Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Libertarians are Losers...

As an unapologetic Libertarian I would like to take a moment to point out what is wrong with the folks that make up the ranks of our nation's third largest political party.

I, like many of you, voted for Ron Paul in 2008. I like his son, Rand Paul, and find him to be a breath of fresh air whenever he speaks on the issues that are dear to my heart.

And yet, Mr. Paul is on the verge - assuming it is not already too late - of being relegated to a footnote in our political history. This would place him in the company of other Libertarians who seem to take pride in losing elections. After all, it takes a special person to really understand how smart we Libertarians are. We, and only we, know that government best serves us when it leaves our wallets and bodies alone. The Democrats understand liberty as it pertains to our rights to engage in social contracts. Republicans understand liberty as it pertains to our rights in economic contracts.

It takes a real smart person to understand the value of liberty in all contracts between consenting adults.
Yet, Libertarians are really, really dumb in at least one respect.

Rather than slowly pulling Republicans and Democrats in our direction by showing them the value of true freedom, we open our extremist-sounding mouths and blurt out inumerable offensive ideas that send voters running away.

Take Rand Paul's recent remarks that the government probably overstepped its bounds in the 1964 Civil Rights legislation. Mr. Paul contended that private businesses should not have faced force desegregation of restaurants, hotels, etc.

Yes, I understand his point. No, I do not think I should have to let anyone in my home or car or other private areas of my life if I choose not to. The problem with what Mr. Paul said is twofold.

First, the voters are not Constitutionally astute enough to discern the broader meaning of his comments and therefore will think he is a racist.

Second, pragmatic Libertarianism might suggest that desegregation of businesses was a proper function of government. After all, black people in 1964 could have argued that they paid property taxes to maintain the sidewalks, roads, street lights, signs, sewers, police and fire protection for the local sandwich shop and therefore a sandwich shop that exists to sell food to the public should have to allow all members of the tax-paying public to peacefully enter and pay for a meal.

Liberty means "anything that is peaceful". A peaceful attempt to exchange private property in a business establishment seems to fit under that definition.

If Mr. Paul - and other Libertarians - want to start winning elections a strong dose of common-sense Libertarianism would help achieve that goal.

Until then, Libertarians will be confined to the wilderness where many of our best ideas our clouded by rhetoric that the voters find offensive or extremist.


  1. While I agree that pragmatism is useful — in libertarianism, as in all other realms — it seems that the suggested argument works more affectively to call into question the merits of forcing the citizenry to subsidize the costs of a racist shop owner, rather than whether that shop owner should be "allowed" to be racist.

    I, for one, LOVE overt, non-violent acts of racism, because it allows me to identify (and avoid) racists. Driving their hate underground, so to speak, provides for it a breeding ground that is no longer subject to public scrutiny.

    While a sandwich shop with a "no coloreds allowed" shingle hanging over its door might possibly garner enough business to survive in a homogeneously white (and predominantly racist) town, how long would such a shop survive in New York City? In Atlanta? In LA, Seattle, or Chicago? How long would it survive in ANY of America's cultural metropolises? Not long at all, I'd wager.

    I believe I understand the author's argument — that libertarians "turn off" a plurality of voters, due to extremities of principle — and I agree that answers to such questions as that which was posed to Mr Paul are exceedingly difficult to give without angering some (or many) segments of the population. It strikes me that the standard "deflect and redefine" tactic utilized by most politicians in such circumstances is perfectly justified; the underlying question — or at least, the question that the general populous have "heard" — posed by Ms Maddow was NOT "do you believe Government should not have forced desegregation in private business?", but "do you believe racism is acceptable?" In this particular instance, answering the underlying question is much more important than answering the question as it was asked.

    A revised answer for Mr Paul (given 20/20 hindsight, and plenty of thought and preparation that wouldn't be forthcoming when cornered during an interview):

    "The country was dealing with an incredible problem in '64; there very likely is no solution that could possibly have been seen as a perfect fit. Our Government chose to exercise the only tactic that it's ever known; that of threatening violence. I believe strongly that once laws that forcibly prevented racial minorities from fully engaging in society and commerce were removed, a freed market of ideas, products and services could have corrected for the injustices perpetrated upon our people much more quickly and effectively than any particular mandate could hope to accomplish."

  2. So, two morals from here:
    Anyone who pays taxes should be able to "peacefully" enter my house (apparently I discriminate against people who are not my fiends).
    Good politicians should lie about their principles and convictions - not to worry, it's just to get elected, but then...
    PS. it's very symbolic that "word verification" for this article happened to be "oodsmell" :)

  3. Realsimon -

    First, Even the most Constitutionally ignorant people know that a home is not "open to the public" for the purposes of trade and commerce. I would think that that would have been the last thing you would have used to support your views. Second, Jim Crow laws were government-created so even businesses that wanted to be open to black Americans were prohibited. Since when is government-enforced racism a proper role of government? Third, I am glad Mr. Paul is not lying and I like him more than virtually every other candidate out there. I voted for his Dad in 2008. I did not say he should lie, I said his view of liberty is not consistent with real liberty to the extend black Americans were paying for the infrastructure and security of "open to the public" businesses and therefore had a legitimate claim to be able to peacefully go in and buy a sandwich! Finally, I am not sure what "oodsmell" is, can you help me out there?

  4. Nobody, including Rand Paul, original post or myself argues about horrible Jim Crow laws, so please don't change the subject.
    Your argument that "desegregation of businesses was a proper function of government" just because potential victims of discrimination pay taxes is weak and dangerous. Businesses are private property and you can easily extend this argument to any kind of property. There is nothing in constitution that separates private property "open to the public" from other kinds of private property. And the whole definition of "open to the public" is very vague.
    Joshua said the rest much better than I can.

    "oodsmell" was a random phrase that blogspot asked me to retype to authenticate my comment. I found it quite symbolic because your "common-sense Libertarianism" just stinks. Sorry, not much of an argument, but that's how I feel.

  5. I don't have the liberty to change the subject, even when I was not changing the subject? The subject is why Libertarians lose elections. Ronald Reagan, who once told Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, "In my heart, I am a Libertarian", always operated under the political theory, "Would you rather get most of what you want, or go over the cliff, waving your flag?" Voters like you just don't get it. You are so caught up in philosophical Libertarianism that you are willing to let your naive views create more McCain, Bush, Palin Republicans who win because we do not put forward more Libertarian/Republicans who understand the case for incremental steps towards liberty. You don't lose liberty all at once so you cannot expect people to be able to handle getting it back all at once. There is nothing "weak and dangerous" about the arguments I have made here. I think, in principle, Rand Paul has a good argument that businesses, as private property owners can ultimately make a racist call on who they serve - even if many they would reject help keep their businesses secured. However, as a Libertarian who would like to see Rand Paul ELECTED (you do understand the concept of getting elected, right?) my argument for a more practical approach to Libertarianism is sound. We need him to get ELECTED, then get more people like him ELECTED, so that the movements you and I both desire, in principle, can become more of a reality. Once you get this simple proposition, you will be able to see that screaming about liberty from the recesses of the political wilderness does none of us any good. Finally, you will notice that my name is attached to these comments. I am just curious, what is your name? I would love to be able to place a face to this enjoyable dialogue.

  6. Well Chambless....I have not read your blog for a WHILE so I caught up this evening. I loved this one and I couldn't agree more. I attended Ron Paul rallies and such and I can tell you that my husband and I were among some of the nuttiest people. eek! This was up in Bellingham, WA and let's just say, that city is politically explosive! I kept thinking, "we are never going to get anywhere if these are the people actively leading our cause. Ron Paul was the first politician that my husband and I felt completely represented us and our philosophy. I never realized a politician with such integrity could exist, but he does.

    However, each time he spoke we found our selves saying and or thinking, "get to the point! I agree but you're talking over the heads of the average voter." We don't just need someone with common-sense Libertarianism, we need someone with charm. lol! Seriously!

    The average voter out there seems to make their decision by sound bytes and without a few good one-liners that the media will actually play for purposes other then destroying a campaign the person running has no chance. The third party candidates get no respect. IF they are seen at all it is usually in a not so flattering light. They need to be locked and loaded with their ear catching sound byte.

    I understand more then most the desire to be purely honest. In a perfect world I would be free to walk around and tell people exactly what I think, but unfortunately for me and my brutal honesty, there are consequences. Those consequences are not limited to, but do include things such as a the loss of a friendship, a slapped face, etc. My point is, I don't make the rules, I just, some times, play by them. Elections are only won by playing within those rules. One must win over the uninformed voter. The only way to do that is to look good or sound good and if we really want to win, BOTH!

    What will it take to get Stossel to run????

    Monica Serrano (I ain't skeered! HA!)

  7. @Chambless - you seems to be wobbling a bit. In original post you (pragmatic Libertarian) "...suggest that desegregation of businesses was a proper function of government", but in you last comment you "...think, in principle, Rand Paul has a good argument that businesses, as private property owners can ultimately make a racist call on who they serve".
    If you agree with Rand Paul on the issue, but think it should be better articulated (Joshua's point) than may be I misread your post.

    I'm curious what information you can gain from knowing my name. We are not acquainted and I don't blog anywhere. I stumbled upon link to this post in a comment section of another blog.

  8. realSimon,

    Glad a stranger has joined my blog. I thought you might be a former student questioning my Libertarian credentials...

    Not wavering - I just see your point - and always have, that ostensibly, private property rights trump our interests. Therefore, on the one hand a good Libertarian could argue, as you have, that the Civil Rights Act overstepped its bounds and encroached on the private property rights of businesses. On the other hand, it is still a sticky issue since businesses operate as "open to the public" establishments with weaker private property rights that we, as homeowners, have. Therefore, if they are open for business to the general, taxpaying public, a good Libertarian could, at the very least, see the side of folks who contend that black Americans should have been allowed to peacefully enter and offer to trade.

    The most important point, I think, is that we need to get more people like Mr. Paul in office. To do that, he should speak to 2010 issues, keep his 1964 views quiet and wait until he is in office to extend his Libertarianism to areas from our past.

    Anyway, thanks for posting and please do so in the future.

  9. Why Libertarians don't win elections is because they're stupid enough to go on shows like the Rachel Maddow show and fool themselves into thinking that they're dealing with rational people. It was one thing when he was running against the Republican establishment, but once he posed a real threat, like garnering the nomination in a rout and can actually win, he's just more red meat for statists like Maddow to devoured.

    Ironically, immediately after his victory even Republican shills like Shawn Hannity were singing his praises. Hannity said that Paul's victory speech gave him "chills." That's the show he should have went on. Instead he goes on Maddow to discuss why he's not a racist. Now, that's a winning strategy. ;-P

    Hopefully he learned his lesson.