imagine spending years decrying federal intervention in the home mortgage market; pointing out the dangers associated with legislation such as the Community Reinvestment Act that forces lenders to make more risky loans than they otherwise would; testifying before Congress on the lack of oversight and inevitable insolvency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to legislators who angrily respond either that one is "exaggerat[ing] a threat of safety and soundness . . . which I do not see" (Barney Frank) or "[I[f it aint broke, why do you want to fix it? Have the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] ever missed their housing goals" (Maxine Waters) or "[T[he problem that we have and that we are faced with is maybe some individuals who wanted to do away with GSEs in the first place" (Gregory Meeks) or that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are "one of the great success stories of all time" (Christopher Dodd); and arguing that the moral hazard created by the implicit federal backing of such privately-owned government-sponsored enterprises is likely to set off a wave of unjustifiably risky investments, and then, when the housing market implodes under the weight of bad loans, watching the collapse get blamed on the greed and rapaciousness of "Wall Street."
I remember attending a lecture at Georgetown in the mid-1990s given by a member of the libertarian Cato Institute in which he predicted that, unless changed, government policy would trigger an economic crisis by 2006. That prediction was obviously ideologically-motivated alarmism. After all, the crisis did not occur until 2008.
Libertarians spend their lives accurately predicting the future effects of government policy. Their predictions are accurate because they are derived from Hayeks insights into the limitations of human knowledge, from the recognition that the people who comprise the government respond to incentives just like anyone else and are not magically transformed to selfless agents of the good merely by accepting government employment, from the awareness that for government to provide a benefit to some, it must first take it from others, and from the knowledge that politicians cannot repeal the laws of economics. For the same reason, their predictions are usually negative and utterly inconsistent with the utopian wishful-thinking that lies at the heart of virtually all contemporary political advocacy. And because no one likes to hear that he cannot have his cake and eat it too or be told that his good intentions cannot be translated into reality either by waving a magic wand or by passing legislation, these predictions are greeted not merely with disbelief, but with derision.
It is human nature to want to shoot the messenger bearing unwelcome tidings. And so, for the sin of continually pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, libertarians are attacked as heartless bastards devoid of compassion for the less fortunate, despicable flacks for the rich or for business interests, unthinking dogmatists who place blind faith in the free market, or, at best, members of the lunatic fringe.
Cassandras curse was to always tell the truth about the future, but never be believed. If you add to that curse that she would be ridiculed, derided, and shunned for making her predictions, you have a pretty fair approximation of what it feels like to be a libertarian.
If youd like a taste of what it feels like to be a libertarian, try telling people that the incoming Obama Administration is advocating precisely those aspects of FDRs New Deal that prolonged the great depression for a decade; that propping up failed and failing ventures with government money in order to save jobs in the present merely shifts resources from relatively more to relatively less productive uses, impedes the corrective process, undermines the economic growth necessary for recovery, and increases unemployment in the long term; and that any "economic" stimulus package will inexorably be made to serve political rather than economic ends, and see what kind of reaction you get. And trust me, it wont feel any better five or ten years from now when everything you have just said has been proven true and Obama, like FDR, is nonetheless revered as the savior of the country.
Thought others might like to read it.
IMO, the drug-crazed Libertarians need to be marginalized.
We are getting a methadone clinic in our tiny rural town because Americans weren't serious about keeping ALL ILLEGAL drugs away from this country's impressionables. We should have been shooting down known drug flights back in the 80s.
Losertarians need to lose the Open Borders mentality, and pull their collective heads out of the sand on Islam's nukes. We could have used some help against ACORN and Palestinian funding of The Øbama campaign. :(
I have admired a good deal of the Libertarian Party platform for many years. I have some issues with some of it, too; mostly in the realm of foreign policy, and a few others.
People would do well to take a closer look, IMO.
I agree with all you said. A friend of mine had sent me a link to this site and while I’m not a Libertarian, I know there are some on FR, and the article makes some sense.
Why is he not listening to all the economists that tell him his plan is flawed?
What are their numbers like? If Republicans join up with them would they outnumber the Dems? A temporary joining might be the only way to defeat the Dems. jmo
Nice caricature having nothing to do with the article or the argument.
Being a libertarian, btw, may have nothing to do with the so-called Libertarian Party.
Want to know why the Republican lost in the last election? Look at the party’s attitude towards libertarians - totally crap and based on nonsense. You’re in a party that’s more interested in attracting homosexuals and illegals than people who believe in free markets and laissez-faire government.
The Republican Party earned 0bama as much as the Dims. Their attitudes on libertarians is one way Repubs worked it all out.
As a Libertarian, I agree completely with this article.
One point is not mentioned: Although we get assailed from the left, we also get assailed from the right.
We get assailed from the right from the creation crowd, the pro-life crowd, the Terri shiavo crowd, the anti-drug crowd, the “cotraception-is-murder” crowd, the “believe in the bible-or-your-going-to-hell crowd.
Truth is, Libertarians are the most conservative crowd there is. We believe that the constitution is sacred, and should be interpreted as it is written.
One difficulty of being libertarian is that the party we want to support (R) is chock-full of leftist whackos - religionists, compassionate conservatives, bipartisan-over-principle moderates, etc.
We’ve been voting for the lesser of two evils for so long we have a clothes clip grafted to our noses.
I use to think that Republicans were the party of principal and that the Democrats had none. It is the exact opposite. The Democrats are flat=out for more more government control, taxes, spending, regulation and less freedom, responsibility and prosperity. The Republicans are “we’re not quite as bad”. Republicans are 90% Dems. Faux Dems. Wannabee Dems. Second-rate Democrats. The Republicans are to the left of yesterdays Democrats.
Republicans are not for small government but for smaller government. Smaller than today’s Leviathan. Smaller than whatever the Democrats happen to be pushing today. But down the road they will accept today’s unacceptable.
The real shame is that we now hear that it is the laissez-faire policies of Bush and the Republicans that have created this mess. Compromise always leads to disaster.
I'd like to shift to the Libertarian side (because the GOP has lost me) but there's too much there that I cannot support.
There are some pretty significant differences between the GOP and Libertarians. Abortion is one, and foreign policy is another. The Libertarians support a view that the government has no business in peoples’ lives, but also no obligation to pay for anything like medical services, food stamps, etc. No victimless crimes (drug use, for instance), no war on drugs.
In the foreign policy sphere, no foreign entanglements. No GWOT, no UN, no foreign aid of any kind.
Dr. Ron Paul is probably one of the best known Libertarians. It’s been said that Bill Mahr is a libertarian, but I think he’s just an angry Canadian expat with a penchant for eliciting indignation from large crowds.
I don’t think the GOP would have anything to do with the Libertarians, despite the fact that much of the foundational philosophies are close to one another.
You can find more at www.lp.org
From the website:
“How large is the Libertarian Party?
In terms of political activity (i.e. number of candidates, access to the ballot, and elected office holders), the Libertarian Party is the third-largest political party in America. Were active in all 50 states and have more than 250,000 registered voters.”
What do you except. Anybody who says we don’t need Big Government is going to be attacked by thise who do
Perhaps the scorn is due to an enhanced level of misplaced arrogance. For example, does the author want us to believe that open borders has been a success?
By "he", I assume you mean nobama? There in lies the crux of the matter. If it were about the economy, then there wouldn't be a big fight about the pending so-called "stimulus" bill. It would have been dead before leaving committee. So, what are we left with?
It is about expanding the role, and control, of the government over the daily lives of the people, plain and simple. The libs are fighting for it, because they know that this is their best chance of affecting permanent change in US society that will give them control for a very long time.
The libs are pushing our country to the brink, all for pure, unadulterated lust for power.
I consider myself a conservative libertarian.
Laissez-faire on most things, but strong on border control, drugs, crime in general.
Federal government should concern itself with natioanl security, war, foreign policy. Everything else should be the purview of the states.
There is a growing states rights movement across the country. If the Libertarian Party were to jump on that and emphasize how that reflects the Constitution, I think they would increase their support.
Maybe I'm just not aware, but I sense that the LP strongly believes in the principle of States Rights but may not currently be using that as a vehicle to get their message out.
I am not aware of the party's ideals, principals, etc. I just think that good, old-fashioned conservatism should be libertarian as that is the way our Constitution set up this country.
The article is correct in at least one thing--libertarians spend most of their lives being very frustrated at the political landscape. It could explain the flurry of "end-times" talk going on around. That frustration between what we see and what we believe is going to happen as a result of what is going on tends to lend itself very well to end-times type of thinking.
Personally, I tend to agree with it. Now that Zero has weakened our presence around the world, Russia and Iran are going to start leaning quite heavily on Israel, and things are just going to go downhill from here.
The libertarians need to grow a set of nationalist cajones. The founders and the Reaganites understood that rowing with the team is part of the deal.
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