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Libertarianism = Anarchy

I was raised to think that people like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, and other such as Einstein, Van Humboldt, Twain and Kipling were liberals in that they worked to improve the human condition, by changing the institutions or other social conventions that restricted the development of humanity.

Dan Sweetman, The Key Reporter [Phi Beta Kappa newsletter], Spring 2002


A response to Libertarianism = Anarchy:

Right and left are a false spectrum meant to restrict political thought in a grand Orwellian manner. Where do you put an Anarchist on the Right/Left spectrum? I once heard it said that you would have to have 12 different axes to actually try to represent political thought. I recommend the "world's shortest political quiz" at www.lp.org as at least a more acurate representation than the typical R/L.

At the time of Jefferson, leftist meant Libertarian; inalienable rights of liberty to the people (subject to their part in the social contract), and a State subject to the people's consent. I don't see a big correlation between that and what we now call "The Left."


Rob's reply
In theory an anarchist would be neither left nor right—or both. Same with a libertarian, in theory. In practice, in the US, libertarians and anarchists (Tim McVeigh, et al.) tend to skew to the right. That's not surprising since their goals are closely aligned.

I think "liberal" in Jefferson's time means about what it means now, when it's not being distorted by right-wing falsifiers. Liberal: "Not bound by orthodox tenets or established forms in political or religious philosophy." Jefferson believed in smaller government, but he supported the Constitution establishing our present framework. That framework was far from what libertarians seek as government now.

I believe it's more correct to say "libertarian" meant "liberal" in Jefferson's time. Too bad that's changed so much. Today's tiny-government libertarians are strictly dogmatic in their beliefs. If they've had an original thought since they read Ayn Rand in college, I haven't heard it.

Here's a quick quiz to help you see the light. Match the political groups in column 1 with the political philosophies in column 2:

British/British sympathizers/Tories
Americans/patriots/Founding Fathers

Don't strain your brain, because the answer isn't that tough. In fact, it's obvious. The Founding Fathers were the liberals of their time.

Others see the obvious even if you don't, Dan. For instance:

Liberal Thinking: A Reply to a Conservative
by Patty Evans

Let me tell you a bit about "liberal" thinking. Liberal thinking wrote the "Declaration of Independence" and began a revolution against tyranny and persecution.

Liberal thinking wrote our "Constitution" embracing a bold new concept by giving government to the people and creating a system of checks and balances so that future generations would be protected.

Liberal thinking gave us the right to vote. It wrote "The Bill of Rights" to ensure very specific freedoms would always be safe.

Liberal thinking forged a new and promising Country, it colonized the West. It created cutting edge technology and promising new medicines.

It gave us a "New Deal" when times were hard and capitalism alone wasn't working. It created a highway system.

Liberal thinking took us out to the stars and to the depths of the ocean. It was responsible for the Internet.

It has given us many great leaders, patriots, humanitarians, soldiers, policemen, firemen, teachers, authors, musicians, actors and physicians.

Liberal thinking feeds the poor, protects the children and takes care of the elderly. It safeguards the environment and protects our planet with all of its magnificent creatures, beautiful forests and fresh air so that our children and their children may one day share in the wonders of this precious gift from our Creator...our Earth.

It is compassion, tolerance and understanding for people and situations even though they may be different.

Liberal thinking walked among us as a man healing the sick, feeding the poor and taught us many important lessons about faith, forgiveness and being careful not to judge others, be greedy or fall prey to false prophets. It died for our sins.

Liberal thinking is frustration, pain and sadness for a Country that shows so much promise but has strayed from the correct path and is determined to screw up and destroy everything it has ever fought for, died for and believed in.

However, as liberal thinking individuals we always believe in hope, the promise of a new day, a better tomorrow and an honest election next year.

Oh and by the way, since most liberals tend to have a distinct distaste for hypocrites, we would never presume to explain what rightwing, neo-conservative republicans happen to think or feel.

Patty Evans

Copyrighted 2003


The debate continues....
>> Sure, then I agree- Jefferson was a Liberal, because he was a Libertarian. <<

Ho-hum. Another one-liner because you can't or won't address the issues?

Championing individual rights, favoring small farmers over big corporations, protecting the environment, funding scientific expeditions through government...in all four areas, Jefferson's positions tally with the classic liberal positions. In only one area, individual rights, does his position tally with the classic libertarian position. That's because liberals and libertarians both support an individual's constitutional rights.

Consider environmental protection. Diane Ackerman discusses Jefferson's views on the subject in her "Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden." An excerpt from Parade Magazine, 7/15/01:

The father of American forestry, he would no doubt be an environmental activist today, the sort of person denounced by some as a "tree-hugger." Once, during his Presidency, he is said to have insisted: "I wish I was a despot that I might save the noble, beautiful trees that are daily falling sacrifice to the cupidity of their owners, or the necessity of the poor....The unnecessary felling of a tree, perhaps the growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder."

The environmental movement is central to the liberal agenda, but goes against everything libertarians believe. That's because libertarians don't grasp the concepts of air, water, and land being a public resource, not private property. Jefferson was perhaps America's first environmentalist, hence a prototypical liberal. He'd join Earth First! before he'd support mega-corporations clear-cutting forests and mega-farms spewing chemicals over the heartland.

>> And if Totalitarianism in the guise of "Social progression" has changed since Marx, I haven't heard it. <<

What page of Ayn Rand was that from? Really, I'd like to know which sources you regurgitate these slogans and sayings from.

So you think all "social progression" is totalitarianism? And that justifies your alternative view, which I guess we'd have to label social regression?! Even though every leader you've spoken favorably of, from Jefferson to Teddy Roosevelt, was a progressive?!? Wow, your thinking is more muddled than I thought it was.

Jesus was a progressive for his time, as were most great leaders in history. We remember few people positively for taking society backward in time. Rather, we laud the giants for moving society forward...making progress...increasing liberty and justice for all.

>> But I'm sure you're more of an expert on Communism than Mark, and more of an expert on Objectivism than Rand. <<

You seem to be the great expert on Communism here, since you apparently think child-labor laws, worker-safety laws, sweatshop laws, etc. are communist fronts designed to take over the world. Your fanaticism is beginning to scare me. Would it be okay with you if I put a ten-year-old to work six days a week, ten hours a day? Why or why not? Before the New Deal era, your capitalist buddies thought nothing was wrong with this practice. How about you?

I'll ask you the same unanswerable question I've asked everyone else. Be the first to give me a good answer. When in history was that "golden era" when Americans—all Americans—had more freedom than they do now?

As for Objectivism, I know more about it than any Randian seems to. The doofuses I've met who claim "abortion is murder" or "taxes are theft" is an objective, provable statement and not an ignorant, unfounded opinion...I'd be rich if I had a dollar for every one of them.

>> You seem to know everything else. <<

It just seems that way.


The Libertarian quiz
I took your Libertarian Party quiz. Of the ten questions, I answered the first seven yes and the last three no. The website told me I was "left-liberal." Correct.

Taking the interpretation a little further (than the Libertarian Party was willing to), the results show "liberal" and "libertarian" views are similar 70% of the time. In other words, liberals believe in individual freedom over government intrusion when that's the best solution. In the other cases—ending taxes, ending the minimum wage, ending foreign aid—the libertarian positions are inferior to the liberal positions.

No government the size of the US has ever run on "user fees," so that idea is as childish and nonsensical as running the government on magic. The greatest economic boom in US history—i.e., the Clinton administration—was accompanied by several increases in the minimum wage and several decreases in unemployment. These facts flatly prove the libertarian position wrong. The best example of foreign aid's efficacy was the money we spent to rebuild Europe and Japan after WW II. Without those expenditures, the world would be a far worse place than it is now. We wouldn't be talking about things like the Information Age or the Cold War's finish.

So a "liberal" is a person who believes in freedom but can think for himself and reject the ideological, unworkable, illogical schemes of ivory-tower libertarians. He's a person who believes in progressive ideas that help people over hidebound orthodoxy that doesn't. He's Thomas Jefferson or me, in other words.


Rob and Tom...separated at birth?
>> You! Thomas Jefferson! You are the funniest man I know! <<


Why do I sense that—for the umpteenth time—you're about to duck and dodge my actual arguments?

At least you must admit it was an original thought. You wouldn't be so amused if I were recycling ideas from others.

>> If you Liberals believe so much in freedom, why are you the first to jump at weapons registration? <<

Because the freedom from being shot at is our right as much as the freedom to shoot. America is all about balancing rights, which is where the whole idea of checks and balances came from. It's also embodied in the phrase "no taxation without representation," which is distinct from "no taxation, period."

It's your mistake if you think America was founded to maximize everyone's freedom. In reality, the Founders established a stronger central government than the Articles of Confederation precisely to limit the chaotic "freedom" of 13 individual states passing their own conflicting laws and regulations. A national system of coinage, to give one obvious example, limited their "freedom" to establish their own coinage systems but provided for a more perfect union.

>> Why are Liberals so hip on ensuring welfare dependency? <<

No liberal that I know of has ever advocated "welfare dependency." Since Clinton signed a major welfare reform bill, spare me the tired rhetoric. Democrats are all about right-sizing government programs, including welfare programs—not increasing them to infinity.

>> I mean, don't get me wrong, the Republicans are just as bad (almost) with their war on drugs and attacks on the First Amendment, but don't build your own ivory tower so quickly. <<

I'm happy to criticize the Democratic Party where necessary. The joke is that you're largely defending the Republican agenda even though you just admitted they're behind censorship and the war on drugs. Do some original thinking, friend, and you may find Republicans are behind most of the assaults on our liberties.

>> No, the Libertarian party line is not perfect, but I don't see any Liberals walking on water either. <<

Look in your Bible. Jesus was a liberal (for his time).

>> Clinton the biggest economic boon? So, the economists who say the fact is that boon is the after effect of conservative economics in the eighties are... oh wait, you'd immediately disregard their opinions, they don't agree with the Amazing Rob. <<

I'd disregard them because many economists would disregard them. And anyone who's paid attention remembers that Reagan had a huge recession in '81-'82—the biggest one since the Depression, if I recall correctly—and Bush Sr. had one in '91. Clinton's record surpasses theirs easily.

Sounds like you need to beg, borrow, or steal a clue about how government influences the economy, friend. The president has enormous power over most facets of said influence. He submits budgets to Congress. He appoints members of the Federal Reserve Board. (Clinton's decision to keep Alan Greenspan may have been his most important economic one.) He appoints the head of the Treasury Department, the Commerce Dept., the FTC, the FCC, the FDA, the SBA, and many other agencies that influence the economy daily. His Justice Dept. decides whether to prosecute oligopolies like Microsoft, a issue that has dominated the tech news for the last year or so. His representatives negotiate trade treaties with the WTO, the World Bank, the G8 summit parties, and many other international bodies. (To give just two examples, Clinton led the fight for NAFTA and fought to include China in the WTO. Both had many economic repercussions.) He appoints the judges, including the Supreme Court judges, who make frequent economic rulings. And of course his foreign and domestic policy decisions routinely send the stock market into a tizzy and decision-makers scrambling to adjust their plans.

Moreover, the standard historical policy is to credit or blame the person in the Oval Office, where the buck stops, with what happens during his administration. The president signs or vetoes every piece of legislation. Congress does nothing, except maybe apportion its offices and hire its chaplain, without the presidential seal of approval. Repeat: If it's not part of the president's agenda, he vetoes it and it doesn't happen. (Unless Congress overrides the veto, which rarely occurs.)

See Democrats Are Better Money Managers for more on the subject.

>> I truly hope I never have to live in your America. <<

You're welcome to go at any time. Find your own libertarian paradise where the government doesn't have the constitutional right to pass laws and raise taxes that you don't like. Maybe an island somewhere will be your ideal, government-less anarchy.

Meanwhile, we're not giving you the choice of overthrowing our democracy and replacing it with a power-grubbing, resource-destroying anarchy. America...love it or leave it. Those are the only choices "We the People" are offereing.

P.S. If you haven't already, let me know what your score on the LP quiz was. I'm curious.


The debate continues....
>> Isn't it a shame how economic ignorance pervades the nation? Someone should start a nation built around NOT collecting taxes. <<

The US was founded on the principle of "no taxation without representation," not "no taxation, period." The Founders repudiated the Articles of Confederation because they made the government too weak and decentralized. Founding Father Hamilton, the Constitution's leading proponent, wrote strongly in favor of the new government's power to tax.

"No taxation without representation" is equivalent to "taxation with representation." Which is our present policy, in a nutshell. I wonder which nation you're thinking of, since it apparently isn't ours.

>> But of course, we are all about majority rule. Makes me wonder why we pass civil rights legislation... <<

We're all about majority rule consistent with the Constitution. Jim Crow laws weren't consistent with the Constitution. The present government, with its taxation powers and gun control regulations, is.

That libertarian quiz question on user fees was the biggest political joke I've heard in a while. What's the largest government ever, in world history, run entirely on "user fees"? A village of 100 people, perhaps? Let me know the logical basis of the LP's insistence that we can run a modern government without taxes.

Talk about your "economic ignorance." When the first libertarian understands the true cost of enjoying America's rights and benefits, have him raise his hand. I haven't met such a libertarian yet.

One more try on Jefferson
>> "No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another," Thomas Jefferson wrote on June 27, 1816, "and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him." <<

One could use that statement to justify any political position, including liberalism. You'd have to define what "aggression" and "equal rights" mean before you could wield it more precisely.

Civil rights laws, environmental laws, and antitrust laws—all of which Jefferson would favor today—protect us from aggression against our equal rights. That's why Jefferson would be a card-carrying liberal today.


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