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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are Republicans becoming more libertarian?

Nate Silver, over on FiveThirtyEight, has tried to make the case that Republicans are beginning to embrace libertarianism:

Maybe you see a pattern there and maybe you don't. But of the roughly four different pathways the Republicans could take in the post-Obama universe -- toward Ron Paulesque libertarianism, toward Sarah Palinesque cultural populism, toward Mike Huckabeesque big-government conservatism, or toward Olympia Snowesque moderation/ good-governmentism -- the libertarian side would seem to have had the best go of things in the First 100 Days.

His case is merely suggestive and piecemeal, rather than thorough and comprehensive. His examples include a Gallup poll of American voters by affiliation and their views on what the real problem is (Big Business, Big Government, or Big Labour); the surprising silence from Republicans after Iowa's Supreme Court decision on gay marriage; the TEA party movement that was started by the Chicago Libertarian Party, and given a big boost by Nick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange; and the Republican alternative budget which should be seen as red meat for libertarians.

Are Republicans becoming more libertarian? I'm not so sure, but I do see signs of it here and there. Silver may have included sales of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and the flattering attention Ayn Rand is getting from Republicans and conservative pundits and commentators. Glenn Beck's popularity may have something to do with his libertarianism, and his piggybacking off of the success of Ron Paul's movement. Speaking of Paul, his Campaign for Liberty continues afoot, and is drawing more and more students to Austrian economics, as witnessed by attendance figures and interest shown to the Mises Institute (I haven't asked anyone at George Mason University whether or not they've seen an increase in interest for their economics program, which is primarily Austrian).

So there is good news in the U.S. And at least part of the reason for the good news is the fact that the Republicans are out of office. Here in Canada, we would probably see more of a libertarian move amongst card-carrying Conservatives if Harper weren't in office.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on April 23, 2009 in Libertarianism | Permalink


"the TEA party movement that was started by the Chicago Libertarian Party, and given a big boost by Nick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange"

That's wrong, the Modern Tea Party movement has been started by congressman Dr. Ron Paul on Dec 16 2007: (On that day, Dr Paul's campaign got 6 Million in online donnations)


Posted by: James | 2009-04-23 10:23:51 AM

In response to the question posed in the title, I'd say the answer is "no".

Look back at history and there has always been a vocal minority of libertarians who sometimes make more noise than others.

The rest of the party is conservative, or worse neoconservative and voting Republican because they "them thar gays are gunna ruins my babies" and "Kick dem tarrorists asses" (never mind more Americans have died kicking terrorist ass than were killed by said terrorists in the first place) and that's hardly a misconception.

I'm an American, and a republican, and a libertarian. My very large and diverse family spread across both the US and Canada is heavily divided down the middle about half fall pretty far to either side.

The ones in California are all socialist whack jobs who think the group should be able to over ride anyone's rights for the greater good, and the rabid right of the other states think things like we need to force kids in school to pray and if we don't support Israel God will smote the nation and lay waste to the economy… uhh yeah.

The Canadian part of my family is pretty much of the same division and for the same reasons. They don't vote Conservative because they want freedom, they just hope to pay less taxes. They still want to be coddled by Big Brother when they retire and have their butts wiped with their neighbors' money when they're sick.

The Liberals vote Liberal because they want to have even more social programs so everyone can get along and those poor people (who they refuse to help PERSONALLY) can get a “hand up” and to be nice to the poor natives. Many also feel the Liberal party will protect freedom of religion more and make sure people are “free” (they mistake freedom for security) by prosecuting hateful people.

The only way you're going to see a Libertarian government in North America is if there is a plague that only kills people based on their political views.

Any of the so called "right wing" states or provinces could separate and would within a couple of voting cycles be sharply divided the same as the nation they came from. It's not like there aren't NDP voters in Alberta, or Democrats in Texas, and once the money was flowing and the feelings were all warm and fuzzy people would start saying stupid stff like “We have to help the poor Texans who's houses were blown down by that hurricane!” for the fifth time “Quick levy a special hurricane tax!”

Posted by: Pete | 2009-04-23 11:08:32 AM

Never mind more Americans have died kicking terrorist ass than were killed by said terrorists in the first place - You mean like how more Americans died in World War II than at Pearl Harbour? And how more people died in World War I than the two people who were shot in Sarajevo?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-23 12:09:27 PM


Posted by: lqz | 2009-04-23 2:57:59 PM

The Republican Party is returning to its libertarian side on the economics front only. It is still holding onto its socially conservative positions. The party still supports the death penalty, gun rights, opposition to unrestricted abortion, support for school prayer, and opposition to gay marriage. You may hate school prayer but polls show over 75% support. Polls also show that most Americans want abortion legal but very restricted(limited to life, health, rape, and incest). Social conservatives cannot be disregarded in the United States(unlike Canada).
Glenn Beck has referred to himself as both a libertarian and a conservative. Did you know that Beck opposes abortion? Did you know that Beck wants the border with Mexico forcibly secured? How libertarian is that? I want a party that combines economic libertarianism and social conservativism. If the Republicans become pro-abortion, pro-gay agenda, and unwilling to defend America then I see little reason to vote for them. I would probably have to vote third party.

Posted by: David | 2009-04-23 4:43:05 PM

"Are Republicans becoming more libertarian?"


Are Libertarians becoming more responsibile people and less libertine?


Posted by: Speller | 2009-04-23 5:10:27 PM

Thank you for your comment, David.

I just wanted to point out a few things:

First, it is consistent with libertarianism to oppose abortion. For example, take a look at the group "libertarians for life" here: http://www.l4l.org/

The issue is settled by appeal to whether or not a baby in the belly counts as a self-owning person. If so, then libertarians are bound to oppose abortion for the same reason they oppose killing in general.

Support for the death penalty is also consistent with libertarianism. For example, see this wikipedia article that explores the libertarian defenses of the death penalty, as well as libertarian objections to the death penalty.

All libertarians believe in the second amendment, and in the right of individuals to own guns.

Libertarians are divided on the issue of forcibly securing the border. National defense is, for libertarians, one of the few legitimate roles for government. For at least some libertarians, that means enforcing immigration laws.

This is why it is possible to be a socially conservative libertarian (or a libertarian who is socially conservative, which amounts to the same thing, in my mind). Silver, in particular, mentions the Ron Paul libertarian. There is no doubt that Ron Paul counts as a libertarian, and Ron Paul is pro-life, pro-strong borders, pro-America, and deeply socially conservative.

Your last two examples may be inconsistent with libertarianism. Libertarians, generally, do not believe in government-run schools. They support private, charter, and homeschooling. So the issue of whether or not to allow prayer in schools is of secondary interest.

As for gay marriage, the libertarian position is that the government should not be involved in marriage. Instead, the government should view this contract like it views all other contracts, and merely uphold contracts between consenting parties.

Silver's argument, to be precise, is that the Republicans are becoming more like Ron Paul-style libertarians, not the kind of libertarians that, I think, you have in mind.

Again, thanks for your comment, David.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-23 6:45:55 PM

Viewing Republicans in the US is interesting and the political situation there does impact us. I would like to see some discussion of the political situation here in Alberta. There are some interesting policy considerations being debated at this point. The opportunity for a third party with Libertarian leanings (even if socially conservative) is there. At present there is no major party alternative to the PC's. One will have to come from the grass roots.

Posted by: DML | 2009-04-24 12:11:45 AM

I would hope the GOP is becoming more libertarian, but I fear this is only somehwhat reactionary under the circumstances. The sad fact is that populism is what wins votes and, consequently, elections. Until there is a libertarian populist out there, the Republicans will go no further in that direction.

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2009-04-25 6:28:50 AM

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