Why I Am Not a Libertarian

Libertarianism was something I flirted with in college and in my early post college life.  I decided it wasn’t a political movement, so much as a religion, and it’s why walked away from it.  I’m not interested in being pure, I’m interested in being an advocate for causes that I think enhance personal freedom and limited government meddling in private affairs, and advancing those causes politically.   Libertarians, in my experience, are not interested in seriously advancing their ideas politically, because to do so, you have to build a “tent” that’s big enough and comfortable enough for enough people to get under to win.  Libertarians, in my experience, tend to spend more time about arguing over whether someone belongs in the tent than they do trying to grow it.

I would consider Megan McArdle a fellow traveler, and someone who belongs in our tent of people interested in promoting liberty.  But Megan McArdle has spent a lot of time lately criticizing Ron Paul, and recently suggested that Ron Paul’s demise is good for libertarianism.  Read the comments.  If you want to know why I can’t abide by “movement” libertarians anymore, read her comments.   I’ll pick out some choice ones:

Don’t think that we will forget this treasoness behaviour. What you do now will be with you for ever more. ‘When the time comes Megan,… when the time comes’.

And yes, that is a thinly veiled threat.

As the ‘Revolution’ grows, You have no idea.

I guess it doesn’t matter how many dissidents they have to put down in the name of liberty.

I am an anarchist and to me a statist, even a minarchist, is much worse than a racist.

Because a rule by the strong over the weak is guaranteed to have positive outcome for individual freedoms!

I don’t think we did lose big in NH. If you look at the towns that just didn’t count Paul’s votes and consider the lop-sided contridictions of the electronic vote versus the hand re-count … Obama probably beat Hillary and Paul probably took 3rd or 4th.

It’s a conspiracy!  I point this out not to poke fun at anyone but as a warning, because we have folks in the gun rights movement who also think this way, and who would place our movement far outside the mainstream.  Gun rights must be a large tent as well, and we also have folks who are interested in driving the insufficiently pure out of the movement.  Once we become that, it’s over.  The last thing we want the gun rights movement to look like is the Libertarian Party.

11 thoughts on “Why I Am Not a Libertarian”

  1. What a bunch of bonehead -istists, consumed by the awesome purity of their -isms — it’s really very bizarrely neo-Strangelovian.
    I am an -y, a gunny — it’s more ecumenical that way – and today I am an Noveskeyian.

  2. The fighting against ourselves is a reason why I do not bring up anything gun control related around some people who are hunters/target shooters anymore. The “They’re not coming after my [slide-action, bolt-action, .30 caliber rifle, etc.]” and such kind of bums me out. I try to explain how we’re in this together and other things, but it’s like talking to a rock.

  3. There are many hunters that get it, along with a lot who don’t. Some view hunters as a burden on the gun rights movement. I view them as an opportunity.

    There’s a lot of stuff going on that makes a strong case that hunting is also increasingly under attack. If California doesn’t wake them up, I don’t know what will.

  4. If you have any suggestions as to how to win over hunters who don’t get it I’d like to hear them.

  5. California banned lead ammo in Condor Country. There are sections of California off limits, for all practical purposes, to hunting which are larger than many US states. I can do a post on this later. I had planned to actually.

  6. I share your disappointment with the lack of political instinct possessed by most libertarians, but I don’t really see any problem with pushing for limited government (in both police power and cost), free markets and personal liberty.

    There’s no shame in being a movement instead of a political party. I just wish they were more politically savvy and less rigid. If libertarians had half the political ambition of the bible thumpers, this country would be a very different place.

  7. If libertarians had half the political ambition of the bible thumpers, this country would be a very different place.

    That’s exactly the problem. It’s a lot more compelling to be on a mission from God to change America. A lot of Libertarians I think enjoy it as an intellectual movement, which is fine, but they’ll be pondering over whether you can still support X and call yourself a libertarian while the religious right or the left is busy running the country.

  8. Dale Franks sums up why I’m not a big L libertarian (I use libertarianism as a guide, not as a rule book) and the Big-L’s come in and do exactly what you mentioned above. It’s a scary read.

    Being a gun rights activist has taught me some lessons. My arguments are logical and sound, but when faced against an under informed populace and a hostile media, I can’t afford to be binary in my views. I must make adjustments for reality and work with them.

    This isn’t to say I have to compromise everything, but I must make my suggestions and ideas palatable to the populace at large or I will see no gain.

  9. “I share your disappointment with the lack of political instinct possessed by most libertarians, but I don’t really see any problem with pushing for limited government (in both police power and cost), free markets and personal liberty. ” Comment by Jim W on January 15th, 2008

    I agree with Jim W here, that we should be pushing for limited government (not anarchy as many capital Ls would like), free markets (along with very strong private property rights) and personal liberty (with the required personal responsibility.) However you describe the opposition to these things, be it fascism, socialism, communism, or the all inclusive statism, both major parties are advancing candidates now who advocate for more of this, differing only by degree.

    I too spent some time in my youth flirting with the Libertarian party, and abandoned it when I realized that some people are simply, don’t take this the wrong way now, evil. There need to be laws, and there needs to be government. But I remain true to the notion that the government that governs least governs best. It seems to me that if we, as a movement of people who believe in limited government, free markets, and personal liberty, need to start to recruit and groom candidates for state offices, who will become candidates for Congress, who will one day run for President as well-but with a powerful backing of support below. I don’t see why this isn’t “big tent.” Who can truly argue with these things without being exposed as a statist? I am aware of the Libertarians feeble attempts, and their utter unpalatablity to the public, but what I am talking about is building a big tent third party-that represents say 30-40% of the people, and gives folks a viable alternative to either more statism, or a little bit less. And some of those positions should indeed be drawn from the L party. Such a party may never be in the majority, but it could be a powerful king maker in a coalition, and we would get more of what we want than we do now.



  10. I’ve been flirting with Libertarianism for a while now, as well. And the biggest thing I can see wrong with the big-L’s is that the flaw in their reasoning is essentially the same as it is with communism’s. In order for it to WORK, everyone has to be ideologically pure in order to keep it from being completely corrupted. And it is quite impossible to get everyone to agree with the same thing, such as the non-aggression principle that anarcho-capitalism is founded on, or the ideas that greed and property is evil that communism/anarcho-syndicalism is founded on.

    Hence, I subscribe to the theory that there needs to be SOME form of government in place to protect the rights of others, but that it should be kept as small as possible to prevent it from being able to infringe on the rights it was created to protect.

    “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” – George Washington

    That particular analogy is very apt; like fire, it is necessary for civilization, but it must be kept under strict control to keep it from burning civilization to the ground.

  11. “The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty.”– Fisher Ames (speech in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 15 January 1788)

    Libertarians are too selfish. Too much like herding cats to make it work.

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