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Libertarians Burning their Carry-Cards

A Pajamas Media essay by VodkaPundit’s Stephen Green explaining why he’s no longer a card-carrying Libertarian has generated substantial discussion, including congratulations from Glenn Reynolds, Bill Quick, and Roger L. Simon, all of whom still think of themselves as small-l libertarians. They all agree that a doctrinaire individualism and anti-government mindset is unserious in a grown up world infested with nasty terrorists.

Andrew Sullivan is “relieved” to see them, especially, Reynolds, formally renounce the title “After four years of his defending or ignoring every abuse of government power under the Bushies.” Jim Henley is sad that these folks “never absorbed the libertarian critique of the state’s war power” but ultimately figures it doesn’t much matter since, “In a corrupt political discourse, no label is much use.”

Ultimately, Henley’s right. I’ve never been a Libertarian, card-carrying or otherwise, but have often described myself as “libertarian-right” in orientation. I generally believe in small government and am wary of state power but support a strong military and active (although preferably non-militarist) engagement internationally.

Sully’s critique of Reynolds is for supporting “the permanent suspension of habeas corpus, the transformation of the executive branch into a de facto extra-legal protectorate, the breaking of laws by the president, the authorization of torture, warrantless wiretapping, a war based on intelligence that simply wasn’t there, and a ramping up of the drug war.” My guess is that Reynolds would oppose most if not all of those things, at least if characterized that way, but I’ll let him defend himself. As for me, I’ve opposed all of those generally but been willing to give the benefit of the doubt on electronic surveillance, provided all that’s entailed is quasi-anonymous data mining and that the results are used only for intelligence purposes but kept out of criminal court via the Exclusionary Rule.

Stephen also thinks Reason has become “unserious” since Virginia Postrel stepped down and Nick Gillespie took the helm. I wasn’t reading the magazine in Postrel’s days and consider Gillespie a friend, plus he’s published my work there, so my perspective may be biased. Still, I think Reason provides valuable contributions in both its print and online editions. Ideologically, I’m somewhat closer to The New Individualist, which Stephen and I have both written for (he more than I). But that’s largely a matter of emphasis, with Reason most focused on domestic issues like the drug war and TNI more interested in the global threat from Islamist fundamentalism.

Simon makes a strong point when he writes, “You want to have some ideology to hang onto, some method of organizing everything, but the moment you settle on one thing, if you’re even partially awake, it kicks you in the head.” The world isn’t so simple as to be efficiently run via a bumper sticker slogan. The problem, though, is figuring out where responsible trade-offs end and cheerleading for one’s team begins. It’s one thing to be an “adult;” it’s quite another to be a party hack willing to abandon all principle when necessary to defend the decisions of the leadership.

UPDATE (Dodd Harris): I was a “card carrying” (and dues-paying) Libertarian once upon a time. I ‘burned’ my membership card because it became clear that, even in an era that was as open to libertarian ideas as any in my lifetime, the LP was too obsessed with gimmickry and fundamentally unserious political theater to be a viable force in actual, real-world politics. Meanwhile, the GOP (the one viable party the principles of which are at least rhetorically favourable to economic rights) was slowly being taken over by the fundies. Hence, I became, and still am, a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus. That way I can at least help shore up the cause of economic liberty in a party that actually wants to win national elections.

Stephen is exactly right about Reason‘s decline since Virginia Postrel stepped down. I subscribed for the entirety of her tenure and continued to do so for a couple of years after Gillespie took the reins. Gillespie was, and is, a fine writer. But his editorship led the magazine to become far more focused on fringe cultural phenomena like “outsider art” than serious policy discourse. Reluctantly, having seen no sign it was likely to return to its former place as the premier outlet for libertarian political thought, I let my subscription lapse the last time it ran out and haven’t read it since (though I do still read the website from time to time).

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    I’ve never been a Libertarian, card-carrying or otherwise,

    Wouldn’t carrying a Libertarian card be about the most UN-libertarian thing you could do?

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  2. mw says:

    These days, I’m generally perceived as coming from a left of center libertarian perspective, but that is probably due to what has been happening in Washington over the last six years. If the Dems take single party control in 2009, I’m sure I’ll be perceived as a right of center libertarian.

    I’ve always liked the small “l” distinction, as it does free one from the “all or nothing” mentality. Pursuing practical political compromise to achieve “net” libertarian gains strikes me as just common sense. That obviously means working within the two major party structure to achieve those incremental libertarian gains. And yes, as technology and threats change, new compromises need to be made. I’ll agree with you that there is a reasonable need for new provisions of FISA to accommodate that kind of surveillance. My objection was to the neocon insistence that the executive is the sole arbiter of how and when that expanded surveillance be used. Even in the short period of time that the “Cheney Doctrine” was unchallenged in the Justice Department – both internally and by the other branches – abuses were documented. Secret unfettered government power is always abused. Always. Always. Always.

    That said, it is hard to read the referenced Libertarian “card-burning” screeds as anything but a wholesale abandonment of the principles of individual freedom in order to chase the siren call of safety and security. There is no reason why a strong pro-military position requires being anti-due process, or requires eroding individual civil rights, or investing undue extra-constitutional power in the executive branch. None. I’ll spare you the usual Ben Franklin quote here.

    I’m with Sully. I’m glad they are no longer confusing the issue by pretending to be something they are not. They should fly their Neocon flags proudly.

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  3. Steve Verdon says:

    It is funny how often I get called a right winger and worse.

    1. Abortion: I support keeping it legal.
    2. Gay marriage: Fine.
    3. Stem cell research: No problemo, not happy with gov’t sponsored research, but that is a general principle, not specific to this issue.
    4. Legalizing drugs: It will most likely result in increased usage, but I see the War on Drugs as a failure and as dangerous to our civil rights as anything Bush has proposed/tried/done.
    5. Evolution/Creationism: Evolution is a fact, creation science/Intelligent Design are complete nonsense, dishonest, and bad theology. Creationism is true for just about every religious person so I don’t have much of a problem with.

    But I’m a right wing, goose stepping fascist according to some.

    Now that being said, while I’m mostly libertarian in my outlook, I’m not some sort of anarcho-capitalist. I see that for some things we are probably stuck with government.

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  4. spencer says:

    Being a libertarian is like reading Ayn Rand.

    It is something every intelligent 15 year old should do, but no adult take seriously.

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  5. Bill Quick says:

    Being a libertarian is like reading Ayn Rand.

    It is something every intelligent 15 year old should do, but no adult take seriously.

    Nobody should take seriously canned quotage like this, either.

    Steve Verdon: I’m with you on everything you posted.

    MW: I don’t think either libertarian or neocon mean what you seem to think they do.

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  6. Steve Plunk says:

    As adults don’t we all compromise our beliefs daily? Libertarians compromise. Liberals compromise. Conservatives compromise. It’s part of being a member of society and understanding we all do have to get along and function.

    The goose stepping Steve V. adheres to conservative, liberal, and libertarian principals at the same time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (we all essentially do it) but it illustrates how ill fitting some of these definitions are and how we can compromise the party line in favor of pragmatic ideas and solutions. Steve V. thinks first and identifies himself later. Many of us do that and then get labeled as cheerleaders rather than thinkers.

    I firmly believe Stephen Green falls into that category of think firsters. From what I’ve read of Sullivan’s he seems to concern himself with where to fit and then work his thinking in. That’s just bass ackwards.

    If more people would quit wondering where the goods ideas come from and just analyze the idea to see if it is workable the better off we will be. The slippery slopers need to remember not all slopes are downhill and steep. The conspiracy theorists need to understand that while conspiracies exist they are not everywhere all the time. Think first and rant later.

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  7. mannning says:

    These six tenets seem to be at the crux of libertarianism:

    1. Each individual has the right to his or her own life, and this right is the source of all other rights.

    2.Property rights are essential to the maintenance of those rights.

    3.In order that these rights be respected, it is essential that no individual or group initiate the use of force or fraud against any other.

    4.In order to bar the use of force or fraud from social relationships and to place the use of retaliatory force under objective control, human society requires an institution charged with the task of protecting individual rights under an objective code of rules. This is the basic task, and the only moral justification for, government.

    5.The only proper functions of government, whose powers must be constitutionally limited are:

    •settling, according to objective laws, disputes among individuals, where private, voluntary arbitration has failed

    •providing protection from criminals

    •providing protection from foreign invaders

    6.As a consequence of all the above, every individual — as long as he or she respects the rights of others — has the right to live as he or she alone sees fit, as a free trader in a free market.

    The one exception I must take is no.3 above, and it flows through the rest as well. I believe in preemptive action, and that arises very simply from a basic situation. You point a gun at me, and I will shoot you first if I can.

    As to abortion on demand, that is murder pure and simple.

    Marriage is between a man and a woman. There is no valid reason to change this definition. Contract law can provide what protection is needed for other relationships.

    The problem with legalizing drugs is to reconcile the savage disruptions of many lives while the ideas of self-discipline and responsibility take hold in the rest of the population–if it ever would.

    A theory is as useful as its predictions are valid, and as useless as its predictions are invalid. Both evolution theory and creationism theory have their inabilities to predict certain outcomes. ID theory has not yet predicted anything useful that I know of.

    Stem cell research should be a private enterprise.

    There seem to be as many variations of libertarianism as there are libertarians.

    Guess I ain’t one.

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  8. mw says:

    “I don’t think either libertarian or neocon mean what you seem to think they do.” – BQ

    Really? Wait – let me check. Ah, yes… yes… as I thought. Turns out they mean exactly what I think they do. Thanks though for your concern.

    “These six tenets seem to be at the crux of libertarianism… guess I ain’t one” – manning

    I’d agree with your tenets, if you capitalize that “L”. Dogmatic adherence to those tenets describe Libertarian Party members and wasted 3rd party politics. Once you start using the “l” word as an adjective rather than party dogma, you create a much bigger tent. I like Dale Franks “neolibertarian” description:

    When given a set of policy choices,

    * The choice that maximizes personal liberty is the best choice.

    * The policy choice that offers the least amount of necessary government intervention or regulation is the best choice.

    * The policy choice that provides rational, market-based incentives is the best choice.

    In foreign policy, neolibertartianism would be characterized by,

    * A policy of diplomacy that promotes consensual government and human rights and opposes dictatorship.

    * A policy of using US military force solely at the discretion of the US, but only in circumstances where American interests are directly affected.

    The least rigorous but still useful description of the “libertarian leaning [FILL IN THE BLANK]“, is the simple “Fiscal Conservative, Social Liberal”. Cato essentially used this to quantify the “libertarian swing vote” at a 9% – 13% range in their 2006 Policy Analysis. To your point about the value of a thesis being predicated on its predictions – that analysis accurately predicted the 2006 midterm outcome based on trends in their definition of the libertarian swing vote.

    Can’t finish without noting a couple of specifics in you comment.

    There is no “libertarian” position on abortion. The abortion issue falls outside of the libertarian framework, since it all boils down to what arbitrary moment you choose to invest a human being with the rights of being a human. Moment of birth?, 3rd trimester?, 2nd?, 1st? fetus? zygote? moment of conception? sperm?(which of course would make teenage boys into Eichman equivalents). Pick your date of development, and you get your position. Personally, I feel that abortion should be permitted up to the 64th trimester, as I don’t really think they are human until they are 16, and even have my questions then. But that’s just my choice, Ron Paul actually agrees with you.

    Your objection to No. 3 is not an objection. If someone points a gun at you, you are well past the point of preemption. That is aggression, reacting is self defense.

    One more regarding this comment:

    “The problem with legalizing drugs is to reconcile the savage disruptions of many lives while the ideas of self-discipline and responsibility take hold in the rest of the population–if it ever would.”- manning

    I guess I have to agree with you there, as long as we don’t stop with just drugs. Clearly with rampant alcoholism. drunk driving, etc. we need to bring back prohibition since the population has not demonstrated the self-discipline and responsibility to handle alcohol.

    Smoking? Same thing. Still too many in the population who lack the discipline and responsibility to stop smoking. It obviously has to be made illegal too.

    Now that I think about it, there are an awful lot of overweight fat asses in this country. With heart disease the number one killer, clearly the population has not demonstrated the self-discipline and responsibility to handle their own eating decisions. We certainly need to ban all fat laden fast food, and probably need to ban all unhealthy foods altogether. It is probably best if we just have the federal government print a daily healthy menu that everybody be mandated to follow, at least until such time that a majority of the population demonstrates that they have the discipline to make these decisions for themselves.

    Don’t you agree, Manning? I think we are on the same page now.

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  9. mannning says:

    mw– some bad drugs are not legal now. The transition to a legal state would be a catastrophe for many people acquiring the habit for the first time. Alcohol is legal for ages 18 or 21 and up, and we have what we have. There is no surge of new users to be had from legalizing in this case: it is done. For fat people: we have what we have, and a new surge of gorging from legislating diets might well arise, followed by midnight raids on 7/11s. The monster will be fed.

    Yes, my position is that life begins at conception, since the complex process of creating a human being starts there. To destroy an embryo is to pick a stage where life is begun in full sway using the information content in genes to build all the parts.

    In my simple case for preemption, my foe had the capability(a gun) and apparently the intent (aiming at me) to kill me. So I kill him.

    Now take it one step further: I cannot see the weapon, but I clearly understand from him that he intends to kill me. Again, I shoot first on the assumption that he has a hidden weapon and will use it. I would not suffer pangs of conscience or remorse if it turned out he didn’t have a weapon after all.

    And the next step: I see no weapon, and I hear nothing from him directly about killing me. But, everyone around me says that he has a weapon, and that he does intend to use it to kill me. If I believe the sources, I shoot in this case too.

    Thus, on the indirect evidence of capability and intent from sources I believe, I would kill a man. This scales up as well to preemption at a national level.

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  10. Unfortunately, none of this is an account of what the LP’s position was, or the actions of Libertarians internationally. The post and comments do seem to reflect what extreme conservatives presume is happening with libertarians. The sources quoted have nothing to do with the LP, and are even Republicans.

    I co-ordinate the Libertarian International Organization. Far from being indifferent to what is outside US borders, our activists have worked closely with both the LP and members of the Government in working to bring down dictatorships of every description by spreading ideas, mentoring activism, and direct citizen diplomacy. Numerous leaders elected in those dictatorships say the “L” factor was essential in getting change. Groups such as http://www.isil.org and http://www.FEE.org played very key roles.

    Libertarians believe that coercive government is to be replaced or circumvented by voluntary action, and view coercive government as essentially impotent or backfiring. The major interest of Libertarians at that time or today is not in taking a position on inane conservative or socialist war policies, but encouraging their own Libertarian view of continued citizen action as paramount:such as creating democracy and Libertarian movements abroad, and encouraging Sister-City type exchanges—what Eisenhower called the true defense of free countries (and also was how we contacted Boris Yeltsin with important effects). The US does not need vast militaries to fight ‘our’ battles. We do need to encourage Libertarian-oriented thinking abroad so they organize to fight our battles by action in their own country.

    As to the events in question, I was on the Executive Committee of the LP USA at the time. Our reaction was to urge Libertarians to donate blood, period. In short order we voiced limited and critical support for military response, but more important we co-ordinated with Libertarians in Afghanistan, who had been leading a struggle against the Taliban, to begin action. In fact, on 9/11, there was a picture on our front page we had just uploaded of Libertarians working in Kabul to develop Grameen style banks with the endorsement of Aslam Effendi, a distinguished member of the Afghan royal family. It is forgotten that by the time the US arrives, revolt was in full swing, and then Libertarians there worked with other groups in summoning the jurga AGAINST US wishes that created free elections there. The situation in Afghanistan has moved to an international nation building phase. In Iraq the US—meaning the GOP—has unwisely not repeated the strategy in Afghanistan with mixed results. Meanwhile, the US government and NED have taken to sending activists from other countries to LP HQ to learn about us.

    Meanwhile, State LP’s have begun participating in an LIO program adopting Sister groups abroad. The Florida LP, for example, has worked closely with Costa Rica resulting in a strong Libertarian-Liberal party there instead of a trouble spot. No Saddam Husseins there.

    Big government cannot help you, small government cannot help you, but self-government can help you. If you want to have a Libertarian ‘position’ on the war or foreign policy, join a local Sister City or similar program trying to help a struggling country and donate to http://www.ISIL.org to bring young students to Libertarian conferences where they can meet and learn from people who have changed their nation because of Libertarian help. National defense by the spread of freedom is ultimately too critical to be left to government, as Eisenhower suggested. Prevent the IRAQ’s of the future by citizen action you can start today as others have: get yourself appointed to a Sister City advisory board,help the leaders of to-morrow learn about freedom and rights, and effective activism to better their countries. You don’t need to be a card-carrying anything to understand or do that.

    Comment by Michael Gilson-De Lemos “MG” — October 26, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

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  11. Grewgills says:

    And the next step: I see no weapon, and I hear nothing from him directly about killing me. But, everyone around me says that he has a weapon, and that he does intend to use it to kill me. If I believe the sources, I shoot in this case too.

    If react like that in that situation you’ll end up in a new home.

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  12. Dodd says:

    The post and comments do seem to reflect what extreme conservatives presume is happening with libertarians.

    Only if you didn’t read them before pasting your boilerplate into the thread.

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  13. mannning says:

    Better a new home than dead, I say!

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  14. mw says:

    “Better a new home than dead, I say!” – manning

    I agree!!!!

    Better to give up our constitutional freedom of religion than dead I say!

    Better to give up our constitutional right to free speech than dead I say!

    Better to give up our constitutional guarantees of a fair trial and habeas corpus than dead I say!

    Better to give up any semblance of a right to privacy from government eavesdropping than dead I say!

    Better to give up our constitutional guarantees of a right to bear arms than dead I say!

    Better to go ahead and torture possibly innocent suspects rather than risk being dead I say!

    Better to let the government tell me what I can eat, drink, and smoke rather than risk being dead I say!

    We are definitely, definitely on the same page my friend!!!!!

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  15. mannning says:

    You have ever so slightly, slightly, I say, exaggerated, more than slightly extended, and unabashedly presumed far, far too much in your post, mw. If those are your positions, I would like to correct you on one small point: none of your wild statements are acceptable to me, save perhaps the torture one (TTBS, you know!). But you go right on following those tenets till someone takes off your head.

    Oh, you were being sarcastic, you say? Perhaps not, since you so readily formed those thoughts of yours! Been thinking too much, friend?

    I stand by the use of preemption when necessary! The first order of business in a rational world is survival.

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  16. [...] Fred Thompson posts at the Gun Nutt on the U.N.’s Gun Control Agenda Jules Crittenden has a lot of fun with a sock puppet named Glenn Greenwald Dread Pundit Bluto has fun with Glenn too. Michelle Malkin with some praise for Tom Tancredo and an update on the Goose Creek Two Hot Air: DU’ers Prove Waterboarding is Torture by Waterboarding Each Other! OTB: The Difference Between Libertarianism and libertarianism [...]

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  17. mockmook says:

    “The first order of business in a rational world is survival.”

    Sterile, small.

    How about:

    The first order of business in a rational world is justice.

    Rationality without morality invites evil.

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  18. Protagonist says:

    I bucked the trend. Two years ago I went from being a Republican to a (literal) card carrying Libertarian Party member.

    I’ve never been more politically active in my life. I’m the treasurer for the county party and a treasurer for a local Board of Supervisor’s campaign. This campaign actually has a chance of scoring double-digits next week. If I had decided to become “politcally active” in the local Republican machine, I’d be licking envelopes and making campaign contribution calls for years for political insiders who see me as a cog in the machine.

    A few statements:

    First, stop fighting about foreign policy issues! A pro-war Libertarian and an anti-war Libertarian have the exact same views on local issues and can unite on those issues. A handful of said Libertarians–be they anarchists, objectivists, or neo-con hawks who took Reagan seriously about cutting taxes and spending–can make serious ripples in a local election if they take a stand against weak establishment Dem-Repub candidate. Local politics is the soft-white underbelly of the two-party system. If Libertarians have local successes, state and national success will sprout up and supplant the two-party forest.

    Second, the Libertarian Party is what you make it. If you become active, you may find that you’re one of the few people in your community who are, and just by showing up you have moved the party a great deal towards your way of thinking.

    I’m finding that the real debate in the Libertarian Party isn’t hawk vs. dove, or anarchist vs. minarchist. It’s people who want to do something about reducing government vs. people who want to kevetch about how society’s falling apart and that no one is a True Believer but them.

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  19. Justice has no meaning or value to the dead, small, sterile, or otherwise.

    yours/
    peter.

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  20. mockmook says:

    “Justice has no meaning or value to the dead, small, sterile, or otherwise.”

    Non-responsive.

    The question was: Is survival the highest aspiration?

    Would you sacrifice your life for your child?

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  21. Ken Mitchell says:

    I’m a “card carrying”, dues-paying, registered-to-vote, big-L Libertarian – but I don’t much care for Ron Paul! I was more of a “Harry Browne” Libertarian.

    My primary voting issue is gun control; I’m against it. Gun control, as SF writer L. Neil Smith says, is a proxy for virtually every other Libertarian issue.

    Abortion? Don’t care; go ahead and fight among yourselves. Surveillance? Spy all you want, but don’t try to use it in court. Drugs? Legalize everything. “Think of it as Evolution in Action”! After a year or so, the susceptible will have weeded themselves out of the gene pool, and those of us who remain won’t be excessively tempted by drugs. Since I support CCW, I’m not excessively worried about drug-crazed criminals.

    The Iraq/Iran war? I guess I’m not a very good Libertarian; I say “Nuke ‘em till they glow, and shoot them in the dark!”

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  22. [...] was reading this excellent bit linked to by Insty: Simon makes a strong point when he writes, “You want to have some ideology to [...]

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  23. fishbane says:

    Gah. Every time I start thinking of myself as a libertarian, I read something like this.

    I am on board with all of Steve Verdon’s points. I’m not a fan of guns, but if you want CCW, more power to you – I don’t care; nutcases with guns aren’t going to last long around non-nutcases with guns, so it sorts people out the same way alcohol abuse does.

    The enthusiasm for blowing up foreign states, though, is something that I just can’t get behind; especially the notion that if a friend of a friend told you that so-and-so was going to attack you, pre-emptive murder is justified. That strikes me as so antithetical to a (my) libertarian mindset that I start wondering if I should call myself one.

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  24. Pink Pig says:

    Why would anyone burn their Libertarian party card? I joined the Libertarian party back in the 90′s, but when it became clear that they were every bit as ideological as the “left” and “right”, I simply didn’t renew. What could I possibly prove by burning my membership card? I am not ashamed of having been a Libertarian, and I remain a libertarian, but even the differences engendered by the Islamofascist attack of 2001 do not convince me that I should deny ever having been a Libertarian. I expect that some day, we will for the most part be on the same wavelength again, so I see no point in burning bridges.

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  25. Bill Quick says:

    Really? Wait – let me check. Ah, yes… yes… as I thought. Turns out they mean exactly what I think they do. Thanks though for your concern.

    Quite welcome. Could you cite for me the source of your definitions? Assuming you can move your head far enough aside to permit enough light for reading them….

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  26. Pink Pig says:

    Hmm, now I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. When I posted the last message (if it actually hit the website at all) I got 5 PHP errors, so I have no idea whether the message got through or not. Maybe somebody on the site should check it out. I’ll be glad to help, if you want to email me. In theory, you already have my address, but in case that’s one of the things that got lost in the shuffle, I am bill@wmdaly.com.

    I’m also curious why I had to preview the message in order to post it. I’ve never had to deal with such a protocol before.

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  27. Kip Watson says:

    You touched on the truth near the end of the piece, remarking on a parties and principles.

    Principles are what’s important. Innocent until proven guilty; equality under the law; freedom from capricious authority; right to due process; freedom of association; freedoms of speech and worship; right to life; these are principles.

    Small government, the cult of the individual — these are ideological tenets. They may or may not produce a desirable moral outcome, depending if the ideology they are derived from is sound.

    The problem in politics — on both Left and Right — is those who put ideology above principle.

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  28. Pink Pig says:

    OK, I guess I should bloviate a bit. I don’t think that libertarianism has the answer to every question, but on the question of the relationship between citizen and government, I think the libertarian approach is best. As did George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, IIRC. For me, it is largely a question of priorities, and sometimes (like right now) I don’t think that libertarian priorities rank very high. I think that when the country is attacked by troglodyte fascists, it has to respond, and that probably means putting other issues on the back burner for a while. Mainly, I became annoyed with the Libertarian Party because it placed the War on Drugs at the top of its agenda, and purported to make it a litmus test for libertarianism. Well, 1) there is no litmus test for libertarianism; 2) those of us of the libertarian persuasion can hardly afford to make enemies of those who agree with us on so many issues, and who almost certainly share the same long-term objectives. Frankly, this is not the time to debate the War on Drugs — the country has far more serious enemies than the nannies who want to deprive drug users of their pleasures. There are many many people out there, a lot of whom claim to be “loyal Americans”, who want to destroy everything that has helped to make this a great country. When you see otherwise intelligent people, who think of themselves as liberals, taking the side of the jerks who want to return us to the dark ages, you should recognize that we really have some serious problems to deal with, and the question of whether Joe Blow gets his next fix just doesn’t matter as much.

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  29. jayburd says:

    The only “card” you need to carry is the Constitution. If you are willing to ignore or misinterpret any part of it, you are not Big L or little l. The Dept. of Education is illegal. Selling Treasury bonds outside of declared war or national emergency is illegal. Regime change is illegal. Group rights are illegal. There is not a lot of room to wax philosophical if you follow that little piece of paper.

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  30. CatoRenasci says:

    While I have always had strongly libertarian tendencies, since first encountering the Libertarian Party in the early 1970′s, I have always viewed it through the perspective of Emerson’s famous (and delightful) observation in Self-Reliance that

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

    That is, in their unyielding devotion to some set of principles they designate as the essence of “Libertarianism” they take positions that are simply absurd in dealing with the real world.

    To me, it’s as if Libertarianism missed the whole systematic spirit of the 18th century enlightenment (despite their classical liberal economics) and are mired in the 17th century’s spirit of system building and abolutes a la Descartes. (Apologies to Ernst Cassierer’s The Philosophy of the Enlightenment and his distinction between l’esprit systematique and l’estprit de system)

    It’s so, well, French! It reminds one of the excesses of enthusiasm to which the Frogs are given, and their passion for “logic” that seems to always lead them down the garden path.

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  31. TomT says:

    ” Evolution/Creationism: Evolution is a fact,…”

    Evolution is not fact, it is a theory. Too many inconsistencies for it to be fact.

    Belief in something without supporting facts is called religion and you should not shove it down my throat.

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  32. Jay Manifold says:

    Protagonist nailed it with “the Libertarian Party is what you make it. If you become active, you may find that you’re one of the few people in your community who are, and just by showing up you have moved the party a great deal towards your way of thinking.”

    If one-tenth of Glenn Reynolds’ readership, which is presumably heavily “neolibertarian,” became involved in the LP, they would dominate it within one election cycle and would be running every state party. Few local conventions have more than a handful of attendees, and very few state conventions have even a three-digit number of participants.

    Give me 100 neolibertarians for two years and I’ll hand them complete control of their state’s LP.

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  33. McGehee says:

    The question was: Is survival the highest aspiration?

    No, but it is the first. All else is possible only because the individual — some individual, even if not oneself — survives.

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  34. Selling Treasury bonds outside of declared war or national emergency is illegal.

    I’m inclined to think it’s bad policy, but where does the Constitution make it illegal? A search of the text of the Constitution and its amendments yields no mention of bonds. Debt is mentioned only in the context of how the government’s debts are to be paid, and whether pre-Constitution and Confederate debts remain binding (yes to the first, no to the second).

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  35. Why? Oh, just because!…

    Glenn Reynolds asks a good question about Andrew Sullivan’s inability to disagree with Glenn without misrepresenting what he says:it’s telling that he can’t seem to criticize me without misrepresenting what I’ve said. In this post he links to a tru…

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