The Different Kinds of Libertarians

Discussion in 'Politics' started by 2cents, Jun 27, 2007.

  1. welcome to the world of simple minds!
    The Different Kinds of Libertarians

    Reason cover

    (Note: The term “Libertarian” was originally used by anarchists/socialists such as Joseph Dejacque and Mikhail Bakunin, whose position was in opposition to both capitalism and state communism, and is still known in much of the world to apply to the anarchist Left. In North America since the post-WWII era, however, it has come to apply to an anti-government movement that could be described generally as being on the economic Right side of the political spectrum. This analysis is about the modern American sense of the word).

    Libertarians have been described with several different idiosyncratic-sounding phrases: “Marxists of the Right,” “Individualists United,” “Republicans who smoke pot.” In reality, libertarians are, like those of many other political ideologies, harder to pin down than a simple phrase or characterization. There is less a single creed of “Libertarianism” than an amalgam of positions and worldviews that are often described together and usually work together. However, they sometimes differ from one another: there are disagreements, sub-factions, and tactical alliances, and there are different kinds of people that make up this broad group; when someone talks about “libertarians” as a broad sweeping category, it may not always be clear who he/she is talking about.

    I’ve decided to post my personal analysis of the different viewpoints and strains of thought that tend to make up Libertarianism, using some distinct categories I’ve observed and expanded in my interaction and association with many libertarians, and my studies of the works of important libertarian thinkers. A libertarian may be and usually is a combination of any of these categories, and some of the differences between them are subtle but significant. The representatives I’ve chosen for each were the best I could think of for that category, although they still may strongly represent other categories as well. I’m generally not a fan of categorizing or pigeonholing people overly much; it should be remembered that these categories refer to general strains of thought that have been observed and people who have expressed those strains of thought--not (with the exception maybe of the first category) definite personality classes.

    Meet John or Jane Galt. While most card-carrying Objectivists assert that they are not libertarian in name, the movement started by Ayn Rand (author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) was and is an important influence on the thought of modern American Libertarianism (Cathy Young says that “Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand's ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild.”). They imagine an individualist/collectivist and egoist/altruist dichotomy and put it at the heart of their entire worldview as the supreme good vs. evil (along with some peculiar axioms like “A is A” and “existence exists”). According to those influenced by Randian Egoism, greed is a virtue, while compassion is a deadly sin. The word capitalism can stimulate a spontaneous orgasm.
    They are prone to histrionics and delusions of grandeur.

    Novelist Ayn Rand, her successor Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand Institute President Yaron Brook, Objectivist philosopher Harry Binswanger, Neo-objectivist leader David Kelley, economist George Reisman, psychologist Nathaniel Branden, and political writer and critic Alex Epstein. Also, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Rush drummer Neil Peart, comic creator (Spider-man co-creator) Steve Ditko, and Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan. Capitalism Magazine is an associated publication.

    Business giants and empire-builders, moguls, magnates and tycoons who don’t want antitrust laws, industry watchdogs, trade unions or environmental, worker, or consumer regulation to get in the way of their ambitions. They often fund libertarian and right-wing think tanks and organizations. Silicon Valley had many Dominationist younglings in the 90’s until most of them perished tragically in the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

    Newscorp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, Whole Foods Market Chairman and CEO John Mackey, Dallas Mavericks owner and HDNet Chairman Mark Cuban, and Virgin’s Richard Branson (although Branson is distinguished in being an environmental philanthropist, as well as wooing both Tory [Conservative] and Labour governments).

    Market Fundamentalists
    Focused on libertarian theories of economics/political economy, Market Fundamentalists believe the capitalist free market is best for the common good, and any interference with said market is contrary to the common good. They frequently use concepts like “the wisdom of the market” and “the invisible hand,” etc. Austrian and Chicago schools, neoclassical economics, neoliberalism, etc.

    Economists Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and political writers Virginia Postrel and Brink Lindsey. Reason magazine is an important publication.

    Naïve Libertarians
    This was a hard to name category (I also considered “propagandist libertarians”). Naïve Libertarians are like Market Fundamentalists, except they usually parrot Market Fundamentalist arguments and harp on “how liberals are weakening America” instead of coming up with arguments and ideas of their own. They believe hardship doesn’t befall people who do what they should do, the environment isn’t in any real trouble and environmental/pollution problems are negligible, and big corporations are really responsible and good on their own (“Greenhouse gas emissions? Those are just ‘unrequested carbon surpluses’”). They are likely to listen to/host right-wing talk radio or do/follow right-wing journalism, and usually amount to little more than apologists for the Right.

    ABC journalist John Stossel, talk radio’s Larry Elder and Neal Boortz, comic creator Bruce Tinsley, New York Times columnist John Tierney, and “Junk Science” environmental skeptic Steven Milloy.
  2. “Liberty” Libertarians
    Their libertarianism arises primarily from their ideas on the metaphysics of personal liberty, around concepts like “non-aggression” and “self-ownership.” Libertarian philosophers are usually in this category, some of whom were founders of the modern American libertarian movement.

    Philosophers Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick, Tibor Machan, and Albert J. Nock, and Sci-Fi author Robert A. Heinlein.

    Libertarian Republicans
    More traditional conservatives; Republicans who are against neoconservative big government and/or the religious right; conservative critics of the Bush administration. They consider themselves the true conservatives, and usually base their libertarian ideas on their perspective on the U.S. Constitution. “Goldwater conservatives;” Republican Liberty Caucus.

    Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and authors and political commentators William F. Buckley and Andrew Sullivan (the latter of whom calls himself a “South Park Republican”).

    Crazy Libertarians
    Primarily concerned about gun rights and privacy. Many survivalists, conspiracy theorists, tin-foil-hatters, etc. tend to fall into this group. They are likely to live in a rural area, with an impressive arsenal and weeks worth of food stocked up to secure against a New World Order threat.

    Survivalist and blogger Claire Wolfe, Mormons who have the complete writings of Ezra Taft Benson and belong to the John Birch Society, and anyone who has ever belonged to an armed or militant libertarian group. The peeps seem to fall into here at least a bit.

    Lifestyle Libertarians
    Like the Crazy Libertarians about guns, but also for drugs, sex, alcohol, uncensored material, not having to recycle, driving without a seatbelt, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph while receiving oral sex, etc. They are basically people who want to do whatever they want. If conservatives want government to be your daddy, and liberals want government to be your mommy, Lifestyle Libertarians want to get rid of daddy and mommy and stay up all night eating ice cream and watching after-dark cable.

    Shock jockey Howard Stern, author/political writer and humorist P.J. O’Rourke, humorist Dave Barry, South Park creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone, and illusionist duo Penn & Teller.

    Localist Libertarians
    Anti-Federalists, they would rather have autonomy distributed to the community level, like town halls, local school boards and churches, than a strong federal government or any centralized power. More Main Street than Wall Street, they are communitarians and traditionalists, largely Catholic, often Scouting enthusiasts, people with Norman Rockwell paintings throughout their homes, etc. More compassionate and worker-oriented than other libertarians, and more likely to be concerned with local environmental problems.

    Political writer Bill Kauffman.

    A special category. Left Libertarians believe big, powerful government is as oppressive and bad as big, powerful corporations. They are anti-war (including the War on Drugs), pro-choice, and against government favors for corporations (or against large corporations altogether). They usually favor participatory action and mutual aid over government for social justice and environmental causes, as well as smaller, more local businesses and community-centered marketplaces. They may caucus with right-libertarians (“vulgar libertarians” is a commonly used phrase) for strategic purposes, which is the primary reason they are on the list at all. They are also likely to work with Green parties. Often Georgist on physical property and against extensive and restrictive intellectual property (and a major front behind Open Source), they are related to others of the broad libertarian left--agorists, mutualists, libertarian socialists, cyberpunks and anarchists; also “Buddhist Economics.”

    Comedian/talk-show host and political commentator Bill Maher, novelist Robert Anton Wilson, cyberculture icon R.U. Sirius, psychologist and psychedelic researcher Timothy Leary, philosopher/Eastern religion scholar Alan Watts, political philosopher Karl Hess, writer Samuel Edward Konkin III, and Loompanics publisher/editor Michael Hoy.


    A few notes on other prominent libertarians:

    -“Anarcho”-capitalist economist Bryan Caplan could be argued to fit into the Randian, Market Fundamentalist, and “Liberty” categories (pretty much every other economist at George Mason University could, to varying degrees, be described as falling into the Market Fundamentalist and “Liberty” Libertarian categories).

    -Economist and political theorist Thomas Sowell is somewhere between Market Fundamentalist and Naïve.

    -Political writer Lew Rockwell, an anti-war paleolibertarian, is a mixture of Market Fundamentalist, Republican Libertarian, and a pinch of Localist.

    -Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds is a mix of Naïve, Libertarian Republican, and Lifestyle.

    -Extropian philosopher Max Moore is largely Randian, but also “Liberty” Libertarian. He, along with Glenn Reynolds and Reason science editor Ronald Bailey, subscribe to Libertarian Transhumanism (which I would consider a subcategory).

    -Libertarian Godfather Murray Rothbard actually ventured closer toward Left-Libertarianism at one point before going back to the right (toward Market Fundamentalism), all the while being an important philosophical “Liberty” Libertarian."

    what a total bunch of bozos...
  3. achilles28


    Oh please.

    The Greatest Country on Earth was founded on Libertarian ideals.

    What are you? A "progressive" socialist???

  4. and i thought it'd been founded over the dead bodies of the american indians... silly me! i was looking the wrong way again...

    let me refresh my memory:

    see, i kinda thought of the indians as free "men", living an uncomplicated life in harmony with nature, where trust and a man's word were everything one needed, very tight governance and all... and i thought u guys had just butchered them senseless... bah , never mind... their dead now... lets not cry over spilt milk...
  5. nitro


    OP, very interesting post. I found it by doing a search on Nozick. Interesting that this is not expounded on more, since Nozick's

    Anarchy, State, And Utopia [Paperback]
    Robert Nozick (Author)

    has become the "philosophical bible" of the American right. Your post is too ambitious, as anything more than a paragraph or two will lose most people's attention. Sad but true in the age of television.
  6. Ricter


  7. LOL!!! Yeah, good one!!!

    The indians were regularly butchering each other in genocidal inter tribal warfare. If butchery and barbarism is your idea of an "uncomplicated life in harmony with nature" then sure... Trust and a man's word for what? They simply hadn't any concept of property rights so that's all they had... LOL!!! You PC disciples sure are funny.

    My personal favorite is the "disappearing colony of Roanoke". As if they didn't all get slaughtered by Natives...

    Yet because the Europeans actually won, they are somehow the "bad guys"? The many slaughters of Europeans by Indians never seem to get mentioned.... Why is that?

  8. Eight


    LOL.. Indians were these perfect humans but the evil Whities wanted them out of the way!! What are you smoking? Indians were tribal people that had not advanced enough to be able to mess up nature.. they negotiated their ever-moving borders continually with all the neighboring tribes, often times there was a lot of fighting and killing going on in these negotiations... it was nearly a continuous state of war or impending war...
  9. Maverick74


    American Indians made the Aztecs look like peace loving hippies.
  10. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I am reading this book now, and no finished, but look here to see how the they use the bible for to justify killing and to take the land. And look about page 20 on the respect the Iroquois have in the family and in the tribe.
    #10     Feb 5, 2011