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Dogmatic Libertarians: Libertarian on Everything - Except Liberty?

The American Liberty movement is no longer nascent. Its mainstreaming is under way, as evidenced by this article in the New York Times - the paper that (almost) defines the American mainstream - about the impact of liberty-focused activists on the ("mainstream") Republican party, as reflected at CPAC last week.

Both culturally and politically, libertarianism is on the rise.

At its simplest, it is a philosophy that asserts the simple principle that we are all free to live our lives as we please inasmuch as we do not limit the freedom of others to do the same. It recognizes that we all have different backgrounds, desires and ambitions, and different metrics and systems for judging the behaviors and choices of ourselves and others.

Since it rests on the notion that one human being cannot know what is best for another - or at least cannot know it better than the other person, himself - it is an essentially humble philosophy in disposition and an essentially tolerant philosophy in prescription. Indeed, tolerance, manifest as lack of aggression, is just about its only hard-and-fast prescription.

Dogmatic Libertarians: Libertarian on Everything – Except Liberty

The American Liberty movement is no longer nascent. Its mainstreaming is under way, as evidenced by this article in the New York Times - the paper that (almost) defines the American mainstream - about the impact of liberty-focused activists on the (“mainstream”) Republican party, as reflected at CPAC last week.

Both culturally and politically, libertarianism is on the rise.

At its simplest, it is a philosophy that asserts the simple principle that we are all free to live our lives as we please inasmuch as we do not limit the freedom of others to do the same. It recognizes that we all have different backgrounds, desires and ambitions, and different metrics and systems for judging the behaviors and choices of ourselves and others.

Since it rests on the notion that one human being cannot know what is best for another – or at least cannot know it better than the other person, himself, it is an essentially humble philosophy in disposition and an essentially tolerant philosophy in prescription. Indeed, tolerance, manifest as lack of aggression, is just about its only hard-and-fast prescription.

Because libertarians put the moral burden of justification on those who would use coercion (reduce liberty) to do good, and the State is inherently coercive (it puts you in jail if you don’t comply), they emphasize civil society as critical to delivering welfare to those less fortunate among us. Civil society includes non-state organizations, formed voluntarily, that act privately to better the lives of their members and, usually, their non-members. These organizations can be more nimble and effective than the state as the good they do does not involve the forced transfer of resources from some people to others, nor does it involve the use of such co-opted resources in ways that the people from whom they are taken would not approve. Moreover, civil society can often deliver much more targeted remedies of social and economic injustice than can the one-size-fits-all programs of government. A libertarian society, then, harnesses for social good the civility of the people who comprise it.

So there we have the three dispositions of a good libertarian: humility, tolerance of diversity, and civility.

Strange, then, that arguably the biggest drag on the rise of libertarian thought is the lack of humility, tolerance and civility of some of its most fervent advocates.

Per the article linked above, for example, there are those who insist that those who would pursue liberty within the political duopoly – usually by trying to change the Republican party from within – are naïve. On the other hand, there are those who believe that those who would try to go outside the duopoly to do so are naïve. Both groups are so sure of their own rightness that they won’t even celebrate the attempt of their fellows to pursue a different path to the same end, just in case their ability to predict the future might be imperfect and/or their shared goals might benefit from multiple approaches by people with different experiences and perspectives.

Dogmatic libertarians are the people who see any agreement to reduce an infringement of liberty as “selling out” if it does not eliminate that infringement altogether; these are the people who dismiss as worthless or insincere the liberty-promoting actions of a politician just because that politician is actually willing to play politics and even make concessions to circumstance to stay in the game so that he can do any good at all; these are the people who see all compromise as proof of a lack of values – or of virtue; they see the choosing of battles as proof of a lack of commitment to the war rather than tactics for winning it; these are the people who won’t listen to an idea – or even consider a quotation – from someone they have decided isn’t a “real libertarian” even if that someone has special experience of the issue of which they speak; these are the people who will never admit a tension between libertarian means and libertarian ends. In short, these are people who insist that everyone should be free to think and do as they please – but will happily put you down should you disagree about how best to make everyone free to think and do as they please.

None of this is to say there is necessarily a problem with what these dogmatists believe. In as much as these are better-than-normally informed lovers of liberty, there usually isn’t. The problem, rather, concerns the way they believe it: it is epistemic. One can’t identify a dogmatist from the content of his beliefs; one can’t even identify him by looking at how he regards contrary beliefs: rather, he is identified by how he treats fellow liberty advocates who hold different beliefs.

Such political religionists, who broach no ecumenism, seem to lack the moral humility on which their purported political religion depends: they are entirely convinced, albeit subconsciously, that there can be no new idea, and no new piece of information about the world or their own perspective, or anything in the experience or thinking of those with whom they disagree, that could show their view of an issue to be incomplete, let alone wrong, in any way that really matters. To quote Bertrand Russell, “Subjective certainty is inversely proportional to objective certainty.”

This allows them to impugn the character or capacity, rather than just the positions, of those who could be allies in the pursuit of liberty with whom they disagree . It allows them to dismiss their opponent, and the possibility that he might know something that they don’t know – that he may have, in fact, read what they read, thought what they thought and even previously shared their position – before discovering something new, or unusual, that warranted a revision. In short, they disrespect the very use of the intellectual freedom that they purport to celebrate and protect. Russell again: “The degree of one's emotion varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts - the less you know the hotter you get.”

The exercise of freedom, of course, depends on freedom of thought – the freedom to explore the world, physically and intellectually, and then, based on what you find, to form ideas, to change those ideas, to grow and to evolve. To insist on a politics of liberty, and therefore of tolerance, without tolerating others’ approaches to promoting just such a politics, is to falsify one’s philosophy - and to justify the skepticism of all those who want nothing to do with a libertarianism that lacks the very civility in which it puts so much store.

Why am I picking on libertarians? Aren’t political advocates of all stripes guilty of lack of humility, tolerance and civility? Aren’t dogmatists found among conservatives, progressives, etc?

Of course they are.

But for libertarians, things are a little different. Libertarians must hold themselves to a higher epistemic standard. They preach freedom, and its complement, tolerance, as the core of their worldview. They, then, are alone in making hypocrites of themselves when they aggress in their manners or words against those who have different ideas about how best, in practice, to make a freer society. Other political philosophies (socialism, religious conservatism etc.) make no claim that freedom of thought and action, and its compliment, tolerance, are at the core of the Good life.

My second reason for picking on libertarians is, of course, personal: they form the broad political family to which I belong. And while I am quite content to let the statists and religious right, for example, break themselves on their own arrogance or ignorance or both, I hope that we, who put liberty front and center, never to do the same.

Liberty does not stand alone. It is not the be-all-and-end-all – for it pre-supposes Truth. First, a commitment to liberty, as to all political principles, assumes that true statements can be made (such as, “the Good life depends on liberty”) and second, liberty only has value if people can seek and establish truths based on which they can make conscious choices in their own self-interest.

This commitment to truth both depends on and nurtures intellectual humility. This is most easily seen in the progress of science, which advances toward truth by recognizing that it has not yet found it. Science goes one step further – to seek actively to falsify itself and thereby to improve its current understanding of the world. That the search for truth is, in this way, always asymptotic, is perhaps the most important paradox of life: to move closer to Truth, one must be continuously aware of one’s inability to know it completely.

In contrast, the attitude of the intellectual dogmatist, libertarian or otherwise, is more like, “I have found the truth that matters, and from this position of “having arrived”, I can see that those who are not here are intellectually or morally flawed.” This is the very opposite of the humble epistemology of robust libertarianism, but plenty of libertarians behave this way.

Most of us have probably experienced this unbecoming attitude among some of religion’s least attractive adherents. For example, many of us know people who proclaim a Christian faith but use what is essentially a philosophy of Love to justify behavior toward others that is clearly unloving. What is particularly interesting – and relevant – is that they will often be able to explain with some coherence, depth, and clear sincerity, why their actions are loving, even though our human nature – our own direct experience of loving or being loved, for example, - tells us that there must be something wrong with their explanation, even if we cannot exactly articulate it.

It is as if their actions speak louder than their words. If such people were to design our political institutions and occupy our political offices, would it be their words or their behaviors that would determine what it felt like to live under them? Now replace “Christians” with “libertarians”, and “love” with “humility, tolerance and civility”, and ask the same question.

If I had to choose, I’d rather inhabit a world of civil, open-minded statists, with whom I profoundly disagree, than one of dogmatists of any stripe - even libertarian. Why? Because if the statists are open-minded, then they will be interested in the evidence of experience and, if they are civil, we will have a healthy exchange of ideas and be able to improve our shared community. Meanwhile, I will enjoy my humanity in relationships of mutual respect. Sharing space with the dogmatic libertarian, however, will be tolerable, if dull, until we disagree – which we will, because we are human. At that point, the lack of any compromise or, therefore, the prospect of being able to improve our community in a mutually satisfactory way, along with the being looked down upon for my erroneous understanding of liberty - even as I am politically “free” to act as I will - would make me quite miserable.

If a libertarian world is made happy by replacing political aggression and force with the actions of people who are civil and tolerant, then we cannot expect people to come to our side if we cannot even exhibit those qualities when we interact with allies who seek such a world, just because they seek it in ways whose effectiveness we question.

Surely, libertarians will have the best chance of turning our present “libertarian moment” into a sweeping libertarian movement if we pursue liberty with the humility, civility and tolerance of diversity with which we are seeking to replace the arrogance, corruption and authoritarianism that infect our politics today.

Please, be libertarian about your libertarianism.

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Another masterful article.

I only hope that those who need to hear it the most will have the patience to read and understand it.

The Virtual Conspiracy

Nice article. But what the

Nice article. But what the hell is this? floccinaucinihilipilification? Actually, never mind, I googled it. But where on earth did you learn such a word? Even reading the phonetic spelling is exhausting.

Per Adam Kokesh

"The "conservative movement" is a liberal conspiracy to keep people who love freedom from understanding it and becoming libertarian." Thoughts ?

Ron Swanson

Things that make ya go hmmm....

I posted the following text in a comment on Daily Paul on 3/10/12 about Mr. Koerner.

Robin Koerner’s site “Watching America” as described by Wikipedia:

Watching America is a website that promotes global opinion about the United States by translating foreign articles from foreign newspapers into English. It was launched in 2005 by founder Robin Koerner. Watching America states its goal is “to reflect as accurately as possible how others perceive the richest and most powerful country in the world.”

The site posts newly translated articles up on a daily basis, along with a link to the original article. The translations are done by native speakers of the relevant languages. It currently translates articles from Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Persian, Polish Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, and Urdu.

Watching America is regularly checked out by American intelligence agencies, such as the Defense Department. Koerner states this is ""because we're doing some of their work for them...""[3] It has also been linked by Foreign Policy, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The Christian Science Monitor as well as cited in various published popular books and academic sources as a source.

I re-checked the Wiki site tonight and, guess what, the third paragraph has been deleted. Hmmm…

Robin Koerner's picture

Feel free to put it that paragraph back in!

Seems like you are trying to insinuate something!

I didn't write that entry on Watching America - but I did say that in a radio interview about 7/8 years ago.

It was actually a bit of a dig at the intelligence agencies. They scour the foreign press (all publicly available of course) as do we. Whereas they use the information they glean for state purposes, we just make it available in English to Americans. Americans could do that themselves of course, but we translate so they don't have to.

Its valuable work - and I am very happy to help Americans to see how their government's policy is perceived outside the US, by translating into English the opinions of those affected by US policy. It is actually a pretty cool effort in the service of waking people up to what is done in their name.

Tolerance in the face of fascism = suicide.

You want us to be chummy with control freaks willing to leverage the brute force of the Fed's against us?

I do agree with the notion that the "all or nothing" crowd is a real liability.

But this???

"If I had to choose, I'd rather inhabit a world of civil, open-minded statists, with whom I profoundly disagree, than one of dogmatists of any stripe - even libertarian."

That comment disgusts me.

Robin Koerner's picture

Obviously not.

I want us to be chummy with each other so we can persuade all of those who are victims of the brute force of the Fed/state - and haven't discovered liberty - what the problem is and get them to join us.

People tend to listen to, and be more easily persuaded by, people who display the qualities displayed in the article.

There is not one word in this article that suggests we should be chummy with people who support tyranny. It is entirely about being open to others who want to roll back tyranny but disagree on the details of how to do it.

I can't get past this.

Definition of Dogma: An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.

You said you prefer statists to dogmatists.

So tell me me sir, what freedom principle should we barter away to the statists? i suppose you want "conversation". I take it you desire compromise.

It sounds like you are very much at home in the current politics system... which basically amounts to on going compromising with statists.

We say, spending should not exceed 20% of GNP. The status screams for 24% and accuses you of racism. WE compromise at 22%. We go have cocktails. The next year the statist wants 26%. We insist on staying at 22%. The statist screams we hate the poor. We agree to compromise at 24% We go have cocktails.

And on and on...

We are extorted into civility. We are defamed into compromise.

Yet you see us as the dogmatists.

If we become radicalized and refuse compromise and refuse to chit chat and share cocktails with our statists friends, we are uncompromising dogmatists. We are very bad unpleasant people.

You enjoy your cocktail parties. You value civility. You appreciate when your statist buddies listen politely and thoughtfully nod their head as you spout Austrian economics. You are comfortable with the servility. After all, we are all gentlemen, right?

Pacifism To Nationalism = Tyranny. Local Control = Republics.

John Locke:

Locke 6. But though this be a state of liberty (in the STATE OF NATURE WITHOUT GOVERNMENT), yet it is not a state of licence; though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it.

The "State of Nature" has a "LAW OF NATURE" to govern it, which obliges every one, and REASON, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions; for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not one another's pleasure.

And, being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of Nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorise us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours. Every one as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

Locke 7. And that all men may be restrained from invading others' rights, and from doing hurt to one another, and the law of Nature be observed, which willeth the peace and preservation of all mankind, the execution of the "LAW OF NATURE" is in that state put into every man's hands, whereby every one has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree as may hinder its violation. For the Law of Nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain if there were nobody that in the "State of Nature" had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders; and if any one in the "State of Nature" may punish another for any evil he has done, every one may do so. For in that state of perfect equality, where naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, every one must needs have a right to do.

Locke 8. And thus, in the state of Nature, one man comes by a power over another, but yet no absolute or arbitrary power to use a criminal, when he has got him in his hands, according to the passionate heats or boundless extravagancy of his own will, but only to retribute to him so far as calm reason and conscience dictate, what is proportionate to his transgression, which is so much as may serve for reparation and restraint. For these two are the only reasons why one man may lawfully do harm to another, which is that we call punishment.

In transgressing the "LAW OF NATURE", the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men for their mutual security, and so he becomes dangerous to mankind; the tie which is to secure them from injury and violence being slighted and broken by him, which being a trespass against the whole species, and the peace and safety of it, provided for by the "LAW OF NATURE", every man upon this score, by the right he hath to preserve mankind in general, may restrain, or where it is necessary, destroy things noxious to them, and so may bring such evil on any one who hath transgressed that law, as may make him repent the doing of it, and thereby deter him, and, by his example, others from doing the like mischief. And in this case, and upon this ground, every man hath a right to punish the offender, and be executioner of the "LAW OF NATURE"."...

Locke 57: "....So that however it may be mistaken, the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws,

where there is no law there is no freedom.

For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others,

which cannot be where there is no law;

and is NOT, as we are told, "a liberty for every man to do what he lists. (i.e. WANTS)"

For who could be free, when every other man's humour might domineer over him?

But a liberty to dispose and order freely as he lists his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property "WITHIN" the allowance of those laws under which he "IS", and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own. ..."

(APP: This is why it is a necessity to have SMALL, as were the original states, well represented societies - See: http://www.americanpatriotparty.cc/americanpatriotpartynewsl... and a VERY LIMITED Federal government as intended: See: Virginia Ratifying Convention: 6-16-1788 http://www.americanpatriotparty.cc/americanpatriotpartynewsl... and Virginia &v Kentucky Resolutions, 1798: http://www.americanpatriotparty.cc/candidates

...Where James Madison states the United States is "NOT" "ONE SOVEREIGNTY" - i.e "NOT" "ONE NATION" or if it becomes so, we will become a "MIXED MONARCHY" and Change from being a Republic which was intended in the ORIGINAL COMPACT;

Which is first on the list to correct;

See The Kentucky Resolutions 1798 and Virginia Ratifying Convention 6-16-1788 that the federal government cannot define or procecute but the 4 crimes allowed it; Nor govern police outside the 10 miles square of Washington, Nor make any regulation that even MAY affect the "Citizens of the Union at Large")

Locke 212. "...Besides this overturning from without, governments are "DISSOLVED" from within:

First. When the legislative is altered,...

....When any one, or more, shall take upon them to make laws whom the people have not appointed so to do,

they make laws without authority, which the people are not therefore bound to obey;

by which means they come again to be out of subjection, and may constitute to themselves a new legislative, as they think best, being in full liberty to resist the force of those who, without authority, would impose anything upon them. Every one is at the disposure of his own will, when those who had, by the "delegation" of the society, the declaring of the public will, are excluded from it, and others usurp the place who have no such authority or delegation. ..."

"...220. In these, and the like cases, when the government is dissolved, the people are at liberty to provide for themselves by erecting a new legislative differing from the other by the change of persons, or form, or both, as they shall find it most for their safety and good. For the society (the people) can never, by the fault of another, lose the native and original right it has to preserve itself, which can only be done by a settled legislative (limited by the original constitutional compact - defined by the ratifying conventions that defined the powers of that legislative) and a fair and impartial execution of the laws made by it.

But the state of mankind is not so miserable that they are not capable of using this remedy till it be too late to look for any.

To tell people they may provide for themselves by erecting a new legislative, when, by oppression, artifice, or being delivered over to a foreign power, their old one is gone,

is only to tell them they may expect relief when it is too late,

and the evil is past cure.

This is, in effect, no more than to bid them first be slaves, and then to take care of their liberty, and, when their chains are on, tell them they may act like free men.

This, if barely so, is rather mockery than relief,

and men can never be secure from tyranny if there be no means to escape it till they are perfectly under it;

and, therefore,

it is that they have not only a right to get out of it, but to prevent it. ..."

Locke 221. There is, therefore, secondly, another way whereby governments are dissolved, and that is, when the legislative, or the prince, either of them act contrary to their trust.

(APP: i.e. contrary to the LIMITED "DELEGATED" granted in the "ORIGINAL CONSTITUTIONAL COMPACT" for which NO NEW POWER COULD BE CREATED BY THE FEDERAL LEGISLATORS BY "ANY MEANS" - Includes Ratification and amendments which were means of CURBING powers or making changes WITHIN the DELEGATED powers; NOT EVER FOR ARROGATING NEW POWERS - NOT EVEN BY ONE STEP:

See Virginia Ratifying Convention 6-16-1788: http://www.americanpatriotparty.cc/americanpatriotpartynewsl... )

"....For the legislative acts against the trust reposed in them when they endeavour to invade the property of the subject, and to make themselves, or any part of the community, masters or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties, or fortunes of the people.

Locke 222. The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property; and the end while they choose and authorise a legislative is that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the society, to limit the power and moderate the dominion of every part and member of the society. For since it can never be supposed to be the will of the society that the legislative should have a power to destroy that which every one designs to secure by entering into society, and for which the people submitted themselves to legislators of their own making: whenever the legislators endeavour to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge which God hath provided for all men against force and violence. Whensoever, therefore, the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society, and either by ambition, fear, folly, or corruption,

(APP Note: See this in Samuel Adams Statement within the Rights of the Colonists, 1772: "If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.")

endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people, by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends,

and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty, and by the establishment of a new legislative (such as they shall think fit), provide for their own safety and security, (APP Note: See this in the Declaration of Independence) which is the end for which they are in society. ..."

5 Founders Documents.pdf:

American Patriot Party.CC

FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Patriot-Party-CC-Nat...

Patrick Henry - Virginia Ratifying Convention 6-16-1788:

"...We are told, we are afraid to trust ourselves; that our own representatives Congress will not exercise their powers oppressively; that we shall not enslave ourselves; that the militia cannot enslave themselves, &c.

WHO has enslaved France, Spain, Germany, Turkey, and other countries which groan under tyranny?

They have been "ENSLAVED" by the hands of their "OWN PEOPLE".

If it will be so in America, it will be only as it has beenevery where else. ..."

RichardTaylorAPP - Chair - American Patriot Party.CC

John Locke #201, 202, 212 to 232; Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions 1798; Virginia Ratifying Convention 6-16-1788; Rights of the Colonists 1772.

So the point of this is...

...Some Libertarians are "do as I say not as I do" Libertarians? One cannot expect an ENTIRE group of people who share the same philosophy to act like identical well behaved clones.

Label Jars, Not People!

I think this article tends to

I think this article tends to exagerate a little.

1: everyone sounds like a dick on forums. That's just how it is. You don't get any tone in text, and our default position seems to be to interpret written word as if being screamed at us by an asshole.

2: fervent disagreement in no way equals a desire to use force to make stop the opposition's viewpoint. There are many "libertarian" approaches I think are silly and won't get us anywhere. Sometimes I'll even argue against them. However I firmly believe this needs to be a multi-pronged attack where each of us come at the state in ways we know best, or are passionate about. No one can know which will be most effective. My guess is nearly every libertarian on the planet, no matter how sure they are of their own method would agree with that. Competition is the root of Capitalism.

I doubt there is a single Libertarian who believe in using force to curtail other libertarian's viewpoints. Of course once you die, that's a whole new ballgame (and an issue for another heated debate where we hate on each other).

3: We are all of us very accustomed to dealing with the stupid/uninformed/un(mis)educated. Many of us have to deal regularly with people who are hostile to liberty out of their own ignorance. I'm not talking a difference on approach to liberty, I mean downright hostility to it. I tried for nearly an hour the other day to get through to one of my close family relations about why pot should be legal (and i'm one of the few who don't smoke it). She was perfectly fine with alcohol, even though her spouse died from alcoholism. And she's a chronic gambler. When I asked if the state should make gambling illegal and throw people like her in a cage for having done it, she just got upset and refused to make the connection to weed. Instead just regressed back to "You can't do anything, and you won't get anywhere with all your crazy political stuff." So is it any wonder that some of us show a lack of patience at times for that which we regard as "stupid?" A flaw, yes, but a forgivable one considering how quickly that all flies out the window the second the call for liberty is heard and we have to band together. I might be your most despised forum foe if we're discussing religion, but the moment a cause of liberty needs me, ill work 24/7 beside you and be your best friend.

4: I have no problem treating non-libertarians like they are stupid. They ARE stupid (at least in their political beliefs). There are a million philosophies and religions out there who all claim to know the truth. Libertarianism is different than all of them in that it is the one which does not deprive anyone of their rights in order to work. It is the ONLY one which does no harm to anyone who either follows it, or must live according to its law. You can literally believe in/practice/worship whatever the hell you please so long as you don't deprive anyone else of their rights. THAT is truth.

Conclusion: Don't get too worked up about people being rude on the internet. Much like road-rage, the internet lets us approach one another from a bubble of anonymity, and at times, civility takes a hit, though at least you always get honest opinions.

All libertarians are best friends when push comes to shove, and we will always come together for the cause, in whichever way we deem best when the time comes. When Rand Paul runs, we will rally for him. Some won't and they will be busy telling us how dumb we are, and we'll probably return fire. In the end, they'll do things their way and we'll do things our way, and liberty will overcome.

our default position seems to be to interpret written word as if

"our default position seems to be to interpret written word as if being screamed at us by an asshole."
-What an interesting observation. I don't interpret other's written words that way in the least. Is that common among others? I wonder...

Go join a religious debate

Go join a religious debate and attempt to say something contrary to someone else in the most sweet and polite way possible.

Okay. I'll give it a shot.

Thank you for the insight though. I would've never known that you (or potentially others) interpret the written word in that way.


I try to live by the rule

I try to live by the rule that whenever I read something, to picture a sweet grandmother voice so as not to be offended. It my experience, if something can be taken two ways, good or bad, people nearly always read it in the worst possible way.

Oh how we forget so easily....

Ron Paul was a libertarian purist. His voting record and philosophy shown this.

I agree with the moral approach more than the go along to get along approach. Tolerance is one thing, but bending over backwards to gain acceptance is another. Forgive me if I don't feel the need to play nice with slave owners....

I'm out of government politics and have been for a while now as I see the system as the problem, but I can say that even a mini-anarchist should stand on principle more than anything. Purity isn't a dirty word, it's an extreme compliment.

Robin Koerner's picture

Ron Paul

.. was and is the epitome of what this article advocates.

He is civil, tolerant and humble. He has never put anyone down for disagreeing with him. He has never, as far as I know, questioned a person's moral or intellectual integrity for disagreeing with him.

He has worked in the LP and worked in the GOP. He forms alliances for liberty with those who do not accept his worldview.

Paul is very philosophically pure, but epistemically, he is not a purist in the sense of this article.

When Paul is asked, "What should I do for liberty?", he says "Whatever you want" He doesn't give a prescription or tell you you're a sell-out or impure because you choose a different path from his own.

I also think (but I haven't confirmed) that Ron Paul pays his taxes. Like everyone else, then, he compromises with authoritarianism that he believes is illegitimate - just like we all do to avoid being in jail. And that doesn't make him unprincipled.

This article is a call for us to be more like Ron Paul.

Right on Brother ^^


It's been my experience

in observing many debates over the years between ancaps and minarchists that the former are overwhelmingly the more civil. The most belligerent people I have seen of late are Rand Paul supporters. I'm not at all saying that all Rand supporters are this way, but there is a strain (especially on Ron Paul Forums) who choose ad hominem attacks rather than hashing out the issues in a civil way.


"The people who don't believe like me are worse."


"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."

Click Here To See The Candidates On The Record

Robin Koerner's picture


I just want to acknowledge this.

As I am at pains to say in the article, the "purism" does not refer to any particular view: it refers to the way one holds one's views and treats others who do not.

Lack of civility, tolerance, humility etc. can be and is found among all parts of our movement, and it's counter-productive wherever it is.

Some people have read this article as a pro-Rand or pro-GOP thing, which of course it isn't.

I think most people are naturally more attuned to this problem when it is associated with a position that differs from one's own.

I just want to make a big tent for liberty so we can start defining the mainstream.

I've seen both, but your point is well taken....

....but here's a question.

Speaking purely mathematically, not trying to prove any point than just analyzing numbers...

Out of the 1% (or 5%, possibly 8%, pick your percentage) of the VOTING public who are big or small L libertarian, emphasis on VOTING, since we are talking about elections, what percentage of that percentage are ancaps and what % are minarchists.

In battle we have to look at facts on the ground.

I believe, and I could be wrong, that of the, let us say 5%, of the VOTING libertarian public, that perhaps 1 of those 5 (i.e. 20%) are ancaps and 4 of those 5 (i.e. 80%) are minarchists.

Thoughts on that?


The issue of disagreement (as supported by free speech while moral pre-judgment is another matter) between Libertarian advocates is less critical than the standard Party's undefined role of private/public domains, and/or the popular mis-association of Libertarianism with Anarchism.

I subsequently believe that a principled answer can be found in volitional public Trusts
while criminal law is justly applied when ethical agency is conscionably violated
(which is why I also endorse a Dignitarian ideology)

I wonder Mr. Koerner as another citizen involved in the political arena and in the subsequent spirit of refinement, if you might be interested in a friendly debate between ourselves as representatives of divergent philosophies that could possibly be arranged here on Daily Paul or Blue Republican Radios with a willing host, as well as promoting it through other open outlets?

While ultimately acknowledging that we do share the common cause of free agency, I further believe that such a public event would be quite enlightening, informative and engaging.

Michael Galganski

Is it just me, or does this

Is it just me, or does this read to others as a subtle poke at those who are not lining up behind Rand?

When working in politics, a libertarian - when deciding whether to and how fervently to support a politician - must distinguish between a libertarian pusuing the furtherance of liberty through the political system, and a liberty leaning politician. Both will further the goal from where we are, but the latter will eventually want to lead the country in directions that the libertarian does not support. Caution, therefore, is appropriate.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

Robin Koerner's picture

So frustrating....

... that it's not clear that this isn't a poke at anyone with any particular view or another.

I am not lining up behind Rand.

This is aimed at being tolerant of and civil to those who don't share one's own views. You don't have to line up with Rand to accept that other liberty-lovers might do so.

But it goes the other way too. There are Rand-fans who treat those who refuse to work within the GOP without tolerance and civility. And that is just as bad.

I thought I had made that point entirely explicit here:

for example, there are those who insist that those who would pursue liberty within the political duopoly - usually by trying to change the Republican party from within - are naïve. *** On the other hand, there are those who believe that those who would try to go outside the duopoly to do so are naïve. *** *** Both groups are so sure of their own rightness that they won't even celebrate the attempt of their fellows to pursue a different path to the same end ***, just in case their ability to predict the future might be imperfect and/or their shared goals might benefit from multiple approaches by people with different experiences and perspectives.

... where i called out the same attitude on both sides of the Rand/GOP question.

Once again, this is about the narrowness with which one holds one's position... not the rightness or wrongness of any particular position.

Have you had a chance to read Rothbards take?

(Sound like Jesse Benton, and Rand rolled into one)

"In any ideological movement, the temptation to take quick shortcuts, the lure of betraying principle for supposed short-run gain, can become almost irresistible. But usually sellouts have occurred after the movement has taken power, or else when it is teetering on the brink of power. But it is surely rare for an ideological movement to sell out when it merely sniffs the faintest whiff of possible power some day in the future. Surely this is gutlessness and venality of an unusually high order. Yet this began to happen to the growing libertarian movement in early 1979, and is happening right now before our eyes.

This new opportunist strategy we might call, with considerable and much-merited sarcasm, the “quick-victory” model. The reasoning goes something like this: All this principle stuff is just a drag on the machinery. We can gain a rapid and enormous leap forward in votes, money, membership, and media influence. But to gain these great goals we must quietly but effectively bury these annoying principles, which only put off voters, money, influence, etc."

Thank you for clearing that

Thank you for clearing that up for me. Civility is always in order, but please understand that someone who is cautious about Rand's (and his follower's) intentions may not yet be ready to celebrate the effort.

Eyes open and watching with an open mind though.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

two different issues here

1) Civility - we should always be civil to each other, treat each others with respect, and avoid personal attacks.

2) Criticism of opposing views - this should be encouraged, not discouraged, as long as it is done in a civil manner.

"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind." - Khalil Gibran
"The Perfect Man has no self; the Holy Man has no merit; the Sage has no fame." - Chuang Tzu

Robin Koerner's picture

I hope ...

... that it's absolutely clear that this is exactly what this article is arguing for.

No more. No less.

Civility is explicitly advocated.

And tolerance and humility, also advocated, are what make the criticism of ideas possible without degeneration into attacks on the people who hold them.


Was it our lack of civility that lost Ron the election in 2012

Or was it Rand, and Jesse looking for a long term job. If we are too act more "civil" why not just quit and go home.

I have been a part of this movement for almost 7 years and I have never in all these years EVER seen libertarians as being uncivil. Hell how many primaries broke out into FIGHTS becuase of us ? How many times did WE call the cops on US?

What you are doing is concern trolling. You act like you care but if you really did you would focus on the one thing holding us together -- philosophy. If you ever expect the other parties to play by any rules you're deluding us, and mostly yourself.

Robin Koerner's picture

I think you got...

... the wrong end of the stick.

I am not saying we should be civil to those who are uncivil to us.

I am saying we should be civil TO EACH OTHER.

It was the GOP's lack of civility and tolerance and humility, among other things, that lost Ron his place in 2012. Why would we want to emulate them? Obviously we are a ton more civil than the partisan Republicrats were. And no one wrote more against the party at that time than I did.

Your last paragraph is the problem I am referring to.

You and I obviously both want to achieve liberty. You perceive a disagreement with me. So you impugn my motivation ("concern trolling"). You impugn my sincerity ("You act like you care but"). You impugn my honesty (maybe) or integrity (maybe) ("you're deluding us and mostly yourself")

This article is pointing out that THAT way of treating those on our own side doesn't help us get where we want to go.

You could have made the same point without that last paragraph, which turns a disagreement into a personal attack.

No, I understand exactly what you mean.

But the infighting will never go away. We are literally the epicenter of philosophy in my eyes of the 21st century in America. So many people have tried to come along and complain about the few elements of a nasty few as a jab at the whole.

I remember before the primaries letters going out telling people how to dress. Only to show up to said events to have our dress code by the least of our worries.

To me our biggest problem is curbing paranoia. I can understand why some libertarians can come off harsh but the paranoia -- I cannot.

When someone has been burnt every which way I can understand they are going to be angry - or "passionate".

I remember the biggest "complaint" that became our biggest assets during 08' '12 was our energy and tenacity. Although people like Sean Hannity might call us assholes.

I just think we are like a group of cats and anyone trying to soften the language or try to recategorize us is only going to cause friction from riding against the grain.


Although I agree people should be cordial in their communications - as communication is far less effective otherwise - I reject the implications of the title.

The title of this post - Libertarian Purists: Libertarian on Everything - Except Liberty? - suggests what follows is a characterization of all "libertarian purists." However, "libertarian purists" are a diverse group of people and should not be referred to collectively. Perhaps some are obtuse name-callers, but I seriously doubt them to be a majority.

In all honesty, I took this post to be a sly way to denigrate the "libertarian purist" position while trying to garner greater acceptance for those who still wish to use the State as an avenue to enforce their prerogatives upon a society - through force if necessary.

As for the floccinaucinihilipilification paragraph, criticism of politicians (even those you mostly agree with) is a necessary part of legislative accountability. It's pertinent that when people don't like something they speak up. Just because an individual likes someone or supports them doesn't mean it is unacceptable to disagree with them from time to time.

But here's the rub....

Libertarian purists believe that people should be able to do whatever they want as long as it does not infringe on others doing the same, or result in an initiation of force against another, right?

That's what they SAY, but then out come their longknives if people independently WANT to do one or more of the following:
-work within the system
-be religious
-not engage in wild-hair conversations

So, even when small-Ls (for the sake of description) are ADHERING to the very principle that "big-L's" claim they support, the "big-Ls" pull out the longknives and instead of supporting the small-Ls as cousins (if not brothers), the call them enemies of all things.

Furthermore, the big-Ls presume that just because someone chooses to work within the system, or go to church or not engage in wild-hair conversation necessarily means that that person cannot also be working outside the system simultaneously. That presumption is flawed logic as the one does not necessarily preclude the other.

So, the point of the author is spot on. A "big-L" who finds issue with this article should pause and take a moment of reflection of her own behavior to see if she has not engaged in the very same behavior that she is finding fault with the author of this article on.

Define "long knives"

Are you referring to people vehemently disagreeing with employment of the State to achieve one's ends?

Are the "long knives" merely words?

Are you dissuaded to pursue your avenue of choice simply because someone disagrees?

This movement didn't go mainstream because we all went along to get along.

A good Patton quote:

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

Did you not read the article?

I don't recall the author ever faulting the "big-Ls" from adhering to and advancing the principles, nor from educating others as to what they are or motivating others to follow them.

In fact, I think the author actually commended the "big-Ls" for doing exactly that.

I think your response further underscores the very point the author was attempting to make.

"Big-Ls" by definition are not purist libertarians

I would consider a purist libertarian as an anarchist. "Big-Ls" are minarchists and, therefore, support at least some State coercion.

The author seemed to be referring to people that disagreed in a disrespectful manner. Something which I have not done.

If the author wishes to also label those that respectfully disagree, I wish I could give 1000 down-votes.

WOW - This was a fantastic article!

I think the entire article can be summarized in this paragraph:

"Such political religionists, who broach no ecumenism, seem to lack the moral humility on which their purported political religion depends: they are entirely convinced, albeit subconsciously, that there can be no new idea, and no new piece of information about the world or their own perspective, or anything in the experience or thinking of those with whom they disagree, that could show their view of an issue to be incomplete, let alone wrong, in any way that really matters."

However, the entire article was OUTSTANDING.


Think and rely on your intuition!

Lots of great...

...points there!

Of course, as one of those Christians talking about Love as the central thing (ad nauseum I'm sure to some), my antennae perked up on that section :) -- wondering if you had any particular examples in mind of unloving action by those who profess Love.

It is a good parallel, though -- you expect those who talk about Love to practice it, and you expect those who preach libertarian tolerance to have a charitable attitude as well. But we all fail at that sometimes -- we're all in the same boat really.


...as much as I am tolerant of not explicitly discussing Liberty in relation to the concept of Love, if the Liberty movement does not have that at its core, it will fall apart into the strife you are alluding to.

Robin Koerner's picture

I approve of the tolerance :)

... but I have started to be explicit about putting Love at the core of Liberty ..

"Liberty without Love is hollow", is the way I put it here and elsewhere ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seR5qBKkbC8 (Be warned: content could be regarded controversial, albeit a clear attempt to unite rather than divide.)

Thanks Micah68!


...Robin. Yeah, I very much remember your discussions of this earlier -- much appreciated.

Contemplating love, tolerance in theory is the easy part -- actually obeying and following it is more of a 'deny yourself and take up your cross daily' kind of thing, which is a bit harder (for me anyway). That proud Self wants to sneak back up on the throne all the time when it needs to be the humble servant.

Does that mean?

Compromise ... the art of leading libertarians into the RINO movement. Yes, we'd all rather be accepted than do anything right.

Correlation does not prove causality!

Murray Rothbard summed it up the best.

(I agree, I usually ask the non-purist this:)Go for power and go for broke. You wouldn't join saurons army to take him down, now would you? https://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/04/murray-n-rothbard/sell-o...

This article might have been about you! :)

I did not read apologetics in this article. Can you point out where he stated apologetics for those who want to be involved in the system?

Also, why do you feel that involvement in one necessarily precludes involvement in the other? In other words, why do you feel that one person can only operate in a binary fashion?

tasmlab's picture


46 points in Scrabble, just with base letter values alone.

Currently consuming: Morehouse's "Better off free", FDR; Wii U; NEP Football


I was giggling as I scrolled down the comments, I just knew that somebody would have said something funny about that one.

Thanks for the chuckle.

<Anorak mode on>

Pity there are only 15 squares to a line, even Super Scrabble with it's 21×21 playing board could not accommodate this linguistic marathon.

Can you go around corners?


<Anorak mode off />

Even the free online dictionary audio sample can't handle it...