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Libertarian History/Philosophy



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



Published: Sun, 04 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Sun, 04 Dec 2016 11:06:49 -0500

 



Ask Brian Doherty Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Libertarian Movement

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 12:00:00 -0500

Brian Doherty is the historian of the libertarian movement in America. His big, honking book Radicals for Capitalism: A History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (PublicAffairs) is the definitive volume on the subject. He has spent the last year keeping tabs on Gary Johnson, Bill Weld, and the Libertarian Party posse, and will continue to be Reason's point man on all things libertarian and Libertarian.

In case that wasn't enough for you, he's also the author of This is Burning Man (Little, Brown), Gun Control on Trial (Cato), and Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired (HarperCollins/Broadside). So ask him about desert pyrotechnics, guns, or Pauls!

Hit him up over at his Twitter account for an hour today starting at noon eastern, using the #askalibertarian hashtag. And then donate!

Read the whole thing below:

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Subscribe to Reason's Podcast and Enjoy Your Commute Again!

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 17:11:00 -0500

(image) Will Donald Trump be a peacenik president? In a recent Reason podcast hosted by me, historian Thaddeus Russell—author of A Renegade History of the United States and a forthcoming book on American foreign policy—argues that the billionaire president-elect is a nativist when it comes to trade, immigration, and fighting overseas wars.

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who is a staunch opponent of increasing the federal budget, says that he doesn't trust either Donald Trump or Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Massie did end up voting for Trump but he tells Reason in a podcast, "November 8th wasn't the election of a monarch. It was the election of the head of a third of our government." Never one to mince words, the Tea Party favorite and Rand Paul protege is painfully aware of what happened the last time his own party controlled the White House, the House of Representative, and the Senate: "I'm very concerned about the combination of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and the implications for our national debt."

A week before the election, I debated Loyola economist Walter Block, who created a group called Libertarians for Trump, over the idea of voting for the reality TV star. Hosted by New York's Soho Forum, things got nasty enough to where Block called me "vile" and a "nasty man." Check out the verbal fisticuffs here.

Those are just three recent podcasts Reason has produced. We also talked with Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and LP chairman Nicholas Sarwark, not to mention Brett Smith (the comic book illustrator and co-author of the best-selling graphic novel version of Clinton Cash), Frank Portman (a.k.a. Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience and the author of the YA novel smash hits King Dork and King Dork Approximately), conservatarian novelist Brad Thor, and Swedish libertarian Johan Norberg. Each Thursday, Katherine Mangu-Ward and I host a conversation about Reason and libertarian issues.

These are fun, lively, heated discussions about politics, culture, and ideas from a principled libertarian perspective. Subscribe to us at iTunes and never miss a podcast, or check us out on SoundCloud, or at this incredibly easy-to-use RSS feed.

Here's a sampler from recent podcasts that we posted at YouTube in which leading libertarian thinkers ranging from Randy Barnett of Georgetown to Ken White at the great Popehat legal blog to Michael Cannon at Cato make "the case for cautious optimism about Trump's presidency" when it comes to policy outcomes.

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Johan Norberg: 10 Reasons To Look Forward To the Future (New Reason Podcast)

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 11:27:00 -0400

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"There is always this risk that fear will become a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Johan Norberg about the current political moment when nationalism, authoritarianism, and reactionary populism seems to be on the rise in Europe and North America. "This is exactly the moment that we have to talk about what people can do when they are free."

Progress: Ten Reasons To Look Forward To the Future, the new book by the Swedish libertarian, is like a hot drink on a cold winter's day: nourishing, energizing, fortifying.

In chapters covering topics such as food, sanitation, life expectancy, literacy, the environment, and equality, Norberg shows how human progress has been proceeding apace for the past century—and how we can ensure its continuation if we make sure that libertarian values linked to tolerance, capitalism, individualism, and optimism are championed and encoded in law and custom.

Grounded in a deep respect for and knowledge of history, economics, and policy, Progress is not simply a persuasive analysis or current trends but a desperately needed one in pessimistic world hell-bent on zero-sum thinking. "This book is a blast of good sense," raves The Economist:

Norberg unleashes a tornado of evidence that life is, in fact, getting better. He describes how his great-great-great-great grandfather survived the Swedish famines of 150 years ago. Sweden in those days was poorer than Sub-Saharan Africa is today. "Why are some people poor?" is the wrong question, argues Mr Norberg. Poverty is the starting point for all societies. What is astonishing is how fast it has receded. In 1820, 94% of humanity subsisted on less than $2 a day in modern money. That fell to 37% in 1990 and less than 10% in 2015.

In a new Reason Podcast, Norberg, a senior fellow at the Cato Insitute, talks with Nick Gillespie about the ideas, attitudes, policies, and institutions that will make sure future generations are born into a world that is vastly better than the one we live in today.

Click below to listen now and scroll down to subscribe on iTunes.

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Nick Gillespie on Libertarianism, Why Gary Johnson Is a Success, Trump, Clinton, and Millennials

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 10:00:00 -0400

Last Friday, I appeared on Part of the Problem, a twice-weekly podcast co-hosted by Dave Smith, a standup comic and self-made libertarian currently housed somewhere in that hipster's paradise, Brooklyn. It's an irreverent, wide-rangind, and ribald conversation covering whether Gary Johnson's 2016 run has been a net good for libertarianism (obviously, I think), where Rand Paul went wrong in his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, growing up in and around New York City at very different periods of time, why I think millennials have a real shot at defining their own lives unknown to previous generations, and more.

You can listen along by clicking below. Scroll down for more options and information about Part of the Problem.

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Follow Part of the Problem on Twitter.

Follow Dave Smith.

Follow co-host Mike Brancatelli (not present for the podcast, alas).

Part of the Problem is part of the GaS Digital Network, which produces over 15 hours of live content a week. Check out more info here.

Listen and subscribe on iTunes.

Attention, New York Area Reasonoids: I'll be debating Walter Block in Manhattan tomorrow about whether libertarians should vote for Trump or not next week (Smith is the warm-up act). Tickets are free but must be reserved. Go here for more information.




Reason Podcasts are a "counterweight to the echo chamber of conservative or liberal media"

Sun, 30 Oct 2016 13:15:00 -0400

The Reason podcast is back and it's better than ever! Check out our latest offerings of high-quality, cutting-edge discussions of politics, culture, and ideas from a principled libertarian POV. We make no apologies, take no prisoners, and leave no sacred cow safe in making the case for a world of "Free Minds and Free Markets." Best of all, we have fun doing it. Subscribe for free at iTunes, Soundcloud or via RSS—we deliver the goods however you prefer. Here's "conservatarian" novelist Brad Thor, for instance, talking about his latest best-seller Scot Harvath thriller, Foreign Agent and explaining why he's #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary, hates the alt-right, and is totally certain that he's "gonna wake up on November 9th with most of the country and we're gonna have a shitty president either way." src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/290442371&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Other recent podcasts have featured Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson, spirited debates about Bob Dylan's politics and Nobel Prize, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds on getting suspended from Twitter, and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne on the promise of bitcoin and blockchain technology to change the world. Reason's mission is to bring a principled, persuasive, and attractive libertarian perspective to politics, culture, and ideas. We reach other folks in the media, policymakers, and business folks, providing better ways of thinking about government, defending innovation so it doesn't get strangled in regulatory red tape, and making the case for maximum freedom in all aspects of our lives. We're your voice in national debates and our award-winning reporting on everything from electoral politics to technological innovation to endlessly creative "experiments in living" helps to create the next generation of libertarians (I know encountering Reason in high school is why I'm a libertarian). We are champions of "Free Minds and Free Markets" and we're also constantly checking our own premises and working to revise, refine, sharpen, and help define what it means to be a libertarian. So subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud or via RSS and listen, watch, review, and rate! Here's what new subscribers are saying about the Reason Podcast: Never before have libertarian ideas and sensibilities been more widespread and influential—and never before have they been more needed to create a robust new operating system for a 21st century that is stuck in old, worn-out "binary choices" that make no sense in a world of inexhaustible possibilities. Reason is hosting the conversation that susses out exactly what's wrong with contemporary politics and culture and how we can set them right by opening up everyone's possibilities to engage and influence the world around them. Here's one more taste of the podcast, this one featuring Reason magazine Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, Weekly Standard writer Andrew Ferguson, and me talking about Trump vs. Hillary, why free speech defines American exceptionalism in many ways, and why Tom Wolfe is one goddamned great writer. Take a listen: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/290387564&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a podcast! Subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud or via RSS and listen, watch, review, and rate![...]



Should Libertarians Vote for Trump? Nick Gillespie Debates Walter Block on Nov. 1

Sat, 29 Oct 2016 12:19:00 -0400

"Libertarians should vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election." That's the resolution I'll be debating, Oxford Style, with Loyola (New Orleans) economist Walter Block this Tuesday, November 1, at New York's Soho Forum. The event is moderated by Gene Epstein of Barron's and will be preceded by the libertarian-comedy stylings of Dave Smith, host of the podcast Part of the Problem. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVP's are a must (see info and details below). For those of you not in the New York area, it will also be livestreamed (details on that here). I will be defending the negative proposition, which is to say that I'll argue that libertarians should not vote for Trump in the presidential election (do note that my employer, the 501[c]3 nonprofit Reason Foundation does not endorse specific candidates or pieces of legislation; all views expressed are mine and mine alone). As the author of Defending the Undefendable, Block is well-qualified to argue that libertarians should indeed vote for a billionaire-ish real estate mogul who is never slow to use the power of the state to line his own pockets. Here's the Soho Forum's writeup of the event (which if I'm not mistaken carries a suggestion that fisticuffs might ensue...) November 1, 2016 Debate between Walter Block of Loyola University vs. Nick Gillespie of Reason Resolution: "Libertarians should vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election." What should Libertarians do this election? Vote for Gary Johnson? Not vote at all? Walter Block will argue that Libertarians should vote for Donald Trump, and Nick Gillespie will argue that they definitely should not. Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at Loyola University and an Adjunct Scholar at the Mises Institute. Walter is the author of Defending the Undefendable, which has been translated into ten foreign languages. He has written 22 books, including The Privatization of Roads and Highways and Labor Economics from a Free Market Perspective: Employing the Unemployable. He has published almost 500 articles in scholarly refereed journals. As chief organizer of Libertarians for Trump, he has published the essay (June 4), "Hillary, Bernie, Donald, Gary: A Libertarian Perspective." Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason TV, the online platforms of Reason, the libertarian magazine of "Free Minds and Free Markets." He's co-author, with his Reason colleague Matt Welch, of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America. The Daily Beast, where he now writes a column, named Nick one of "The Right's Top 25 Journalists," calling him "clear-headed, brainy...[and] among the foremost libertarians in America." A typically irreverent moment on the Bill Maher show prompted Mayor Fetterman of Braddock Pennsylvania to propose to Nick that they "take it outside." RSVP to reserve tickets here. Back in May, I wrote a piece that lays a simple case summed up by its headline: "Libertarians: Just Say No To Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump." Read it here.[...]



The Election Is Rigged, But Not as Trump Would Have Us Believe

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Donald Trump says the presidential election is "rigged." Although he provides no evidence for his charge, lots of things can be said about it. For one thing, he equivocates over the word rigged to include voter fraud along with news-media/polling bias—two very different things. The former suggests that the outcome is predetermined, the latter only that influential organizations try to move voters in a particular direction. (Ignoring third parties is one flagrant way to do this, but that may redound to Trump's benefit in some cases.) I might also point out that Trump has helped "rig" the election against himself with his inveterate estrangement from the truth and his braggadocio about and apparent penchant for sexual assault. These flaws have overshadowed what otherwise would have been damaging information about Hillary Clinton's political career and the WikiLeaks disclosures. Compared to Trump's antics and outrages, dry emails about Goldman Sachs speeches and the Clinton Foundation just aren't sexy enough to grab the electorate's attention. Cable TV's quest for ratings may adequately account for the seeming bias; viewers are more likely to reach for the remote when they hear about transcripts of speeches to Wall Street than when they hear "locker-room banter" and insults. Considering that Trump is partly a creature of the media, without whom he might not have won the Republican nomination, the case for sheer anti-Trump bias is not so straightforward. Trump is also buffoonish, so let's face it: He makes better TV than the robotic Clinton does. A candidate without Trump's abundant baggage might have had an easier time prosecuting the case against his deeply flawed, state-worshiping opponent, even in the face of media bias. But there's another side to the "rigged election" charge that's bound to go unnoticed. The American political system, like all political systems, requires a good deal of peaceful cooperation to operate. This is obviously relevant to the transfer of power, which gets so much attention nowadays. This cooperation goes on in two respects: first, between the government and the subject population—government cannot rule purely through force because the ruled always substantially outnumber their rulers—and second, among the many individuals who constitute the government's branches, agencies, and bureaus. Again, we cannot explain this process purely by the use of force. Even totalitarian states understand this, which is why they invest so much effort in propaganda ministries. Ideas, not force, rule the world. Why does one government branch or agency or bureau or officer carry out orders from another? The answer cannot be the threat of force alone, for that would only set the question back a step: why would anyone carry out an order to use force against a defiant officer of the government? We can't have an infinitely long line of people with each person forcing the next one up to obey orders. What ultimately explains compliance, or cooperation, with government is not coercion but ideology: government officers carry out orders because they and a critical mass of the community in which they operate believe the orders are legitimate and ought to be carried out. That's a matter of tacit if not explicit ideology. If those officers and enough members of that community came to have different ideas, the orders might be defied with impunity, if anyone were still giving them. On the other hand, if a private individual started giving the same kind of orders the state gave, no one would regard them as legitimate and sanctions against defiant persons would not be respected. (I briefly explore this idea in "Subjugating Ourselves." Michael Huemer has written the book: The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey.) When enough time is added to ideology, the result is custom—another reason that people comply with[...]



Reason's Podcasts at iTunes and Soundcloud! Subscribe Now!

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 10:15:00 -0400

I'm happy to announce that Reason's iTunes feed for audio and video versions of our documentaries, interviews, and more is back online and better than ever. Go here to subscribe to our iTunes audio feed, which features all of our great interviews, live events, and more. Founded in 1968, Reason is the planet's leading source of news, politics, and culture from a libertarian perspective. Hosted by Nick Gillespie, Matt Welch, and other Reason journalists, our podcast explores "free minds and free markets." It features provocative, in-depth interviews with authors, comedians, filmmakers, musicians, economists, scientists, business leaders, and elected officials. Keep up to date on the latest happenings in our increasingly libertarian world from a point of view you won't get from legacy media and boring old left-right, liberal-conservative publications. You can also find video versions at Reason.com/reasontv. (Subscribe to our video iTunes feed here.) If you dig SoundCloud, we've got you covered right here (click below for the audio to our recent conversation with juggler-philosopher Penn Jillette talking weight loss, Bob Dylan, and why he's "all in" for Gary Johnson come November). And here's our RSS feed for video content and here's the one for audio versions. Don't hesitate—subscribe NOW! All of these streams are free as found money. And if you feeling like giving back something, let me ask you—implore you, even!—to rate and review our video and audio podcasts at iTunes and elsewhere. The more ratings and reviews we pull at iTunes, the better placement we'll get and the bigger audience we'll gain. Use your ratings and reviews to give us feedback on what we're doing well and where you think we need improvement. Suggest topics, takes, and people with whom we should be talking. Reason's mission is to bring a principled, persuasive, and attractive libertarian perspective to politics, culture, and ideas. We reach other folks in the media, policymakers, and business folks, providing better ways of thinking about government, defending innovation so it doesn't get strangled in regulatory red tape, and making the case for maximum freedom in all aspects of our lives. We're your voice in national debates and our award-winning reporting on everything from electoral politics to technological innovation to endlessly creative "experiments in living" helps to create the next generation of libertarians (I know encountering Reason in high school is why I'm a libertarian). We are champions of "Free Minds and Free Markets" and we're also constantly checking our own premises and working to revise, refine, sharpen, and help define what it means to be a libertarian. So subscribe, listen, watch, review, and rate! Never before have libertarian ideas and sensibilities been more widespread and influential—and never before have they been more needed to create a robust new operating system for a 21st century that is stuck in old, worn-out "binary choices" that make no sense in a world of inexhaustible possibilities. src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/281969428&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0">[...]



Where Did Trump Come From?

Sun, 04 Sep 2016 06:00:00 -0400

Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism, by George Hawley, University Press of Kansas, 376 pages, $34.95 George Hawley appears to have completed Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism before Donald Trump began his rise, which makes it all the more surprising that this scholarly tome is the best guide we're likely to find to the bizarre reality of the 2016 GOP. As Hawley, a political scientist at the University of Alabama, points out in considerable detail, the post–World War II conservative movement has never been a monolithic bloc. Many of its left-wing critics have perceived it that way, but those who Hawley calls its right-wing critics have known better—particularly the ones who were purged and consigned to the ideological equivalent of Siberia. The movement has always been beset from within and without by dissension, even as its leaders have tried to fashion a sense of unity. Even the definition of "right-wing" is up for grabs. In Europe, conservatives have historically defended a hereditary aristocracy, an established church, and other fixed social hierarchies. ("The men who supported King Louis XVI during the French Revolution," Hawley notes, "would have had no interest in wars to spread liberal democracy in the Middle East, a free market capitalism that recognizes no social distinctions, or a populist form of evangelical Christianity.") Not so in America. "From the major figures of the conservative movement," he writes, "we consistently hear the same values advanced: limited government, strong traditional families, and strong national defense." But conservatism is not always identical to the right, more broadly defined. If the left is characterized by holding social and economic equality as its primary value, the right is characterized by its skepticism toward—or outright opposition to—equality as a political goal. Hence Hawley's compact definition of the right as "all of those ideologies that, while not necessarily rejecting equality as a social good, do not rank it at the top of the hierarchy of values. The right furthermore fights the left in all cases where the push for equality threatens some other value held in higher esteem." In similar fashion, the right-wing critics of the present conservative movement criticize it for what they see as its ongoing capitulation to the left's values. Almost without exception, those "purged" from the conservative movement have been so for being too far to the right, not too far to the left. Hawley's overview begins with the Old Right of the 1930s and earlier. Anti–New Deal, anti-interventionist, and pro-states' rights, the Old Right was not cohesive enough to be called a "movement." It was also not exclusively Republican, as there was considerable overlap with many conservative southern Democrats (the so-called Dixiecrats), the GOP having been associated with the unpopular Reconstruction policies that followed the Civil War. The Old Right had a perhaps unfair reputation for a lack of intellectual depth, despite the presence of colorful and insightful figures in its ranks, from H.L. Mencken to the Southern Agrarians who wrote I'll Take My Stand. Enter William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, perhaps the two most influential and iconic conservatives to gain a public hearing in the early 1950s. Kirk's 1953 book The Conservative Mind aimed to give his worldview a pedigree, tracing conservatism back to Edmund Burke. Buckley, first with his 1951 book God and Man at Yale and then with the 1955 launch of the magazine National Review, took on the task of publicizing conservative ideas and laying the groundwork for what would later coalesce into the current conservative movement. National Review brought together a mix: a few Old Right survivors, a few ex-communists, a few proto-libertarians, and a good number of traditionalists. The initial glue that held[...]



Dumb Voters Needn't Mean a People Unable to Run Their Own Lives

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:15:00 -0400

Jason Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown and author of the new book Against Democracy, generally writes from a libertarian perspective. He insists there is no contradiction between believing that voters can be remarkably foolish and irrational and a general belief that a society can operate based on the generally uncoerced decisions of these same foolish and irrational would-be voters. Brennan lays out the reasons at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, including the sociological reasons why libertarian thinkers might be more inclined to come to such negative conclusions about democracy even though the facts and analysis he brings to bear on the question are not based in libertarianism per se: it isn't surprising that the new wave of democratic skepticism comes from libertarians like Ilya Somin, Bryan Caplan, or me. When you read most democratic theory, you see that most authors revere politics and democracy, viewing them as in some way sacred or majestic. Libertarians will have none of that. As a result, I think they're able to think more clearly about the nature of democracy. For many on the Left and Right, doing democratic theory is like doing theology. For libertarians, it's just comparative institutional analysis. Libertarians have no inherent emotional draw toward or inherent revulsion to democracy. Asking whether democracy works better than the alternatives has no more emotional resonance than asking whether a hammer works better than a screwdriver for a given purpose..... as to the question of voters in democracy vs actors in the market [and how libertarians can think the latter can do sensible, non-damaging things while the former might not]: The incentives are radically different. When I make a market decision, I decide unilaterally. If I order a candy bar, I get a candy bar. If I order an apple, I get an apple. Further, in general, I bear the consequences of my decisions. If I make a bad choice for me, I get punished. If I make a good choice, I get rewarded. Of course, sometimes the consequences take a long time or are hard to trace. Yes, sometimes there are significant negative externalities. Still, there's a feedback mechanism. However dumb people might be naturally, markets incentivize them to be smarter. In politics, my decision counts for basically nothing. If I stay home, vote for X, or vote for not-X, the same thing ends up happening. We all bear the consequences of the majority's decision, but no one bears the consequences of her individual decision. If I make a bad choice at the polls, I don't get punished. If I make a good choice, I don't get rewarded. The feedback mechanism sucks. However dumb people might naturally be, politics incentivizes them to stay that way, or get dumber. Bryan Caplan, another thinker from the libertarian world who questions the probity and sense of voters who Brennan mentions above, wrote for Reason back in October 2007 on "The 4 Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters." I wrote about Brennan's general perspective on democracy in the context of Donald Trump last year. Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote a long feature hooked off the basic "your vote counts for nothing" analysis in November 2012. I took an op-ed approach to the idea in "Not Voting and Proud" in 2004.[...]



Conservatives Are From Mars, Libertarians Are From...Woodstock?

Mon, 15 Aug 2016 20:34:00 -0400

Among the many odd twists and turns of Election 2016 is the non-stop concern trolling of libertarians by #NeverTrump conservatives and Republicans who really, really, really want to vote Libertarian this one time but just can't because Gary Johnson and William Weld are so...damn...awful...from a libertarian point of view. Sure, Johnson has sworn to present a balanced budget upon entering the White House and he's for individual rights, the Second Amendment, school choice, an end to the prison-industrial complex, Wilsonian interventionism, and a lot of other things that conservatives and Republicans often say they want. But because he's pro-choice and believes that federal antidscrimination laws should cover sexual orientation at businesses open to the public, he's the worst. And Bill Weld—whose confirmation as ambassador to Mexico was skunked by Jesse Helms back in the day because Weld was for gay rights—is a know-nothing on Second Amendment issues. So screw him and all the hippies who trail behind him burning incense and peppermint, too. Really. The latest variation on this theme is up at The Federalist, where Robert Tracinski moans that "Johnson and Weld are doing their best to drive [conservatives] away—and they're doing it by not even being good at being Libertarians." But then, what did conservatives expect? "Libertarians are basically flower children," explains Tracinski, so "none of this comes out of the blue, and it reflects a basic problem with the libertarian movement going back to the beginning." When the Libertarian Party was first formed in 1971, [he writes], the free-market firebrand Ayn Rand dismissed them as "hippies of the right," and there was definitely something to that. While some libertarians saw themselves as taking inspiration from Rand's political ideas, there was also a large strain in the movement that saw itself as ideologically and culturally aligned with the Left, as an offshoot of the counterculture. Libertarianism wasn't about reasserting an American tradition of liberty and constitutionally limited government. It was about smashing the system, man. Well, yes and no. Most libertarians are for smashing the system because it doesn't represent limited government or defend individual liberty. For decades after World War II, pre-Woodstock libertarians were barely tolerated by movement conservatives and establishment Republicans (the two categories became synonmous at some point during the 1980s). As Brian Doherty has noted, the conservative Russell Kirk refused to be listed on National Review's masthead for a time because libertarian-leaning Frank Meyer was involved. And while Ayn Rand may have hated "libertarians," she got little love from National Review, which published Whittaker Chambers' scathing (and stupid) review of Atlas Shrugged. "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To the gas chambers—go!'" wrote Chambers. Over time—and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union—libertarians stopped apologizing for their distinct beliefs in what Reason has long summarized as "Free Minds and Free Markets." The libertarian movement grew in size and influence and, well, there seemed to be less and less in common with conservatives who were fixated on foreign policy adventurism abroad and culture-war issues at home (obscenity, "the homosexual agenda," the war on drugs, abortion rights, and the like). In the post-Cold War world, conservatives started turning against free trade and immigration as well, turning to instead toward "National Greatness" as articulated in the pages of The Weekly Standard and nativism as pronounced without pause during the 1990s and 2000s at National Review. During the Bush years, conservative Republicans exhorted George W. Bush [...]



Friday A/V Club: When the Governor Has a Libertarian Side

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 16:45:00 -0400

The most striking thing about this year's Libertarian ticket may be that it features a couple of former governors. Libertarians don't tend to be enthusiastic about elected officials in the first place, and that's especially true when it comes to the executive branch. Hardly any governors have a substantial libertarian fan base. But there are exceptions to that, and they aren't all named "Gary Johnson." One is Albert Ritchie, governor of Maryland from 1920 to 1935. Another is J. Bracken Lee, governor of Utah from 1949 to 1957. Ritchie was a fiscal conservative: He tended to keep taxes down, tended to keep the books balanced, and tended to reject federal aid. (I say "tended to" because there were exceptions to all of the above. But the pattern was clear.) He didn't believe the state should do nothing at all—he built roads, passed restrictions on the crab industry, and otherwise flexed his power when he thought it was necessary—but he thought the government in general and the feds in particular should be doing a lot less. And he wasn't shy about defying Washington. In 1922, when Warren Harding asked 28 governors to call out the National Guard during a coal strike, Ritchie refused, declaring that "in the darkest hours of situations like these there often comes the time when with methods other than force men can finally be persuaded to meet and agree for the common welfare." And at the Governors Conference in Washington that year, when the president told the assembled guests that the states needed to enforce Prohibition, Ritchie declared that Maryland would not. Egged on by his friend H.L. Mencken, a fiery libertarian voice at The Baltimore Sun, Ritchie then went about making his state an island of tolerance in the war on booze. As Mencken's biographer Marion Elizabeth Rodgers later wrote, Maryland was now one of the wettest states in the union....Governor Ritchie had announced that places selling alcoholic beverages would not be bothered by state troopers—though they would have to pay state tax. But because speakeasies didn't legally exist, they were declared to be cigar stores. Each speakeasy had a front room, with a glass counter, filled with cheap cigars. There would be a door with a window. When you knocked on the door, all you had to say was, "Joe sent me."... Alone among larger cities, Batlimore had little organized crime. Instead, it was quiet and orderly. The police went about their own business. The courts were not jammed with liquor cases. Federal agents were left to enforce Federal enactments on their own. And since the Feds found they had no police protection in Baltimore, raids gradually became more infrequent. This is the era when Maryland came to be known as the Free State, a nickname that feels less appropriate these days. And Lee? He mixed the fiscal conservatism and anti-globalism of a Taft Republican with a high level of social tolerance. As I've mentioned here before, he refused to crack down on drinking, gambling, and prostitution when he was mayor of Price; as mayor of Salt Lake City, he locked horns with police chief W. Cleon Skousen over budget issues, "vice" issues (including Skousen's efforts to ferret out homosexuals), and Lee's view that Skousen was "practicing Communism to fight it." In-between, while governing the whole state of Utah, Lee disobeyed the feds in a way that may not rise to Ritchie's level of defiance but still stands out: In 1956 he became, as far as I'm aware, the only sitting governor ever to refuse to pay his federal income tax. His reasoning was a little obscure—he didn't think it was constitutional to be forced to pay for foreign aid—but a certain level of crankiness goes with the nonconformist territory. Now we come to the A/V Club portion of the post. In the video belo[...]



George Will on the Limits of Majority Rule

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 15:35:00 -0400

Reason's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie sat down with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will back in March for a free-wheeling discussion about the current state of American politics. According to Will, "the most interesting argument in American governance today" is not the conflict between Democrats and Republicans; instead it is the argument between those conservatives "who believe that we need, as conservatives have been saying for years, a deferential judiciary, passive and deferential to the majoritarian branches of government," and those libertarians "who argue on the contrary that what we need is an engaged judiciary asserting the fact that the essence of America is not majority rule, it is liberty." Will made it clear that he came down squarely on the side of the libertarians.

In a new National Affairs essay titled "The Limits of Majority Rule," Will explains and defends his position in detail. It's a fascinating piece, well worth reading in full, particularly for Will's account of how he came to reject his own prior support for judicial deference. Here's a brief excerpt:

For many years and for several reasons, many of my fellow conservatives have unreflectively and imprudently celebrated "judicial restraint." For many years, I, too, was guilty of this. The reasons for that celebration of restraint include an understandable disapproval of some of the more freewheeling constitutional improvisations of the Warren Court, and the reasonable belief that the law schools that train future judges, and the law reviews that influence current judges, are, on balance, not balanced — that they give short shrift to conservatism. It is, however, high time for conservatives to rethink what they should believe about the role of courts in the American regime....

The principle of judicial restraint, distilled to its essence, frequently is the principle that an act of the government should be presumed constitutional and that the party disputing the act's constitutionality bears the heavy burden of demonstrating the act's unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt. The contrary principle of judicial engagement is that the judiciary's principal duty is the defense of liberty, and that the government, when challenged, bears the burden of demonstrating that its action is in conformity with the Constitution's architecture, the purpose of which is to protect liberty. The federal government can dispatch this burden by demonstrating that its action is both necessary and proper for the exercise of an enumerated power. A state or local government can dispatch the burden by demonstrating that its act is within the constitutionally proscribed limits of its police power.

Read the whole thing here. Watch Will, Welch, and Gillespie below.

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New at Reason: 'The Alternative To Innovation Is Not Stability. It's Stagnation' Q&A with CEI's Fred Smith

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 15:00:00 -0400

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"The alternative to innovation is not stability," says Fred L. Smith, who founded the influential and controversial Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 1984. "It's stagnation."

In 2014, after almost 30 years as CEI's president, Smith became director of the group's Center for the Advancement of Capitalism, which champions free markets as the best means to create a fair, prosperous, and future-oriented society. Libertarians, says the one-time federal bureaucrat, have always had a difficulty communicating their ideas to a wider public, even to the entrepreneurs and business leaders who radically improve our lives on a daily basis by providing better and better goods and services at lower and lower prices. "We need to re-calibrate our arguments so they reach the people we need to have as allies. That means businessmen."

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Smith to talk about the liberating history of capitalism, the regulatory war on innovation, whether millennials are socialists or capitalists, and the morality of market exchanges. "The market not only creates a web of voluntary economic interactions," says Smith. "It is the best facilitator for creating the social networks that encompass the modern world."

Runs about 30 minutes.

Edited by Ian Keyser and Joshua Swain. Cameras by Todd Krainin and Swain.




"The Alternative To Innovation Is Not Stability. It's Stagnation."

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 12:00:00 -0400

"The alternative to innovation is not stability," says Fred L. Smith, who founded the influential and controversial Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 1984. "It's stagnation."

In 2014, after almost 30 years as CEI's president, Smith became director of the group's Center for the Advancement of Capitalism, which champions free markets as the best means to create a fair, prosperous, and future-oriented society. Libertarians, says the one-time federal bureaucrat, have always had a difficulty communicating their ideas to a wider public, even to the entrepreneurs and business leaders who radically improve our lives on a daily basis by providing better and better goods and services at lower and lower prices. "We need to re-calibrate our arguments so they reach the people we need to have as allies. That means businessmen."

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Smith to talk about the liberating history of capitalism, the regulatory war on innovation, whether millennials are socialists or capitalists, and the morality of market exchanges. "The market not only creates a web of voluntary economic interactions," says Smith. "It is the best facilitator for creating the social networks that encompass the modern world."

Runs about 30 minutes.

Edited by Ian Keyser and Joshua Swain. Cameras by Todd Krainin and Swain.

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