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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Friday, April 30, 2010

What it means to be a libertarian

John Stossel in Reason magazine has written a quick guide to libertarianism: What Am I? Understanding what it means to be a libertarian. Here's an excerpt:
We know that conservatives want government to conserve traditional values. They say they're for limited government, but they're pro-drug war, pro-immigration restriction and anti-abortion, and they often support "nation-building."

And so-called liberals? They tend to be anti-gun and pro-choice on abortion. They favor big, powerful government—they say—to make life kinder for people.

By contrast, libertarians want government to leave people alone—in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don't hurt anybody else.


Patrick Ross said...

Lloyd Mackey considers libertarianism to be one of the six strains of conservatism in Canada.

We often forget that there's a great deal of diversity within conservative circles. In fact, Mackey's six strains of Canadian conservatism doesn't fully emcompass all of it.

I find that a lot of moralist conservatives forget to find room for libertarians within "their" conservatism. It's one of the reasons why libertarians have to remind many conservatives to question moralist conservatives.

Alex said...


ryan said...

There is nothing inconsistent about being both libertarian and anti-abortion (e.g. Nat Hentoff is a famous pro-life libertarian; Ron Paul might count as well.) In fact, I would say it is inconsistent to be libertarian and "pro-choice" (that is, in favour of the right of one individual to kill another.)

tao_taier said...

That second paragraph of Ross's comment is precisely right.

Well the more reserved socially conservative part of my brain thinks
that people who should clearly know better (by now) should stop with the blanket claims of "what is" libertarianism or conservatism and so on without realizing that its a spectrum and not a single word cliche.

"I'm a conservative!"

Conservative of what specifically? Since that can mean any number of things the varying degrees are probably endless. Though sophistication and tact are important, I'm not simply talking semantics.

I don't care to hear some loud groups to the south drag the term conservative through the mud by attempting to high jack then lay claim to it while giving it a bad name for the rest of us.

Most of who which just parroting what they think they're supposed to say yet haven't the slightest clue of how to go about doing it.

Such as creating less government, lowering taxes etc.
It's not enough for candidates to just say these things or go through the lists of accepted policy ideas proposed.
You have to know that when something unprecedented happens, what sort of principles are gonna guide them through to make the appropriate decisions.

What it shouldn't be is hamfisted dogma.

Not every policy or problem is going to require the typically prescribed libertarian approach.

IF we all want to generalize our side, a better title to lump up as a main branch of the spectrum would be "right wing pragmatists". Rather than right wing libertarians and whatever other titles that really fit much better under the umbrella term I coined above.

It should provide enough wiggle room to encompass all with out immediately alienating each other while providing a common front to easily rally behind.

Least this way we know where we all start from and branch of from there. Which leaves us more capable of avoiding stigmas begin with. "Grrr! Conservatives are racists" or any other junk like that for example.
The mild chaos that such freedom brings ought to spur new opportunities that don't lead to dead ends thanks to being addressed from any one of the varied/diverse perspectives that our side has versus that of the group think of the left.

Our mode should be self correcting just as free market capitalism has it's own mechanisms. Unlike the left, our side of the spectrum enables each individual to openly provide us with alternative idea's and arguments since we can always agree to disagree or compromise.

This is already happening as most people are naturally somewhere on the Right only they don't even know it. So to oppose the united left and expose them, we can all agree that if we are going to loosely conform to some sort of generalized term with which to rally behind; I feel the phrase "Right Wing Pragmatists" suits best.

Forgive the long-winded sentences, I was never properly taught grammar. Hopefully the above is all readable enough to understand.
God help us all.

tao_taier said...

Oh and a... ryan, you don't have a clue in regards to libertarians and pro-choice. You can still be socially libertarian on some issues while being socially conservative on others. Hence the need for people to be more specific when they can to avoid dumbing things down into simple "either or" categories.

Life is complicated for good reason and full of gray, but even with simplifying things we can mistakenly add to the confusion. is a good place to start when it comes to knowing how to fix/address the abortion issue(s).
The more aware a woman is of her fertility health and how to control it, the less likely the chances of an "unwanted" pregnancy is to occur.
If most woman weren't so ill informed of what their options all abortion would be something limited to only extreme life or death situations AND would certainly never be described as a form of contraception.

I imagine once things like this are commonly known, abortion will just be another barbaric thing of the past. Certainly not something we need to export with our dollars to third-world countries that don't need it. Though the emergency procedures should be known if need be.