Steve G.

Flavors of libertarianism

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Libertarian on August 16, 2008 at 7:29 am

Another topic for discussion, to be filed under “Peter Orvetti Is An Idiot” along with the others, if you like.

In a very broad sense, there are three domains of policy that libertarians and all political actors try to influence: social policy, foreign policy, and economic policy.  Personally, I am fervently libertarian regarding the first two, less so regarding the third.  My own primary concerns are in increasing the reach of personal freedom, and in reducing the overreach of the United States worldwide, more than in decreasing the overall size of government (though I want to do that too).

My question: It seems to me that most Libertarians, or at least the most vocal ones, focus far more on the economic arena — eliminating taxes, making radical cuts in government spending, and so on — rather than in the social and foreign policy arenas.  Is this a misconception on my part?  If not, why does the economic sphere dominate for so many?

  1. good question. 2 possible explanations:

    1) Early adopters of L-ism were economists.

    2) Kitchen table considerations…most people seem most concerned with economic matters in their daily lives.

  2. I consider myself a “left-leaning” libertarian. Social issues are more important to me than economic issues.

  3. Yes, there’ve always been “left-leaning” Ls, too. I’m one, although in my case I’m more interested in unwinding the State by, for ex., cutting corporate welfare before welfare and bottom-up tax cutting over maintaining tax preferences of elites. Still, I’d say over the years I’ve encountered my right-Ls than left.

    All political movements are coalitions. Maintaining an orthodoxy is toxic, IMO.

  4. Peter Orvetti, you’re an idiot. Pulling our troops out of Iraq is the number one Libertarian issue. Next is preventing world-wide, national, state and local carbon taxes. Only a 400% complete idiot would suggest the Libertarian Party should advocate for carbon taxes. No, make that 500%!

  5. This is a false choice.

    How are wars of aggression paid for? By inflation and taxation.

    I think redistribution of wealth from poor to rich is a social issue. It certainly trumps not being able to practice Wicca as a paid murderer for the State.

    Take away the government’s power to tax and inflate and it has no ability to violate civil liberties.

  6. cutting corporate welfare before welfare and bottom-up tax cutting over maintaining tax preferences of elites.

    I have no problem with this type of approach, but if you want to take away the privileges enjoyed by the elites, abolish the Fed.

    Secondly, I take this to mean that you (Peter) say “maybe” on one or more of those bottom (economic) questions. I also assume you think I put more emphasis on the “economic sphere” than whatever you call the alternative. Well, I’m glad that it is the bottom half of the test you have a “maybe” or two on, rather than the top.

  7. GE makes Rothbard’s point by saying this: “How are wars of aggression paid for? By inflation and taxation.”

    As an economist, he tended to reduce most social analysis to an economic matter. It only goes so far for me. The State was much smaller pre-1860, but it ramped up quickly to fight a war. It ramped down after 1865, although the statist institution of slavery came down with it.

    Wars were fought before the Fed, although a case can be made that the ability to inflate enabled 20th century war-making. Personally, I think Rothbard wildly overstated his case.

    Regardless, we are where we are. Reducing the State is what unites Ls, recognizing that there are and always will be gray areas. Some will emphasize “right” issues, others “left.”

    It’s all good.

  8. Wes, you completely crack me up. 🙂

    Social policy and foreign policy are my only real interests in libertarianism. Frankly, I don’t care about the economic side of it insofar as the Federal Reserve and things of that nature. In fact, when those conversations start, my eyes glaze over.

    Does that make me not a “real” libertarian? Maybe, but I’ve never cared what others think of me or my opinions, and I see no reason to start caring now.

    I agree that it appears many libertarians are interested in economic issues first and foremost. I don’t think that they represent the libertarian community as a whole, though; far from it, since my impression is that most libertarians don’t care about the Federal Reserve anymore than I do.

    I suspect the economics fanatics only represent a small but extremely argumentative segment of the libertarian community, since if you watch closely, it is usually the same people making the same arguments over and over again.

    Of course, one of them will come along soon and attack me for not caring about the Fed, and attack me again for not caring that I don’t care about the Fed. LOL

  9. Capozzi – I’m not sure about the Mexican-American War of Theft, but the Civil War was fought with government central banking. Lincoln printed greenbacks and forced people to accept them and the South did the same. Then, gold conversion was suspended to fund WWI. Then, gold conversion was permanently ended for citizens before WWII — and since then, we’ve been in constant militarized mode. And finally, Nixon severed the nominal tie to gold to help fund Vietnam. It is now MUCH eaiser to fund wars than it was, even with the Fed prior to the de-linkage of gold, and much harder than it was in 1860, when Lincoln faced a near revolt in the North over his inflationist policy.

    Enm says:

    Frankly, I don’t care about the economic side of it insofar as the Federal Reserve and things of that nature.

    Okay. You don’t care that working people have their wealth robbed from them to fund wars of aggression…

    I fail to see how the engine used to fund the government at the expense of the poor and working class is not something worth caring about. To think that that grand-theft apparatus can be left in tact and we can have freedom is beyond naive.

    There is division of labor: Some people can work on exposing the Fed’s cirmes, others can focus on other areas, and all are “real libertarians.” But I never here the anti-Fed people saying, “When people talk about the right to be free from the aggression of the Patriot Act, my eyes start to glaze over.. I mean, WHO CARES?”

  10. since my impression is that most libertarians don’t care about the Federal Reserve anymore than I do.

    I think the success of Ron Paul’s campaign, which the Fed ignorers like pretend wasn’t anti-Fed related, flies in the face of this assertion.

  11. I came in to Libertarianism with ENM’s perspective. I didn’t know the first thing about economics, but I’m doing what I can to learn. Now I know that I won’t come out as a pure economic Libertarian. Anarcho-capitalism, or anything like that.
    But I’m noticing economic Libertarians are the loudest. I know I’m going to have many conflicts with them in the future.

    One example: I might teach in the future. According to most, that makes me a damn dirty socialist. My bad…

  12. Mike – Who are these “economic libertarians”? Am I one? I don’t care about non-economic issues? I just threw a huge hissy fit over Barr’s attempt to muscle his way into a church. It seems to me that the real dichotomy are people who “don’t care” about economics and people who care about BOTH economic and non-economic issues.

  13. HHOLLLLLD it RIGHT THERE!!!

    I just checked my website: http://wesbenedict.com/
    Turns out Peter Orvetti may not be such an idiot after all.

    But don’t look at my website just yet. I’m going to try and add a bunch of stuff today and tomorrow.

  14. I think in this category, economic is everything that isn’t social or foreign policy. Social and economic has some thin lines of difference in some areas.

  15. Darn. My last comment got eaten and it only had one link and I even asked readers NOT to look at the link.

  16. So you didn’t answer my question, Mike: Where are these libertarians who don’t care about foreign policy, for example? These “economic libertarians”? I know of exactly ZERO. In fact, it is the “economic libertarians” (the LRC crowd) who are the most adamantly anti-war.

  17. No, I’m not saying that there’s anybody in the party that doesn’t care about foreign policy. If that was the case, I’m not sure the idea would be as popular as it is. But I’m noticing that if someone comes in agreeing with the LP on foreign policy, they are usually painted as unlibertarian economically.

  18. There are, of course, those who favor a neocon foreign policy, a neocon economic policy, and a liberal “social policy” and call themselves libertarians (Eric Dondero, the Libertarian Defense Caucus). But those who are hardcore on economics tend to be the hardest of the hardcore against militarism. This notion of Peter’s that there exists a cohort of libertarians, of which I am presumed to be included, who only care about taxes and inflation, is false. It is obviously a perceptual issue for Mr. Orvetti himself, who admits he cares less about economic freedom than other areas — so obviously, someone giving equal weight to the three “spheres” would seem to be overemphasizing economic freedom in his eyes.

    Of course, there’s really only one sphere: The sphere of aggression. I’m against it.

  19. Correction: Mr. Orvetti did NOT say “economic libertarians” ONLY care about economics. I mispoke (mystyped) when I said that.

  20. Dondero being liberal? He had me fooled.

    Obviously, it seems there are alot of perception problems.

  21. In the comment that got blocked, I said something along the lines that Peter Orvetti may not be an idiot after all because I just checked my own campaign website and it appears to focus on economic issues. I used more colorful punctuation the first time I wrote this.

  22. I didn’t know comments got blocked here. Then again, I’ve cut back my vulgarity over the months.
    I also forgot you were running for county commissioner. Yikes.

  23. Mike: You don’t follow Dondero very closely if you didn’t know he was a social libertine. His social libertinism is a very close second to his desire to mass murder Muslims, behind which the Bush economic fascism is a distant third.

  24. I used to get in arguments with him on TPW, but I mostly ridiculed his senseless personal attacks. I never go back there, hoping their views shrivel up and what not.

  25. GE: …but the Civil War was fought with government central banking.

    Me: Sounds correct, I’d need to check. My point is that sometimes war precedes inflation. Inflation is used to finance war.

    Fed abolition, then, wouldn’t end war. An EXISTING Fed may well enable war.

    Eternal vigilance is always required!

  26. R.C.: Denationalizing and demonopolizing money is what I’m talking about.

    Correction: I don’t think the U.S. had a central bank, but Lincoln illegally printed greenbacks and forced their acceptance (nearly causing a revolt in the north). It won’t take you long to check that out.

    The type of inflation you’re talking about stems from creating money for which there is no backing. There was inflation in WWI because gold conversion was suspended, allowing the government to print more money than it had gold for, etc.

  27. Not sure where I come in this debate, but some years ago it occurred to me that the U.S. might have difficulty paying to keep thousands of troops overseas since we were probably the first country to have an empire and require our own citizens to pay for it instead of taxing those we conquered, or should I say protected. Our overseas military is a drain on the American economy.

    With the exception of wartime, from about 1820 until roughly 1950 the U.S. enjoyed a stable dollar. Since then it has declined in value so that today’s dollar is worth about 8 cents of the 1950 currency. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has the CPI figures for that time on its website. I’ll let y’all dig them up. It might also be of interest to some to check out the website, and hope I get this right, http://www.shadowstatistis.com. To put it bluntly John Williams shows us how the government has manipulated the cost of living figures. In other words they lie!

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics also has an interesting study buried on their site that looks at the costs of a number of items over the years since 1920, or maybe earlier. Seems much of those have increased: housing up from 24% of the family budget to about 35% today, transportation up from 8% in the 1930s to 15% today.

    Putting a roof over our heads, clothing on our backs and food on the table is probably more important to most of us than many of the other things we argue about, or maybe I should say to most Americans. Personally I think the LP has missed out by not emphasizing many of these issues.

    But beware I am using these figures from the top of my head and have not sourced them in some time. Maybe I’ll dig up the details after I finish some other projects.

    MHW

  28. For what it is worth on my cards that i use for political purposes I have “Civil Liberties, Economic Freedom”

    And one point I left out of my previous screed, or maybe its a rant. Some years ago in Fortune or Forbes magazine I read a piece by David Boaz as I recall, but maybe it was some else. I mention this since I have emailed Boaz and he never replied. But the writer estimated that the U.S. had spent something like $16 trillion since the end of WWII keeping our forces overseas. I have wondered how many four bedroom houses we could have built for that kind of money, or how many students could have gone to Harvard.

    MHW

  29. With the exception of wartime, from about 1820 until roughly 1950 the U.S. enjoyed a stable dollar.

    Totally not true.

    A dollar in 1919 (after the end of WWI) was worth

    $1.16 in 1920
    $1.03 in 1921
    $0.97 in 1922
    $0.99 in 1923

    $0.97 in 1930
    $0.88 in 1931
    $0.79 in 1932
    $0.75 in 1933

    $0.82 in 1938

    You call that stable? Or do you think the CPI is overstating the instability? To what end? I agree that the CPI is a fraud, but it is used to UNDERSTATE inflation/deflation, not overstate it.

    The government has been manipulating money since 1792.

  30. The debasement of the dollar, a massive national debt, constant redistribution of income, trillions in unfunded liabilities, and a myriad of taxes have become the chains of economic slavery. Your money and earnings are your property and property rights are a basic human right.

    Perhaps in 20 or 30 years Mr. Orvetti’s children will wonder why daddy’s generation didn’t take economics more seriously. Maybe Mr. Orvetti is too young to have witnessed the lower standard of living in many two-income families today compared to the standard of living of one-income families 30 or 40 years ago.

    From where I stand, the economic future looks fairly dismal. America is basically already insolvent as it faces over $50 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Social policy issues are fine, but rampant war and economic degradation will most likely erase what ever civil liberties we have left if there is ever civil disorder caused by a collapsed economy.

    To a great extent in these times there is a strong relationship between foreign policy and economic policy. Issues like gay rights and even drug laws are pretty much bullshit compared to war and economic disaster. I can already have sex with anyone willing to do me and I can smoke all the dope I want with little fear of arrest. It’s kind of hard to duck bombs, martial law, and the type of economic collapse the Soviet Union faced not too many years ago.

    The point is that in the absence of peace and economic freedom, you can’t really have liberty. Personally, I’m for no policy other than abolish the federal government before it abolishes us.

  31. Mike writes:

    But I’m noticing economic Libertarians are the loudest. I know I’m going to have many conflicts with them in the future.

    One example: I might teach in the future. According to most, that makes me a damn dirty socialist.

    What? Teaching makes you a ‘damn dirty socialist’? How’s that?

  32. I gave the wrong url for the website, but whadda want from a cumpooter bumpkis? Here’s the correct one with a comment from me above. If you think the government gives a damn about the truth, then think again. I suggest reading this site and asking some seriuos questions. Maybe we can get the LPN to do the same.

    MW

    Given that the government just released new inflation figures some of you may find the information on the below site of interest.
    http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data

    “Note: The CPI chart on the home page reflects our estimate of inflation for today as if it were calculated the same way it was in 1990. The CPI on the Alternate Data Series tab here, reflects the CPI as if it were calculated using the methodologies in place in 1980. Further background on the Alternate CPI and Ongoing M3 series is available in the Archives in the August 2006 SGS newsletter.”

  33. Here’s more and would one of you people who is skilled in math, or graphics find the tie to graph this data? Please. It would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    MHW

    http://woodrow.mpls.frb.fed.us/research/data/us/calc/hist1800.cfm

    What is $1 in 1850 worth in 2008?

    2008 Price = 1850 Price x (2008 CPI / 1850 CPI)
    2008 Price = $1 x (647.3 / 25)
    2008 Price = $25.89

    $1 in 1850 is worth $25.89 in 2008.

  34. “What? Teaching makes you a ‘damn dirty socialist’? How’s that?”

    Many Libertarians despise public schools and everyone in them with a passion.

  35. Many Libertarians despise public schools and everyone in them with a passion.

    That’s me!

  36. Many Libertarians despise public schools and everyone in them with a passion.

    Sorry; you said ‘teach’, not ‘teach in public schools’.

  37. I can’t avoid this. I seems to me that Mr G.E. and Mr Mike Theodore just said they can’t stand little children. Y’all read this any different?

    Back to more productive work and its almost 100 degrees here on the west coast. Pray for fog!

    MHW

  38. Susan,

    I can’t really imagine myself teaching in a private school. Like Jim Davidson once said, I’ve been a creature of the state my whole life.

  39. I love young children, particularly my two-year-old daughter. i hate what the government indoctrination centers / prison camps do to children like Mike Theodore.

  40. Oh, I get it. I just despise the welfare-recipient teachers.

  41. “i hate what the government indoctrination centers / prison camps do to children like Mike Theodore.”

    Ya, hi.

    “Oh, I get it. I just despise the welfare-recipient teachers.”

    As in?

  42. OMG – make that $99.2 trillion in unfunded liabilities on the federal level only:

    http://www.dallasfed.org/news/speeches/fisher/2008/fs080528.cfm

  43. I always thought Ron Paul’s success was more due to his anti-war stance than his Fed policies. He was the only major party candidate from either party who last beyond the first couple debates and events while taking a principled anti-war position. With the “war on terra” being such a huge issue, I thought that he attracted people from those views and once people were “in” they were more open to discussion of the FED and things like that. I think more people were genuinely interested in the economics than people would admit, but I still think that was one of lower priority issues for many supporters.

    The Economics part is important. It’s just not something people tend to be into or they see it as more esoteric.

    Personally, I came to libertarianism from the Right after being far Left ( and I guess “over-correcting”). The Economic small government aspect is what brought me in. I was somewhat hawkish, hated welfare, anti-PC, probably homophobic, and so on. But over time I would say I have gotten more and more “liberal” to the point that I might be a “‘left libertarian.” I am more concerned about civil liberties, Drug War victims, racial/sexual tolerance, these days. I still take an interest in economics but I guess I am a little more pragmatic about some of it. I’m less likely to be outraged over poor people on welfare, wealthy people paying more than 1% in taxes, the existence of the FED, public roads,etc.

  44. Also some of the more “populist” economic Doomsday talk and distortion of wealth statistics that excites some libertarians seems rather irrelevant to libertarianism and against the more individualistic spirit of libertarianism to me.

    I’m a hardcore individualist who thinks pretty highly of himself ( while being realistic about where I fit in) and will never resort to the scapegoatism and collectivism prevalent in the “lets distort reality and blame everyone else for my failures in life” of populist pseudo-libertarians. I also have no time for the fondness for the “good old days” ( that never existed or were much worse than the romanticized memories) conservative protectionists and neoconfederate nutbags.

  45. It’s VERY “individualistic” to blame the victims of theft and absolve the armed robbers.

    *gag*

  46. See, what did I tell you? ROFL

    Comments aren’t blocked here. Sometimes they get caught in the spam filter though, like Wes’s did.

  47. All realms of libertarianism are inextricably intertwined. Economic liberty i.e. property is as relevant to personal liberty (your person is your property, right?) as the costs of was is to both, and so on.

    However Peter, regarding your question:

    “It seems to me that most Libertarians, or at least the most vocal ones, focus far more on the economic arena — eliminating taxes, making radical cuts in government spending, and so on — rather than in the social and foreign policy arenas. Is this a misconception on my part? If not, why does the economic sphere dominate for so many?”

    My take is this. If the purse strings of government are severely cut, let’s face it, they can’t do much. Even though bureaucrats are less than rational quite often, when the amount of money available is severely limited, priorities must be set. The more you cut from the government purse, the more items on the priority list that must be foregone. Ultimately, for my taste, the federal government would cease to exist, that is, cut it’s budget by 100%. Even regulations require money to enforce.

    Anyway, my two cents.

  48. I said, “Ultimately, for my taste, the federal government would cease to exist, that is, cut it’s budget by 100%”

    Tom Blanton said, “Personally, I’m for no policy other than abolish the federal government before it abolishes us.”

    (BTW, Tom’s post appeared before mine, but I had not read it until a few moments ago)

    I’ve known Tom since about 2002 in Richmond, Virginia . . . I always knew we were on the same page!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: