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Libertarian History/Philosophy

All articles with the "Libertarian History/Philosophy" tag.

Published: Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2017 06:15:14 -0400


The Base Rhetoric of Mainstream Taxation Talk

Sun, 14 May 2017 10:15:00 -0400

Lenin reportedly said, "The best way to destroy the capitalist system [is] to debauch the currency." If by "capitalist system"* we mean only what Adam Smith called "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty," we could improve on the quote: the best way to destroy it is to debauch the currency of rational communication, the language. George Orwell of course understood this well and made it the centerpiece of Nineteen Eighty-Four. In a book on the German liberal social-critic Karl Kraus (Anti-Freud: Karl Kraus's Criticism of Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry), Thomas Szasz distinguished between noble and base rhetoric and rhetoricians—that is, those who use language to reveal (e.g., Kraus) and those who use it conceal their value judgments (e.g., Freud). Szasz pointed out that the conservative "radical" intellectual Richard Weaver, lamenting the neglect of rhetoric as an academic subject, described what Szasz called "the movement away from the value-laden language of theology, poetry and prose, in short of the 'humanities,' and toward the ostensibly value-neutral languages of the 'sciences.' This attempt to escape from, or to deny, valuation is, for obvious reasons, especially important and dangerous in … the so-called social sciences. Indeed, one could go so far as to say that the specialized languages of these disciplines serve virtually no other purpose than to conceal valuation behind an ostensibly scientific and nonvaluational semantic screen." Szasz here was referring to scientism, which Kraus despised and attempted to expose in his work. Base rhetoric is what social engineers must engage in or else they would be, in Oscar Wilde's words, "found out." We can see the base rhetoricians in action whenever they talk about taxation. From the terms of their discussion, you would never know that the money in question actually belongs to particular individuals, who obtained it through voluntary exchange or gift. Rather, the terms suggest that it belongs collectively to society, with the government being its agent of distribution. The only question, then, is: what's the fairest distribution? How else are we to explain the routine designation of tax cuts and repeals as "tax breaks?" We don't usually call letting someone keep his justly acquired possession a break. And how are we to explain why people are chided about paying their "fair share" without a standard of fairness ever being proffered? And, finally, how else are we to explain the term "tax expenditure," which is attached to any policy that enables people to reduce their tax "liability" by jumping through one legal hoop or another? These hoops are often called "loopholes," though that term can mean both deliberate and inadvertent features of legislation that provide opportunities for people to keep some money out of the government's hands. The concept tax expenditure implies that the government's budget is the entire GDP. When anyone calls for a new tax or a tax increase, that person wants government personnel to threaten force against others who fails to surrender their money to the state. But almost no one speaks in those terms. If tax advocates did that, their rhetoric at least would be value-laden and honest (and only in that sense noble). Instead, such people engage in base rhetoric. They speak in ostensibly value-neutral language when in fact their meaning is value-laden: they implicitly claim that their plans for the money are superior to the plans of those who now possess it. Weaver wrote that "language … is … sermonic. We are all of us preachers in private or public capacities. We have no sooner uttered words that we have given impulse to other people to look at the world, or some small part of it, in our way…. Language is intended to be sermonic. Because of its nature and its intimacy with our feelings, it is always preaching." (Szasz got these quotes from R. L. Johannesen, R. Strickland, and R. T. Eubanks's edited volume, Language Is Sermonic: Richard M. Weaver on the Nature of Rhetoric, 1970.) Taxation may at first appear to be a narrow subject,[...]

Libertarianism Does Not Yet Rule America. Libertarians Know That. That's Not a Reason for Them to Abandon Libertarianism.

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 08:30:00 -0400

From its beginnings as a distinct ideological movement in the postwar years, libertarianism has been a set of outsider ideas vastly disrespected by most American politicians and intellectuals. It was kept alive by small institutions, publications, and scattered academics (mostly in economics at first) who for decades were largely concerned with just keeping any expression of these ideas a going concern, barely expecting it could soon seriously influence mainstream political culture. (That story is told up to the turn of the 21st century in my book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.) Libertarians understand they are still to a large degree strangers in a strange land when it comes to the American political scene, struggling for impact in a world they never made, and any number of other cliches indicating that obvious truth: libertarianism is still a minority idea and libertarians are still embroiled in a difficult and long-term fight to influence political ideology and practice in America. Libertarians are generally not delusional on that point. When it comes to awareness and acceptance of the overarching principles of libertarianism, even if not to their actuation across the board in governing, the situation for libertarianism is America has gotten much better in the 21st century along many dimensions. As Reason's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie have argued, an often pre-political embrace of the options, variety, and choice inherent in the libertarian vision of free minds and free markets has spread massively in American culture, even if government qua government isn't shrinking. One of the ironic demonstrations of libertarianism's inroads in American culture is that mainstream outlets find it necessary frequently to declare it dead, irrelevant, or fatally wounded. Lately we've had Tim Alberta in Politico assuring us that the libertarian dream is dead; and Adam Ozimek in Forbes saying libertarianism could be more successful if only it would narrow its vision a little. Politico makes a good point as far as it goes: Until Donald Trump's bold political entrepreneurship proved surprisingly successful, there was reason to believe the GOP might be more inclined to go for a libertarian-leaning candidate such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) rather than someone like Trump, policy-wise a Buchananite populist in the Rick Santorum style (to point to the nearest even slightly successful precursor in the GOP), but with less sanctimony, less even half-convincing Christianity, and more aggressive crudity and lack of intellectual polish. Examining the respective political fates of Paul and Trump in the 2016 presidential race, now we know better. But by the very fact that it is an outsider political movement not fully at home in either major party, nothing about libertarianism's correctness or its hopes for the future depend on some short term victory; certainly nothing about the American people's choice of aggressive protectionist nationalism (to the extent we can be sure what people thought they were getting when they choose Trump) proves that libertarianism is either mistaken or dead. It just proves libertarianism remains what it has been since it arose as a distinct movement in America after World War II: a small fighting rump, but one whose spread and reach is as high as it's ever been, even if it has failed in 2016, as it has always failed, to win the White House. Otherwise, Politico's long article is merely a portrait of a moment in time, not the final fate of an ideology. Its observational power is mostly rooted in noting that, while he occasionally talks a libertarian-sounding game when it comes to, say, regulation, Trump is overall very opposed to the larger libertarian vision of truly free markets, respect for property rights, and restrained government power. True, and understood; especially as Trump's pre-election rhetoric that hinted at the possibility he might be less bellicose than his predecessors overseas is drowned out in the sound of explodin[...]

Free Trade Under Fire in the Age of Trump

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 15:05:00 -0400

The Trump administration's incomprehension of the benefits, and hostility to the practice, of free trade represents one of the most important current threats to the ideas of liberty, I argue in a new essay up at the Cato Institute's website, "Free Trade is Under Attack, and It Must be Defended."


The core of the argument:

The economic and moral case for free trade of goods, capital, and labor across borders is so strong, and so core to the libertarian vision, that any politician, party, or group that professes to further the cause of liberty and does not understand and advocate it cannot be relied on as an intelligent ally.

In year one of the Trump administration, then, the greatest challenge facing political liberty is rewinning support, either popular, or elite, or preferably both, for this core free market principle. Free trade very recently was central to the free-market image of Trump's party, the Republicans, but they mostly seem to have shed it in service of propping up their president's agenda, or in search of tax solutions, like a border adjustment tax, that they can sell as harming only "them" and not us.

From the moment he declared his candidacy, Trump's highest priority seemed to be forceful interference with the free movement of goods, services, and people across the American border. His reasons were based in either unreasonable fearmongering over a very small risk (when it comes to immigrants), or a misunderstanding, or a pure rejection, of the principle that people should be able to trade their property and labor as they wish with minimal interference from the state.

Trump didn't even wait until he was sworn in to begin threatening businesses who dare use their capital outside the American border. Chiefly he sought punitive taxes and sought to use the government's power of special favors to cajole companies into not doing so. In his inaugural address he cut to the point with a clarity that was brutal and frightening to those who understand free trade as the cornerstone of liberty and worldwide wealth: "We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs," Trump said. "Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength."

The Cato Institute (a libertarian public policy analysis think tank) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and that essay is part of a series they commissioned and are publishing on the "Future of the Free Society."

Is Comedy a Form of Political Resistance? Nick Gillespie at Cato Unbound

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 17:45:00 -0400

(image) My contribution to Cato Unbound's "The Very Serious Comedy Issue" will be posted at the site tomorrow. In the meantime, catch up with standup Jeremy McLellan's opening essay, "Bombing on Stage: Comedy as Political Resistance," in which the talented performer (he emceed the recent International Students for Liberty Conference) argues

Comedy is inherently anti-authoritarian. As Stanley Hauerwas once said, "If you desire to rule the world, the incomprehensibility of the world must be denied or tamed. What cannot be tolerated are forms of humor that might make the attempt to control a dangerous world absurd." In short: You are not God, and it's the job of the comic to remind you of that.

Another standup, Lou Perez (who runs We The Internet and has performed at offers up this:

When an online magazine like Paste poses the question, "What is comedy's role under Trump?" I have to respond, "Well, what the fuck was comedy's role under Obama?"

(image) Is Paste implying that comedians should no longer be cheerleaders for the executive branch and its party—but just for the next four years? Or is Paste saying that we should get back to that whole speaking-truth-to-power thing from now on—no matter who's in power?

And Duke University political scientist and 2008 Libertarian candidate for governor of North Carolina Michael Munger writes

[Political] humor then arises out of a logically consistent but unexpected and possibly unsettling reframing. There is twist that forces us into a change in point of view, but the twist is hidden in the setup of the joke and we could have seen it coming if we had been aware of the trick.

For political humor, the "misdirection" is the unquestioned and perhaps even unrecognized assumptions the listener or reader makes about the political world. The "incongruity theory" of humor argues that the human mind, for whatever reason, is attracted to situations where we expect one thing to happen, but what actually happens is something else. That seems a pretty apt description of the political process recently.

My rejoinder to McLellan, Perez, and Munger is infused with the spirit of the recently departed insult comic Don Rickles. Which is to say that I take a bunch of swings at each of them. Along the way, I work hard to alienate as many people as humanly possible in 1,200 or so words.

Tune in tomorrow to see how I did.

Glenn Reynolds: Majoritarianism in the Courts Is a Bad, Bad Thing

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 17:16:00 -0400

With Senate Democrats going for a filibuster against the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, things are about to get hairy in the Capitol. It seems without question that Gorsuch is a competent, qualified jurist and the Dems almost surely are shooting themselves in the foot by trying to block his appointment. Most Americans don't care overly much about judicial philosophy, but nothing Gorsuch has written and discussed disqualifies him or marks him as incompetent. Making his nomination a pure political play will alienate everyone except strict liberal ideologues. Writing in USA Today, Glenn Reynolds of University of Tennessee Law School and has a sharp, concise column up about the role of the Supreme Court in deciding whether laws are constitutional or not. Citing libertarian legal school and Georgetown professor Randy Barnett's recent book, Our Republican Constitution, Reynolds explains that the Constitution's animating principle was decentralizing power, especially of a simple majority. The powers of government were limited, and separated among various branches, and divided between the federal government and the states, while some things were placed beyond the power of the government entirely. This was intended to ensure that minority groups could go about their business unmolested by the majority. During the Progressive Era of the 19th century, these limitations on majority power chafed Progressives who were in the legislative majority. They wanted to make big changes, and the Constitution's limitations made that hard. Progressive legislation kept losing in the courts, who kept pointing out that it was inconsistent with Constitutional limits on government power, and Constitutional protection of things like private property rights. This led to a rule of judicial restraint that was the beginning of the democratic constitution, where majority power reigned supreme. Its first major appearance was in an article by Harvard law professor James Bradley Thayer, arguing that courts should not strike down laws as unconstitutional, so long as they could imagine a reasonable person thinking them valid. Only in cases of clear mistake should judicial review lead to laws being held unconstitutional. This thinking found its first Supreme Court application just a few years later in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, upholding segregation under the famous "separate but equal" formulation (though this phrase was not part of the opinion). Echoing Thayer, Justice Brown wrote "We cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is unreasonable." Also at that time, as Barnett notes, writers stopped talking about courts' duty to strike down unconstitutional laws and started talking about their power to do so. Not exercising a duty is a dereliction; not employing a power could be characterized as self-restraint. Nonetheless, in other cases, the Court applied the republican constitution, striking down (in Buchanan v. Warley) a Kentucky racial zoning law backed by a majority, and (in Bailey v. Alabama) barring enforcement of labor contracts for black people that, in reality, amounted to involuntary servitude. In both cases, the importance of individual rights trumped the majority's desire. Read the whole piece. Barnett and Reason's Damon Root have written a lot about the problems that come from the courts showing too much deference to elected officials. Ironically, conservatives are quick to bitch and moan about "judicial activism" but often the bigger problem is when courts look the other way as legislators arrogate more and more power to themselves. However the Gorsuch confirmation plays out, this larger argument about activism and deference is a key battleground, especially in a country that is sharply polarized and in which partisans want more than anything to punish the other side. It's also a place where the libertarian rejection of majorit[...]

Steve Bannon Hates Libertarians Because *We're* Not Living in the Real World?

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:25:00 -0400

The first of the two times I've met Donald Trump was at a 2015 rally protesting the nuclear deal President Obama had announced with Iran. As he rumbled off the stage past the press area, I asked him, "Hey Donald, what do you think about libertarianism?" "I like it, alotta good things," he said, shortly before brushing me and saying, "I don't want to talk you right now." src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Assuming he still likes libertarianism and thinks it comprises "a lot of good things, a lot of good points," he's very much at odds with his senior adviser Steve Bannon. From Robert Draper's masterful New York Times Magazine account of the relationship among Trump, Bannon, and House Speaker Paul Ryan: "What's that Dostoyevsky line: Happy families are all the same, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own unique ways?" ([Bannon] meant Tolstoy.) "I think the Democrats are fundamentally afflicted with the inability to discuss and have an adult conversation about economics and jobs, because they're too consumed by identity politics. And then the Republicans, it's all this theoretical Cato Institute, Austrian economics, limited government — which just doesn't have any depth to it. They're not living in the real world." It's always nice to be attacked as delusional and out of touch, especially by a Hollywood-cum-Wall Street millionaire whose boss falsely insists that cities have never been less safe, that American manufacturing has never created so little, and that we're just one or two border walls and torn-up free trade deals away from once again being a nation of factory workers. (Side note: I'm younger than Bannon but old enough to remember when the factory jobs I worked as a teenager and young adult weren't romanticized.) President Trump is so famously post-factual that he cites riots that never happened as pretexts for executive orders, invents crime statistics out of thin air, and insisted for years that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But it's libertarians who are nuttier than a squirrel's turd? Sure, why not. Earlier today, Matt Welch mapped out some of the political problems that the Trump administration is creating and compounding for itself by reviling libertarian-leaning Republicans and congressional budget hawks. On a broader cultural stage, it's worth underscoring that Bannon is simply wrong that libertarians are living in a "theoretical" world of, what, exactly? Across-the-board calls for lower levels of regulation in all aspects of life (also known as believing government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and voluntary groups such as churches and nonprofits)? That increasing majorities of Americans are comfortable with pot legalization and gay marriage even as they are losing trust in law enforcement, the education system, and the federal government (now headed by, er, Donald Trump and his own GOP party that can't even pass a healthcare reform bill they've been promising for nigh-on seven years)? That most people in America—including self-identified Trump supporters!—actually like immigrants and want to see even illegal immigrants given a chance to live legally in the United States? These are not small things, and neither is the fact that libertarians as an ideological group (as discerned by Gallup) are the single-biggest bloc of Americans. The tell in Bannon's way of thinking is how he confuses Tolstoy with Dostoevsky. Neither Russian novelist—OMG, is he channeling Putin or what!—is particularly sunny but the Christian apologetic Tolstoy allowed for some sort of transcendence while about the best-case scenario you find in Dostoevsky is getting marched off to pre-communist Siberia with your prostitute-wife for a life sentence. Like Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, Bannon looks around and only sees himself and his own obsessions. His vision of a[...]

Frederick Douglass Hated Socialism

Sun, 12 Mar 2017 06:30:00 -0400

In November 1848, a socialist activist gave a speech at the 13th annual meeting of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society. "Mr. Inglis" began his remarks well enough, reported the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, who was also there to give a speech that day, "but strangely enough went on in an effort to show that wages slavery is as bad as chattel slavery." Douglass soon became infuriated with the socialist speaker. "The attempts to place holding property in the soil—on the same footing as holding property in man, was most lame and impotent," Douglass declared. "And the wonder is that anyone could listen with patience to such arrant nonsense." Douglass heard a lot of arrant nonsense from American socialists. That's because, as the historian Carl Guarneri has explained, most antebellum socialists "were hostile or at least indifferent to the abolitionist appeal because they believed that it diverted attention from the serious problems facing northern workers with the onset of industrial capitalism." The true path forward, the socialists said, was the path of anti-capitalism. But Douglass would have none of that. "To own the soil is no harm in itself," he maintained. "It is right that [man] should own it. It is his duty to possess it—and to possess it in that way in which its energies and properties can be made most useful to the human family—now and always." Douglass favored the set of ideas that came to be known as classical liberalism. He stood for natural rights, racial equality, and economic liberty in a free labor system. At the very heart of his worldview was the principle of self-ownership. "You are a man, and so am I," Douglass told his former master. "In leaving you, I took nothing but what belonged to me, and in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living." Referring to his first paying job after his escape from bondage, Douglass wrote: "I was now my own master—a tremendous fact." This individualistic, market-oriented definition of liberty put Douglass squarely at odds with the socialist creed. The abolitionist-turned-socialist John A. Collins offers a telling contrast. In the 1840s, Collins went on a fundraising trip to England on behalf of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. He returned home a devotee of the English socialist George Henry Evans. The "right of individual ownership in the soil and its products," Collins declared, are "the great cause of causes, which makes man practically an enemy to his species." Collins now thought private property was the root of all evil. He didn't remain much of an abolitionist after that. "At antislavery conventions," the historian John L. Thomas has noted, "Collins took a perfunctory part, scarcely concealing his impatience until the end of the meeting when he could announce that a socialist meeting followed at which the real and vital questions of the day would be discussed." Perhaps the most significant left-wing attacks on the abolitionists were found in the pages of the socialist journal The Phalanx. "The Abolition Party," complained an unsigned 1843 editorial, "seems to think that nothing else is false in our social organization, and that slavery is the only social evil to be extirpated." In fact, The Phalanx asserted, the "tyranny of capital" is the real problem, because capitalism "reduces [the working class] in time to a condition even worse than that of slaves. Under this system the Hired Laborer is worked to excess, beggared and degraded.…The slave at least does not endure these evils, which 'Civilized' society inflicts on its hirelings." When it came to attacking free labor, the socialists and the slaveholders adopted certain identical positions. For example, the South's leading pro-slavery intellectual, the writer George Fitzhugh, argued that free labor was "worse than slavery" because it meant that the capitalists were free to exploit the workers. The idea that "ind[...]

P.J. O'Rourke on Trump, Populism, and "How the Hell Did This Happen?" [Reason Podcast]

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:49:00 -0500

"I consider myself primarily to be a libertarian," says P.J. O'Rourke, the author of the new book How the Hell Did This Happen?: The Election of 2016. "I am personally conservative [but] I always think of libertarianism as basically being an analytical tool, not an ideology per se.... When you look at something that happens, especially in politics, you look at something that happens, you say, 'Does this increase the dignity of the individual? Does this increase the liberty of the individual? Does this increase the responsibility of the individual?' If it meets those three criteria, then it's probably an acceptable libertarian political policy, or lack thereof, because we like to subtract some things from politics too." In the latest Reason Podcast, O'Rourke tells Nick Gillespie what he learned about Donald Trump's appeal from his time spent covering the 2016 election, why populism is a "tragedy" for libertarians, and why he wants his kids to study English and the liberal arts at college. "Be immersed in the history of civilization, you know, in literature, in the arts," he says. "You're going to be force-marched through these things. Some of it's going to be boring. Some of it you won't appreciate for another 40 years, but it's that college liberal arts education, is the last chance you really get to [immerse yourself in art, music, and culture]." Produced by Mark McDaniel. Subscribe to the Reason podcast at iTunes and never miss an episode. Or click below to listen to the audio right now. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! Subscribe, rate, and review! Follow us at Soundcloud. Subscribe to our video channel at iTunes. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to the print edition for just $15 a year! This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi. I'm Nick Gillespie, and this is The Reason Podcast. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today I'm pleased to introduce one of the two greatest libertarians in this conversation, the bestselling author O'Rourke, whose latest book, How the Hell Did This Happen?, Chronicles the most insane year ever in American politics. P.J., thanks for talking to us. P.J. O'Rourke: Oh, you're very welcome. Gillespie: I rush to add that I'm actually calling you from a place that you used to call home back in the day, Oxford, Ohio, home to Miami University, your alma mater. O'Rourke: Yes. All right. Gillespie: What do you remember most about Miami University? O'Rourke: It's all the stuff that I can't remember that really… Gillespie: That makes you think of it fondly, right? O'Rourke: Yes. Yeah. There are some very pleasant, blurry patches back there, but it is ... Gillespie: What did you major in at ...? O'Rourke: English. English. I was looking through the course syllabus when we didn't ... In those days, you didn't have to decide till like the end of your sophomore year or something, what your major was. I'm looking through the course syllabus and I came across English, and I went, "I speak that. How hard can it be?" Gillespie: Do you have kids? College-age kids? Post-college-age kids? O'Rourke: I've got a college-age kid. Two that are younger. Gillespie: Will you insist that they go to college and learn how to become an engineer or something useful, or do you actually find something meaningful in looking at the humanities or the social sciences or something like that? O'Rourke: No. That's what I insist on them ... I mean, even my eldest daughter is somewhat business-minded. Now I'm trying to keep her out of business school. I said, "You know, honey, there's time for that if you want to get your MBA later. It really doesn't matter what your prior ..[...]

Is Being For More Immigration Inherently Unlibertarian?

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 08:25:00 -0500

After writing a long essay about how and why modern American libertarianism in the tradition of Ludwig Von Mises has free trade and free migration as a core component, many people told me that no matter what I or Mises thought, the free migration part especially was a terribly naive position for a libertarian. Why? Because immigrants tend to vote more Democratic. This, say many trying to convince libertarians to turn on more open immigration, means they will vote for larger and more expensive government in a manner that's supposedly dangerously distinct from the larger group of American voters. Thus, being for more immigration, no matter what that means in literal freedom of movement and association for both citizen and non-citizen, is inherently unlibertarian because it will surely result in a less libertarian country, because, democracy. There's a lot wrong with this argument. Let's start by thinking through its underlying presumption: that libertarians' dominant priority should not be actually advocating that government behave in a manner that directly leaves people more free of active physical government interference in their motions, actions, choices, and relations. (Enforcing immigration restrictions inherently involves such interference not just for the would-be immigrant, but for the citizen who wants to buy, sell, trade, or have any kind of human relationship with that immigrant.) The "libertarians have to be against immigration because democracy" argument presumes a libertarian's prime goal must rather be crafting a democratic electorate reasonably more likely to vote for smaller government. Whatever furthers that goal, then, should be what libertarians support. While I consider this argument ultimately absurd, I'll grant that anyone desperate to come up with a reason to oppose immigration while still thinking of themselves as a libertarian, or to make you feel that you as a libertarian can or must oppose immigration, can almost think it makes sense, if you don't look too closely. After all, don't many libertarians use persuasion, education, and activism, to try to convince politicians to behave in a more libertarian manner or voters to vote for politicians who will? Isn't libertarianism as an intellectual and activist movement in practice about forging a people who think like libertarians? In a democracy more American libertarians will eventually lead to a government that behaves in a more libertarian matter, goes that line of thinking. This might happen through the direct action of voters, or the indirect creation of a libertarian climate of opinion that politicians will come to embody naturally or at least feel pressured to obey in order to keep their phony-baloney jobs. Some slight air of a convincing argument can be detected here. Persuasion is indeed what most libertarian movement advocacy and education is about, persuasion toward creating a more libertarian American electorate. And an electorate with more immigrants, goes the argument, will never be that. The above mass persuasion is not necessarily all that the libertarian movement is about, and it could be argued it's not really what the libertarian movement in practice is even mostly about. A fair amount of libertarian advocacy is aimed at elite opinion among policymakers and professors, the people who have a more direct grip on what government does and what the educated classes think about what it should do; in the classic Hayekian mode, shaping the thoughts of the elites who shape the thoughts of the electorate writ large might be the best strategy. To the extent that is true, to that extent the "libertarians must be against immigration because democracy" argument fails even more thoroughly. If we accept the above about the actual tactics of the American libertarian movement, then, why shouldn't a libertarian recognize that a policy [...]

If You Can Work from Anywhere and Want To Travel Everywhere, Become a Digital Nomad (Reason Podcast)

Wed, 01 Mar 2017 19:05:00 -0500

How do you untether your life and work from anywhere?

After World War I, Americans looking for a thrill decamped to Europe, where the living was easy and cheap. During the 1960s, hippies fled the cities and went back to the garden. After the collapse of communism, people poured into Eastern Europe, looking for the next great scene. In the 21st century, this wanderlust and cool-hunting is being kept alive by "digital nomads," people who can work from anywhere and want to travel everywhere. Digital nomads roam the globe, living in exotic, cool places for pennies on the dollars while telecommuting to their day jobs.

In the newest Reason podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Kari DePhillips, a Free State Project participant and owner of the digital PR agency The Content Factory, and Kelly Chase, her friend and colleague. Together, they're living abroad for a year, each month in a different spectacular location, working from the road and actually spending less money than if they had stayed put in their American homes (New Hampshire and Ohio, respectively). They call their experiment "workationing" and in the latest Reason podcast, they explain the logistics of how they're pulling off an adventure that will lead to places as far-flung as Puerto Rico; Sofia, Bulgaria; Amsterdam; Spain; California; and (probably) Iceland.

Their website, Workationing, documents how it all works via blog entries, photos, videos and podcasts. It also explains how you can do it too, if that's what floats your boat. For DePhillips, becoming a digital nomad is an extension of the intentional community she found in the Free State Project (FSP) and, before that, being a self-described "Deadhead for Ron Paul" in 2007 and 2008. "I want to live not just with intentionality, but with integrity," explains DePhillips about her attraction to FSP. "If you really believe in limited government and personal freedom and you see that there's a group of people congregating to make that can you not be a part of that?...Getting into the digital nomad community, I find so much of the same sentiments...Do you own yourself? How do you engineeer the best life for yourself that suits your needs and desires and wants and goals in the best way possible? For me right now, living as a digital nomad is the best way possible to achieve that freedom and flexibility."

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How My Father, Jerome Tuccille, ‘Failed’ His Way to Success

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 01:00:00 -0500

In a real way, it was failure that drove my father's success—failure to achieve his original goals was the prod that drove continued effort and accomplishment throughout his life. Just weeks before he died on February 16, my father finished writing his last book. It's a history of the Bonus Army, military veterans who demanded cash payment of benefits promised to them for their service in The World War (the only one at the time, since politicians had yet to air the sequel). They were brutally dispersed by troops and tanks commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, who was honing the skills he'd apply to more deserving targets in the Pacific a little later in his career. I doubt my old man would have been motivated to labor on that book through the complications of the multiple myeloma eating away at him if he'd achieved his life-long goal of a major bestseller and felt comfortable resting on his laurels. His writing career started with politics; magazine articles, newspaper op-eds, and the books Radical Libertarianism (1970) and It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand (1971) made his name. But politics damn near broke him. He never expected his 1974 run for governor of New York as the Libertarian candidate to end in electoral victory, but he hoped that his candidacy would win enough votes to gain permanent ballot status for the party. He failed in that goal—and in efforts to continue to earn a living amidst the demands of the election. Breaking with the political preoccupations that had driven him for the previous half-decade, he put on a suit and bluffed his way into a meeting with a Merrill Lynch branch manager by implying that he was a potential big-money client. That he had, instead, a big need for money and had bullshitted his way in the door impressed the guy and landed him a job. His writing career headed off on a similar tangent as he produced investment books (with a sideline in '70s-appropriate futurism, including an imagined reanimation of a cryogenically frozen Walt Disney) over the next few years. Instead of penning tracts about transforming the country and liberating the population, he appealed to an audience seeking to transform portfolios and liberate checkbooks. And he wrote not just about money, but about people good at accumulating the stuff, like Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller, and the Hunt family of Texas. This was a fortunate turn. If disappointment in politics and political writing hadn't spurred him to move on to biographies, his name wouldn't have featured in newspaper stories and television interviews across the country and around the world 30 years after the shady real estate tycoon who threatened him personally and through proxies as he wrote an unauthorized biography of the man moved ever-closer to, and finally into, the White House. Did he have any insights into President Trump? Why, yes, he did. And honestly, childrearing was not my old man's forte either. I have memories of a... fraught relationship with my father as a child. We escalated to occasionally polishing our knuckles on each other's faces during my teen years. These incidents provided vigorous workouts, and perhaps a moment or two of regret on my father's part that he'd taught me how to fight. They were a bit rough on the family dynamic though. And the furniture. Such intergenerational conflict is something of a tradition in my family—enough so that I suspect a major reason some of my ancestors came to this country was to put an ocean between themselves and their own immediate forebears. And, just maybe, I contributed a tense moment or two of my own to those years of conflict. But the failure of that early father-son relationship actually cleared the way for something better. When we finally put aside the sparring and the cold war that followed, we were [...]

The Cosmopolitan's Case Against Donald Trump or, Make Mine Mises! [Reason Podcast]

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:00:00 -0500

Donald Trump has promised to slash taxes, junk regulations, repeal Obamacare, and expand school choice.

Given all that, shouldn't libertarians give him at least a little (maybe even a whole lotta) love?

No, says Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty in the latest Reason podcast, because Trump is actually trafficking in a "Dangerous Anti-Libertarian Nationalism" that is actually the antithesis of classical liberalism. "Free trade and free migration are...the core of the true classical liberal (libertarian) vision as it developed in America in the 20th century," says Doherty, author of Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern Libertarian Movement. "If you don't understand and embrace them, you don't understand liberty, and you are not trying to further it."

In a wide-ranging conversation, Doherty and Nick Gillespie talk about the rise of Trump and the role of Steve Bannon in the president's administration; why being a "rootless cosmopolite" isn't in any way antithetical to patriotism; and why the great Austrian-born economist Ludwig Von Mises—a Jew who escaped Nazism—provides the strongest possible case against Trump's "America First" message.

Produced by Mark McDaniel.

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Reason Reflects on Four Decades of Libertarian Journalism

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 15:15:00 -0500

Three Reason editors-in-chief arrived at the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss four decades of reporting. Marty Zupan, who edited Reason in the 1980s; Nick Gillespie, editor in the aughts; and current magazine editor Katherine Mangu-Ward have all covered world events from a libertarian perspective.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Josh Swain and Krainin.

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Reason and Libertarianism in the Trump Era [Reason Podcast]

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:15:00 -0500

"Free movement of people and goods across borders are incredibly important things. And Trump is not into either of those things"—Katherine Mangu-Ward.

At the 10th annual International Students for Liberty Conference, Reason magazine Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, former editor and longtime head of the Institute for Humane Studies Marty Zupan, and I discussed the history and future of Reason and libertarianism in President Donald Trump's America.

We each talked about the signature issues of the decades we were at the magazine's helm (the 1980s for Zupan, the '00s for me, and currently for Mangu-Ward) and whether libertarianism is waxing or waning.

This podcast was recorded live on Friday, February 17. Now finishing up its first decade, SFL reported that about 1,700 guests from all over the world attended this year's conference.

Produced by Mark McDaniel.

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CPAC Organizer Tries To Pawn Off Milo Yiannopoulos as "Libertarian"

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 11:00:00 -0500

What do you do when you're Matt Schlapp, the guy heading up the American Conservative Union, which runs the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (emphasis added), and it turns our your biggest draw to this year's event defends pedophilia? Well, first you disinvite him and then you bluster your way through an excrutiatingly painful few minutes on Morning Joe before trying to pawn Milo Yiannopoulos off as a libertarian: "He doesn't call himself conservative. He calls himself more of a libertarian.... Some libertarians would deny that he's a libertarian." On that much, we agree. Most libertarians I know wouldn't claim Milo as one of our own. You know who else says Milo isn't a libertarian? Well, Milo himself, it turns out: "Libertarians are children. Libertarians are people who have given up looking for an answer. This whole 'everybody do what they want' is code for 'leave me to do what I want.' It's selfish and childish. It's an admission that you have given up trying to work out what a good society would look like, how the world should be ordered and instead just retreated back into selfishness. That's why they're so obsessed with weed, Bitcoin, and hacking." Read more about that here and here. Milo's critique of libertarianism is not so strong, is it? As it happens, the policy work being done by folks at Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website) is revolutionizing K-12 education, public-sector pensions, transportation infrastructure, and more. Same goes for ideological compadres at the Cato Institute and elsewhere. To the extent that there's a principled opposition to really dumb military interventions, runaway spending, and conservative-approved idiocies such as a border wall and trade protectionism, well, it's not conservatives pushing it. And none of that is to deny one bit that drug policy, criminal justice reform, crypto-currencies, and forced transparency of government overreach are in any way about "selfishness." I disagree. But if Milo is truly a "big" voice in the conservative movement then the conservative movement is dead. — Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) February 21, 2017 What does it say about the modern conservative movement that CPAC was so desperate to get Milo on its stage in the first place? Nothing good. He's outrageous (not really "dangerous" in any meaningful sense of the word) and he is fully capable of bringing out the worst elements of the idiot-progressive left. But does he have anything to say when he's actually allowed to speak? Derp, not really. Schlapp can say that ACU wants to teach the controversy and all that, but the fact of the matter is that as an intellectual force and a serious place for discussion about policy, CPAC has been more watered-down than the beer at Delta House for a very long time. It's a good sign that someone with the last name Paul won five of the last seven presidential straw polls, but conservatives and Republicans have almost completely squandered their power and influence throughout the 21st century. When George W. Bush and the GOP ran the federal government, they busted the budget in a way that would embarrass drunken sailors the world over. When Obama was in power, they did virtually nothing to demand actual budgets or restrain executive power, and they're still pretending that they are an alternative health-insurance plan. They nominated and elected Donald Trump for president and it's surprising that CPAC invited/disinvited a flyweight trash talker to their big shindig? It's almost as if they didn't kick out the gays a couple of years ago or that Newt Gingrich doesn't show up every y[...]