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Libertarianism

"I'm an anarchist in principle, but I understand th..."

52

Overlooked

by 8 Jurors

Libertarianism is a classification of political philosophies that uphold liberty as their principal focus and objective. They seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgment. While libertarians share a skepticism of authority, they diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing political and economic systems. Various schools of libertarian thought offer a range of views regarding the legitimate functions of state and private power, often calling to restrict or even to wholly dissolve pervasive social institutions. Rather than embodying a singular, rigid systematic theory or ideology, libertarianism has been applied as an umbrella term to a wide range of sometimes discordant political ideas through modern history.

Although some present-day libertarians advocate laissez-faire capitalism and strong private property rights, such as in land, infrastructure and natural resources, others, notably libertarian socialists, seek to abolish capitalism and private ownership of the means of production in favor of their common or cooperative ownership and management. While minarchists believe a limited centralized government is necessary to protect individuals and their property from certain transgressions, anarchists propose to completely eliminate the state as an illegitimate political system.

The term libertarianism originally referred to a philosophical belief in free will but later became associated with anti-state socialism and Enlightenment-influenced political movements critical of institutional authority believed to serve forms of social domination and injustice. While it has generally retained its earlier political usage as a synonym for either social or individualist anarchism through much of the world, in the United States it has since come to describe pro-capitalist economic liberalism more so than radical, anti-capitalist egalitarianism. In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, libertarianism is defined as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things. As individualist opponents of social liberalism embraced the label and distanced themselves from the word liberal, American writers, political parties and think tanks adopted the word libertarian to describe advocacy of capitalist free market economics and a night-watchman state.

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img Sid Poduval posted a review

The best strategy right now is to work on helping a new generation of thinkers grow up resisting more government overreach. We can't talk about shrinking the government until it stops growing, and eliminating it might be centuries away or even impossible.

But principles are guiding lights, not necessarily achievable. We strive for a better world, and that's what matters.

1 week ago
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img Mark Henry posted a review

I really wish the libertarians freaking out that Milo Yiannopoulos will be speaking at CPAC could spend as much time figuring out how to run a Presidential candidate capable of garnering >1% of the vote.

on February 20, 2017
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img Sohail Ahmed posted a review

The White House has riled the country's civil libertarian wing after President Trump enthusiastically voiced support for a controversial law enforcement tool that allows an individual’s property or assets to be seized without a guilty verdict. 

The president weighed in on what's known as "civil asset forfeiture" during an Oval Office meeting last week with sheriffs. The president, who ran on a law-and-order message, said he shared their desire to strengthen the practice and even said he would “destroy” the career of a Texas politician trying to end it.

The comments revived tensions with libertarians who have been fighting the practice under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Already piqued by the selection of former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a vocal supporter of asset forfeiture, to lead the Justice Department, the Libertarian Party itself condemned the comments. 

“It was really disappointing to hear those words. He campaigned on the idea of helping people who are on the low end of the economic spectrum and this [law] disproportionately affects minorities and those who do not have the means to hire an attorney,” Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark told Fox News. 

Sarwark called the practice "immoral," adding that it is simply “government theft of individual property that flips the nation’s legal system on its head.”

While laws differ across the country, most states allow law enforcement to seize an individual’s assets or property on the suspicion they have been involved in criminal activity. Even if a person is found to be not guilty, some jurisdictions allow the government to keep their property.  

Sheriff John Aubrey of Louisville, Ky., said he was heartened by his meeting with Trump because he, unlike the last administration, will give them a "fair hearing" on asset forfeiture.

He also believes there is a misconception that police just take property but stressed that they cannot do so before getting a court order.

Trump signaled he would fight reform efforts in Congress, saying politicians could “get beat up really badly by the voters” if they pursue laws to limit police authority.

The comments could signal an abrupt halt to efforts to curb the practice under the Obama administration, which also had faced heavy criticism from civil libertarians and criminal justice reform advocates.

Brittany Hunter of the free-market Foundation for Economic Education wrote that the president’s “egregious comments” effectively destroy “any hope that his administration will be better on this issue than President Obama. In fact, the situation may very well become worse.”

According to the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm, the Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund generated $93.7 million in revenue in 1986. By 2014, the annual figure had reached $4.5 billion -- a 4,667 percent increase. The practice surged for years under the Obama administration. 

While critics believe the policy creates a profit incentive for law enforcement, police organizations say it is an important tool and charges of abuse have been blown out of proportion.

“There are those who see an incident of one and want to apply the rule of many, but we have found the annual number of incidents [of abuse] is miniscule,” Jonathan Thompson of the National Sheriffs Association told Fox News.

Thompson said the issue was addressed in a conversation with Sessions, who views it as a priority, and he believes the Trump administration will be more supportive than the Obama administration in lifting “the burden on local law enforcement.”

He added that law enforcement are not opposed to reforms and that he plans to keep his focus on increasing independent judicial review and transparency.

Candidates running on the Libertarian ticket in the midterm elections are likely to make Trump’s record on criminal justice reform and the Sessions selection an issue, in a bid to peel off voters from across the political spectrum.

“Our candidates will make [asset forfeiture] an issue for Republicans and Democrats on the state and federal level in 2018. We will make them answer to voters on these issues,” Sarwark warned.

Many of the states key to Trump’s victory have passed reforms.

Last year, Ohio passed a law that prohibits taking assets valued at less than $15,000 without a criminal conviction. Other states also passed differing degrees of reform, including New Hampshire, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Maryland and New Mexico.

Largely an uncontroversial issue for decades, the government’s war on drugs in the 1980s led to its rapid expansion, but media coverage of abuses has led to a public blowback.

A 2015 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), found that of those Philadelphia residents who had their assets taken, nearly one-third were never convicted of a crime and that almost 60 percent of cash seizures were for amounts less than $250. 

“Civil asset forfeiture reform is an area where you cannot ignore the public demand,” said Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

on February 15, 2017
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img Mark Henry posted a review

It's discouraging to me that some libertarians have gone from the founding father's wisdom of avoiding foreign intervention (which was revitalized in the 21st century by Ron Paul), to John McCain style foreign policy "We need to do something about X". "X" in this scenario is Russia.

The relationship between Russia and the United States has fractured the last 4 years with proxy wars in Syria and Ukraine escalating. Both parties are not benevolent actors in this fracturing.

Russia is not a perfect country, but the people who take the time to virtue-signal and throw criticism at Russia are disingenuous. Mainly for the reason that they are ignoring questionable friendships and alliances with even worse countries. Specifically Saudi Arabia, which is run by a brutal religious monarchy.

If we can be friends with Saudi Arabia, then we can be friends with Russia. I have a hard time finding any benefit to having a fractured relationship with a nuclear armed country.

on February 13, 2017
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img Sid Poduval posted a review

Aaron Virkler, the author of “An Open Letter to the Left: No Libertarians Are Not Selfish“, made some great points defending voluntarism in the face of state intervention, yet completely missed the point of the selfishness of the voluntarist ideology. Virkler touted that private charities not only donated upwards of $373 billion in 2015, but that number has actually increased from the previous year. Not only are we donating, but we are donating in an upwards trend.

However, Virkler fails to realize the selfishness involved in donating to those less fortunate, namely gaining a greater psychic profit. He highlights the desire to serve selfish needs through helping those less fortunate when he examines how Being Libertarian was able to raise $10,000 in just 5 days; and then he turns to the money Bernie Sanders raised, some $228 million, during his campaign. I’m not arguing that these donations happened voluntarily; certainly, they did (and out of selfishness, I must say, that I did play a part in donating to the Being Libertarian campaign). I am, more importantly, arguing that they did not happen in spite of selfishness, rather they happened out of selfishness.

Those who contributed to the campaign popularized by Being Libertarian did so to help, yes, and as a byproduct of helping, to gain a more favorable opinion by those who do not share our ideology. The latter reasoning is precisely selfishness. The same is true for all the Bernie donors. True, they wanted to help Bernie win, but they also wanted the benefits they would receive if Bernie actually won. Again, this is the epitome of selfishness.

Virkler, it seems, confuses selfishness in terms of monetary profits with the selfishness of psychic profits highlighted above, but there is no distinguishing factor between the two. Both arise out of humans acting voluntarily, applying means to achieve certain ends. Whether the ends are more monetary profit, or psychic profit is irrelevant, but they happen out of selfishness.

Imagine for a second: You are out holiday shopping and there’s a Salvation Army representative ringing a bell outside for donations. You can either choose to donate, or not. If you choose the former, you are donating to help, yes, but you are also donating to feel good about yourself, i.e. to raise your psychic profit. Selfishness is not, as erroneously believed, to be confined to monetary amounts.

Selfishness is not an inherent trait of libertarianism, but rather an inherent trait of human nature. We can stress this notion with both progressives and conservatives. First, let’s examine a progressive view. Progressives think taxation, with the implicit threat of force, is the best way to “help the poor” because they lack – despite believing that government just needs the “right guy” – basic trust in humans to do good strictly because they deny psychic profit having any bearing on an individual’s selfish action. They themselves are acting selfish by calling on the government, rather than themselves, to help those less fortunate. They think forcing others to help is morally superior than trusting others to help, so much so that they gain a psychic profit by calling on government to help.

Conservatives suffer from the same kind of selfishness.

Let’s examine abortion issues. Conservatives are largely against abortions because they see it as morally reprehensible. This leads them to castigate organizations such as Planned Parenthood as they commit atrocities, as conservatives see it. But here too, they are acting out of selfish desires, namely that abortion is morally reprehensible. In other words, they gain a higher psychic profit by knowing fetuses aren’t killed in the womb.

As we can see, selfishness is not limited to monetary profits, per se, but rather extended to any action that will make any individual feel better, and will differ for each and every individual. Virkler’s fatal misconception is displayed in one of his last sentences, “Helping others on a voluntary basis is in no way a selfish preference.” As I have highlighted, this is completely faulty, and in the long-run, a bad strategic move.

Libertarians should lead by example, and the desire to help others with the implicit benefit of leading by example is selfish. Strategically, we should not deny this. Rather, we should emphasize the potential psychic profit gained by helping others, to convince progressives (and conservatives) that in many cases the psychic profit gained will outweigh the monetary loss ensued. If this is true, and it can only be determined by individuals acting voluntarily, then the individual will act to gain the most profit, whether it be psychic or monetary.

I believe not denying our selfishness will fare better in changing minds about our “radical” views than the argument put forth by Virkler.

on January 14, 2017
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img Dev Achmed posted a review

The Clinton brand is rooted in a faction known as the “New Democrats.” The Democratic crisis began with Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in 1984 and the subsequent formation of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985. The DLC believed that the party had become out of touch: a belief which was cemented in 1988, following the landslide triumph of George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis, and the cementing of the Reagan Revolution in the American sphere. George H.W. Bush ‘s victory was the first third term victory for a party in US politics since FDR, and the Democrats were right to be terrified. Their conclusion was that the party had to abandon their leftward tilt, one that they’d embraced since LBJ, to reconnect with the public at large They decided to go forward by trying to initiate a new “third way” in American politics that would be closer to the center of the political spectrum.

Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992 was a triumph for the DLC, and he would go on to transform the party. Clinton proclaimed that the era of “Big Government” was over. He passed comprehensive welfare reform, pushed for a Nixonian Health Care Model rather than a liberal single payer one, and was known for a strategy of triangulation in which he would criticize republicans while coopting their policies.

Despite the origins of the New Democrats being in the Blue Dog Southern faction of the party; the party under Clinton (and later under Bush) would continue to transform into a machine made up of socially-liberal economic conservatives in Wall Street; minorities; and moderate Republicans from the northeast and west coast (who were skeptical of big government and deficits, but also socially liberal in terms of race, abortion, same-sex marriage, and the environment). Clinton would be the first two-term Democratic President since FDR, and the Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 of the 7 elections since 1992, under their Socially Liberal and Economically centrist model.

In this transformation of the Democratic Party I see a model of a Libertarian Movement that can break into the big leagues. As a party, the Libertarian Party has been the third most successful party in 4 straight elections. The Libertarian Party’s membership has doubled in this last election cycle, and Gary Johnson received more votes than all prior libertarian candidates (not named Gary Johnson) combined. The Libertarian Party took home the highest third party turnout since 1996, and down-ballot the party won more congressional and senate votes than ever before.

The college presence of the libertarian movement, manifested in Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, has been growing rapidly. SFL has hundreds of campus coordinators across the nation and YAL has reached 850 chapters this past semester; both are impacting the political culture of campuses across the nation tremendously.

Alas, despite some 22% of Americans being libertarian to some degree or another, you won’t find many willing to touch the Libertarian Party with a 10-foot pole. YAL may be a growing force for liberty, but their alumni feed into the Republican ranks rather than contribute towards a bolstering of the Libertarian Party. Much of this could be blamed on the size of the Libertarian Party, but I cannot help but think there is another issue: many members of the party don’t want people, that they don’t deem to be sufficiently libertarian, to be allowed in the party.

This could be summarized in a question I’ve seen asked by many: what is the point of the Libertarian Party getting new members, if they don’t believe in the NAP?

The DLC understood that their party needed to move towards the voters if it was to grow, otherwise it risked fading into obscurity. It is a tremendously arrogant thing to say “we are the aspiring politicos and you – the voters – will conform to us”. If the Libertarians truly want to become America’s third party, they must engage in sober reflection to build an electoral coalition. We must determine who our message could be most appealing to and pivot accordingly to cater to them most effectively.

However, I would like to offer a disclaimer – I believe that Libertarianism ought to move away from the paleolibertarian domination of the movement in its push towards a broader coalition. I think that there is a valid role for paleolibertarians, but a political party is a coalition of interests and overlapping ideologies.

To say that only a paleolibertarian can be a Libertarian, is to say that only neoconservative could be a Republican.

There is a tremendous history of liberal thought to pull from and the movement should look more to Friedman, Hayek, Mill, and Madison. The NAP is a valuable philosophical tool, but it’s a less effective litmus test than a message of good government, free enterprise, social justice, and liberty.

In this past election, Bill Weld talked about the unique strength of the libertarian ticket; being able to shoot down the big 6-lane highway in the middle of the political spectrum. Looking abroad, to Europe in particular, it’s the liberal parties that are generally the closest parallel to American Libertarianism.

Liberal Democrats in Great Britain, and Free Democrats in Germany, proudly wave their yellow flags high as they occupy the reasonable center between labor parties calling for radical social change and right-wing parties that range from religious conservatism to blood and soil nationalism. European liberal parties are secular, pro-trade, pro-business, skeptical of intervention, and interested in meaningful reform, all of which are highly reminiscent of the Johnson-Weld campaign.

Will Willinson, head of the Niskanen Center, put forward a glorious argument for an effective libertarianism in the 21st century. It starts with an unsettling fact: that the richer a country is, the more it’s government tends to spend. This is true regardless of the different sorts of countries you look at across time. Whether big government is a luxury or a parasite (any good libertarian will be inclined towards the latter), there is that constant trend.

Wilkinson puts forwards two goals:
1. libertarians should be the champions of waste reduction and growth.

2.We can distinguish between the welfare state (which can be improved rather than abolished) and the more insidious enemy that is the regulatory apparatus. We can push for a transformation of the welfare state from the current sprawling money pit to a lean poverty reducer of the sort Hayek, Friedman, Mill, or Paine would support.

Libertarians can also channel the spirit of the counterculture and social justice into a force to be reckoned with. We should emphasize how the free enterprise system has done more to emancipate the masses from poverty than anything else in the history of mankind. We can talk about how it is government action (like the drug war, regulation, and a faulty welfare state) that perpetuates poverty, inequality, and class privilege.

Classical liberalism was the first great ideology of political and social revolution, abolishing old privileges of nobility, government monopoly, and guilds in favor of a freer and more equal society. In a world where we have government officials with aristocratic titles like Czar, government backed cartelization of industry, and government holding down large swathes of the masses, libertarianism should reclaim the old revolutionary spirit, and win voters accordingly.

I’d argue that there are four core groups that should be targeted by Libertarians:

Moderate Republicans
Fiscally Centrist Democrats
True Liberals
Constitutional Conservatives.
Despite the perception that libertarians are just pot smoking republicans, in the beginning of the election Gary Johnson was pulling a 60/40 majority of his voters from Clinton rather than Trump. The assumption was that Johnson’s unique appeal among disenfranchised Sanderistas, and young voters as a whole, was harming Clinton disproportionately. Given how Johnson took the second largest chunk of Sanders voters, it seems there’s some rationale to that. But there was likely another factor at play: there are many voters who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal who lean towards the Democrats because of their social stances; Johnson probably pulled away many of  those voters as well. These are the voters that the DLC won over in the Clinton years and they can be won over again.

There are also those last holdouts of socially liberal, to moderate, Republicanism. Bill Weld is the archetypical example of this, and his record in Massachusetts showed that a message of good government, fiscal responsibility, and social acceptance can sweep even the bluest of states. These sorts of republicans have tolerated the increasing cultural aggression of the GOP for many years, but this election a great many sucked it up, held their noses, and voted for Hillary Clinton. This is evident in places like Bergen County, NJ; Orange County, CA; Salt Lake County, Utah; and Gwinnett County, Georgia; which backed Mitt Romney in 2012 but voted for Clinton in 2016. They have no love for the Democratic Party, but the party of Trump increasingly comes off as a foreign entity to them, particularly in the age of Trump. It’s no wonder that one of these sorts of Republicans served as the Libertarian Vice Presidential nominee and another, Lisa Murkowski, attempted to run as a Libertarian in 2010.

There is one group of voters that I call “True Liberals” who would be valuable recruits to a broader liberty movement. Free Speech advocacy, anti-war activism, and fighting the man may sound like a throwback to the 60s New Left, but they’re exactly the sort of values libertarians should fight for.

In 2008, Vietnam-era throwback, Senator Mike Gravel, netted the support of Ralph Nader based on an antiwar campaign during the Democratic Primary: when that failed he saw it as completely natural to try for the Libertarian nomination.

Occupy Wall Street might seem like a progressive nightmare, but in 2012 there were only two politicians – both Republicans – to go down there: Gary Johnson (who would go on to be the 2012 and 2016 Libertarian nominee) and Buddy Roemer (who would endorse Johnson and also become a darling of the media and liberal left). This liberal spirit in Libertarianism further manifested itself in 2016, when it was Gary Johnson who took in the second biggest chunk of the liberal vote – after Hillary Clinton.

Constitutional conservatives are another very natural part of the Libertarian coalition. Ted Cruz was not a true libertarian, but he was the only candidate to explicitly include libertarians in his desired coalition. One of the most libertarian moments from the Republican debates was when Ted Cruz ripped into Marco Rubio for e-verify, on the grounds of it being a big government intrusion. Predictably, when Ted Cruz dropped out, online searches for Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party spiked. Though Cruz ultimately caved and endorsed Trump, fellow Constitutional Conservative Mike Lee always held his ground and refused to endorse Trump. Cruz’s support was disproportionately in the Great Plains and mountain-west, which just so happened to also be the areas Gary Johnson tended to fare the best in, showing that these voters already have a very strong libertarian streak.

Parties win, in the United States, by bringing together different sorts of people for different reasons under one party banner. When Libertarian candidates bring in non-libertarians or more moderate thinkers to the party, we should celebrate – not moan! In an era when overall identification with political parties is at an all-time low and more than half of Americans are clamoring for an alternative, it is not just an opportunity, but a moral duty for the Libertarian Party to reform itself and become a competitive entity.

By looking to the history of the Democratic renewal we can see a model of how changing to the electorate can yield tremendous political results for a party. I hope these lessons can be applied by Libertarians, to help us become the force that the nation desperately needs and desires.

on January 14, 2017
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img Real Politik posted a review

Libertarianism is great when the government don't know what they're doing, which is the majority of the time. Minimal legislature, minimal government involvement in business affairs have the effect of minimizing administrative disaster (Obamacare). Libertarianism also means less overseas military commitment and less expansionism. Although my username is Realpolitik, I'm all for true libertarianism.

on August 4, 2014
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img Benny Davis posted a review

I swear by Libertarianism, but like John said, those who claim to be Libertarians are not really selling the medicine they are supposed to be selling, and often they are also something else, which make it all the more difficult to sift out the Libertarians I can empathize with.

I think Rand Paul is the closest thing to a Libertarian, but he's also anti-gay and antiabortion.

on July 19, 2014
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img Jesse Radin posted a review

Libertarianism is a rather broad term. I believe the best description for a Libertarian would be anyone who wants the government to have less control in both personal and business affairs.

The US Libertarian party often takes stances that are very puritanical and end up excluding 95%+ of potential supporters. The "Non Aggression Principle" makes every political issue a philosophical debate, where realistic and pragmatic ideas are thrown out the window in order to follow a strict dogma of non-coercion.

Some suggest that Libertarians are racist, and there are often those that espouse racist beliefs, but I do not think they represent the average Libertarian.

I would ideally like to see a "big tent" party where the Libertarians would appeal to anyone who is seeking to decrease governmental control of the economy and our personal lives... whether it's just on a few issues or across the board.

on July 17, 2014
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Libertarianism

I'm an anarchist in principle, but I understand that there is no pragmatic approach to radical libertarianism at the moment
Book rating: 52.8 out of 100 with 8 ratings