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Sunday, July 06, 2008

On Libertarian Bolshevism

Let me ask my libertarian friends, especially the Randites, the Paulites, and their ilk, a simple question: how do you plan to build the society that you imagine? To hear many so-called “libertarians” speak, the creation of a society of liberty requires nothing more complex than the election of Ron Paul – or someone like him – as President. Some libertarians, it would seem, have far more faith in the transformative power of government than I do.

What these people seem to ignore is that, for all that we talk of liberty, most people these days actually care little for either the benefits or the responsibilities that it entails. The average person has little interest in the mechanisms of government. Indeed, barely half of the people eligible bother to even vote for a candidate for the Presidency – and for lesser offices the turnouts are even appallingly lower. The average American (or citizen of most of the West, for that matter) is a non-voter. Nor is the average citizen of the West particularly concerned with individual liberty, except insofar as it relates to their own interests.

That is the situation with which we are confronted. Our enemy is not merely the left, not merely the counter-cultural establishment – apathy is also the enemy of freedom. These are truly inconvenient truths, especially insofar as my libertarian friends are concerned.

So how, then, with half of the population indifferent and more than half of that which cares hostile, does the libertarian propose to construct liberty? Well, predominantly we see two solutions proposed.

The first is a libertarianism, predominant among the more thoughtful of the sort, founded upon indifference to ultimate results or, at least, a sad resignation to final defeat. The Cato Institute is perfectly named – being named for a Roman politician whose stubborn insistence on principle over practically prevented more flexible and able men, such as Cicero, from taking the sort of measures that might have actually saved the Republic. Cato would not compromise and the result is that Cato died by stabbing himself and then, after initially being stitched up, tearing out his stitches and then ripping his own guts out. Like many libertarians today, he stands up as a shining example of the courage of futility – rather than compromise any of his precious principles he helped to lead the Republic to an avoidable disaster. He could have had 75% but he would tolerate only one hundred so he got zero.

These libertarians don’t seem to really care about winning. Indeed, most of them don’t appear to really want to. They, like Cato, merely want to feel themselves to be morally superior to everyone around them.

A second, and much more alarming, trend – once predominant mostly among Randroids and their related fellows but lately becoming pronounced among the supporters of Ron Paul and others like him – is what I like to call “Libertarian Bolshevism.” These fellows are to regular supporters of liberty what Communists are to Social Democrats – extreme in method, rhetoric, and ideal and, ultimately, harmful to the overall cause.

That brings me back to my first question – how do libertarians propose building their society? The first group, as I’ve said, doesn’t bother much with the question because they’re more interested in preserving their own moral integrity than anything else. The answer is the second case is more interesting.

Let’s look at the most revered text of more-extreme libertarians, Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged. How, in Rand’s world, is liberty ultimately fostered? Not through debate, not through elections – not even through any traditional means of a change of government (a coup or something like that). No. In Rand’s book a libertarian society is created when all of the great minds of the world voluntarily withdraw their services and then, following the inevitable collapse of civilization that follows, take over to run things. The society envisioned by Rand in the final pages of Atlas Shrugged could only be a dictatorship and, given the descriptions of all that preceded it, probably a brutally oppressive one at that. The kind of massive transition from our current society to a libertarian/objectivist one could only, after all, be accomplished by one – since it would require massive and wrenching changes that no present-day population would ever vote for and which no government that attempted to implement could ever survive.

Indeed, one is struck by the similarities between the implied goals of the Paulites and of the Bolsheviks. Both groups are utopians at heart – imagining that the full implementation of their ideas will bring paradise on Earth. Both are, despite their small size, very good at political infighting and the use of clever tactics to make up for small numbers. And, most of all, both are wholly committed to an impractical vision that is entirely at odds with human nature. To the absurd communist ideal of forced communitarianism, the Paulite and the Randite respond with a hilarious vision of compelled liberty.
I ask my Randite and Paulite friends – by what means, short of some dictatorship of the libertariat, do you ever suppose that your ideas might be enacted? And, even if they were enacted, how do your ideas of absolute individual liberty align with your own experience of humanity? Are you not entranced, just as the Bolsheviks of a century ago were, with a false notion of man as a perfectible creature?

This is not to say that I believe that we have sufficient freedom today or that we ought not have more of it. It is to say that I believe that, if too many people follow the prescriptions of those who shout “liberty” the loudest we will have less of it, both because those fanatics will harm advocates of a liberty with a more reasonable chance of success and because their own vision of liberty requires such a wrenching change – a jump from Tuesday to Friday – that it could never be achieved by any means compatible with freedom.

Take drugs, for example. Libertarians want to legalize drugs right away, without any further thought as to what would happen next. They have a misguided belief that most of the people in prison for drug offenses, even “non-violent” ones would, if released, immediately prove to be good citizens.

They don’t make room for the possibility, as I do, that many drug offenders would be habitual criminals in any case and would, if set free, quickly resume committing other crimes. In particular, they ignore the degree to which drug crime and property crime are often closely related, some going so far as to blithely assume that legalizing drugs would bring prices down to such a degree as to make property crime to fund drug habits unnecessary.

They ignore that certain hard drugs, which are physically addictive, would claim more victims in a legal regime since the odds are that more people would try them if they were legal and that some percentage of those people would become addicted.

They ignore the massive civil law nightmare that drugs would be and, in fact, that civil lawsuits would probably prevent anyone from actually marketing a whole range of drugs (after all, what do you think the liability insurance bills would look like for people who sell Crystal Meth?) and thus leaving most of the illegal drug trade still in place (unless, of course, they mean to immunize the drug trade from tort claims, an odd position for a libertarian to take.).

They ignore the human rights claims, workers’ comp claims, and so forth which would emerge from drug users for alleged “discrimination” and other issues.

They ignore the higher welfare costs and health care costs we’d be forced to endure as illegal drug users step out of the shadows and gain more access to and knowledge of public services.

The Cato Libertarians ignore these obstacles because they don’t really expect to ever have to deal with them – they feel free to make themselves feel morally pure without thinking beyond step A. The Libertarian Bolshevik, on the other hand, doesn’t worry about them because they simply intend to sweep everything aside at once, using the magic which can only be accompanied by dictatorship.

I too believe in freedom. I believe that, in many respects, we can restore our old liberties. I sometimes like to call myself a “Reactionary Libertarian” because I believe that we can better understand how liberty may be restored and maintained by looking back at the past, where people were often freer than they are today, and going back to some older social structures and institutions.

Posted by Adam T. Yoshida on July 6, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink


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1. There is nothing to this answer but sheer petulance. “Thanks for proving…” “I guess…” “Take a thinking break…” None of this comes close to a rebuttal. Consider your surrender on these points accepted, Snowrunner.

2. The point being is that the high cost of gas hasn’t really hurt that much yet. Owner-operators are suffering a lot more than the stranded commuters in your fantastical example. The Port Mann Bridge will be twinned by 2013 and it will be about $5 for one round trip—if you pay in advance. Oh, and it looks like you’re wagering a guess again. A shining example of intellectual rigour for us all.

3. There is no point 3. Apparently your ability to count is no better than your ability to reason.

4. Support which claim? The numbers for pre-Revolutionary France, or for contemporary Canada? In 1993, just before the first budget cuts, there were 3.1 million Canadians on welfare, just over 10 percent of the total. That’s dropped to 1.7 million as of 2005. But regardless of the exact numbers, the point is that a working majority having to work hard enough to support themselves AND others does not bode well for long-term social stability.

5. Most people manage to pay back all or nearly all of their personal debt before they croak, Snowrunner. They’d be bad lending risks otherwise. Late youth and early middle years are times of maximum debt load; by retirement, most debt has been paid back. In 1970 or 2008. The spike in personal debt you mention is largely driven by the housing bubble, which has since burst. And just because Canadians aren’t perfect at managing their debts doesn’t mean the government could do it better, which was the point.

6. Public discourse is not the same as public disorder. And with your little gibe at Emperor Harper we’re back to our sullen, petulant best, aren’t we? Like I said—immature malcontent. Actually, that may be a tautology.

So the people are sheeple to you, are they? It seems that you are not above cynically manipulating them for your own agenda—in which case you’re no better than the politicians you berate for doing the same. Like activists never lie. Remember the hockey-stick graph?

Yes, that coming from me. And when you begin to sound more like a rational debater and less like a snot-nosed adolescent with a doobie stuck behind each year, you’ll be able to pull it off as convincingly. Until then, enjoy your endless font of bitterness.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 8:22:01 PM


1. No one here is impressed by words that look like they’ve been excised from a graduate thesis, or by quoting Classical philosophers. The objective of good writing is to communicate, not to obfuscate. And you don’t need Aristotle to make your point when you’re capable of doing so yourself.

2. Punishment is only one half of justice. The complete equation is “reward for virtue; punishment for wrong.” Only those who do wrong need fear punishment. If others need fear it as well, there is no justice. Equally, if lawbreaker needs fear punishment no more than Good Samaritan, there is no justice.

3. Your point about Orwell’s 1984 is well taken. I think even he would never have believed that CCTV in the U.K. (“Airstrip One”) would actually go as far as it has. And yet, crime is up, up, up. What good is enhanced criminal connection when it is coupled with a revolving-door legal system?

4. You can say something till you’re blue in the face—unless you’ve proof to back it up I will not believe. The more emotion you inject, the less I believe.

5. Drugs in themselves are not bad, nor are the people in the pre-addiction phase necessarily bad. But drug addiction will make you a bad person, not so much because of what the drug does to you personally, but because of what you’ll do to others to get more. The robot is you, reeling off George Soros boilerplate at a rate of knots, hoping if YOU say it enough times, it will come true, or at least that people will believe, the chimera of the benign lotus dream. Society is not destroying these people’s lives; that they have done themselves, in spite of all society’s efforts to prevent them, because history tells us that society will bear the ultimate burden.

6. The ticket to libertarian society is to make everyone accountable. People will work harder for an objective if they see how they stand to benefit and can see how their contribution helps. That is more likely to build a good community than your “peace and love” approach.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 8:35:52 PM

P.S. That should read, "enhanced criminal DETECTION coupled with a revolving-door legal system." My bad.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 8:37:28 PM

First rule of business, don't kill your customers.

Posted by: John V | 7-Jul-08 8:01:22 PM

What about their competition?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 8:40:53 PM

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 8:22:01 PM

Shane, go back into your little world full of "na na na na I can't HEAAAAAR YOU!!!!!!".

You're beyond reach of any kind of discours or discussion, your opening line towards AFH's points just prove that all too well.

Enjoy your Scotch, if you can still afford it after the Government has robbed you once again.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 8:48:24 PM

Snowrunner: "What about their competition?"

Non-lethal methods preferred; pretty much required by law actually.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 9:00:15 PM

Snowrunner: "Shane, go back into your little world full of "na na na na I can't HEAAAAAR YOU!!!!!!".

That's my boy. Just screw those fingers into your ears and start humming. Dazzle us with your emotional maturity; regale us with the depth and lucidity of your prose, the thoroughness and integrity of your research. Oh my boy, bedazzle us unto death with your wunderkind's talent.

Snowrunner wrote: "You're beyond reach of any kind of discours or discussion, your opening line towards AFH's points just prove that all too well."

Consider your surrender accepted, Snowrunner.

Snowrunner wrote: "Enjoy your Scotch, if you can still afford it after the Government has robbed you once again."

I'm a rum man. Now go play outside.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 9:03:21 PM

Consider your surrender accepted, Snowrunner.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 9:03:21 PM

Ah yes.... Denial, the first stage of course....

Hope you get better one day Shane.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 9:13:43 PM

Snowrunner wrote: “Right Shane, we've meddled in the middleeast for over one hundred years, first the Britsh, then the Americans, up to this day. How would you like it if, say, the Saudis would meddle into the US or Canadian affairs, put some troops in the country etc.? Would that be ok with you? Or would you think that this stinks?”

I believe the American troops were in Arabia by invitation. As for the rest, that’s ancient history. Dead and buried. They can’t drag up the Crusades as reminders of Western corruption and then demand that we forget about their conquest of the Holy Land, Egypt, India, and southeastern Europe. I guess it depends on how far back you’re prepared to go, doesn’t it?

Snowrunner wrote: “Right, so lets try proof here. Why don't YOU proof to me that the Iraqis were killing each other at the same rate before the US and UK removed Saddam?”

No need to prove it, as that wasn’t what I claimed. I said that Iraqis were killing one another NOW. No one but themselves to blame for that, but of course numerous liberal commentators have tried to pin it on the British.

Snowrunner wrote: “Considering that I copied and pasted your drivel, I think we can assume that counting had nothing to do with it.”

My post has an item 3. I checked.

Snowrunner wrote: “Did it occur to you in Shane's world that maybe I didn't feel like replying to your little diatribe but figured I only confuse you if I re-number your own numbering? No? Gee, Quel Surprise.”

No, because first of all your feelings are nothing but putrid, rancid piles of dogshit in the gutter insofar as debating form is concerned, so it did not occur to me to consider them, even for a moment. You simply fucked up, and aren’t man enough to admit it.

Snowrunner wrote: “BTW, you aren't in any way, shape or form related to H2 by any chance, you both have the same charming way of expressing your opinions.”

But also wrote: “Shane, go back into your little world full of "na na na na I can't HEAAAAAR YOU!!!!!!"”


Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 9:27:19 PM

The first stage of what, smart guy? There you go, trying to count again.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 9:28:34 PM

Nah, let's get real here. We all know what kind of people tend to go to jail related to drugs. Rich people don't go to jail for drugs. 90% of the people I knew when I was a teenager or in my early 20's had used some sort of drug. I've never known anyone who went to jail for drugs.

That's because I come from a fairly solidly middle-class background. Those sorts of people don't go to jail for drugs. At least, not very often.

Most of the people who are in jail for drug-related offenses are underclass thugs. They're not going to magically be contributing members of society if we let them all go. They'll just find other crimes to commit. Every society throughout the history of the world has had an underclass of thugs - the scum of the Earth.

In part, you're right about drugs. I've known people who've done cocaine and other harder drugs - and none of them ever robbed anyone to buy it. Drugs don't make these people criminals - these people are criminals because criminality is part of their basic character.

In general, I'd only support legalizing drugs if we combined it with the extensive reform of criminal laws, to include - at a minimum:

1) The return of corporal punishment.
2) The return and vastly increased use of capital punishment (for, I'd say, murder, rape, child molestation, treason, espionoge, sedition, and perhaps certian other crimes).
3) The implementation of forced labour and transportation as punishments for other crimes.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-07-07 10:05:25 PM

Yoshi, you missed debtor's prison and indentured servitude for failure to repay.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-07-07 11:14:20 PM

Debtor's prison was a stupid idea. How are people in prison supposed to repay anything?

In general, I'd punish most crimes like that through fifty lashes in the town square - far more likely to have an effect than sixty days in jail.

People who committed other serious crimes that didn't quite merit the death penalty (say, habitual offenders and the like) would be sentenced to long spells of forced labour in the North.

It'd be a lot cleaner, cheaper, it'd make the public safer, it'd offer criminals a better chance at reform, and it could actually be made profitable.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-07-07 11:20:15 PM

They were allowed to conduct business from prison, Adam.

Some were allowed 'Liberty of the Rules' which permitted them to live a short distance from the prison, but restricted their movement, kinda sorta like that Lethbridge alderman Dar Heatherington and her "house arrest".

It beats declaring bankruptcy and poses a deterrent.

You're a believer in deterrence aren't you Yoshi?

>"In general, I'd punish most crimes like that through fifty lashes in the town square - far more likely to have an effect than sixty days in jail."

Corporal punishment and restricted movement aren't an either/or proposition.
Both are possible together.

I see you had no problem with indentured servitude.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-07-07 11:36:43 PM

The problems mentioned about the Market are all soluble problems and can be defined and solved by rational policy.

The problems of Socialism are insoluble and are irrational from the get go.

It seems apparent that some of the nihilism expressed about Markets are wilful ignorance and Marxist ideology.

Posted by: gordo | 2008-07-08 9:22:36 AM

Spare the rod,
Spoil the society.

People need deterrents and rewards in order to do what is right.

When there is no price to pay, nothing matters, do whatever you want. Even if is wrecks other people's lives. That is what we have now.

Do the right things and there should be rewards such as keeping more of your own earned money.

The last, best generation just before the baby boomer jerks were born, all were subject to the direct effects of right and wrong. They were subjected to corporal punishment, capital punishment and accountably for what they did in their lives. They didn't have a nanny state caring for them and their children. They were far freer that we are today. Did I mention they were the greatest generation? No need to be [email protected] up by psychologists looking for meaning in everything.

All the science technology, medicine and everything that makes our modern world the convenient, comfortable wonder that it is, was invented or at least conceptualized before 1950. Since then nothing new has come down the pike, only improvements on what the greatest generation already came up with in their freer, more self-reliant, accountable world. What does that say?

This present generation is devoid of ideas and we do little beyond fight over the carcass of what was left by the greatest generation ... the one that fought the first and second world war. The one that set up the prosperous safe, clean society that we are shitting all over.

These are the end times for western society, because the socialist scum have increased their numbers to a point where they have control.

The shooting will start eventually, but I don't think it will even matter, it's too late.

Posted by: John V | 2008-07-08 9:44:54 AM

>"These are the end times for western society, because the socialist scum have increased their numbers to a point where they have control."
John V | 8-Jul-08 9:44:54 AM

Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.
`Vladimir Lenin

Consider yourself part of the problem, John.

Benjamin McLane Spock (May 2, 1903 – March 15, 1998) was an American pediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, is one of the biggest best-sellers of all time.

Want to know who bought that book and made it one of the BEST SELLERS of ALL TIME, John?

The "Greatest Generation"(TM) that's who, John.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-07-08 12:48:22 PM

Just because they were great doesn't mean that they couldn't be duped. And they were.

The problem is that when the Dr. Spock method of permissiveness was shown to be a failure in raising disciplined self reliant kids it couldn't be reversed. It's still alive and well today. Kids run households, classrooms, the streets, malls, airplanes ... you name it. Everyone's kid is a prodigy, a genius and Madonna. How can you deal with that?

Speller, please explain how I am part of the problem? I think you are shooting the messenger here.

What needs to be done to turn things around is beyond the stomach of the average citizen if he agrees it's time to change things. There are mortgages and car payments and precious kids in college, vacations to take and so on. Too much to lose by throwing yourself into any kind of rebellious fray. Only when there is nothing left to lose will people take the risk.

As things are now, you cannot even criticize anything for fear of the CHRC nabbing you.

Just like an alcoholic, the bottom must be hit before the climb begins. I don't think we are anywhere near the bottom yet and when we are there will be little left to work with.

What say you?

Posted by: John V | 2008-07-08 8:04:41 PM


1. I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy my choice of words. Then again... Too bad... It's not your call and attacking the person, not the argument is very weak form (Crud, I wish I coulda just said ad hominem)

2. Punishment and reward are neither part of justice. Justice is putting things right. Justice is finding truth. Punishment and reward is for drooling dogs.

3. What good is any system that has so many laws and such strict enforcement that everyone at some point is a criminal? Revolving doors are a symptom of law out of control... not people out of control.

I've lived a couple score years now, and I am complete convinced that prisons do not solve crime. People do bad things regardless. There are people that are pure bad. The majority of people in prisons in the US and the UK, are recidivist by indoctrination.

4. Some people respond to rational discourse, some emotional appeal. If you are to believe Meyers and Briggs, more respond to emotion. My post had both. Since emotion and irrationality were germane to my point, it felt especially appropriate.

BTW So far thats two attacks on my style, rather than my argument. I think I may have struck a nerve. WIN!

5. Soros boiler plate? Hmm. Thank you. Not that I like the man's politics, but he is successful. Most addicts are functional people. Addiction to caffeine and nicotine does not bear your argument out.Score #3 ad hominem.

6. I do not believe that there is just "one" ticket for a libertarian society. Accountability is exactly what justice is about. Nature provides the stick and carrot. Accountability is also natural and too often it is the violent force of government that disconnects people from accountability than ensures natural justice to reign.In other words: I agree with you.

But to get people to feel safe about libertarian approaches... note the word feel, and realize that some of us humans do that now and again... to get them to feel that way means having to de-gunk the cloying, palpable fear that pours out of our teachers, out of our leaders and out of our boob-tubes and pop culture to clog our minds.

If libertarianism is only ever talked about in super rational ways... only the super rational will grok it.

Posted by: AFH | 2008-07-08 11:11:21 PM

Adam, thought you might be interested to see that the prominent libertarian movement documenter Jerome Tuccille's views on Rand and Galt's Gulch are very are similar to yours: http://reason.tv/video/show/468.html.

Also, as you may be aware, Murray Rothbard was not only an important economist and libertarian theorist, but also a political strategist. He was probably the most important individual in creating the "libertarian movement." Before there had been no such thing, only libertarianism the political philosophy.
Ron Paul is very Rothbardian not only in his stripe of libertarianism (aside from those tiny issues of anarchy and the social contract), but everything that he's said concerning strategy suggests that he subscribes to Rothbard's "mass movement" vision for building a freer society. Here's one of Rothbard's more general statements of this: http://mises.org/story/2469 from a Libertarian Party Convention in 1977.
It's interesting to note that it was these same principles which drove Rothbard to pursue strategic alliances with the both the New Left before this speech was delivered and with paleoconservatives after.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-07-09 2:43:34 AM

What would it take to create the ideal society imagined by libertarians? Simple: Do away with the state monopoly on education. Doing so will cure most of the apathy.

Then, have the government step out of the way of wise and prudent retirement funding, so that people will realize that they can control their destiny rather than hope for a social security check.

It's the little things, the small ways in which individual ingenuity will overtake sluggish burocracy... those small changes will have a significant impact upon society.

Consider it in reverse: The culture of apathy and handoutism is created in youth by failing public schools.

Many of those who attend the worst public schools, particularly in the inner city, end up joining the military where they are part of another massive statist machine, replete with its own ridiculous propaganda (see John McCain).

Meanwhile, productive people who have tried to better themselves through education and hard work are hit with higher and higher tax rates so that we can all get what we deserve (insert "yes we can" here).

Posted by: Matt | 2008-07-10 11:30:11 PM

You write:

"In Rand’s book a libertarian society is created when all of the great minds of the world voluntarily withdraw their services and then, following the inevitable collapse of civilization that follows, take over to run things."

That is an absurd characterization. It's a perfect example of a nonviolent yet revolutionary transformation. The residents of Galt's Gulch are all participants in a social contract, not a dictatorship.

Sure, it's a bit idealized, but that is the point -- the reader is left to imagine for herself just how such a world might turn out. Would it be utopian or distopian? Would it last or would it collapse? The bulk of the book sets the stage for the final thought experiment (Galt's Gulch), which is the ultimate challenge to the reader (one that you clearly did not feel fit to do!): It is as if Rand says, "Dear reader, think for yourself".

Posted by: Dennis | 2008-07-10 11:39:20 PM


1. Defending your rights is a universally weak argument. Defending your right to use ill-chosen words is an especially weak argument.

2. It’s true there can be no justice without truth, but justice is not the quest for the truth; justice comes after the truth is known. And punishment and reward work quite as well on people as they do on dogs. If you don’t want to wear a muzzle, behave yourself in public.

3. Revolving doors are a symptom of judges who have forgotten that their role is to protect the public. And your bitterness with the legal system suggests that you have in some way run afoul of it. Repeat after me: PEOPLE WHO ARE IN PRISON ARE NOT ELSEWHERE AT THE SAME TIME COMMITTING CRIMES. But if you’re still not convinced, rope’s cheap—and the recidivism rate is zero. Shall we try that instead?

4. People who respond to emotional appeal are not overly burdened with an apparatus for cerebration. Now consider my point number one: Is such pomposity really more effective than saying that people who favour emotion over logic are morons? And given the sullen, contemptuous tone of your offerings, it would appear you actually have an emotional investment in your position—in which case it’s far less likely to be objective.

5. Most addicts are functional people? Sure, if you cheat by tossing in tobacco and caffeine junkies. But let’s play it on the straight and narrow and include only those addicted to narcotics and other hard drugs. How many of those are functional? And let’s not forget that 80% of all crime in Vancouver is driven by junkies trying to score for their next fix.

6. Nature does not provide the appropriate stick and carrot for behaving in an advanced society because society itself is unnatural. If someone wants to steal cars or mug little old ladies, it can be argued that this is in accordance with Nature, not against it, since he is simply doing it to survive. Nature provides neither morality nor accountability. The individual most provide those things, enforced by society.

As for people “feeling safe” about libertarianism, it’s my experience that local issues have far more to do with who people vote for than their overall philosophy of government. Most people don’t put any more thought into their vote than they do into ordering a pizza. They just want bread and circuses—or in the case of Canadians, health care and cheap gas.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-11 7:34:48 AM


I read Rothbard's speech. The most interesting thing, from a tactical perspective, is that he's talking about turning the Libertarian Party into a mass movement by 1980. That's years before I was even born. That speech is more than thirty years old.

Obviously, something didn't work out.

I'd point to the Paul gathering today that was blogged here. How can anyone ever take libertarianism seriously when AT A MAJOR AND SURELY EXPENSIVE GATHERING you turn the stage over to some Truther nut?

The other thing that Rothbard, Paul, and other libertarians simply seem to ignore or wish away is that freedom is linked intimately with security. The freest nations of their day, and probably of all of human history in relative terms, have been the United States, the British Empire, and the Roman Empire. Liberty and empire are linked, because without near-total external security, liberties cannot be long maintained.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-07-12 11:16:05 PM

Is it possible for someone to read Atlas Shrugged and still come away with a sense of _entitlement_ to the productivity of others? If Yoshida has in fact read the book, I would have to say - Yes! For that is the only way one could conclude that such a reality would be an oppressive, dictatorial one. If and only if one believes that he has a right to the products of another, and by being denied those products for lack of proper compensation in return, can one believe that a right has been violated and therefore he has been oppressed.

Posted by: Brian | 2008-08-02 10:04:08 AM

The author is clearly mistaken for the following reasons

1) “Bolshevik” is a term that refers not to a “small cadre”, but to “the majority” of a collectivist movement in Lenin’s Russia.
2) Whitaker Chambers’ was a former communist spy and utterly untrust-worthy as a source for anything.
3) In Atlas Shrugged, the heroes do not attempt to win their freedom by means of coercive physical force: they win it passively, by refusing to produce that which cannot be produced without rational thought.
4)Atlas Shrugged was not a proposal for how to achieve freedom in an unfree world. Ayn Rand did write about that subject explicitly in her non-fiction and she did not, in her non-fiction

As an aside Lyndon Larouche also prefers Hamilton to Jefferson does this make you a Larouchite?

Posted by: gmood | 2008-08-02 1:31:39 PM

Yoshida is and always has been a Neo-Con communist.
So screw him and his insulting (to anyone's intelligence) posing of idiotic low brow questions.

Posted by: JC | 2008-08-02 2:40:57 PM

At one point here (his "interpretation"), Yoshida expects to prevail with Chambers' review of "Atlas" as a touchstone.

That's really pathetic.

Posted by: Billy Beck | 2008-08-04 5:47:25 PM

I know when I see the term "Randroids" it's not going to be good.

This pejorative term suggests a focus on the person, rather than the ideas (the philosophy has a name, you should use it: Objectivism), and entails a level of disrespect that usually involves not reading and/or comprehending the source material. That is the case here.

How one can finish Atlas Shrugged and come out thinking that Galt has something in common with Lenin is totally incomprehensible. That's about like saying both groups wear socks.

Try again with an actual understanding of Objectivism.

Posted by: mtnrunner2 | 2008-08-08 12:50:13 AM

Regarding how change will come about, the answer is via cultural change and via focused political change. That's how all change comes about; it should not be a surprise.

Regarding drugs, your discussion is only so much squirming around trying in vain to find a reason why we should not be free. The fact of the matter is this: it is morally wrong for us to *not* allow so-called vices to be legal; you simply do not have the moral right to prevent them.

As far as causal results go, there is no possible way it can be net negative, any more than allowing people to leave their homes rather than locking them up in fear that they might do something bad is a net negative. Your hypothetical examples are only as good as the underlying principle, and the principle is wrong. It is wrong to prevent voluntary interactions between consenting adults, because we are thinking beings and we must think and act on those thoughts (unless of course they involve physical violence).

To deny the mind results in the disaster we see today: untold dollars poured meaninglessly into a black hole of law enforcement, ruining people's lives by criminal convictions for something they are merely doing to mask psychological pain, manufacturing an entire class of criminals that would not exist otherwise, producing extreme violence caused by the illegality and the fight for high profits, ruining entire inner cities that by all rights should be highly valuable property that is close to urban attractions. The list goes on as long as you will listen.

All I can say is it's a good thing you were not alive and influential around the time Prohibition was repealed. With such thinking we'd have had Al Capone for president and the USA would have been devastated by corruption and violence. We need to finally do the same thing with the remaining "vices".

Posted by: mtrunner2 | 2008-08-08 1:20:31 AM

Dennis, Brian, Gmood, Billy Beck, and mtrunner2 (there may be a couple of others) clearly know what they are talking about.

The root of the matter is from *mtrunner2*:
"To deny the mind results in the disaster we see today"

Libertarianism treats liberty as _thē_ issue to be pursued, and do virtually nothing to understand or promote its fundamental intellectual and moral requirements.

Indeed, Libertarianism turns morality on its head, by taking moral actions to be those that enhance liberty and immoral actions to be those that inhibit liberty. This does nothing to defend the individual's *moral* requirements for living, i.e. his egoism. That is, Liberty is defined through morality, morality is not defined by liberty. In its inverted world Libertarianism readily accepts any form of altruism and semi-egoism all in-the-name-of liberty.

Further, Libertarianism provides no epistemological foundation for the above inversion. For Libertarians, liberty 'just is', in the same way the God of the religious, or the Collective of the socialists, 'just is'. This is why various religious and socialist minds ascribe to Libertarianism, and are accepted as Libertarians.

In failing to properly grasp the ethical importance of political liberty, Libertarians "deny the mind" ("Reason" magazine notwithstanding). Certainly they provide a host of pragmatic justifications for Liberty —e.g. "freedom gives us better cars & medicines"— but such arguments will never win against the ethical arguments used by altruists. In politics morality trumps the practical.

To regain liberty, only the morality of egoism, explicitly supported by an objective epistemology, can succeed. Libertarianism is no way to support real liberty; it serves only to hamper popular understanding.

No matter how many times Yoshida reads Atlas Shrugged he is not going to 'get it', without a radical change in his epistemology.

Posted by: RnBram | 2008-08-08 11:45:54 AM

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