Australia’s Shy “Radical” Libertarians

I have met many libertarians, who while professing to be “Rothbardian”, radical or anarcho-capitalist in private social gatherings, turn out to be rather compromising in public – when it counts. Any possible explanation for this very common phenomenon are welcome.

75 thoughts on “Australia’s Shy “Radical” Libertarians

  1. I guess that depends on how you understand the ‘radicalism’ of radical libertarians. Many anarcho-capitalists are deeply conservative and differ greatly from most left-libertarians.

  2. An anarcho-capitalist society is hard to describe, since Earth has no nation which practices it, so a lot of people may be hazy on the details. Indeed, I wonder- would roads just be untended ruts in the land? Would they be privately owned, with users paying fees per minute? these features are not well-described. As a minocratist, I would still have some local shires or counties as agents over public possessions, such agents being appointed by share-holders who voluntarily joined from within the county.
    I can even point to a country, Switzerland, which has strong cantons, and a weak central government, as an example which is closest to my ideal society (though it is not perfect!). Can Anarcho-capitalists do the same?

  3. I think it’s a lack of faith in the capacity for change. People may have radical beliefs- they may like radical theory- but in the “real world” it is rather intimidating.

    I talk to people about why the old-aged pension is immoral and they don’t see it. They think that people are entitled to a rate of pay that allows them to keep the same lifestyle they had while working.

    If I can’t even make headway on that I don’t think I could convince them that the government is essentially a criminal gang.

  4. I think this is the second most important question anyone has asked all year.

    The most important question is, when some libertarians encounter a political party based on libertarian principles, why do they spit the dummy and/or refuse to get involved because they disagree with the details of a couple of its policies?

    Are they really stupid, or do they suffer from a personality defect?

  5. Shem, point out that medical advances mean we will all be living much longer, so we might need to work for a century or more before we have saved enough for our retirement for another century! Indeed, constant medical breakthroughs may keep extending life, so who will want to retire- if they have a rejuvenated body? Here, libertarian thought can lead the way!
    And libertarians should promote private superannuation schemes as moral alternatives to taxed schemes, or governments printing money.

  6. The unfortunate truth is that libertarianism is both unfashionable, and not very well understood.

    It’s considered acceptable to complain about ‘the nanny state’, but only a little bit, because if you complain too much you’re a heatless right-wing bastard who lacks compassion for the ‘needy’ and ‘vulnerable’. Possibly a fascist too. This is the ‘not well understood’ bit – put crudely you’re either leftwing (big government socialist) or rightwing (big government fascist) – the concept of small government is non-existent here.

    Part of this is because the statists, especially big-government socialist types, have done a far better job in marketing themselves – just look at how effective the greens and GetUp! are. The most frustrating thing is that they take a semi-libertarian stance on a few ‘trendy’ issues (gay rights, Internet censorship, voluntary euthanasia), and manage to convince everyone that they’re ‘civil libertarians’.

    Two other reasons –

    a) some libertarian issues scare people – gun ownership, smoking, labour market deregulation to name a few. We get painted as a bunch of ‘right-wing, gun nut loonies’. Probably facsist too.

    b) people get used to handouts and don’t want to give them up, even if they pay less ultimately. It’s a bit like paying lots of tax and getting a small rebate at the end of the financial year – you notice the ‘free money’ but forget that it was yours to begin with.

    As far as anarcho-capitalism goes, forget about it. People with either not believe that such as thing exists, or assume that you’re among the crowd throwing Molotov cocktails at the G20. It’s probably more socially acceptable to say that you’re a communist these days.

    I know I’ve said this before but you really shouldn’t the the likes of the Greens steal all the limelight when it comes to defending civil liberties.

  7. Sukrit,

    It comes down to motive. Do you want to rally the masses under the banner of liberty, or remain in idealogically pure obscurity?

    Can we convince the public to go out and read Ethics of Liberty, or to listen to us for hours on end outlining the merits of our seemingly controversial perspective? No, we can’t. People have short attention spans, don’t like change, and are otherwise apathetic and indifferent. The media dishes them out a 10 second sound bite, and we get judged on that, and that alone.

    We have to play this nonsense popularity game and at least appear somewhat moderate if we want to gain any traction in this political environment. But ultimately, it is a long term investment. People will begin to learn about what liberty really means (I’d wager that most Australian couldn’t outline a genuine definition of the word), and in time, some will discover the likes of Rothbard and see his ideas in a new light.

    This pragmatic solution is frustrating, but sadly I think it is our only option. We might not be able to flick the switch overnight, but with patience, maybe one day we’ll have that opportunity.

  8. Like Shem said, if you start a conversation on politics with ‘anarcho-capitalism’, normal people will disagree with you regardless. If you test the water with some policy suggestions and case-by-case arguments you’re much more likely to influence people, or so I think.

  9. Stuart is right in one major aspect- you need a truthful slogan that is also catchy.
    If I get rich enough to turn my system “Pro-Secessionism”, into a party or movement, I would adopt the catchy slogan “Let All Be Free!”. The party program would explain that I advocate the right of all landowners to secede, and that I support decentralism on a massive scale. But all parties need an eye-catching slogan, especially in this fast-paced world. Perhaps the LDP could adopt the line from “The Life of Brian”- We are all individuals!

  10. Also agree with Stuart. Liberty should be a fairly simple message to sell – just concentrate on highlighting the absurdity of the nanny state and the benefits of getting the government out of your life.

    Taking about ‘anarcho-capitalism’ will just scare the bejeezus out of people, and talking about Rothbard or Friedman will bore them shitless.

    Talking about secessionism will also scare people, it’s too revolutionary and people will think you’re like the ‘Christian militia’ nutjobs in the US.

    I’ve said this before, but set up a libertarian online lobby group, a bit like GetUp!, but call it HandsOff! instead. Take pains to explain why you’re different from the Greens and why you logically agree with them on a few things but disagree with them on many others.

  11. The most important question is, when some libertarians encounter a political party based on libertarian principles, why do they spit the dummy and/or refuse to get involved because they disagree with the details of a couple of its policies?

    I can’t speak for others, but I stopped being involved with LDP for several reasons:

    1) I am actually pretty lazy… though I’ll rant and rave about how the government should leave people alone, in all honest, I’m often content to do my own thing and… well, be left alone. I think most people find it hard to get that motivation to get over the hump and spend a significant amount of their own time involved in a political party.

    2) I think there are possibly better ways to get a libertarian message out there than running political candidates in a minor party. In fact, the nature of politics are generally that small parties like LDP try to get publicity by being controversial, and I’m not convinced this is the best way to sell libertarianism.

    3) Giving (1) and (2) above, it’s not surprising that disagreements would see people “spit the dummy,” so to speak. It’s a big ask for people to promote policies they disagree with.

    For the record, I still support the LDP, in that I intend to vote for them where possible.

  12. Libertarian is an ugly word, classical liberal sounds pretentious and if I just say liberal people confuse my views with either the left in America or the conservative ‘Liberal’ Party here (I actually didn’t mind this when it was turnbull against rudd).

  13. David – it could be because they don’t want to hang out with somebody that calls them stupid. 🙂

  14. Mitch, Anarcho-Capitalism is an ugly word! Libertarian is quite pleasant. If you have a better word, why not add it? Or invent one that you then tell us about?

  15. The problem with any label, Nuke, is that it pigeon-holes you – and inevitably gets corrupted. For an example of how it gets corrupted, just look at the Libertarian Party in the US – for a large part, a bunch of conspiracy theorists and truthers. That group will do untold damage to the libertarian brand.

    I’m seeing more sense in the South Park creators approach of shunning such labels altogether (one of them did call himself a libertarian once – but seems to have backtracked – even though it’s clear they both support philosophy most of us would recognise as classically liberal).

    Perhaps the problem is that most “libertarians” (for want of a better word) are independently minded enough to hate being grouped in with others (and the minor differences that DavidL mentioned earlier simply exacerbate these misgivings about getting involved). It really is like herding cats.

  16. If you’re a rothbardian, in the sense that you talk about “morality” and “rights” then its your fault that it is difficult to be a libertarian.
    If we do anything other than (attempt to) demonstrate that a stateless society would result in a greater collective utility, then we’ll get no where, because people will just think you’re greedy and uncaring (albeit for not wanting to have your money taken at gunpoint).
    Most people are of the nature “I think the government should give money to poor people to help them out”, and unless you can convince them not having the state would be better for the poor you’ll get absolutely NOWHERE and will probably just make things worse.

  17. Brett, the thing to do is to keep on pointing out governmental miscarriages of justice, like those kids who were happy to work two hours in a small-business shop, but who were told by Gillard that they’d have to work three hours, or get three hours wages, by law. They are unemployed, and our new PM justified it in Parliament, as fair wages, though it was really fiat wages, wages by decree. If we convince enough people that governments can, and do, get it wrong, then our job will be done!

  18. “An anarcho-capitalist society is hard to describe, since Earth has no nation which practices it”

    No *current* nation. There were a few who practiced it for a short time, before they were crushed by state armies.

  19. Brett – ‘stateless society’? There’s you’re problem right there.

    People think we’re anti-government anarchists. They don’t make the distinction between anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-communists, we’re just the type of people who wear masks and go smashing police cars at the world economic forum.

    If you want to promote libertarianism, you have to distance it from anarchism. Draw a line at minarchists – those who believe the government should be restricted to enforcing contracts and preventing people from harming others.

    Anyone who believes in less government than this is no longer a libertarian but an anarchist. Penn Jillette (sp?) the libertarian US comedian enunciuated this well when some conservative interviewer said that there was a thin line between libertarianism and anarchy. He replied that there was actually quite a fat line, and that true libertarians believed that without a system of law an order that focusses on protecting the rights of the individual, there would be a whole lot less liberty.

    You can always add that once that system goes beyond protecting the rights of the individual, e.g. to promote some notion of ‘equality’ or protect individuals from themselves then liberty decreases again. Therefore there is an optimal level of government, a whole lot less than we currently have.

    Using rhetoric like calling the government a ‘criminal gang’, while sometimes true, won’t win you any votes. Again you just sound like some undergraduate Trotskyist calling for a revolution. Better to spread the message that governments of any flavour may mean well, but when they interfere their either get it wrong or cause unintended consequences that are worse than the original problem they were trying to solve.

  20. I thought Somalia could be currently described as anarcho-capitalist? Possibly parts of PNG as well. Neither are great examples of the system working well.

    I suppose you could say they’re not truly anarcho-capitlist as warlords/tribal leaders have stepped into the power vacuums, but that’s kind of the point isn’t it? Anarcho-capitalism is a utopia that’s about as achievable as pure communism, which is also, accoridng to Marx, a ‘stateless society’

  21. Rothbard’s anarcho capitalist society is one where individuals agree to conduct their affairs based on the non-aggression axiom and private property.

    Somalia is a failed state with competing factions trying to fill a perceived power vacuum, not an anarcho capitalistic society.

    I would imagine lawless areas of PNG are just operating under their own traditional laws and customs.

    On the subject of Somalia though, it’s easy to criticize the current state of affairs there but apparently in quite a few respects (not all) things have actually improved since the collapse of Said’s government. It was about as corrupt and inefficient a government as you’re likely to find by all accounts.

  22. To change topic, has anyone see the ads for the new “Hawke” movie coming to Channel 10?!
    I saw the ad last night and found it simultaneously very funny (I swear the guy imitating Hawke is taking the piss and the scene with Keating has dialogue straight out of a bad B grade action movie) But its saddening to think people would like this show and/or admire these very average politicians.
    I’m pretty sure it’s actually meant to be a serious show!

  23. I somewhat admire Hawke and Keating. On the economic front they did a lot for liberalism.

  24. Progressive and social democrat are both nice, warm and fuzzy terms that reflects my social views quite adequately. We just need the average “progressive” person to be economically literate. Andrew Leigh’s a good example. That said, I agree with Fleeced about pigeon-holing yourself with labels.

  25. papachango , you’re a moron.

    1. Anarcho-capitalists CALL FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE STATE. Hence, the “anarcho” prefix. Honestly, what exactly do think Rothbaridians advocate?

    2. Don’t patronise me you ignorant twat. I have read dozens of books on anti-statism, and it makes a hell of a lot more sense than minarchism. You clearly haven’t read anything about anti-statism, let alone even Rothbard’s For a new Liberty.
    “Hurr there would be no legal system in a stateless society oh but btw ur liek really dumb”

    If you’re not even familiar with the concept of emergent/polycentric law, then don’t criticise anti-statism, because you evidently lack even a rudimentary understanding of it, and don’t accuse me of being dumb when you clearly haven’t got the slightest clue of what you’re talking about.

    2. Micnarchism is insanely delusional. No state in history has EVER remained limited. America was founded by a bunch of people who loved liberty so much that hey fought several wars against the strongest military in the world for it. No state in history has ever been made so purposely small and had so many checks and balances on its power, and yet today it is the most powerful state in the world; heck, the most powerful state in history.
    Basically minarchism is “Ok government you can keep your monopoly on force, but please, pretty pretty PLEASE don’t get any bigger k?”
    Freedom leads to prosperity. Prosperity + people in artificial position of power = corruption. Always.

    The state is a cancer. Sure, you can choose not to remove it completely because its too scary, and instead just try and make it smaller, but don’t complain when it INEVITABLY grows back, because we warned you.

    3. Wow, way to prove your amazing ignorance once again. You, like most dumb statists, know nothing about Somalia.
    In the several decades preceding its statelessness, Somalia had a massive totalitarian socialist government with a centrally planned economy. This obviously completely ruined what little standard of living the Somalians already had, and when the state eventually collapsed, the Somalia economy was left in ruins. the state had made society dependant upon them, had destroyed their wealth, and more importantly destroyed their ability to create wealth.

    Things in somalia are made far worse by the fact that it is populated and surrounded by extremist murderous Muslims,and other states trying to steal what little wealth there is to be stolen.
    Things are getting better compared to when Somalia had a state. For farming communities in regional areas, things are essentially unchanged. The state’s laws weren’t enforced where they lived, so they made their own arrangements regarding law and order, and when the state was gone they just carried on as normal, except now there was just no state thugs coming in and extorting wealth from them every so often.

    Somalia demonstrates the dangers of unrestrained statism, and of course when a government collapses things will turn to shit. Governments need to be dismantled in order for the market to adjust and for law and order to EMERGE.

    You are a pathetic excuse for a libertarian.

  26. Brett – I’m not going to bother to reply to personal abuse like that. Grow up and learn some manners you silly little boy.

  27. I’ve figured out the problem with utilitarians. They always use stats in their books, but that means their work is rarely timeless; it gets outdated and you have to update their stats to see if their arguments still hold true. I’m giving away a book I got for free from the Cato Institute because the arguments aren’t rooted in principle and I can’t be confident that they still hold on the basis of the latest statistics.

  28. lol sorry papachango, heaven forbid you should know anything about libertarianism in order to be a libertarian.

  29. Brett’s childish dummy spit just proves my point as to why libertarians should distance themselves from anarcho-capitalists like him, even if anarcho-capitalism is technically libertarianism taken to the extreme. After all you don’t see social democrats embracing communism, do you?

    Anarchists are generally perceived as very disturbed, angry people, and Brett certainly comes across that way. From the use of his language he sounds like some undergrad student radical who heaps abuse on anyone who has the slightest disagreement with his ideology.

    That tends to be the case with most extremists, though more often they’re on the statist side – you hear more about radical Marxists and even fascists than anarcho-capitalists.

    I know John Humphreys has some anarcho-capitalist leanings, and is more reasonable and mature, but seriously – do you really want the message of liberty to be associated with the rantings of people like Brett?

  30. Brett did end up going a bit overboard considering your original comments.

    But he also made some valid points. As a theory anarcho-capitalism seems to stand up to quite a large degree of scrutiny. Whether all its adherents do is questionable.

  31. Just because Brett is a dickhead doesn’t reflect in any way on Anarcho-Capitalism as a theory. It was around before Brett and will outlive Brett.

    So by all means continue your war with Brett, but don’t try and pretend as if his dummy spit has anything to do with the topic.

    Brett does make one good point in asking how you go about keeping a minimalist state minimalist. This is the biggest challenge facing Minarchists, just as defense is the biggest challenge facing Anarcho-capitalists.

  32. Sam – I have no intention to continue any war with Brett. In general I find Internet flame wars rather pointless and distasteful and I probably should have just ignored him, but anyway…

    Yes fair point, I’m sure there are some nice anarcho-capitalists.The point I was trying to make was that it, while it might be a valid school of thought, it is pretty much a utopian fringe philosophy, and is definitely perceived as one, and in my personal opinion it should fall outside the range of philosophies defined as ‘libertarian’.

    I suppose you could call it ‘radical libertarianism’ and the topic header suggests, but if you want to have any chance of getting libertarianism to the mainstream it would make more sense to set the boundaries at a more reasonable level.

    Anyway, why do anarcho-capitalists want to be associated with libertarians? If they are so vehemently against having any government at all they should have no problems simply being called anarcho-capitalists, as I’m sure they wouldn’t want to be confused with moderate libertarians who just want a reduction in government spending and taxes.

    It’s also true that keeping small governments small is a challenge, and that’s not inconsistent with my view that there is an optimum level of government that maximises liberty. I would have responded to that if the point was made more reasonably. No system is perfect, of course, but I think realistically you’d have the same challenge with anarcho-capitalism. In a power vacuum, what’s to stop a state forming, either by some private security group getting big enough to have a monopoly on force, or by community groups forming one. At least with a limited government you can have a constitution with checks and balances, even if they do get eroded over time.

    Fleeced – it’s always interesting albeit frustrating to see how others view us! Thing is, how do we change these misconceptions?

  33. I noticed that Brett also avoided my use of Switzerland as a functioning minarchic society. They seem to have helped keep the central government at bay.
    My preferred solution to keeping governments small is for us all to time-share its’ functions. the price of citizenship might be to undergo something like community service, in exchange for the right to be the government for one month of the year, along with all the others who joined in the same month that you did. As for policy-makers, the twelve longest-serving citizens could be automatically delegated to this task, instead of elections. That could be another reward of good citizenship. Perhaps the Mayor is who-ever is the oldest citizen. We would all have an equal say in making laws, and we could all end up being policy-makers as well, if we live that long!

  34. Bigotry, plain and simple.

    Imagine if a similar cartoon was made at ALP/Democrat supporters.

    Lies, half truths, impossible moral conundrums.

    “Libertarians are paedophiles and also hypocrites because they drive on roads they’ve paid for in part through taxation”. “Welfare was entrenched before you existed so you have no right to complain.” “The State can protect you at all times [e.g the stupid botulism line]”.

    Bullshit, plain and simple. Breathtakingly stupid and arrogant as well. This is reminiscient of the know-nothings of 1800s America. It also smacks of feudalism!

    The lefty git behind this is a smear merchant and I bet they’re not far off the dangerous and unhinged maniac Saul Alinsky. This guy should hand himself over to the cops for a hate crime, to at least be consistent.

    Our heroes (Freidman for example) have made noble efforts to better humanity. We simply ask that coercion be mimimised and laws be justified morally and in a utilitarian manner.

    This is perfectly reasonable and centrist. The left and right want to compel and prohibit your actions to play to their pet projects and unreasonable fears.

    Don’t be scared.

  35. Strong beliefs can often result in very emotional responses. I can empathise with Brett, but inflammatory comments are not helpful. Let socialists emote hysterically, that’s all they have. Individualists can crush their opponents with logic alone.

    I’ve gone past being a moderate and a minarchist, but we are all individualists and I would never want to separate myself from them.

  36. I agree the pedophile one is deeply offensive, and the others grossly misrepresent libertariansm, but the fact is that political opponents misrepresent the arguments of the other side all the time. There are plently of cartoons depicting leftwingers as a bunch of terrorist supporting hairy armed lesbians.

    It just means that libertarianism is being recongised rather than lumped in with the ‘right wing’.

    As far as political arguments go, it’s a pretty weak attempt, full of strawmen that are easy to shoot holes in. It’s just preaching to the converted anyway, being on a lefty website.

    Rather than just dismissing it, use it to develop counter arguments.

    Also, how about some cartoons poking fun at the nanny state? With some of the absurd laws out there we’d have lots of material.

  37. Interesting cartoons Fleeced, but nothing new. I can recognise all you guys in them as I am the only perfect one. 🙂 In reality I always enjoy a libertarian cartoon from the left as they generally put on display for all to see, just what dick heads they are. These are no different.

    The person who came up with Ayn Rand greeting cards managed to make them funny, but really misrepresented the objectivist philosophy.

    Probably one of the best rebuttals I have seen comes from the lady her self.

  38. Yeah, they’re all strawmen – that’s what I said to my friend (with the exception of the pedo one – that’s just outright slander… standard gutter tactics).

    Like most good lies, there’s just an element of truth, but libertarian arguments are generally more nuanced. Of course, the “arrogant” one is spot on for some, but hardly unique to libertarians. People often find it hard to believe you can disagree with them – it must be that you haven’t all the facts, or didn’t understand them.

    I would probably have been able to laugh at some of the characterisations if the others weren’t so clearly full of malice.

    I’ll look at the video link when I get home.

  39. Ayn radn greeting cards:

    ““So. You’ve caved in to social pressure and allowed the state to certify your right to have sex. You have forfeited control of your own destiny. You will come to hate each other.””

    Those who get married have a persistent urge to tell us that this actually comes true. Either it’s true or harden up brides and grooms.

  40. The Ayn Rand greeting cards come from a libertarian website, yet they still misrepresent objectivism, and portray them as a right bunch of sourpusses.

    I don’t get it – is this some kind of libertarian versus objectivist ongoing feud? Or do I just fail to grasp self-deprecating libertarian geek humour?

  41. South Park dissed Atlas Shrugged a bit as well… I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, but found it in heavy need of editing. The Galt speech at the end was like an essay tacked onto the book in case we didn’t get her message. The speech was pretty boring – and the idea that people would sit listening to it for a couple hours strained my willing suspension of disbelief somewhat 🙂

    When I looked at that lefty cartoon I posted a link to earlier, the “missionary” and “arrogant” panels reminded me of an objectivist who accused me of clearly not understanding the book, since I found Galt’s speech boring (and ended up skipping pages)

    Rand herself was a bit loopy. I’m not surprised how some libertarians feel about objectivists.

  42. Ah, so it IS an objectivist versus libertarian thing. Rand didn’t like libertarians as I recall, so maybe they’re just getting their own back.

    I agree the Galt speech went on way too long. Francisco d’Anconia’s money speech earlier in the book was much punchier and to the point, and summed up the economic aspects of objectivism (the main bits it has in common with libertarianism) nicely.

    I liked Rand’s fiction and a lot of the ideas behind it. I haven’t braved any of her non-fiction but I think I get the gist of it. The one thing I struggled with was the whole ‘altruism is evil’ bit, and I suspect this is where many libertarians differ with objectivists. I see nothing wrong with altriusm, provided it’s voluntary.

  43. Yeah typical straw man attacks on the Ayn Rand cards.

    But I did find the wedding one pretty funny.

    I agree with Jim that you can feel the malice vibe from many lefty sites trying so hard to be funny. I often suspect that some lefties I know have a nihlistic streak and negative view of humanity. They believe is that humans are inherently too stupid or lazy or irrational to take responsibility of their lives and require a nanny. This is a depressing cynical view of humanity IMO.
    I like the Objectivist concept of the “benevolent universe”.

    Humour can be an effective way to get new ideas out into the non-political non-philosophical community but sometimes it can be pretty weak too. eg/ Those B grade US comedians with their black vs white stereotype jokes. Boring.

  44. For the record, Ayn Rand strongly disliked Libertarians.

    Objectivism focuses on the whole of philosophy, libertarianism is more focused on politics. In philosophy politics is one of the higher branches. Objectivism has a heirachical theory of concepts. Therefore, it’s actually your fundamental philosophical beliefs that are the real driving forces behind your politics and the “prime mover” of human action.

    So Rand and Objectivists believe that it is far more important to challenge the dominant metaphysical, epistemological and ethical beliefs of society. Then good politics will follow naturally.

    Objectivists believe that conservatives or libertarians who attempt to change society to be more capitalist will ultimately fail (in the long run) unless people change their ethical beliefs and recognise that acting in your self interest is perfectly moral.

    Objectivists also worry that libertarian and conservative efforts will be counter-productive because the politicians attempt to reinforce common beliefs that may be flawed. eg/ defending capitalism on traditional or religious grounds.

    Here’s something I wrote on my blog on this topic ages ago,
    I was commenting on a question asked of Peikoff.

    “Wouldn’t an altruist have to advocate capitalism given his ethics, because capitalism is actually what makes other people happy and that’s his professed goal”
    Peikoff identified this as a rationalistic question dropping context, ultimately becoming a word game.
    The argument can be summarized as:

    Altruism = making people happy
    Capitalism = making people happy
    Therefore, altruism = capitalism.

    A deductively sound argument. But a false argument nonetheless. Why? Because one must examine what altruism and capitalism actually mean in reality.
    Capitalism involves working for ONESELF for profit, sucess, independance etc.
    Altruism means sacrificies for OTHERS for the sake of it. ie: with no gain to oneself. An altruist cannot endorse selfish activity without being hypocritical. And capitalism necessarily invovles selfish activity.
    So when we connect these concepts back to what they mean in reality, we see the contradiction that was not evident in the rationalistic deductive argument.”

  45. “You’re mean! 😥 😥 😥 ” a great way to ignore my points. You dismissed me as some naive idiot, and then I showed why you’re ignorant moron. Golly gosh Im so sorry.
    Go on, refute what I said, or continue to have a cry about it.

    Nuke, I didn’t see your point about Switzerland, but could you explain to me how and/or when Switzerland is a minarchist state?

  46. You’re not mean, you’re just immature and extremely rude.

    I didn’t dismiss you as an idiot, you just chose to take it that way – not my problem. I would have gladly addressed your points if you’d put them reasonably, as I did respond to others who raised them.

    If you’re not prepared to do that as well as apologise, then I’m not going to waste my time with you.

  47. A lot of the young right here in Canberra are pretty libertarian, though most would probably call themselves conservative despite being pretty socially liberal. I find the issues like gun ownership and health care are pretty hot button issues, one girl that more or less agrees with me about everything else refuses to debate the merits of gun deregulation.

  48. Anyone who believes in more state than what minarchists do is hardly libertarian in my books. Even if we agree to call them libertarians, at best they’re very much ideologically inconsistent, and at worst just plain delusional.

  49. Brett, Libertarianism is a goal, to a society with less government, and more room for individual actions. Some people want slightly less government, others want to drastically reduce it. If anyone wants less state, and more individual liberty, they can call themselves libertarians.
    As for Switzerland, that is a country that is more an alliance than a Federation. The Cantons are so varied that only recently did one of them give the vote to women! This may seem a bit slow, but it proves that the Cantons are not forced into a one-size-fits-all model.

  50. Yeah okay cool, but if they just want “less government”, then their concept of libertarianism is poorly founded.
    Taxation is theft, and is therefore bad, but libertarians who believe in taxation (albeit less taxation) still support theft. How does this make sense?

    And yeah, as I suspected, Switzerland is not remotely “minarchist”, though are far better than

    Honestly, you can talk about ideal sizes of government all you want, but at the end of the day, the ONLY dichotomy is state or no state. I wouldn’t be upset with a minarchist state, but it is just impossible to maintain.
    Governments always grow, so if you support the state at all, you either support the current size of the state or BIGGER. There is no limited state, because politicians are human beings and have no incentive to not increase the states power.

  51. Brett – apology accepted, however I’m not going anywhere. As individualists, I’m guessing neither of us will be particularly keen on taking orders from the other!

    If I can address one of your subsequent points (and you’ll most likely disagree but please, do try to be nice when responding):

    What Nuke said is correct. Libertarianism, as generally understood, covers a broad range of political views, from anyone who just wants a little less government to anarcho-capitalists like yourself. Someone who wants no state is generally considered to be an anarchist, though anarcho-capitalism could be considered at the radical end of libertarianism.

    I put forward an opinion that the libertarian movement should consider setting a lower limit and excluding anarchism from its range of views. I appreciate that its a highly debatable point, and obviously you disagreed with it, which is perfectly fine though I’d rather the disagreement wasn’t expressed by personal abuse. Now you are seeking to set an upper limit on the definition of libertarianism so that the word is restricted to anarcho-capitalists and minarchists. Though this somewhat contradicts your other assertion ‘the only dichotomy is state or no state’; if so when describing your political philosophy you should also reject using a word that lumps yourself in with minarchists.

    You might be prepared to tolerate minarchism in the absence of better options, but it’s a bit like me saying that given the choice between socialism and social democracy, I’d choose the latter. That doesn’t necessarily make me a social democrat.

    Personally I’m probably somewhere between a moderate libertarian and a minarchist, so that means you and I would be in different camps. That’s also perfectly fine, and we still can even respect each other’s points of view, even if we disagree on some things. After all we’d still be in the same ‘corner’ of the political compass. Heck, I even sometimes manage to have debates with socialists where neither of us call the other a moron or an ignorant twat..

    But the thing is, we both actually agree that there should be two separate groups, for the sake of the discussion lets call them a ‘small government’ camp and a ‘tiny to no government’ camp. The disagreement seems to be over who gets to use the word ‘libertarian’ to describe themselves.

    The word Libertarian is widely defined as a philosophy that advocates limited government. If you totally reject limited government and opt for no government, you’re an anarchist, and I don’t see why you’d want to call yourself a libertarian. Is it because it’s a nicer sounding word, or is it because being confused with radical left-wing ‘property is theft’ anarchists would piss you off (I could certainly appreciate that would be annoying)

  52. As far as Switzerland goes, while it does have an impressive system of decentralised power, I don’t think it’s really minarchist. It still has a very controlling state, just at canton level.

    They still have government schools and universities, public transport and a fair bit of welfare. In many aspects it’s a huge nanny state, or if you prefer, a federation of little nanny states called cantons.

    Small example – in most cantons they are very strict about where you live dictating what school you’re allowed to send your kids to. I heard a story about some expats that went to live in Zurich and sent their kids to the local school following the rules. They moved apartments to one block away but didn’t change schools as it was still the closest school, not realising that they’d moved just outside that school’s catchment zone.

    They had a local friend over for dinner, to show them their new place. Like many Swiss, the friend was intimately aware of all the rules and regulations, but instead of telling the couple about the change of zone, she waited until the next day and reported them to the authorities. There was no malice intended, she was just doing them a favour to help them comply with local laws, and this is pretty ‘normal’ Swiss behaviour. But it doesn’t sound like a minarchist country, does it?

  53. Brett, about an assertion of yours. State, or no State. That’s Black or White. But reality has colours. What happened to the colours?
    Dichotomism causes all sorts of trouble. Usually it exists only in speculation, not reality. Take Zero/non-zero. It seems easy for physicists to talk about 0K, the absolute absense of temperature. But they’ve never been able to reach it, because nature really does abhor a vacuum, and particles keep popping up and adding temperature to those experiments trying to do without any!
    This probably explains why they can’t reconcile classic and quantum physics- both are different descriptions of reality. A quantum unit is hypothetically capable of all sorts of things, but the entanglement with other particles gives an average, the realm of classic physics.
    This probably means that we can’t do without some type of government. And many libertarians agree, talking about voluntary societies, and contracts. humans are sociable, able to clump together in millions, but not without some structures like governments, or states. As an abstract ideal, Anarcho-Capitalism (zero government) looks good, but I doubt if we could achieve it.

  54. A voluntary funded state regulating via common law organisations such as private law enforcement and arbitration courts whilst running the police, military and overriding court system is libertarian. There is also a state.

  55. I went go as in respond, not leave.

    Anyway, the whole point is moot, because the OP said “rothbardian”, which is necessarily no state.

    I refer to myself as anti-statist. Anarchism obviously sounds bad, makes people think of G20 “anarchists”, and I don’t think it’s accurate, because it suggests a lack of hierarchy or law. I say anarcho-capitalism in certain situations to make clear what it is I believe in, but I also don’t like that term, because it suggests capitalism is a system to be decided upon and implemented, when in reality capitalism is emergent. If we removed the state, capitalism would happen on its own; also, a stateless society doesn’t preclude socialist/syndicatist communities from existing, its just that it won’t be forced on everyone who wants free exchange.

    Honestly I don’t give a crap about what “technically” a libertarian is. It doesn’t matter.

    I can see why you would think I contradicted myslef so let me explain. Minarchists generally believe that maximum liberty can be achieved with a night watchmen state, thus they believe in total liberty. Anyone who wants more government doesn’t believe in total liberty.
    Now, when i say there’s only state or no state, I mean that in the sense that minarchism can’t be maintained. It is still *essentially* ideologically sound from a libertarian perspective, though I believe impractical.

    Nuke, no.
    -If America was unable to remain limited, then no one can. End of story.

    -This explains why “clumping together in the millions” is bad:

    -Anarcho-capitalism may well be “unachievable” (not helped by people claiming this :p ), but it’s the only thing worth achieving.

  56. Brett,

    I have to disagree. I think the love child between Rothbard and Rand would be right…and David Freidman is close.

    It is nearly achieveable:

    Pennsylvania’s Anarchist Experiment: 1681-1690

    Considering this was in the 1600s, this is remarkable. We can go even better.

  57. A stateless society (brought about in the right way i.e. not Somalia) would definitely WORK, and would work a hell of a lot better than having a state. This is the reason I champion teh idea.

    I’m saying that it is practically inconceivable that we will be ever able to get rid of the state, because not only would you have to convince the majority of people that we can live without it, but also, perhaps more importantly, we have to somehow magically make politicians give up their power, even though it is very much not in their best interests to.

    If I’ve misinterpreted what you have said then please explain.

  58. Democracy was once widely opposed and considered to be unachievable and unsustainable. It is now the most widespread and most accepted organisation of society. Things can change.

  59. Please, you can’t compare achieving a stateless society a stateless society with “democracy” (which, mind you, people are entirely too fond of).

    Achieving democracy is just a restructuring of government to convince people that they have more power.
    Achieving a stateless society involves managing to get a bunch of self-serving power-hungry sociopaths who have more and bigger guns than everyone else to give up their power

    Like I said though, however unlikely my goal may be, a stateless society is the only goal worth achieving.

  60. Brett, here is my reason for being a minarchist.
    Roads and streets are so useful that all societies will have them in the future, even if only for people to walk on when not using their aircars. At the moment, these are owned by various layers of governments. In a hypothetical land (Rothbardom, rothbardia?) of anarcho-capitalists, I presume that such roads would be sold to private companies, or squatters would claim chunks through squatting. As such, they might licence or rent our use of their streets. In time, as customers, we might have a say in what is allowed or not on these private roads.
    Doesn’t that sound a bit like what we have with local councils now? Instead of destroying council infrastructure, I think we should incorporate it into a local voluntary network, a community center in which all can choose to participate, and if they become members instead of guests or visitors, then they would have voting rights, and the right to run for public office. (In fact, I would make this automatic for the longest-paying citizens. Public office by longevity.)
    I think that anarcho-capitalism is not stable, until it incorporates public spaces into its’ structure. As long as local rules are limited to public roads and spaces and buildings, leaving private properties alone, we would not have intrusive governments.
    Thus I think voluntary minarchism is the stablest libertarian system going.

  61. “The most important question is, when some libertarians encounter a political party based on libertarian principles, why do they spit the dummy and/or refuse to get involved because they disagree with the details of a couple of its policies?”

    Yeah aint that the case. I’ve seen Rothbard making the same observation and no answer to it. People will spit the dummy over some minor detail of policy, they’ll say they are libertarian, next you’ll see them favoring Obama in the election.

    With anarcho-capitalism, I think its all in the phase-in. Unless we get the phase-in right, the natural tendency will be towards war-lordism, rather than property-rights anarcho-capitalism.

    We have to be coming in from a number of angles. Encouraging states rights for small territories. Building a tax-exempt mediation industry that sits underneath our current legal industry, and then have it vertically integrate at a safe and measured pace. Getting rid of bank parasitism, and then fiat currency. Setting up a tax exempt private police force that uses only less-lethal weaponry ….

    And so forth. Its not just about bringing government spending down, as vital as that issue is.

  62. Harry, it is in some cases better for those who are ‘pure’ libertarians to stay out of ‘political parties based on libertarian principles,’ for the simple reason that such parties want to use gradualism to get their agendas forward without scaring the electorate with the great unknown. Those couple of policies may be small compared to the whole agenda, whatever they may be, but to a purist they are very important.

    The anarcho-capitalists have made a good point above, that any small government no matter how restricted will get bigger, so the reality is for those people that we are pushing a lost cause. Hopefully while they don’t feel able to join, they will support us in elections. I can visualise anarcho-capitalism, its the ideal size of small government but unfortunately, the impossible dream. It worked in ‘Gaults Gulch’ but the inhabitants were selected for intellectual purity and ability.

    As for voting for Obama, there was a great deal of misinformation out there and a great deal of reaction against the Republican Bush years, and it doesn’t surprise me that even in the case of candidates with well recognised libertarian streaks there was a reaction against them by libertarians. Add to the mix the fact that the Barr/Root ticket put two relatively new people in the Libertarian lead, about whose commitment quite a few people were openly sceptical.

    The Democrats played on the libertarian left with the argument that there was no reason for LP members not to support the Democrats and they were sucked in. Lets face it, Rudd got elected as a fiscal conservative.

  63. basically, roads in commercial areas would be provided for by businesses, because it would be so important for people to be able to access them for them to make money. Roads in residential areas would be paid for by the residents and thus owned by the residents. If a bunch of people don’t want strangers driving down their street, then they can stop them if they want because it’s their property.

    This is related and interesting:


    Still, you’re ignoring my main point. Government can’t be constrained. Its all good and well to say “oh well we need government for this and this”, but its not possible to keep it that small. And after it has grown enough, it costs will greatly outweigh any supposed benefits from it performing its ‘necessary’ functions. hence, on net balance we’ll be better off without the state in the long run, even if it did mean that roads are a little more expensive (which I doubt they would be)

  64. You seem to be missing my main point, which is that the collective roadowners of one road would be the governing body of that road, literally a form of government. And I think that people like to socialise, especially with their neighbours. So why not have local community entities, composed of residents, which would control ‘public’ spaces within their borders?
    I think that part of our cross-talking is a confusion of terms. I do not think of Government and State as the same. government can include self-government. In your final paragraph above, you use the two terms as interchangeable words, but they don’t mean the exact same thing.

  65. I know, its because people tend to say government and mean state.

    I’m opposed to the state. Governance is emergent, and hence I have no problem with it.

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  67. “Harry, it is in some cases better for those who are ‘pure’ libertarians to stay out of ‘political parties based on libertarian principles,’ for the simple reason that such parties want to use gradualism to get their agendas forward without scaring the electorate with the great unknown.”

    Right Jim. But I don’t think gradualism is a winning strategy for what must be a niche-operation. I think super-speed, with kindness and caution is what its about.

    Caution doesn’t mean compromising firearms policy. Rather it means really getting the fine detail right. Kindness doesn’t mean small spending cuts. Hell no. It means trashing dozens of government departments so that you can:

    1. Get rid of any taxes on retained earnings and
    2. Bring the tax-free-threshold above the earnings capacity of those welfare types who you will be cutting back on, insofar as benefits are concerned.

    I cannot see gradualism as any substitute for kindness. Kindness means spending cuts so that we can get rid of the 15% tax on super contributions. So we can lift the retirement age one day in two.

    Kindness combined with super-speed will cut a wider swathe in the electorate. Some people would like to get off welfare but don’t have the incentive for it. With all the business reinvestment that the above policies would create, and with the boost to real earning capacity that lifting the tax-free threshold would do, a lot of people would feel less put out about the prospect of losing some or all of their benefits.

    But to be kind in this way, we must feel the need for speed. And its pointless to be a libertarian party that isn’t into mass-sackings in government. Nothing could be more stillborn then that.

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