Murray Rothbard on Libertarian QualifiersSubmitted by Marc Clair on Mon, 08/19/2013 - 13:01
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!)