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I used to post on this board for a couple years, over 10 years ago. It was a thriving board, with many posts each day. And back then on cable news, you often had mention of libertarianism. I remember Harry Brown was a semi-major candidate who received decent media coverage.

So what has happened to libertarianism? Has it gone into massive decline? Other than John Stossel on FoxNews, you almost never hear about it. And this board is dripping at a rate of one post per month.
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The Motley Fool has gone into pretty sharp decline over the past 10 years in terms of overall posting volume. The pool of active posters is much smaller, and niche boards (like this one) have too small a % of that reduced population to generate much volume.

Libertarianism itself is still out there, but I think it's become more fringe and fragmented with the rise of the tea party. You have people in that group coupling Libertarian sounding ideas with a healthy dose of nonsense and so Libertarianism itself seems to have become sort of a muddle.

On top of that, and I can only speak for myself, talking politics became mind numbingly boring. Shouting back and forth with the objective being not exploring an idea, but rather proving the other guy is a hypocrite in some fashion just doesn't hold my interest - here or in real life. That wasn't specific to this board per se, but in general I think the silent majority of folks don't bother to seek out political conversations anymore.

Steve
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On top of that, and I can only speak for myself, talking politics became mind numbingly boring. Shouting back and forth with the objective being not exploring an idea, but rather proving the other guy is a hypocrite in some fashion just doesn't hold my interest - here or in real life. That wasn't specific to this board per se, but in general I think the silent majority of folks don't bother to seek out political conversations anymore.

Steve

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Steve, good to hear from you again. It's probably been 7-8 years since we last talked. I remember we sent a few emails to each other. I'm AOLFoolman, by the way. I believe Gwen's Pub with TJLea was where many of us hung out about 10 years ago. Not sure if you know, but Michael Read passed over a year ago. What a loss.

Yeah, I agree, I can't stand to argue politics anymore. I used to all the time, but as I get older, I can't stand the animosity that builds up. I still do it from time to time, but it's much less frequent.

Anyways, good to hear from you Steve. Are you still in the Northeast?
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LordFoolman,

So what has happened to libertarianism?

In my experience, three things.

One, it used to be there was "Libertarian" and "libertarian" (note the first letter). Now, libertarianism has split into a zillion conflicting branches. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be much of a problem (Republicans and Democrats, for example, are split into various subsets), but each of the various branchlets of libertarianism insists that its version of libertarianism is the only form of government (or form of lack of government) that's logically derived and inherently self-consistent... as long as you don't change even the smallest point in their version.

The result is basically that the word "libertarian" doesn't mean much anymore. There's no particular set of beliefs that can be called "libertarian", at least according to any two given sub-branches. As noted libertarian theorist David Friedman (not to be confused with his brilliant and entertaining father Milton Friedman) so eloquently put it "There may be two libertarians somewhere who agree with each other, but I'm not one of them" (I may be misquoting slightly).

Two, there's been a huge increase in people who are libertarian, because they've finally "had it" with the Republicans (and have always "had it" with the Democrats) especially in light of all the horrible things that happened to the well-meaning members of the Tea Party Movement... but they don't know they're "libertarians". They don't even know what "libertarian" means, nor does anyone else (see point One, above).

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want increased person freedom, smaller government, or reduced government spending. But most Americans do. They just don't have any party that represents them.

The official Libertarian party is full of complete nut-cases, as are most of the sub-branches of libertarianism. Generally speaking, any given sub-branch of libertarians believes in all the things I just listed in the previous paragraph, and a bunch of other things that most Americans believe in, and then a handful of complete nut-case positions that not one in 100,000 people believe in (or maybe not 1 in a million people). And they absolutely, positively, WILL NOT give up even a hundredth of one of those nut-case positions EVER!!!!! It has to be all or nothing.

Three, there's been some increase in the percentage of libertarians who are "members of the cult". They don't want to be mainstream. They want to revel in being one of the "in-crowd". So they purposely use non-standard definitions for words so they can yell slogans that repel the average person, but the in-crowd knows what they're talking about. By subverting the language used by libertarians, they make libertarianism less accessible to the general public. And, sitting it their mommies' basements, they don't care.

Or, it could be that the Democrats, who are incredible masters of subverting the meanings of words to their ends, see the threat posed by libertarianism and have jumped in to make them look like complete nut-cases (which is how they are now nearly universally described in mainstream media) rather than a group that contains the occasional nut-case... by using their tried-and-true tricks of language manipulation. They're so good at it, there's really no way to know whether they're at it here or not.

At least... that's my take on it. Personally, I think the non-nut-case portions of libertarianism would be hugely popular in the US if someone would package them into a new party. And of course, that party would instantly become the #1 target of the Democrats, who would SaraPalin-ize it to death, and of the Republicans, who would be ineffective in doing anything about it (at least compared to the Democrats).

Phil
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Radish,

Excellent post. Too bad no one is going to read it. :-)

I don't normally post on political boards, but ...

You wrote, At least... that's my take on it. Personally, I think the non-nut-case portions of libertarianism would be hugely popular in the US if someone would package them into a new party. And of course, that party would instantly become the #1 target of the Democrats, who would SaraPalin-ize it to death, and of the Republicans, who would be ineffective in doing anything about it (at least compared to the Democrats).

I don't think Republicans are as inept as you seem to think. In my experience they are excellent at co-opting the fiscally responsible, smaller government message from the Libertarian platform (as well as adopting a few things like anti gun control positions pushed by the NRA). That's certainly what they did back in the '90s. They don't actually live up to those promises - they're responsible for as much pork as the Dems - but they certainly do like to co-opt the Libertarian message.

- Joel
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joelcorley,

Excellent post. Too bad no one is going to read it. :-)

Interesting. Just the other day, I was telling someone "in real life" that even though I'd had a substantial unbroken string of being 100% correct in Internet-debates lately, with a nearly unprecedented level of rock-solid references to back my positions up, there wasn't even a single thread where someone posted "you're right", or anything of the sort. They just change the subject, or stop posting in the thread.

So thanks for the compliment. It's enough that you read it.

I don't think Republicans are as inept as you seem to think.

Granted. I was largely being sarcastic about the Republicans.... I intended the "ineffective" comment mostly as a joke.

They don't actually live up to those promises - they're responsible for as much pork as the Dems - but they certainly do like to co-opt the Libertarian message.

But does co-opting a message, and then not living up to that message, really constitute effectiveness? Sure, they're effective at staying in office. But what should one make of a party that keeps promising smaller government, and then making it bigger?

Phil
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"...but in general I think the silent majority of folks don't bother to seek out political conversations anymore."

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
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But does co-opting a message, and then not living up to that message, really constitute effectiveness? Sure, they're effective at staying in office. But what should one make of a party that keeps promising smaller government, and then making it bigger?

There's a profound difference between "effective" and "honest".

The Republican Party leadership is, in my opinion, just as much in favor of massive and massively-intrusive government as the Democrat or Communist Party leadership.

But by falsely portraying themselves as advocates of small government, they simultaneously pre-empt and discredit any actual advocates of small government.

Which is why Boehner was steadfast in his determination to oppose major Democrat initiatives as long as Republicans were the minority party in the House of Representatives - but as soon as the election results were in and it was seen that the Republicans would soon be the majority party, he caved at light speed. Followed by a mock election for Speaker of the House.
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I disagree. I think that the Republicans will be completely incompetent at executing a strategy that will get them in control of both houses and the presidency in 2016.

Most of the right-wing nut jobs would rather get 100% of what they want and lose the next election rather than get 10% of what they want this year and win the next election. The left-wing nut jobs will take the 10% and hope for more after winning the next election.

If the RWNJ's control the agenda the whiplash in the control of the senate in 2 years will have the Republicans in traction for years. Remember the seats up for re-election next time are mostly Republican. What happened to the Dems last year can happen to the Repubs in 1.5 years.

I don't know about other areas of the country, but in my area the TEA Party is now run by the RWNJ's.

John
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Radish,

You wrote, But does co-opting a message, and then not living up to that message, really constitute effectiveness? Sure, they're effective at staying in office. But what should one make of a party that keeps promising smaller government, and then making it bigger?

Voters seem to have short memories. These days Republicrats seem to lie with impunity both about what they did in office and what they are for. Voters are inclined to believe any message if the person saying it sounds truthful and makes them feel good ... facts be damned ... liberty be damned.

In his opening episode back in 2005, Colbert called this phenomena Truthiness:

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/63ite2/the-word---trut...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/201...
http://truthyism.com/

- Joel
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Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want increased person freedom, smaller government, or reduced government spending. But most Americans do. They just don't have any party that represents them.

The official Libertarian party is full of complete nut-cases, as are most of the sub-branches of libertarianism.


I'm not sure advocating "increased personal freedom, smaller government, less government spending" should be sufficient to qualify one as a libertarian.

That's not really qualitatively different from what substantial parts of both major parties advocate.

From my understanding, the qualitative difference between libertarianism and whatever you want to call the mainstream ideology is that libertarians reject the principle of utilitarianism to justify government intrusion into people's lives.

Could you elaborate on your libertarianism and how you differ qualitatively from people advocating merely "smaller government"?
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AdvocatusDiaboli,

From my understanding, the qualitative difference between libertarianism and whatever you want to call the mainstream ideology is that libertarians reject the principle of utilitarianism to justify government intrusion into people's lives.

I think there's two main differences between libertarianism and what I perceive to be average-Joe-in-the-US ideology.

The major one is the "why". The libertarians are dead set on the notion that libertarian philosophy is logical and self-consistent, and that the main premise ("no one has the right to initiate force" or various forms of that) is somehow beyond dispute (e.g. it's a natural law). I don't think the average-Joe cares what the reasoning is. They just know what they want and/or what will work (the utilitarianism you rightly say libertarians reject).

The second difference is the extent to which libertarians carry that "logic". For example, just about everyone, except libertarians, thinks the government should strive to protect you from the substantial risk of harm, especially of great harm. The libertarians think that your next-door neighbor having nuclear weapons is fine, so long as he doesn't actually set one off. There are other examples where the libertarians take their reasoning to what average-Joes would call "extremes".

Could you elaborate on your libertarianism and how you differ qualitatively from people advocating merely "smaller government"?

What do you mean by "my libertarianism"?

Phil
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Radish,

You wrote, The libertarians think that your next-door neighbor having nuclear weapons is fine, so long as he doesn't actually set one off.

Actually ... it's as long as he doesn't blow up or irradiate his neighbors. He could irradiate his neighbors through negligence - that's not reasonable or permissible behavior.

From a strict Libertarian perspective, he could actually blow a nuke up, say underground, as long has the only property he damages, destroys or irradiates is his own. Once he damages another's property or person, we have a problem.

From my perspective, I'm OK with an individual prohibition on nuclear armaments. I'm not OK with pretty much any other type of personal weapon ban, so perhaps I'm not a pure Libertarian. I'm also not OK with one country telling another it can't have nuclear armaments. As long as they don't go using them on someone else, what do I care? But then I'm also OK with a country having any type of weapon as long as they don't go using it on someone else.

- Joel
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What do you mean by "my libertarianism"?

Basically, what is your political position?
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AdvocatusDiaboli,

What do you mean by "my libertarianism"? — Radish

Basically, what is your political position?


Well, I said there isn't any political party that represents what I suspect the majority of Americans believe, and that goes even more so for myself. Indeed, there's no pre-defined political ideology that my views fit into, so far as I know.

I can usually find a party or ideology for any particular given issue, but then that party/ideology won't be representative at all of my views on some other issue.

However, if I had to pick something, I'd probably pick some sort of utilitarianism-libertarianism blend. That is, I support those portions of libertarianism that I think would actually work in real life.

But again... there's some parts of libertarianism that I flat-out disagree with. Like, as I already posted, the idea that someone can subject me to any degree of risk, no matter how great and no matter how likely, so long as they don't actually injure me. Another very questionable point of libertarianism is they recognize "the initiation of force" as being limited to physical force... any application of mental/emotional force they're fine with; any degree of harassment is OK with libertarians so long as it's mental/emotional rather than physical. (Other than "fraud". They oppose "fraud".)

I hope that's responsive.

Phil
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joelcorley,

Actually ... it's as long as he doesn't blow up or irradiate his neighbors. He could irradiate his neighbors through negligence - that's not reasonable or permissible behavior.

Indeed, that's more accurate. My point is a person could possess something that's not at all safe, and is EXTREMELY likely to explode at any second, and have that thing close to his neighbors... and that's OK under libertarian philosophy. As long as it doesn't ACTUALLY harm them.

I think very few people agree with that. Most people don't want to be exposed to great risk of harm any more than they want to be actually harmed.

Phil
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From my understanding, the qualitative difference between libertarianism and whatever you want to call the mainstream ideology is that libertarians reject the principle of utilitarianism to justify government intrusion into people's lives.

I neither fully accept nor reject the idea of utilitarianism and I am a full on libertarian. Mill and Hayak were bothe utilitarians, and while neither of them were "pure" by modern standards I think they would be quite comfortable calling themselves libertarians.
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However, if I had to pick something, I'd probably pick some sort of utilitarianism-libertarianism blend.


I suppose you would be called an advocate for smaller government.
Are there any instances where you feel more government intervention is warranted?
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...silent majority of folks don't bother to seek out political conversations anymore."...

Think that is true as more think there is no blue America or red America, just green America. Kind of a shame because libertarianism is well and thriving.

..In the new issue of Cato Policy Report, author Michael Shermer explains how it is that we are living in the most moral period in human history. Also in this issue, David Boaz reminds us...
http://www.cato.org/

Very well funded with much success at the state and local level. The federales have pretty much become irrelevant but the libertarians have a very lively agenda and record of success that simply ignores that.

Do the pols want the public to tune out as much as possible by appearing to be/actually being bumbling idiots? Of course they do. They have been successful.

Political Asylum at birth was conservative leaning, launched by a Motley Fooler with very conservative leanings. Things do change. Libertarianism is alive and well, the TMF boards are not what they once were. Says nothing about libertarianism.
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AdvocatusDiaboli,

I suppose you would be called an advocate for smaller government.

True, but that's hardly different than saying "an advocate for different government"... or just "an advocate". I can't think of anyone who doesn't want (or at least claim to want) an over-all-smaller government. Even the furthest-left liberal/progressives I know, who advocate all kinds of additional government programs, think the current total government is way too big.

Are there any instances where you feel more government intervention is warranted?

That launched an interesting discussion at lunch, when I turned that around and asked everyone: "Is there any area of ordinary life that the government doesn't have a presence/role in? That is, anything that's not regulated, controlled, monitored, or so forth?" Silence. I finally suggested the spacing of buttons on adult shirts. There's probably some regulation for that on shirts for kids.

Getting back to your question. I really can't think of anything where I advocate more government intervention except as part of a plan to decrease the size of government overall. The closest thing that springs to mind is that I have long advocated that governments enforce all their laws, fund whatever size police and court systems that takes, and build and operate however many prisons it takes to do that. However, I think a lot of laws would be repealed very soon. And, I think it would (after repealing the "rousting" laws and various stupid laws) increase respect for the law, so that ultimately the size of the police force, and the courts, and the prisons would shrink dramatically. (Look up New York enforcing "the little laws" which resulted in a significant drop in all crime... until they stopped enforcing "the little laws".)

Also, I've advocated a new class of laws to go along with that. Originally there was misdemeanors for minor crimes and felonies for major crimes, then they started adding "infractions" (the name various by location) for crimes so minor they issue a ticket rather than perform an arrest. I'd add a class of laws for things that are "wrong" (or some such term), but there's no ramification for breaking them (except the moral judgement of being a "bad person") unless something else goes bad as a result. For example, jaywalking should be in that class. If you jaywalk in the middle of nowhere, and nothing bad happens as a result, then you couldn't be arrested or punished in any way for that (although someone could wag their finger at you and say "jaywalking is wrong"). But if as a result of your jaywalking, traffic has to stop, or slow down, or otherwise avoid you, then you could be charged with jaywalking (and obstruction of traffic). It'd be a class of things where you can do them at your own risk, and if you succeed they are perfectly legal. If you fail, causing problems for other people, then you can be fined or otherwise punished.

On a more minor scale, I've also advocated there should be a criminal law against line-jumping (cutting in line) that spells out things like under what circumstances someone can "hold your spot" and so forth. Currently, so far as I know, line-jumping is perfectly legal every place I've ever lived.

I've also advocated that there should be a law allowing people/organizations on private property to post behavior rules at the entrances, and requiring those who voluntarily enter the property to follow the posted rules. Kind of like airlines have, where federal law requires you to obey posted orders (like "fasten seat belt") and obey crewmember instructions... but with all the rules listed up front so you know what you're in for. But partly my motivation here is to rationalize repealing a whole bunch of laws (like "no smoking" laws) and leave it up to individual establishments.

There are a few other things that spring to mind that I've advocated government doing that it isn't per se doing now.

The biggest is I think the Constitution should be amended to forbid all taxes except a value-added tax on material goods, collected at each stage of sales, with no exemptions (of people/organizations who have to pay the tax) and no variations (a single percentage, per government, applicable to all material goods). I've posted about that a lot. It would be applicable to all levels of government. Generally, I throw in some some of prohibition or limitation on government borrowing, and occasionally a limit of government to at most three levels (federal, state, and county). This is something libertarians don't generally agree with; they think there should be no taxes or at least no involuntary taxes. I think you have to have taxes to fund the government, and that even libertarians who say there shouldn't be any government (but rather a system of voluntarily-selected rights-enforcement agencies) are really just advocating a particular form of government without calling it government and that "thing" would need taxes or tax-like funding. So long as you're going to have taxes, it might as well be the simplest possible tax that can actually fund the government; and this tax is it.

Often I add to that a Constitutional amendment that would forbid any government from directly aiding any person in any way, other than a single "safety net payment". The federal government would periodically direct-deposit some money into every citizen's bank account, again with no exceptions. Typically I specify Congress could divide the population into four groups by some readily-available parameter, like age (but not anything that would be more difficult than age to verify), and have a separate dollar amount for each group. So infants might get one amount, school-age citizens a different amount (which would cover the expected typical tuition at a private school; public schools would be eliminated since they would constitute "direct aid"), working-age citizens a different amount, and retirees yet another amount of payment. "Safety net" payments to minors would be paid to their parents or guardians. Anyone ruled incompetent (like addicts who immediately blow their safety net payments on alcohol or drugs, and run out of food) by a court would first have to submit to having the money divided into various special purposes (like food, rent, etc.) and only paid to qualified vendors of such, and upon failing again the money would simply be handled by a court-appointed guardian entirely.

Libertarians don't like that idea at all, but (kind of similar to the "you've got to have taxes" notion) I figure that, in real life, you're never going to get around the fact that there's always people who want the government to "do something to help people". Lots of people who want it. So you might as well use the simplest possible scheme, and handing out money directly to every citizen, with no "means testing" or any other nonsense, is it. People will object to giving the "safety net" payment to Bill Gates, but it costs far less to go ahead and give it to him than to figure out who "should" and "shouldn't" get it; plus, you'll get the money back from Bill Gates in the value-added tax anyway.

Those two programs, the single tax and the single humanitarian aid, are part of my "free-market" plan for government. The idea is that the size of government (including the size of the safety net payment) is limited by the population's willingness to pay the tax. It has to be a single, simple, in-your-face tax so people know how much they're paying. Hidden and complex taxes, like we have now, don't serve as a free-market-like feedback system on government. You have to know what you're paying.

But again, the net effect of these "additions" to government would ultimately be a huge reduction in the size of government. Or at least a reduction in the size of corruption in government, which is probably the more important aspect.

Phil
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