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Murray Rothbard on Libertarian Qualifiers

This past weekend I met someone who saw my Ron Paul bumper sticker and remarked to his friend, presumably a Republican, “hey, looks like there is another Republican in California!” I replied, “well I’m more of a libertarian really…”, not having the time to get into detail. Later on, I spoke with the same man again, who confessed “actually I’m a libertarian myself…but a libertarian Democrat!”

After speaking with him for a few minutes, it became clear that what the man meant by “libertarian Democrat” was that he’s a “Democrat for legal marijuana”. He didn’t seem to have any problem with government force applied in other areas, but was adamant that people not be thrown in jail for the simple act of smoking a naturally growing herb! I agreed with him and left the conversation there, not being in an appropriate position to elaborate much further, and happy to have an ally for now on an important issue.

Reflecting on it later on, I believe this conversation highlights a problem of the “libertarian qualifier”, where people who associate with libertarian ideas feel the need to qualify the “libertarian” with a more acceptable line of beliefs. In this case, the term “libertarian Democrat” allows the man to take a stance on an issue he is concerned with, marijuana, and yet keep his foot firmly planted in establishment thought by adding the “Democrat” afterward.

In today’s political realm, we most commonly see this phenomenon associated with the rise of “libertarian Republicans”.

The problem with the qualifiers is that they can muddy the ideas of just what “libertarian” means. When a “libertarian Republican” like Rand Paul says “any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States”, will the casual observer make any distinction as to whether this is the “libertarian” or the “Republican” talking? (Hint: it’s not the libertarian!)

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i noticed

rothbard likens "incrementalism" to mean "fabianism" then the author, takes his lead, and likens incrementalism to what "marxists "would describe as "opportunists." (do we care what marxists call anything?")

in the end, the point of this article is to convince the reader that if you believe in incrementalism, you are a "fabian-marxist- opportunist." and isn't that ironic? since doing that, also, makes this peice a qualifier in of itself.

the fact remains that if you look closely, you will notice anarchists just use libertarian qualifiers to obscure the fact that they are actually anarchists.

not that there's anything wrong with an anarchy. i, myself, am one.

i just wish they would stop masquerading behind the libertarian banner, while admonishing anyone else who believed in incrementalism. heaven forbid Rand suggest a tax decrease. He aught to be ashamed of himself that fabian opportinist!

Actually...

with the "Marxists would describe as opportunists" also came from that very same section in For a New Liberty, I was just keeping with describing Rothbard's point. I don't particularly care what Marxists call anything, but it would be hard to argue with their political success, wouldn't it? Marxists have been very successful at creating a centrally planned economy, heck they even got a central bank! Did they do it by advocate for *some* government intervention in money? No, they advocated for a central bank with *full* control over the nation's currency.

I do find Rothbard's reference to the Marxists interesting, as it is one of political strategy. And your political strategy is to beg for a "1% decrease in spending over 5 or 6 years" you can expect that the best case scenario in a compromise you will get maybe just a 1% increase in spending.

As jao points out below, the issue is not about incrementalism per se, but how one goes about advocating on an issue. If you can only get 1%, we'll certainly take that over nothing. But to *advocate* for 1%?

Well I can see why Rand uses that qualifier.

http://lionsofliberty.com/
*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

As a political strategy then you would agree?

This strategy of starting local, getting involved at the local level with country central committees, city councel, and so on and so forth sounds a lot like what our Founders envisioned.

That strategy should also sound familiar because it's Ron Paul's long-goal strategy to reform the GOP in this manner.

G Edward Griffin notes that Marxists-Lenninists similarly planned to take over the system from within, incrementally. And, in his presentation, "An Idea Whos Time has Come," advocates that libertarians should replicate their working strategy.

That would be an appropriate write-up.

You on the other hand use Rothbard's excerpt to draw inappropriate analogies to Rand with high-energy buzz words like "oppurtinist," and "marxist."

But that is not consistent.

If you were consistent with your belief, you would also call Ron a "Lennonist-opportunist" for advocating reforming the government, locally from within.

Or if you truly wanted to be a Walter Block hero, you would drop the whole thing, re-write your article Defending-the-Indefensible-style, substitute in the words "Rand Paul" with "anarchist" and take pride that you can see the world without a polarized lense.

Burn-it-all-down-anarchists who call themselves "libertarian" are also just as guilty of using the same qualifiers that you accuse the Senator from KY of doing.

point for point

"This strategy of starting local, getting involved at the local level with country central committees, city councel, and so on and so forth sounds a lot like what our Founders envisioned.

That strategy should also sound familiar because it's Ron Paul's long-goal strategy to reform the GOP in this manner.

G Edward Griffin notes that Marxists-Lenninists similarly planned to take over the system from within, incrementally. And, in his presentation, "An Idea Whos Time has Come," advocates that libertarians should replicate their working strategy."

Sure, that's a fine strategy for those that who choose to take that path. I don't think it's the path for everyone. I've seen Grffin's speech and agree, it seems to fall right in line with what Ron Paul is advocating within the GOP. For those that take interest in politics and see that as a salvation, it's fine and dandy.

"That would be an appropriate write-up."

Then write it up.

"You on the other hand use Rothbard's excerpt to draw inappropriate analogies to Rand with high-energy buzz words like "oppurtinist," and "marxist."

But that is not consistent.

If you were consistent with your belief, you would also call Ron a "Lennonist-opportunist" for advocating reforming the government, locally from within."

Your going a bit off the rails here,at no point do a call Rand Paul or anybody else a "Marxist" other than Marxists. In the context of Rothbard's comparison the term "right-wing opportunist" seems to apply perfectly. It is all about context. Please read the original Rothbard, Chapter 15 of "For a New Liberty" for better context.

"Or if you truly wanted to be a Walter Block hero, you would drop the whole thing, re-write your article Defending-the-Indefensible-style, substitute in the words "Rand Paul" with "anarchist" and take pride that you can see the world without a polarized lense.

Burn-it-all-down-anarchists who call themselves "libertarian" are also just as guilty of using the same qualifiers that you accuse the Senator from KY of doing."

Ok, you've honestly lost me here. I'm happy to respond further once I get just what it is you're getting at, but to be clear at no point do I refer to Rand or others as "Marxists". I do believe we should all be wary of politicians who tend to use the libertarian qualifiers, and keep an eye on their moves and statements. Or do you believe we should blindly follow any of those that don the "liberty/libertarian" qualifier moniker?

http://lionsofliberty.com/
*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

my write-up

let-it-all-burn-down-anarchists often fly the libertarian banner. they do so under points you've already identified. They muddy the idea of what libertarian means, and the casual observer doesn't get to see the distiction between an anarchist and libertarian. the anarchist might have libertarian thoughts. Libertarian on weed, on abortion, on free markets, but is 'let it all burn down' on the body politic in general. the let-it-all-burn-down anarchist doesn't care about feinstein, lieberman, or the other 49 senators. he only spends his energy discrediting the 1 senator who is making actual incremental positive change. the let-it-all-burn-down anarchist willingly hides behind the label "libertarian" to tone down their own radicalism. The anarchist often doesn't even know she is doing this, but finds herself doing it perhaps to allow friends/relatives to stay in their comfort zone. This behavior allows our friend to say "Hey I agree with you about ending the wars, but let's not talk about how you secretly want rome to burn down."

If the task of libertarians in government is to make progress toward a limited, Constitutional government, then great. However, we clearly need to watch out for that buzzingly dangerous guy from KY. [The End]

speaking of "out-of-context," if you actually were consistent you would have read up on the 1% penny plan that you seem to have misquoted out of this article: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-08/rand-paul-on... which has also been explained by in other interviews and articles. Here is one such example:

"[T]he One Cent Solution is beautifully simple: If the government cuts one cent out of every dollar of its total spending (excluding interest payments) each year for five years, and then caps overall federal spending at 18 percent of national income from then on, we can: Reduce federal spending by $7.5 trillion over 10 years [and] Balance the budget by 2019."

More info here:

http://www.theusreport.com/the-us-report/2013/2/20/sen-paul-...

Is this not radical enough for you?

an anarchist

An anarchist is just a libertarian who takes the philosophy to it's logical, consistent end.

I'll up vote you, credit for at least writing it up post call out, even if I disagree completely!

http://lionsofliberty.com/
*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

Incrementalism

Incrementalism is not the problem. The issue is the means that is used to achieve incrementalism and if that method distort the principles of liberty. For example, two avenues to reduce the income tax would be to call for abolishing the income tax and to call for a reduction in the income tax. A libertarian would embrace a lower income tax universally, but would not approve of the latter methhod, because it is not based on libertarian principles.

bump

Always amazes me

That to many people "libertarian" has to be qualified, whereas the two parties that need defending and people should be ashamed to associate with are Repub and Dem.