Steve G.

Barr crashes liberal blogger convention, is welcomed …. but only if he pays the regular entrance fee

In Libertarian on July 20, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Barr, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, is holding court right now in the third floor lobby, surrounded by a gaggle of fans. His reception is oddly affectionate for a former Republican. One blogger looks like he’s about to ask a question—instead, he asks for an autograph. Another hands Barr his cell phone. “Can you talk to my brother for a second?” Another guy wants to ask him about his appearance in Borat. While Barr is answering a question about wiretapping, a kid goes up behind him and poses like he’s about to beat him up while his friend takes a picture.

What brings him to town? Barr is giving the keynote address this evening at RightOnline, the rival conservative blogger conference being held across the city. His Netroots Nation visit wasn’t anticipated, but conference political director Josh Orton said he was welcome as long as he paid the regular entrance fee.

Read the Slate blog entry here.

I rarely give Barr kudos, but given Obama’s recent turnabout on some important issues – and his ongoing dispute with some of the Netroots Nation bloggers – this was actually a pretty smart move on Barr’s part.  He couldn’t eclipse the appearance by Al Gore, of course, but it seems like he left some liberal bloggers with a positive impression.

I’d still like to see that photo they described, though.  😉

  1. Further in the article

    “Just like Rush Limbaugh told Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton and thus perpetuate Democratic tensions, Democrats in safe Democratic states—whose votes won’t make a difference anyway—could vote for Barr. If he gets five percent nationally, the Libertarians get public funds the next time around.”

    And, no doubt, would accept the political welfare, as well.

  2. I’m looking through google for that picture. I hope it isn’t on Myspace or something.

    2nd your kudos.

  3. Hiya, Mike. If you find it, please send the link to me at, so I can post it on the site (with attribution to you for finding it, of course).

  4. I’m on 24 hour photobucket/google watch.

  5. Well, it’s not a formal outreach effort, but it represents some progress towards reaching out to the left.

  6. Brian:Yes, well he should take full advantage that he has been a member of both major parties to reach out to both. His appearance at the Al Gore conference should probably also be seen in this light. His consistency on the 4th Amendment should make him an attractive candidate to disillusioned Obama supporters, as well as some pro 2nd. Amendment Clinton supporters. Particularly his “defense” of CLinton over against Bush for someone that played a leading role with the Clinton impeachment, should make him attractive to a number of Democrats. Democrats are generally also more likely to switch sides and adaptable, e.g. not as solidly Republican orientated. And his leading role in the GOP and ACU 98 rating should help him against winning GOP support.

    As an observer noted, the constitution actually represent the centre, so if Barr can position himself as a RADICAL centre,constitutionalist position he can have appeal to “right’ and “left”.

  7. No, the Constitution doesn’t represent the centre.

    We rebelled against the centre, in fact, with the revolution, so that we could spell it “center.” 🙂

  8. Brian,

    Of course left, center and right are in the eyes of the beholder (like everything else!). The American Revolution was one against authority, which in modern day terms I’d call right. Personally, I like referring to Ls as small government centrists…neither left nor right.

    Left to me mostly means more income redistribution. Ls surely ain’t that.

  9. Left to me mostly means more income redistribution. Ls surely ain’t that.

    Left historically means the policies which help the underdog.

    In the 18th and, for the most part, 19th – even early 20th century, it was correctly understood that laissez faire best achieves that goal.

    The only people who dissented were rightists – that is, those who argued from authority and tradition, agitated for big government due to some version of what boils down to a Divine Right of Kings argument, and openly called for corporate welfare, industry protectionism, and upward redistribution of income generally.

    For the past century, socialists have erroneously convinced almost everyone that government is the only, or best, means to help the little guy.
    Corporatist right wingers have falsely adopted the superficial rhetoric of faux laissez faire, while managing to avoid the inconvenient truth that government still redistributes income upwards – directly and indirectly – far more than it distributes it downwards, and in general does far more to preserve established privelege than to counterweigh it.

    Libertarians, who were always on the left from the time the concepts of left and right were created – for instance, Bastiat sat on the left in the French parliament – have been erroneously portrayed as rightists, but true libertarians continue to argue for the little guy and against the powers that be.

    It is only when the LP or movement succeeds in framing its message in those terms, and in creating the understanding that we believe the best way of achieving leftist goals is through libertarian means, that we will start to amount to anything. So long as we appear to be on the side of rightist goals – nationalism, big business, etc. – we will gain no traction, and will fail to serve any useful purpose.

    We have to reconnect with the leftist, liberal roots of libertarianism, and make arguments to the left – correct arguments – that our policies, and only our policies, of radical laissez faire would achieve greater equity and other goals they seek – and only then will we have any real appeal to those people whose votes and ideology are really subject to change; those who are open minded and big hearted.

  10. Well, it’s not a formal outreach effort, but it represents some progress towards reaching out to the left.

    Yes. High time too.

    BTW what ever happened with the media outreach list? I never received anything.

  11. […] quotes from Slate at Last Free Voice: What brings him to town? Barr is giving the keynote address this […]

  12. Paulie,

    Yes, I understand the history. I was referring to NOW, it’s meaning NOW.

    Personally, I’m more of a left than a right L. Centrist works even better, though. Ls are neither. Moderate and a bit populist works pretty well, too.

    Bastiat is way too obscure a reference in the modern context for me.

  13. Its meaning now needs to be reintegrated with its roots on the left, showing a way in which libertarian means are the best way of achieving liberal and leftist goals.

  14. PC,

    Good luck with that tack. Seems like an AWFULLY tall order. Liberals and leftists seem most interested in equality of income, which I don’t see as an L direction…at all, actually. Fair shake? Yes. Abundant society? Yes. Economic equality? No.

    My take is that L-ism is both and neither conservative/right and liberal/left. Rather, it’s balanced and centrist. I prefer not to fight the last war, or 4 wars ago. It’s great to conduct “radical” inquiry, but I submit that moderate, incremental change in context of the big picture is more likely to yield results.

    History is history. Old labels have outlived their usefulness, I suggest.

  15. Liberals and leftists seem most interested in equality of income,

    Great! Our job is to show that laissez faire comes closer to achieving this goal than government intervention, which is always co-opted by the powerful, and comes laden with (at least supposedly) unintended consequences that help the rich stay rich and get richer, and force the poor to stay poor and become even worse off.

    Since that is in fact true, it’s just a matter of developing our rhetoric in that direction.


  16. Robert Capozzi Says:
    July 21, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Liberals and leftists seem most interested in equality of income,

    True that some, maybe even a majority of “leftists” seek equality of income as the highest priority, but there are at least as many problems, and some more troublesome than a utopian “equal income” environment,which comes from the “right”:

    1-Policing the world/subsidizing the world-it is the never ending, very tall order to make sure that all peoples around the world are not being oppressed and have “democracy”. Meanwhile, this task of policing the world continues to cause American casualties and drain the American’s financial resources, for predominately destructive means and ends.

    2-Law and Order-Barr being one of the worst followers of this (remember, he was a federal prosecutor) end all goal of the purpose of government – Order ALWAYS supersedes liberty, as the ends (order) justify the means (infringing on liberty) in the eyes of law and order enthusiasts.

    3-Infringement on non-enterprising liberties-in short, legislating morality, without relevance to whether or not another’s rights are violated. This is the imposition of some traditional, sometimes religious values on people, regardless of whether or not anyone has been coerced against their will. If heaven and hell are the true “judgment” for the virtuousness of someone’s life, then even religious/social conservatives ought to let God sort this out. But no, these rightist are on a “calling” to force people to live virtuously, according to their values.

    All in all, the modern right AND left infringe upon liberty. However, I agree with Paulie, that historically, the left is where libertarianism has its roots. As such, I think that these folks are more distrustful of government, and they are more likely to see the libertarian position on “enterprising’ liberty.

  17. The term leftist, and the left hand association with liberal politics comes from the Estates General in France, starting in 1789 when the nobility or second estate sat to the right of the president’s chair and the liberals in the third estate, typically merchants, sat to the left. Left and liberal at the time represented people who opposed the existing hierarchy, mostly based on birth order and titles of nobility. Merchants were frequently discriminated against on the basis of their “nouveau riche” status, having generated wealth by being smart, careful, fortunate, or really good at their work – things the aristocracy sneered at. You know, hard work, sweat, oooo.

    The whole left/right thing is senseless, as both David Nolan and Jerry Pournelle have been at some lengths to point out. Nolan’s chart puts economic freedom on one access and personal freedom on the other. Pournelle’s puts freedom on one access and rationalism on the other. I have proposed a 3-D chart to combine the two, with Nolan’s chart as the base and rationalism as the vertical axis.

  18. All,

    We may well have consensus! I love it!

    Barr seems to be tacking center-north, broadly speaking, a good sign. FISA, bring the troops home, market-based solutions to air pollution…all good, yes?

  19. There’s no conflict between liberalism/leftism and libertarianism.

    Liberalism wants the greatest good for the greatest number, regardless of the means used to achieve it. Libertarianism means non-initiation of coercion. The greatest good for the greatest number is achieved through non-initiation of coercion; in fact, that is the only way it can be achieved.

    Conservatism seeks to maintain entrenched privilege. Top conservatives realize that “liberal” state socialism covertly maintains that privilege, which is why conservatives in power do nothing substantial (beyond rhetoric) to get rid of the welfare-regulatory-entitlement state. Top “liberal” state socialists realize that wars and emergencies represent the best opportunity to grow the state, which is why they do nothing substantial (beyond rhetoric) to get rid of the military-industrial and police-prison-industrial complexes. This is the centrist consensus, which is actually authoritarian.

    Libertarian/conservatism is a successful ploy by top (statist) conservatives to neutralize the danger that liberal/libertarianism would pose to entrenched privilege. Libertarian/conservatism advocates superficial laissez faire policies while defending entrenched privilege, justifying the existence of the military-industrial and police-prison-industrial complexes
    and to a lesser extent the welfare-regulatory-entitlement state (while promising to mitigate them, rather like promising to cut back part of a malignant aggressive cancer). It does not seek to get rid of coercive taxation or non-concensual limited liability.

    Furthermore, libertarian/conservatism never gets anywhere, because it does not seek votes (or other support) that is actually available. Those who are already in a position of established privilege have the least incentive to rock the boat; those who are conservative by disposition have the least inclination to change anything. They may certainly express sympathy for libertarianism, so long as it doesn’t rock their boat, but that’s about it.

    By channeling libertarianism in a conservative direction, conservatives smartly pre-empt any real challenge to their established order, since conservative-libertarianism never gets anywhere and statist-liberalism covertly preserves the established order.

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